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Reflect on your impact

Problems and solutions / impact

Your theory of change starts with a problem description or analysis and ends with a description of the changes you want to see. In order to design a good social enterprise you must thoroughly understand the problem and know what change is important for you to see.

The problem and the solution

A great way to think about the problem you want to solve with your social enterprise is the problem tree and the solution tree. This image shows how this framework is structured.

Source: 2018 My Social Startup ® De Punt, Seinwezen, Sociale InnovatieFabriek, University of Brighton, West Sussex County Council

Each tree has a solid trunk. This represents the core of the problem or of the solution.

The roots of the tree refer to the underlying causes of the problem or the necessary conditions  that should be in place (context, involvement of partners/beneificiaries, success factors) for the solution to apply.

The leaves of tree are the visible parts of the problem or the solution: what are the effects of the problem, or what benefits do you see when your solution is in place? In the following steps you find out more about the problem tree and the solution tree.

The problem tree

Your social enterprise is tackling a societal challenge or problem. Perhaps you support vulnerable people who are not adequately supported by social or welfare systems. Perhaps you help prevent unnecessary plastic packaging. Whatever the focus it is important for you to have a good understanding of the problem you want to tackle.

What is the problem you are tackling? And how did the problem arise? The problem tree is a great way to visualise the problem.

Source: 2018 My Social Startup ® De Punt, Seinwezen, Sociale InnovatieFabriek, University of Brighton, West Sussex County Council

Example of a problem tree for a sample social enterprise ‘Let’s Work'

Effects of the problem:

People with disabilities’ talents are wasted.

People with disabilities’ access to employment is limited, and they can end up isolated.

People with disabilities remain fully reliant on others for financial means because they have no income.

The core problem:

People with disabilities can’t use their talents

Causes of the problem:

  • No adapted education or training for people with disabilities to use their talents on the labour market.
  • No adapted work and workplaces for people with disabilities.
Source: 2018 My Social Startup ® De Punt, Seinwezen, Sociale InnovatieFabriek, University of Brighton, West Sussex County Council

The solution tree

Once you have a good understanding of the problem and its causes, elements of the solution (including the business activity you will set up) will become more obvious. Think of the solution as a tree. You can use the same tree as the one for the problem tree, but with different sections.

Start with the roots. They contain the ‘ingredients’ of a possible solution. For instance: involvement of parents, teachers or employers, awareness raising etc.

The trunk is your solution. It should contain the essential ingredients you just described in the tree roots.

The branches are the effects of the solution: the changes it makes in people’s lives on the short and long term. These are possible because of the outcomes of your business activity.

Source: 2018 My Social Startup ® De Punt, Seinwezen, Sociale InnovatieFabriek, University of Brighton, West Sussex County Council

Thinking Exercise

Take a minute to reflect on how you would fill out the problem and solution tree for your social enterprise. You can take notes in the worksheets of this module.

1 minute

Example of a solution tree ‘Let’s Work’

Effects of the solution:

People with disabilities develop new social and technical skills

People with disabilities recognise their own talents and put them into practice

Employers have a more positive view of people with disabilities

An inclusive society

Your solution:

Training and workplaces for people with disabilities

Ingredients of the solution:

  • People with disabilities can exercise the right to work without losing allowances for the extra care they need.
  • People with disabilities gain access to training and work opportunities

Thinking Exercise

Take a minute to reflect on how you would fill out the problem and solution tree for your social enterprise. You can take notes in the worksheets of this module.

1 minute