The Solutionist Contest, 2022: Starting a Rigorous Intellectual Challenge for Undergraduates and Autodidacts in Nigeria

Introducing The Solutionist Contest

The Solutionist Contest is an initiative to attract Nigeria’s brightest minds and pass them through a month-long intensive workshop, involving the design of research-driven solutions and tackling exceptionally difficult logical problems. The top finalists will be offered a 3-month paid internship to work on projects that solve real-world problems.

About the Organizers

The Solutionist Contest is organized by Shalom Dickson (The Solutionist) (that’s me, by the way) and internovent. Last year (2021), we ran the Superior Thinking Workshop, a freemium virtual training program that exposed participants to fundamental thinking tools–such as foundational ideas, conceptual systems, cognitive enhancement processes, and critical thinking resources–as well as open and exclusive lectures on intellectually stimulating subjects. The program attracted over 50 participants and speakers from 5 continents. The Contest is a crucial activity among the next steps in the evolution of the Workshop, which is maturing into a thinking school, so to speak, aimed at providing permanent resources for navigating unusual educational pathways. I’m delighted to share more about this later!

The Why

I have enjoyed the many privileges that come from sharing interesting ideas publicly, for some time now, such as my writings on Quora and other outlets, and various speaking engagements. One of them is the benefit of interacting with various kinds of smart people from different works of life. In my experience, many undergraduates and autodidacts (mostly of undergraduate age), from around the world, share a strong passion for knowledge. Not just new information, but fundamental knowledge; not just knowing what has been established, but figuring out the unknown. One thing they also have in common is the need for an appropriately stimulating intellectual environment. In Nigeria, this is partly due to the fractured formal educational system, which many committed individuals continually struggle to improve. But even working systems have their limits, and the most elite institutions are supported by exciting extracurricular activities.

In Nigeria, there’s great room for out-of-class initiatives that attract intellectually curious undergraduates and autodidacts, offering them motivation to think, supercharging them to explore uncharted territories, and inspiring them to contribute to the grand edifice of human understanding. Programs that “incentivize intellectual curiosity” encourage capable young people to adopt audacious scholarly goals, which can contribute to Nigeria’s socioeconomic advancement in the knowledge economy.

For years, I have been championing ideas and initiatives that promote the conscious engineering of a befitting intellectual culture in Nigeria. This is still a part of that grand project. The contest engages various key components of the country’s talent mine. At first glance, it serves, primarily, individuals between the ages of 18-30, a critical age range in the intellectual force of any society. On one hand, it impacts the undergraduate community, which already operates in a scholarly context. On the other hand, it acknowledges the nation’s growing population of autodidacts, individuals who—for whatever reason—have opted to invest in self-education and have developed (or are in the process of developing) distinct mechanisms to attain higher knowledge. Finally, it provides a platform for both groups to compete and collaborate in ways that we haven’t purposely attempted before.

Program Information

The 3+1 Contest Stages

The contest develops through 3 stages, each screening the best performing candidates: Stage I is the open application and initial assessment seeking to reach 100,000 people and to be completed by 1,000 eligible candidates. Stage II filters the top 10% performing candidates from Stage I, or the best 100, whichever is more. Stage III is the month-long, grueling problem-solving workshop, dropping lagging participants weekly and producing 3 leaders and 12 finalists. The post-contest stage is a 3-month paid internship, for some of the 12 finalists, to work on projects that solve real-world problems.

What is the Reward for Participants?

The Solutionist Contest offers the sum of One Million Naira (₦1,000,000) in prizes to be shared among the winners. I think this is a significant sum, in addition to the sheer thrill of solving interesting problems alongside other interesting people. Also, there will be paid internship opportunities for up to 12 finalists, while all impressive participants will gain some exposure via national media and across Nigeria’s new intellectual community.

Who Are We Looking For?

This edition of the Contest is open to applicants who reside in Nigeria, although they do not have to be citizens. The significance of this requirement is that we might capture the intellectual resources of those who happen to be engaging with the Nigerian society ‘on the ground’, at an instance. This is a better measure of its geographical advantage than making this open to Nigerians globally who might be contributing primarily to a different nation (which is fine, of course ;). Beyond this, in a period when Nigeria suffers a strong wave of emigration, this is a small but useful way to highlight the efforts of those who are staying back.

The ideal candidate is an undergraduate or an autodidact with a demonstrable commitment to self-education, under the age of 30, but the program is also open to pre-university students and graduates. We hope to attract individuals with a strong track record of championing original or research-driven ideas publicly, e.g. in written or oral form. Also, a collection of problems and solutions, designed by the candidate, privately or in the public domain, is a plus.

I’m excited about the prospects of this challenge. We have the opportunity to identify and amplify highly talented, multi-dimensional problem-solvers. How many will we actually find? How many of them would be autodidacts versus undergraduates? What exciting projects could they be working on right now? What magical outcomes could emerge from bringing together these brilliant individuals in a room? The possibilities are endless!

How to Apply

Application for The Solutionist Contest, 2022 is set to open in the first week of December 2022. To be notified when we’re live, please provide your contact details here: