seToolbelt Resource of the Week: Root Cause Analysis

Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Entrepreneurship, How-To, Non-Profit, Resources

You can think of social problems like an onion—peel back layer upon layer and eventually you get at the heart of the matter. This kind of problem analysis, also called a root cause analysis, is a critical step for any social entrepreneur looking to impact systemic social and environmental problems.

So, this week we’ve collected a series of resources related to the what, why, and how of conducting your own root cause analysis.

First, from Charles Tsai and Social Creatives, comes the Root Cause Analysis Toolkit. Designed to help youth develop their world-changing ideas, this slide show is a great introduction to the concept of root cause analysis. It walks viewers through the 5 Whys, provides helpful tips and hints, and tackles a root cause analysis of the not-uncomplicated problem of climate change!

If you’re looking for a bit more intellectual root cause analysis, try this Root Cause Analysis article from Mind Tools. Lifted straight from the for-profit business world, this resource goes into more detail on the uses of root cause analysis in an operational or manufacturing setting (don’t worry—the same steps apply to analyzing big-picture problems). It goes on and links to other related problem identification and system improvement approaches, like Kaizen and Impact Analysis.

Finally, check out this example of a Root Cause Analysis conducted by the Clapham Set, an innovative organization working to reduce violent crime and recidivism in Massachusetts. They thought a lot about the root causes of recurrent crime, and designed their programs to target these root causes.

Whatever you’re working on, make sure you take the time to truly understand the root causes of the problem you’re tackling. We hope these resources from seToolbelt will help you peel back the layers!

Lindsay Miller

Lindsay leads, a free open content resource hub that helps social entrepreneurs plan, start, manage, and grow successful social enterprises. She has worked as a consultant to social enterprises and nonprofits in the US and abroad, served as the Programming Lead for the Skoll World Forum, and studied as a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford's Said Business School. She lives in Hood River, Oregon.

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