Step 3

Confirming your focus

Once you have checked your assumptions and gathered an initial community to generate feedback, you’ll benefit from completing the initial ‘start up brainstorming phase’.

This involves testing your core focus and then explaining it in a key proposition.

Step 1

In Step 1, we covered checking your assumptions about the value you offer, and what you want to achieve.

Step 2

In Step 2, we looked at the value of gathering a community to provide feedback on your initial ideas.

Step 3

Step 3, is all about revising and revisiting your initial assumptions. You can complete this process by asking yourself the same initial questions again, this time based on the feedback you have received, and then adjusting your assumptions accordingly:

Basic questions:

  • Why do you want to start a lab?
  • Do you need to start one?
  • Do you have the resources to start a lab (network, trust, time, skills etc)?
  • Which SDGs do you want or need to address? How are they connected?

Wider context:

  • Where do you sit in the SDG ecosystem? What credibility does that give you? What are you missing?
  • Who are the different actors, relevant for you? Do you know them – or are you assuming you do?
  • What tools would give you the ability to reach out and bring in the right community? Do you have these tools/
  • If you don't have the tools you require, who are the partners you need to bring to the table?


  • Remember this is an iterative process, stay open to new ideas.
  • It is important to gather feedback from both champions and critics, make sure you connect with people who might disagree with you.
  • Innovation and starting a new idea takes time, be patient and make sure you actively listen and deconstruct the feedback provided.

Key questions

Mapping the community helps you to ‘frame the problem’ properly – to test, confirm and reaffirm it while getting feedback. It helps to cover questions like:

  • What specific niche are you going to fill? What achievements do you want to priortise?
  • How can you best establish credibility?
  • How can you best support SDG implementation through greater Integration, Collaboration, and Innovation?

What’s the problem?

After reviewing your assumptions again, you need to confirm your key focus. There may be lots of details – but in essence, what’s ‘the problem you’re going to solve’? Why does it exist – and how are you going to contribute?

Aim to produce distilled notes based on thinking things through, and sense-checking your key focus.
When you set up a lab, you need to frame ‘the problem you’re going to solve’ and explain why it exists – and how you’re going to contribute.

In this video, SDG Advisor Kali Taylor shares her personal experience of going through the process of finding your focus and testing your initial assumptions.

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As part of this early planning stage, distilling a key message that sums-up why YOU are best positioned to solve a particular problem is vital.

Watch this short video for further insights..

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Coming up with a single sentence on why YOU are best positioned to solve a particular SDG-related problem is a good final outcome of your conceptual groundwork.

Think of this as the ‘elevator pitch’ for your new initiative

A typical elevator pitch might be structured like this:

For (target audience) who has (a need), (name of the project) is a (type of solution) that addresses (insert SDGs) unlike (other actors in the space), because we (unique differentiator).

At this point, this is probably the limit of what you should be aiming for. Because you need to manage expectations, and avoid communicating too much, too early.

For example, making a full presentation and sending it out to potential partners would probably be premature, even if you have a donor or an executive pushing you to put stuff out. At this point in your evolution, it is much better to under-promise and over-deliver. If the opposite occurs, it could fatally damage your reputation.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so only communicate in depth once you have something of substance to tell people.

Now go to the Focus section of your Blueprint document and add some notes. As you do, consider these prompts:

What are we currently known for? 

(e.g. how would other people describe our work?)
What feedback about our idea have we received from our community? 
What activities are we working on right now? What work is missing? 
Is our current idea the same as our first idea? What changed? 

(e.g. if nothing changed, are we sure we asked for enough feedback?)
Will our current work help us advance this new idea? 
Are we confident that what we want to build is useful and necessary? 

Please consult these links and additional resources to learn more:

  • Here is a helpful tool called the "Learning Loop" you can use to continue evolving your idea. It’s important to keep iterating, as we rarely come up with the best ideas first – so the more feedback, the better! Bookmark this tool to help you get started and we really recommend watching their YouTube video on how to best use the framework
  • While the business model canvas is used for building companies, we also find it helpful as a way to visualise your ‘offering’. We like this video that explains how the business model canvas works
  • This is a 2 page handout on identifying what makes change so difficult. Note, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the title "Barriers and Resistance to Change"
We’re always interested in benefitting from the experiences of others. If you have any case studies or other learnings you would like to pass on to us, please send them to SDG Lab Geneva.