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Analysing the problem and planning for change

Moving from problems to solutions

Introducing the tool

In the previous section, you identified a range of root causes underpinning the issue you are working to address. Now it’s time to prioritise those causes and consider where you can make the most difference. This will help to determine your campaign focus.

To assess priorities, transfer the causes from the problem tree onto a table like the one below. Using this table, score and rank each one according to two key measures. First, how big a part of the problem it is. Second, your ability to influence or change this cause.

root causes table

The causes with the highest scores could be the best places to focus your campaign. But it’s important to take an honest, pragmatic view of the situation. The issue that you or your team is most passionate about won’t always be the best place to focus your efforts.

Next, it’s time to match the priority causes you’ve identified with actions that can achieve change.

For example, if the cause of a problem is government policy, you might choose to focus on high-level lobbying. If the cause is lack of public awareness, you might focus on mass communication. Or if the cause is that a community is being ignored, you might prioritise local organising.

By applying this method, you can develop a set of problems, priorities and actions that will form the backbone of your campaign.

Case Study: How can we tackle fuel poverty?

Using the problem tree, we identified some causes and impacts of fuel poverty. If we transfer the causes of fuel poverty onto the table, the results might look like this.

root causes table example

The two causes that score highest are political priorities and poor housing stock.

Poor housing stock is a major driver of fuel poverty. Though it’s difficult to fix the problem overall, there are many smaller steps campaigners can take to challenge housing conditions.

The fact that it is not a political priority is a specific driver of fuel poverty with a relatively clear solution. This makes it easier to tackle.

If, based on this exercise, you chose to take on political priorities as your focus, you would then start thinking about actions that could chip away at the problem. For example, you might lobby the government for better insulation or argue for more generous public investment in energy efficiency and insulation to keep our homes warm.  

Homework Exercise

Look back over the causes of homelessness you identified earlier. Using the approach outlined in this section, identify your priorities using the table and suggest 3-5 campaign actions that you could take to drive change.

You might find it helpful to plot your campaigning actions onto the Social Change Grid below, which is covered in a previous module.

Social Change grid
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