Problem Analysis

First, we need to do analysis of the problem. In order to explain the methodology more comprehensively, for purposes of this problem analysis we will use the analogy of a tree.


Every tree has a trunk, roots that provide it with food and enable it to grow and develop and, finally, it has a treetop, which is the first thing we notice when we look at a tree from a distance. Similarly, every problem has its roots that feed it i.e. its causes, and also a treetop i.e. its consequences – events, phenomena and states that that indicate the existence of the problem. If we cut the treetop, new branches will grow again after some time and the tree will continue to live and so will the problem if we deal with its consequences – it will not be visible for some time, but it will reappear. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the causes that led to the problem very carefully because only by acting on the causes (roots) you can make a lasting positive change.

So, after focusing to the main problem, it is necessary to analyse the reasons why it exists – to identify and specify its causes.

List all causes of your problem. Feel free to imagine and to include as many people as possible in this process. Keep in mind that the causes also have their roots so you can go a few steps deeper in the analysis.

After that, you should consider the top of your problem tree and, using the same principle, list all the consequences of the problem.

When you do that you should have overall picture of what problem you would like to deal with, what are the causes of that problem and what are its consequences.

After creating a problem tree, it is time to take a look at your capacities and to be realistic when you are assessing the groups of causes that you can impact and the ones that you cannot i.e. the way that your project idea fits into the whole picture. This is important because it is a basis for the following step, which is formulation of the action. We must underline once more how important it is to undergo this whole process as a group and not individually: the more different experiences, skills and perspectives you put into the problem analysis, the more comprehensive and precise it will be.

Tip: It is important to bear in mind that each of the listed causes and consequences can be placed into the centre of analysis and be a subject of a problem tree and a new project planning process. It is sometimes useful to apply this approach if, if the first analysis shows that all or almost all causes are out of your reach and influence area or that your primary idea cannot contribute to solving the problem. It is then necessary to switch the focal point and to choose another problem that you can impact.


When you answered the question WHY it is necessary to implement your idea, the next step is defining of an answer to the question: WHAT do you want to succeed.

For that purpose, we will use Tree of objectives methodology. Transformation of your problem tree to a tree of objectives comes down to re-formulating all negative conditions that you have already listed into positive statements and possibly modifying them if you feel that direct translation from negative to positive statement does not have sense.

Problems are transformed into goals;

Causes of problems become specific objectives;

Consequences of problems transform into results of the project or the expected effects.

Now look at your new tree and, if necessary, make some more changes in formulation of specific objectives, goals and results so that they fit into your idea or make more sense, reject the ones that do not sound logical or in accordance with your idea and possibly add some new ones. The final look of your tree of objectives should keep the causal relationships (“if A than B”): if you implement all envisaged steps (objectives), they will lead you to the goal and your project will produce some results i.e. changes in the society.

After this phase, you will have a draft project proposal:

  • You have defined the problem that you want to resolve with your project
  • You have explained why this problem exists (causes) and how it manifests (consequences)
  • You have defined what you want you want to achieve by implementing your project (goal)
  • You have presented the steps to be taken (objectives) towards your goal and the effects that implementation of the project will produce (results).
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