Problem tree

demo text

Smart mobility, Smart governance, Smart economy, Smart environment, Smart living, Smart people
Problem tree analysis is a participatory tool that assists in analysing an existing situation by identifying the major problems and their main causal relationships. It helps stakeholders to establish a more realistic (over)view and awareness of the problem present in the community, by identifying the fundamental causes and effects. It supports (project) planners to identify clear and manageable goals and strategies to achieve them. The main output is a tree-shaped diagram in which the trunk represents the focal problem, the roots represent its causes and the branches its effect. Such problem tree diagram creates a logical hierarchy of causes and effects and visualizes the links between them. This technique helps to understand the context and interrelationships of problems, and the potential impacts when targeting projects and programs toward specific issues. The method can be useful in building a community’s awareness of the problem, how they contribute to the problem and how it affects their lives. The use of problem tree tool is recommended at the beginning of the planning processes, when designing a project and when identifying core issues (and their root problems). The main value of this type of assessment is the greatest when carried out in a workshop setting with (local) stakeholders – this enables a shared view of the situation. It is best carried out in a small group of people (about six to eight but not more than 25 participants), using visual techniques, such as flip chart paper or colour cards. If the tool is used in a participatory way, it can contribute many benefits to the development process: it helps to address the real needs of the stakeholders; it can help to break the problem into manageable units; it helps to get a better understanding of the problem; it can help to identify who are the relevant political actors; the process of analysis can help build a shared sense of understanding and purpose. The tool is, however, the best when used with other tools, such as objectives tree.

Before meeting

Before the workshop it is necessary to consider some organizational aspects: choose the venue of the workshop; define the target participants; invite the participants.

Meeting execution

To carry out a problem tree workshop, follow the next steps: - First step is to carry open brainstorming about the problems that participants consider to be a priority; write down all problems, one problem per card/post-it-note. Problems need to be carefully identified: they should be existing problems. The problem is an existing negative situation, it is not the absence of a solution. All the participants should take turn and say their opinion on what the problems are. Try to be very specific with the descriptions. Discuss and agree the problem or issue to be analysed. The problem/issue is written in the centre of the flip chart and becomes the “trunk” of the tree – this becomes the focal problem and it should describe an actual issue that everyone feels passionately about. -The group identify the causes of the focal problem – by asking “What causes that?” These become the roots of the tree and then they identify the consequences – which become the branches. Causes and consequences can be created on post-it notes or cards, so that they can be arranged in proper logic hierarchically. - The heart of the workshop is the discussion/debate/dialogue generated as factors are arranged and re-arranged. Take time to allow people to explain their feeling and decisions, record related ideas and points. - Select the preferred intervention.

After meeting

The Problem tree is often followed by an Objectives tree, where the problems are converted into objectives. For example: ‘lack of sufficient water’ becomes ‘improve water supply’. These objectives then provide a basis for project and program definition.
Village, Town, Municipality, Region
One time event, 60 - 120 min
6 - 8 (but not more than 25)
Moderator skills required, moderator knowledge required.
Sector: Universal method