Defining a Problem

Evaluation and Decision-making

NOTE: This tool is developed by Nesta, from the tool set ‘Development Impact & You’.

WHAT is it?

This tool (the Causes Diagram) is developed by Nesta. It can help students think about a problem in a thorough manner and analyse it in a structured way. It pushes students to consider all of the possible causes for the problem rather than only the obvious ones.

WHY teach it?

This exercise helps students distinguish among problems, symptoms and causes.

It also helps them define problems for later actions and visualise complex problems in an easily understandable way.

HOW to do it?


▸ Introduction (10 mins)
Explain the goal of the session and the several steps that the students will go through.

▸ Identifying the problem (20 mins)
Ask the teams to name the core problem they are trying to resolve, preferably using 1 or 2 words.

Ask the students to break it down by writing down the direct, underlying and contributing symptoms. Write these on sticky notes and arrange them into corresponding circles. These may be the people involved with the problem, systems, equipment, materials, external forces, etc. The students should try to draw out as many contributing factors as possible.

▸ Identifying the causes (20 mins)
On the worksheet, fill out the causes that correspond to these symptoms. Once the worksheet has been filled out, go through each symptom and cause with the students and consider whether they are correctly placed.

▸ Presentation and debriefing (10 mins)

This tool is developed by Nesta, and the original version can be found at ©Nesta is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0.

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