Looking into root causes can help you identify the underlying reasons a problem or issue exists. Exploring why a problem exists can lead you to prioritize community efforts on the factors that most influence health, such as education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety.
A few tips:
- Use The “But Why?” Technique to dig deeper into the cause of a problem. Each time an answer is given, a follow-up "But why?" is asked. For example, if you’ve learned from your assessment that teen pregnancy is a growing problem, an answer to “why?” may be that they don’t see a future for themselves. Asking “why don’t they see a future?” may lead to a discussion about the lack of jobs in the area, particularly for youth, which may in turn lead to a focus on education and/or employment.
- Be sure to work closely with community members, including those who are most vulnerable and are experiencing the worst conditions for good health (such as members of low-income communities and youth), to identify why those conditions exist and what’s most important to them.
- For more complex issues, you may want to use the Affinity Diagrams for Root Cause Analysis. This can help you identify the basic reasons behind a problem or issue you’re seeing in your community and highlight where you need to start to most effectively address the issues. In using the Affinity Diagram, you may find that several of your potential focus areas have the same or similar root causes.
- Many communities are using a Collective Impact approach, where organizations from different sectors agree to solve a specific social problem using a common agenda, aligning their efforts, and using common measures of success. However, not all social problems are a good fit for Collective Impact solutions—it’s best used for problems that are complex and systemic rather than technical.