Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

Root Cause Analysis

Making visible the often invisible sources of some the problems we deal with every day can be difficult. An essential part of understanding is learning why things operate the way they do, opening up to new ideas, and thinking about the implications of these ideas for your organization’s work.

Asking “why?” is a great way to begin identifying the root causes of the problems staff and clients face in their daily lives, and it helps people focus on larger systemic issues. For example, if a group is discussing children’s lack of academic success in a neighborhood, the discussion might start by wondering why teachers are not doing more. That might lead to examining the inability of schools or teachers to provide children with individualized attention and customized learning plans because of overcrowding. Then we would ask “why?,” and that might lead to a discussion about resource allocation, standardized testing, or other elements of education policy. Again, we would ask “why?” to help people gain a broader perspective on the large societal, cultural, political, and economic structures that influence the lives of children and teachers.

Understanding the Problem