What do we mean exactly by the “root cause”? I think our intentions are good when we analyze a problem and seek to understand the real cause behind it, but this inevitably leads us further and further down the rabbit hole through the tangled mess of interlinked problem sources. How do you go about solving problems when they all seem to be intertwined? When do you decide to stop digging and start chopping at the root?
I think poverty and other problems in the developing world often have more than one cause and therefore more than one solution. So this can maybe be a good thing. Once we identify a problem and educate ourselves as to the causes that contribute to it we can start attacking them. Because the problems and their causes are interlinked I think that it is also true that as we start to attack a certain problem it is highly likely that we will have results that we did not intend to have. For example, by seeking to mitigate unemployment we might try to create jobs for the men, or heads of the household, which causes them to make more money but also be gone from their hom environments for longer periods of time which then could affect how much work gets done on the farm and so on…
Because of the “tangled root” nature of them problems we also have to be able to pivot and adapt to the situations that we are working in and not be too set on solving one problem the way we think it has to be done. It is hard to find the one root cause of a problem because it can really seem like a never ending mass of roots. One of the major challenges here I think is the access to resources. To truly understand the root causes we need resources of all kinds: databases of research, statistics, case studies, people on the ground discovering the problems and so on. To truly understand the root causes we need all of the right information as well as unbiased individuals who can analyze it objectively.
So, getting to the root cause is a seemingly never ending journey but as we start to attack the most critical social problems we will have far reaching impact that is connected to other problems.
Often times I think to have impact we have to simplify things. Understanding the tangled mess of root causes is good but we can also seek to find the simpler solutions. It can be overwhelming to have all the knowledge of these causes and make it seem like there is too much to handle but real change I think is about starting small and thinking big.