How to Choose Solutions to Community Issues

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on June 8, 2017 | Print

At this point in the community development process, a community has become aware of its issues and has prioritized them.

The third phase in the community development process is when the community identifies potential solutions to their problems and prioritizes those solutions. They may (and usually do) come up with several ideas of how to solve a particular problem.

Which solution is the most feasible? Which one is the most achievable? And, maybe most importantly, which one will actually solve the problem?

  1. Roots of the Problem Tree. A simple but effective means of identifying solutions to problems is group brainstorming. Identify the root causes of the problem tree and brainstorm one, two, three, or several potential solutions that, if implemented, would wipe out the root cause of the problem and (in theory) solve that problem.
  2. Resource mapping or Venn Diagrams. Use a Venn Diagram to visualize the potential of a proposed solution to a problem. A simple circle in the middle of the page could represent the community. Resources needed to accomplish a task that would solve a particular problem would be assigned either:
    • ‌Inside the circle: the community already has the particular resource
    • Outside the circle: the community will have to seek that resource from the outside
    • Both in and out of the circle: some of that resource is already in the community but there are elements that they will have to mobilize from outside the community
  1. Ranking Tools. These are tools such as the “ten seed” method that helps a community make choices between options. In some communities, a simple vote or consensus can be easily derived. Where culture doesn’t permit such openness, the ten seed method can help a group make decision and move forward. Basically, each community member receives ten seeds (or any other locally available object) that represent 10 votes. Then each community member can use  his/her seeds to “vote” for the option/course that they feel is best for the community. There are a lot of variations of this method but the basic idea is to give every person in the community an equal voice in choosing priorities for the community.

Again, there are a lot of other tools that are used for solution identification and prioritization. We would love to hear any experiences (pro and con) that you might have had. We also would love to answer your questions as well.