Step 1: Situation analysis
The first step is to develop a good understanding of the issue you want to tackle, what you bring to the situation and what might be the best course of action. You might feel that this is revisiting old ground, but we think it’s always useful to take stock. You will definitely have useful conversations.
There are three parts to this process:
1a: ‘Problem’ definition. What, succinctly, is the issue your project is aiming to tackle?
To help frame the rest of the process, it’s useful to start by agreeing a short ‘problem statement’ in one or two sentences. We are conscious that the word ‘problem’ has negative connotations and that some prefer not to use it. For us, it’s simply a way to get clarity and agreement around the issues you are seeking to tackle.
Be careful about taking on too big a task. Don’t try to solve all the problems in the world. Aim to narrow things down. For example, focus on the elements of a wider problem, or think about particular populations or places. This is particularly true if you are a small charity or project.
1b: Take time to think about the ‘problem’ you want to tackle.
Try to suspend all thoughts about your own services or organisation and focus on the ‘problem’ itself.
Consider the following questions:
1. Who is affected? Who is particularly vulnerable? What type of person?
2. What are the consequences of the problem?
3. What are the causes of the problem? Think about:
a. Individual capacities and relationships: Those affected by the problem, such as children and young people, parents, people with a health condition etc.
b. Institutions: Organisations (schools, hospitals, local government) and professionals (doctors, teachers, health professionals, community organisations).
c. Infrastructural systems: Policies, rules and regulations, public opinion etc.
4. What are the barriers to change?
5. What are the opportunities to overcome these barriers?
6. Who else is working to tackle the issue? Who are the other relevant stakeholders?
7. What is not happening? What are the gaps?
In answering these questions you should draw upon data about the problem, previous research and consultation with those affected.
1c: Think about what you bring/offer:
Now it’s time to think about what solutions to the problem might look like. Some questions to consider are:
1. What resources do we have to tackle the problem? Think about things like:
d. Connections and networks
2. Given our resources, what broadly will we do? Where might we make the most difference? What are our best bets? What should our role be?
3. Who do we need to work with?
4. What options, strategies or approaches are we ruling out? Why?
By the end of this step you should be ready to describe the broad rationale for your work.
Throughout this handbook, we follow a fictional local charity, One Small Step, run by teachers and youth workers to help young people enter employment, education or training.
One Small Step defined their problem statement as: “Too many young people in our area are leaving school and not entering education, employment or training”.
They looked at data about the number and proportion of young people affected, and how their region compared to others. In doing so they confirmed their region had a serious problem with young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
One Small Step identified the causes as a lack of skills, qualifications, suitable programmes, entry level jobs and role models, compounded by high rates of school absences. Consequently, these young people suffered longterm socio-economic hardship and higher risks of poor health.
One Small Step ruled out lobbying for local authority funding, as it was obvious there was none to be had. Instead they chose to work with young people directly. They researched good practice and decided to focus on providing direct support to young people as their primary approach.