Problem Tree

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Executive Summary
The problem, objective and strategy tree analysis is one participatory tool of mapping out main problems, along with their causes and effects, supporting project planners to identify clear and manageable goals and the strategy of how to achieve them. There are three stages in this analytic process: (1) the identification of the negative aspects of an existing situation with their “causes and effects” in a problem tree, (2) the inversion of the problems into objectives leading into an objective tree, and (3) the decision of the scope of the project in an analysis of strategies. The value of this type of assessment is greatest if it carried out at a workshop with the stakeholders, giving the opportunity to establish a shared view of the situation. Introduction

A properly planned project is addressing the real needs of the beneficiaries and is therefore based upon a correct and complete analysis of the existing situation. The existing situation should be interpreted according to the views, needs, interests and activities of parties concerned. It is essential that all those involved participants accept the plans and are committed to implement them. The problem tree analysis belongs to the family of participatory planning techniques, in which all parties involved identify and analyse the needs together, creating ownership and commitment among the involved parties (e.g. beneficiaries, implementing organisations, local governments). The problem tree, together with the strategies, is a methodology of three steps for identifying main problems, along with their causes and effects, helping project planners to formulate clear and manageable objectives and the strategies of how to achieve them. Step 1: Problem Analysis

The problem analysis is the phase in which the negative aspects of a given situation are identified, establishing the cause and effect relationship between the observed problems. The problem analysis is of prime importance with regard to project planning, since it strongly influences the design of all possible interventions (MDF 2005). The problem analysis includes (EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2004): Definition of the framework and the subject of analysis:

* Identification of problems faced by target groups and beneficiaries. * Visualisation of the problems in form of a diagram, called “problem tree” to help analyse and clarify cause-effect relationships.  

Like any other tree, the problem tree has three parts: a trunk, roots, and branches. The trunk is the main problem. The roots represent the causes of the core problem while the branches represent its effects. The following figure shows an example of a problem tree related to river pollution.

Example of a problem tree. Source: EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2004)  

Example of a problem tree on sanitation, as drawn by the Khatgal Community in Northern Mongolia. The “roots” of the tree show the roots of the problems, the stem is dedicated to the problems themselves and the crown shows the consequences of these problems. Source: CONRADIN (2007) Creating a problem tree should ideally be undertaken as a participatory group event using visual techniques, such as flipcharts or colour cards, in which identified stakeholders can write their individual problem statements. It is recommended that a workshop should involve not more than 25 participants, to provide for a fruitful learning environment. The first step of such workshops should be an open brainstorming about the problems that stakeholders consider to be a priority. From the problems identified, an individual “starter” problem should be selected. In consultation with the participants, a hierarchy of causes and effects has to be established: problems which are directly causing the starter problem are put below and problems which are direct effects of the starter problem are put above. All problems are sorted in the same way (using the guiding question “what causes that?”. Once all the problems are in...
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