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Identify Issues and Problems

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These are the beginning, essential activities prior to a formal, funded decision process. They continue throughout the decision process.



navigate in the page--Purpose

You can't solve a problem in a vacuum.

  • To consciously recognize issues and concerns


  • To address potential needs before they grow to be unmanageable


  • To identify all related problems so solutions can work


navigate in the page--Why?

Problems have had a long history before we found out about them.

Problems frequently require a long view (e.g., 50 to 60 years). Proposals may take years to work through the budget cycle. We need to get a long start. In the beginning, we need to clarify problems, find out where affected people are.

Constantly looking far ahead so that we can start addressing concerns before they become crises is essential! Identifying issues and concerns that influence your proposal will improve the odds of implementing a sustainable* solution that meets current and future needs.


navigate in the page--How?


Don't skimp on communication! You may not have a lot of resources at this point, but failing to build communication bases and rapport now will erode relationships and ultimately the entire process. You won't get the information you need and you will shut down an invaluable early warning system.

Participants, organizations, and agencies have often already seen an ongoing/future problem or opportunity and are working on finding ways to address it. Open communication lines are the most effective way to identify problems early:

Keep your antennas plugged into the Secretary's and Commissioner's offices to become aware of what issues they want to address and how they want to address them. Use their objectives and missions as guidelines to identify problems. Also, communicate with other offices and teams to keep track of the atmosphere where the problem is located. Talk with colleagues to see if similar problems keep cropping up--perhaps you can identify patterns and address many issues more effectively within one comprehensive program.
Other Federal, State, and local agencies; partnerships; organizations; and interest groups can help identify problems. If you have a working relationship with employees in these organizations, it is easier to communicate with them, share details of problems, and discuss the background contexts or problemsheds. Participants, technical experts, affected publics, and interested observers will help identify problems and fill in the context. You may want to look at newsletters and records from government and private organizations. At times, you may be able to refer issues to other agencies (and vice versa); or you may want to bring that agency into a partnership to cooperatively solve the related problem.
Local organizations and people may also identify problems. Develop grassroots relationships with key people through consistent, frequent communication. Then people will be more likely to talk about problems that we may have a role in solving. Grassroot relationships are also vital to promoting an honest and open atmosphere where you can work together to identify and address problems.
Study analyses.
Within ongoing studies, analyze related concerns, physical interrelationships, ecosystem dynamics, and human influences within the problemshed.
Economic development, demographics, and biological and physical resource trends will help highlight potential problems.
Keep an eye out for legislative actions that may identify problems, mandate or affect other solutions.



navigate in the page--Go On


Dragon Tour wide-eyed dragon on the loose Decision Analysis <----> Problemshed


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Note: These files were developed and were originally hosted at the Bureau of Reclamation, United States Department of the Interior.
I am hosting this as an archive. Contact Deena Larsen (deenalarsen AT for further information.