3 Strategies for Problem Analysis

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on June 5, 2017 | Print

We have been walking through the community development process together. The first stage is bringing awareness to problems. The second stage in the community development process is to analyze and prioritize the problems that it has identified in the first phase. Not every problem is the same. Some are larger in scope. Some are more particular to a population segment. Some problems are more important and critical than others.

How does a community decide which problem is most important or even threatening to the community and, more importantly, where to start?

  1. Calendaring. One simple tool we use to better analyze a particular problem is calendaring. We look at the problem over a certain length of time such as a year. We might rate that problem month by month for a 12-month period and find that the particular problem may worsen at certain times of the year and lessen at others. For instance, food might be a huge problem in an annual dry season where little or nothing grows. But it may be in abundance during the traditional cropping seasons.
  2. Problem Tree or Cause and Effect Analysis. We can take any particular problem identified by the community and list the causes (roots) and the effects (fruits) of that problem. We can then visualize this on a diagram as a tree where the roots are the factors causing the problem and the fruits are the effects of that particular problem. The resulting diagram then lends itself to a discussion of targeting solutions towards the “roots” or the causes.
  3. Labor Mapping. Sometimes, looking at the labor that results from and is required by a particular problem gives insight to that problem. For instance, where poor water availability is the problem for a community, a labor map can show lots of hidden things. Who has to go get the water? How much time is spent on getting water? What are the effects of those who have to spend so much time in obtaining water? What other labor is affected in the community from drinking contaminated water?

These are some of our favorite tools for problem analysis and prioritization. We would love to hear about some of your experiences utilizing these tools or some other kinds of tools you would use in helping a community in this particular stage of the CD cycle.