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What should be included in a project proposal?

The first required element of a competitive community project is the proposal. The proposal is a structured document in which students detail their initial thinking and plans for their project. In order to write the proposal, students engage in research and the 6-step problem-solving process.

The proposal can be up to 2000 words, and must be submitted in a 12 point, non-script font. The proposal should not be re-written or modified once it is submitted mid-year.

After students research the issue and community they have chosen, they will engage in the problem-solving process and document their thinking. We strongly encourage students to use the steps of the process to organize and build their community project proposal. A junior student work proposal example is attached below.

Problem-solving process

Area of concern

Students write a research-based look at the “before” of a project. An area of concern answers the questions: What is the issue? Which community is it impacting? Why is this issue important to the team and the community stakeholders? We encourage students to include qualitative and quantitative information in their area of concern.

Challenges identified

Now students consider their area of concern and  identify challenges that might arise from the current state of the issue. Students should consider different perspectives on the issue and how it might impact a variety of stakeholders. Challenges might address questions like: What might happen if no one addresses this issue? What might happen while trying to fix the problem? What issues could have caused this problem? There is not a set number of challenges required.

Underlying problem

After analyzing the identified community’s challenges, students narrow their focus to an achievable size to address an important part of the area of concern. They complete the underlying problem step by clearly communicating the desired outcome and need for the project.

An underlying problem is a structured statement indicating the project’s chosen action goal and the desired result of their project.

Underlying problem structure
Condition phrase: Start with a concise rationale for pursuing your project’s goal.
Key verb phrase: Then, include a well-defined primary action goal addressing an aspect of the area of concern.
Purpose: Lastly, include a justification for accomplishing the goal. This is the desired result that should flow from accomplishing the action goal of the key verb phrase

Solution ideas

Students generate ideas for solving the underlying problem. Solutions should show that students have considered different perspectives and stakeholders as they developed their ideas. While solutions do not have to be fully developed, students need to clearly explain their ideas.

They might include details like: 

  • Who –  Might include team members or other stakeholders
  • What – An action related to the key verb phrase
  • Why – Connection to underlying problem should be clear
  • When – Proposed phases, timelines, time frames are included in high-scoring action plans
  • Where – Share when location is relevant or important
  • With – Consider community stakeholders with whom you might partner

Determination of plan

Students employ an evaluation method, technique, or “thinking tool” of their choice to analyze and identify the most promising ideas for their project. Students should thoughtfully reflect on how the use of their chosen method impacted the choices they make for their action plan.

Action plan

Now that students have chosen the best solution(s) to implement, they detail their intended plan of action. The plan should thoroughly explain how their activities address their underlying problem. Action plans include proposed timelines or time frames. 

During implementation, students often apply the problem-solving method and tools as they encounter challenges throughout their project. Adaptations and adjustments will be recorded in the project report.

Additional information


Students have up to 2,000 words to express their community concerns and their plan of action. Many proposals blend prose with tables and bulleted lists. For example, students do not have to fully develop their step four solutions and could write these in a list or table format. Excellent action plans have a proposed timeline or time frames; a table may be a useful way of organizing a complex plan.


Deadlines will vary by affiliate program. Proposals are meant to be submitted mid-competition season. Proposals are not meant to be changed after submission. Students interested in completing community projects who are not in a current affiliate can compete in our open affiliate.

Attachment – Student Work Junior Proposal (PDF)

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April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in Gifted Education. She earned the National Board Certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board Assessor for the certification of others. She was trained and applied the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities, which helped widen the educational scope and boundaries beyond the U.S. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for state level certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.