In Finland there is a saying “If you need the right man for the job, ask a Finnish woman.” What comes to problems solving, it seems that women all over the world have plenty of qualities to be the right person to turn to. This article presents four elements supporting women’s capability to be the right “men” to turn to in problem solving.

Natural solvers of whisked problems

So called blurry and wicked problems are becoming increasingly frequent in the society. What is special in wicked problems, is the ambiguity, openness, the organic and evolving nature of problems, that the real problem might be very different from what was initially thought, or that the problem itself and solution are unclear. It is simply acknowledged that something needs to be done, but the starting point and the end solutions are still blurry. Solving blurry/wicked problems benefits from getting together, talking, listening and solving things together, changing direction if needed, and of people orientation, also of expressing elements of problems and talking about potential scenarios. These are all characteristics that women often use in problem solving. For instance, women are good networkers, listeners and in sharing. Women tend to be open and organic in problem solving situations, use creativity and common sense, and bring different levels and types of experience in solving problems.

Good at spotting problems and needs

Solving problems starts from the ability to spot and identify problems and needs. Observing the society, listening and talking to people helps identifying changes in the society, needs and problems. Women are again good at this. They have the tendency spot dysfunctional things and little things to correct in everyday life and they talk about it (“Why it is done like this? It does not work. Wouldn’t it be better… See how I solved it.”), they make small everyday observations, and share them, and often they notice injustice and other things that do not work in the society too. Another strong point of women is the natural understanding of usability and the natural moulding of solutions towards a higher level of usability. Women understand users and are more open to the changes in the society, without the “woman” ego to protect. This assists in finding needs.

Unfortunately, often the outcomes of these observations do not proceed to the next phase and become business ideas.

Everyday problem solving and balancing

Practical, everyday and economical solutions are often the outcomes of women’s problems solving process. Women constantly juggle and multitask with different problems on daily basis. This can lead to very lean problem solving and quick solutions. Especially when combined with people orientation, this can create not only new business opportunities, but create added value to basic, stripped, business ideas. Just think about health clubs with a babysitting room or reasonable sized closets in apartments (yes, also for house cleaning equipment).

In addition, migrant women are exceptional problem-solvers. Besides everyday tasks, they also need to struggle with the challenges of living in another country, maybe not mastering the language enough and plenty more.

Sustainable and responsible

Sustainability and social responsibility are becoming a must in the society. We simply will not live without these perspectives. Women seem to have stronger tendencies towards more sustainable solutions for the society, as a simple example recycling, second-hand and more vegetable-based diets. The world of sustainable solutions has been poorly investigated, yet it is full of opportunities for better quality of life and for business.

Solving Problems in Practise, Rags2Riches (R2R)

Rags2Riches (R2R), a social enterprise from the Philippines. It is a good example of a sustainable ad everyday related solution to a wicked problem and how the founder spotted it simply by observing people.

Rags2Riches provides fashionable, ethic and ecological products made by the local craftswomen. The story of the company started when the founder, Reese Fernandez-Ruiz was teaching in one of the Philippines largest dumpsites. Poverty and its social consequences, and how women tried to earn their living by making rugs from fabric scraps gave her an idea; her stroke of genius was to combine the skills of these craftswomen and design with marketing and a logistic chain. She contacted Rajo Laurel for design cooperation and the business was on. Today, R2R is a respected ‘fashion and design house empowering community of artisans’ (R2R), that produces fashionable, handmade, sustainable, upcycled and ecological bags and other accessories. It also provides weaving courses to the interested.

Through its activity R2R has managed to increase the quality of the life of the craftswomen working to it and their families. The company provides them for instance skills-based financial and health training, an opportunity for social security and education through salary allocation in a bank account, and increased income (from 0,02$ a day to 2$ or even up to 12$ per day). The social responsibility and eco-ethic aspect of the company has further contributed positively to the company’s brand, and the company openly communicated about it. This work has gained Ms Fernandez-Ruiz a Rolex Award for Enterprise.

Through its activity R2R addresses societal (helping women and their families in need) and environmental (recycling and upcycling) challenges despite the low financial investment. R2R delivers a strong message, networks with the right people and understands people’s desires and needs.

More about the story at: The Filipino Women Turning Rags into High Fashion

References Rags2Riches

Good News Network. (2011). Rags 2 Riches Lifts Women from Filipino Landfill into High Fashion Trade. Good News Network, 17 August 2011. Available at https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/rags2riches-story-2/. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.

Rags2Riches. Available at https://www.rags2riches.ph/. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.

Rolex awards. (n.a.) Reese Fernandez-Ruiz. Available at http://www.rolexawards.com/profiles/young_laureates/reese_fernandez. Accessed on 24 April 2018.

Schwartz, A. (2018) Rags2Riches Empowers Impoverished Women to Turn Recycled Scrap into Haute Couture. Fast Company. Available at https://www.fastcompany.com/1678386/rags2riches-empowers-impoverished-women-to-turn-recycled-scrap-into-haute-couture. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.

Things that matter. (2018). The R2R Story: Our Social Enterprise Model. Hello, we are R2R! We make things that matter and weave joy into every story. Available at https://thingsthatmatter.ph/pages/rags2riches. Retrieved on 24 April 2018.

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