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A magical tool to help you find the PERFECT project IDEA!

Finding a project idea is never easy. You might have so many different things in your mind, that you just end up being more confused then ever. Here is a tool that can really help you get hold of your idea and build a strong project.


A problem tree provides an overview of causes and effects to an identified problem. This is important in planning a project as it gives the chance to identify clearly the context in which a project should occur. Understanding the context helps reveal the CAUSES and EFFECTS that that specific problems causes in a SPECIFIC CONTEXT.


  • Helps planning the project;

  • Provides a guide in identifying the multiple causes of a single problem;

  • Identifies particular lines of intervention and other factors that may need to be tackled with complementary projects;

  • Provides an outline of the project plan, inlcuding the activities that need to be undertaken, the goal and the outcomes of the project.


A problem tree consists in writing CAUSES in a NEGATIVE FORM (eg. lack of knowledge, not enough money etc). This helps you have also an overview of the interventions that need to occur to solve the core problem.

STEP 1: Identify what you believe to be the problem you want to solve by implementing your project

The first step is to identify the problem that you want to solve though the project. Be as SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE (eg. Unemployed women in the town of Celano) rather than a vague or broad problem (eg. Unemployed women), which will be hard to identify and therefore to solve. The core problem is written down in the middle of the paper, or on a sticky-note that is placed in the middle of a wall. Things to help define the core problem include lessons from previous projects, the stakeholder analysis, and other research. If there seems to be more than one core problem, it may be best to develop a problem tree for each one.

STEP 2: Identify the CAUSES of that problem (at the bottom) and the EFFECTS of that problem (on top)

Once the problem has been identified, participants should consider what the direct causes and effects of the problem are. COLLECTIVE BRAINSTORMING can be really important in this phase. You can use:

- a board;

- a piace of paper;

- sticky notes;

- online free systems like MindMap;

"The immediate causes to the problem are placed in a line below that of the core problem. The immediate effect is placed above the problem. Any further or subsequent effects are placed above the line of immediate effects."

Credits: Evaluationtoolbox

We hope that this first introduction to the PROBLEM TREE was useful to you. We will come back in a few days with an additional blog article on how to get the most of out your problem tree.

- Erasmusnet Team