Project Ideation 

Initial Research, Ideation, and the Project Justification Document

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Research Drives Development

In Enactus, research drives development. In order for the team to approve implementation of a proposed solution, it needs to be based on more than passion for the situation alone. In a given year, hundreds of proposed projects may enter the project development process, but only a few will be selected based upon availability of resources, assessment of risk, alignment with the vision of of the team, and probability of sustainable impact. For this reason, the potential success of a project relies first on the initial research and ideation before it is even proposed.

Initial Research

The research involved in developing a project can, at times, seem like a project in and of itself. While it can be quite an undertaking, a well-designed research process can not only lead to a better understanding of the need/situation and potential solutions, it can lead to new and unexpected branches of further research, needs, and solutions.

In Enactus, the first step in the research process is the identification of an area of need in the local or global community. Initially, this may come from direct observation, or existing analysis from the Enactus team or another organization. For example, a local needs assessment in Riverside County, California targeting the need for a children’s nutrition assistance program would likely first include analysis of existing planning and measurement by the County, California Department of Education district comparison data, Census data, the annual Riverside County Nutrition Profile Report, and available survey data. Utilizing existing analysis from credible sources is not only cost-effective, but useful in strengthening the case for a proposed project. It is an important element of the project justification document and proposal required for further (and often funded) research and development of the potential project. For this reason, identifying and including a mentor early in the project development process is highly recommended.


The ideation, or idea-generation, process is an essential element of the creativity and innovation found in the Enactus team. It not only focuses on generating potential solutions to a particular area of need, but also allows for an evolution of ideas, sometimes leading to a potential solution for a different area of need entirely. For team members seeking to develop a potential project, engaging in team-based ideation is highly recommended. And while ideation may occur at any level within the team, we have created a special operation called the Think Tank to focus on the exploration and development of needs, strengths, and ideas.

Our first team Think Tank in 2011 Established the Project Development Process we use today.

The Think Tank

The Think Tank is a special operational unit within the Enactus team tasked with supporting project ideation and development. While there are several members who are consistent participants in the Think Tank, all members of the Enactus team are welcome to participate in its meetings and activities. Main operations of the Think Tank include (1) assisting in research/ideation for potential projects, and (2) increasing the capacity of the Think Tank to assist in these areas through regular engagement in case study challenges, category-level research, and training in the project-development process.

THE ideo deep dive process

Deep Dive

The Deep Dive is part of an ideation and rapid prototyping process developed by the renowned design firm IDEO.

  1. Understand the Market
  2. Observe Real People in Real Situations
  3. Visualize “new-to-the-world” solutions and the ultimate customer (those directly impacted)
  4. Evaluate and Refine Prototypes
  5. Implement New Concept

An excellent video documenting the Deep Dive process at IDEO can be found at

The Project Justification Document

The Project Justification Document is a first step toward the development of a full project proposal. You can get started with the Project Justification Form on our team website.. The document itself includes a description of the situation or need, the initial concept of the proposed project, and why the team should devote resources to its continued development. This document is used by the team in establishing needed support and guidance for the development of a full proposal. The full proposal will include a more detailed description and scope of the project, budget, timeline, strategy, research findings, measurement tools, and planned outcomes.