Thematic Areas

Reflection-Action Cycle

R-A cycle 2 - Identifying and prioritizing an issue

R-A cycle 2 - Identifying and prioritizing an issue

Following an in depth analysis of their context, Reflection-Action participants will come together to identify the problem or rights violation that they want to focus on and plan for action. A number of participatory tools can be used to support this process.

Identify the problem

During the context analysis process a number of problems / rights violations may have been identified by circle members. These can be prioritised and a single issue selected for further work using a pairwise ranking matrix.

Understand the problem

A number of tools may be used to deepen understanding of the problem identified. A problem tree, for example, is particularly useful for analysing the causes and effects of a particular situation. A river can help to understand how a situation has changed over time. When seeking to deepen understanding of a particular issue it is important to remember to take into account a number of different areas of analysis, e.g. rights, power, actors and institutions, gender, vulnerability, communications, risks and feasibility.

Identify the change you want to see

It is important to be very clear about the change you want to bring about. A number of tools can be used to help participants to create a vision for the future. One way of doing this is to create a future version of the tool that was used to illustrate the problem in the first place. For example, if a map was used, an ideal future map could be created to show the change that people would like to see.

Decide how you can bring about the change

Participants then need to decide what is needed to achieve that change. What are the small changes (outcomes) that will help them to achieve the big change (impact) that they want? A number of participatory tools could be used to help members of a Reflection-Action group to visualise the path to change. These include:

  • river could be used to visualise the small changes (outcomes) that need to take place to get from where we are now (the start of the river) to where we want to be (the end of the river).
  • A bridge is another useful tool that can be used to identify the individual planks (outcomes) that will get you from this side of the river (current situation) to the other (ideal situation).
  • tree can be used to identify actions (roots) that need to be taken to achieve the desired outcomes (branches).

Plan for action

Once activities have been agreed, a simple planning matrix can be used by participants to plan for action:



Here you can find the different resources related to the current category.

Tools in this toolbox

Action plan matrix

To support participants to develop a community action plan.Steps Community members develop action plans based on the solutions id…


To develop or evaluate an action plan.The image of a bridge over a river (or road) is used to show the steps taken from the past …

Care sharing square

To help identify actors that can support and share an individual's care work.The tool helps to introduce the idea that care is a …

Chapatti diagram

To explore relationships between things – particularly the relative importance, influence or power of people, organisations or gr…

Criteria ranking matrix

To rank different items / issues against a set of criteria.Steps in the processHere we use the example of a criteria ranking of f…

Diamond ranking

To set priorities after a discussion or a brainstorm.Steps in the processDivide the participants into small groups of 4-8 people.…

Ideal future map

To discuss what the participants would like to see in their village in future and to prioritise amongst these.Steps in the proc…


To present local information, problems and opportunities in a clear, visual way. A basic map of a local area can be overlaid with…

Monitoring Matrix of Information Access

This tool was developed to support civil society organizations, citizens and civil servants in evaluating the performance of loca…

Pairwise ranking matrix

To compare a set of issues and find out which is the most important to participants. Known as a pairwise or preference ranking ma…

Problem tree

To explore cause and effect.A tree can be used to explore cause and effect or problem and solution. The various elements of a tre…

Public services map

To analyse the state of a public service (e.g. education) and the impacts on local people, and to analyse and prioritise the most…


To explore the history of an individual, community or organisation. The characteristics of a river (its changing width, current a…

Simple ranking matrix

To rank issues according to their importance to the group. StepsIf you are working with a large group, subdivide the participants…

Solutions matrix

To explore possible solutions to a particular issue or set of issues.StepsBased on the results of the ranking tool, ask participa…

Suggestion box

To enable citizens to submit anonymous complaints, suggestions or questions. Community suggestions boxes allow citizens to submit…