Data alone won’t solve our problems — asking the right questions will help – Stefaan G Verhulst

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the questions, and only five minutes finding the answers,” is a famous aphorism attributed to Albert Einstein.

Behind this quote is an important insight about human nature: Too often, we leap to answers without first pausing to examine our questions. We tout solutions without considering whether we are addressing real or relevant challenges or priorities. This mis-ordering of priorities is especially acute — and represents a missed opportunity — in the field of data for good. Today’s data has enormous potential to solve important public challenges if leveraged responsibly. However, we often fail to invest in defining the questions that matter, focusing mainly on the supply side of the data equation (“What data do we have or must have access to?”) rather than the demand side (“What is the core question and what data do we really need to answer it?”). In this session, we will explore our attempt to develop a new and participatory method of formulating the questions that matter to steer the use of data and data collaboration for good – the 100 Questions Initiative- along with lessons learned on how to move forward.