A set of 16 digital cards

Communities can have problems, just like people. A problem is the difference between what is and what could or should be in a particular community.

Most of them are solvable (or partially solvable or at least improveable). Something can be done about them. Very often, a problem can seem overwhelming, but it should be seen as an opportunity to make good things happen.

If there are no problems to solve, what would be the motivation of the groups and the community to create change?

The set is a practical tool for the experts who work together with YWwD, so that these young women with disabilities can themselves become "contributors" involved in the community they belong to.

The set contains 16 different, easy-to-apply methods that can be used by YWwD or any other group of people to identify the best solutions to problems that arise in their community.

The set is part of Training Module no. 2: "Community problem solving", and this module is included in a Virtual Portfolio.

Card 1 Matrix 4x4x4

The problem identified in the community is analyzed carefully.

Then, a list of 4 options for solving the problem is generated.

Next, one of the four options is chosen and another 4 solution options are generated.

Then an idea is chosen from the newly created list and another 4 solutions are generated, until the most optimal solution is found, so that it can be applied successfully.


Card 2 Mental Map

A mental map reflects how our brain takes and analyzes new information, using it to describe possible ideas and solutions that help us test different thinking patterns. It allows us to understand what the problem is and how to solve it, making different connections, instantly gaining more clarity so we can find the answers we need more easily.

It contains all the elements of our problem in one visual ”take” – thus enabling us to see them at a glance. Here’s why its format makes it such a useful problem-solving tool:

Mental map prioritizes the most important aspects of the problem at hand, which focuses our mind. This is due to the fact that the branches of a map should contain single keywords or short phrases, rather than countless lines of text.

The use of colors and images stimulate our brain, meaning that we are engaged and ready to solve the problem.

Mental map starts with a problem, with additional ideas radiating outwards as branches. By using radial thinking in this way, our brain is able to use word association, helping us to generate many creative solutions.


Card 3 Forced Analogy

Participants is generating a random list of things: animals, objects, or people. These items are written on individual fiches.

For each item, some of its qualities or attributes are shortly described, for example, “An airplane flies through the air, moves along predefined routes, and has an autopilot feature.”

Likewise, an oak tree would be noted for its branching structure, its deep roots, and its ability to grow from a very small seed. Participants shuffle the fiches and distribute them randomly. They then use these to develop analogies to the problem or issue at hand, asking:

• How is this problem similar to *random object+?

• How would we solve this problem with [random object]?

A truly random list of objects will push the boundaries of the group’s mindset and create new perspectives. If needed, this list can be created in advance of the game itself by an unbiased nonparticipant.


Card 4 Working Background

Working backward is a problem-solving method often taught to help students solve problems in mathematics. However, it’s useful for real-world problems as well.

Working backward is when you start with the solution and “work backward” to figure out how you got to the solution.

For example, we use the method, developing two solutions to the problem of green spaces in the community:

- planting trees on the streets

- establishment of green spaces on lands in ruins.

Having these two ideas in mind, we work back, step by step, asking questions like: when should trees be planted? what resources do we need? What approvals should be obtained for planting?


Card 5 Means-end Analysis

Means-end analysis is a problem-solving method that we can use to solve well-defined problems. To put it simply, helps us get from “point A” to “point B” by examining and coming up with solutions to obstacles.

When using means-end analysis we define the state or situation (where we are now) and the intended goal. Then, picture our desired goal state – this is the state we want to be in once we have solved the problem.

Next, we make a list of the obstacles that are standing in the way of our goal state, and create sub-goals that will guide us in overcoming all those obstacles coming up with solutions to get from where we are now to where we need to be.


Card 6 Impact & Effort Matrix

In this method, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement a solution and solution potential impact. Some solutions are costly, but may have a bigger long-term payoff than short-term actions. Categorizing them along these lines is useful as it obliges participants to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them and put them in practice.

Given a specific problem in community the group may have a number of ideas for how to solve it. First we frame the problem in terms of a “What to do for it” or “What we need for it” question.

This may sound as simple as “What do we need to solve it?” Ask the group to generate ideas individually on sticky notes. Then, ask them to present their ideas back to the group by placing them within a 2×2 matrix that is organized on 2 dimensions: by impact (he potential payoff of the solution) and effort (the cost of taking the solution).

As participants place their ideas into the matrix, the group may openly discuss the position of elements. It is not uncommon for an idea to be bolstered by the group and to move up in potential impact or down in effort. In this respect, the category of high impact, low effort will often hold the set of ideas that the group is most agreed upon and committed to.

Source: 36 Problem-solving techniques, methods and tools | Surf Office

Card 7 Anti Problem

It helps people get unstuck when they are at their wit’s end. It is most useful when a group is already working on a problem, but they’re running out of ideas for solutions. By asking participants to identify ways to solve the problem opposite to their problem, it becomes easier to see where a solution might be going astray or where an obvious solution isn’t being applied.

1. Find a problem that needs to be resolved.

2. Give participants access to sticky notes, markers, index cards, images, modeling clay—any supplies that they could use to design and describe solutions.

3. Groups of 3-4 people willl tackle together: the anti-problem, or the problem’s opposite. (For example, if the problem is reduced participation of youth in the community center activities, groups would brainstorm ways to get youth to avoid the center). The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better.

4. Groups generate and display various ways to solve the anti-problem. Encourage fast responses and a volume of ideas. There are no wrong solutions. Each group share their solutions to the anti-problem.

Method help groups to evaluate a problem differently and break out of existing patterns, so make the anti-problem more extreme than it really is, just to get people thinking. And don’t worry if the participants don’t generate many (or any) viable or actionable solutions. The intention is to give people a new approach that can lead to a solution when they have time to think after the meeting is over.


Card 8 Back of the Napkin

The method goal is that participants to come up with an answer to a problem and write/draw it up on the back of a napkin.

The method is applied in groups. Each group writes and/or draws their answer/solution on a napkin. Each answer appears on one side of the (folded) napkin.

Other group of participants plays the role of evaluators looking to the best solutions, such as:

- Most practical solution

- Most Out-of-the-Box solution

- Most visual solution

- Solution that can be applied the fastest.

Method informality helps combat people’s instincts towards worrying about whether they can draw, have the “perfect” solution to the problem, and other worries that can crop up if wewere to use something more formal.

It’s a good idea to reinforce this in the introduction to method by encouraging groups to be as practical, whimsical and/or out of the box as they want.

An important thing about the problem is to make sure it relates to something that all the potential participants have in common. For instance: participants are parents of teenagers. The problem addressed: how to create joint events for parents of adolescents in the community?

Source: Dan Roam, "Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures"

Card 9 Enhancement List

This checklist main task is to further develop a solution and get it ready for implementation.

Notice how the questions below guide thoughtful analysis aimed at increasing the chances of success.

They guide us to consider emotional and people-related issues, the strengths and weaknesses of the solution, systems effects and consequences, and the need for trials and prototypes.

Though the list appears in one-question-at-a-time order, the questions are really meant to be taken together.

Shaping How can we modify the solution to address objections that would otherwise cause rejection?

Tailoring Can we modify the solution to even better fit our needs?

Strengthening How can we increase the power or value of the solution?

Reinforcing What can we do about weak points?

Looking towards implementation

What can we do to the solution to enhance the probability of implementation? Who must be involved?

Comparison to

How does the solution compare to what it is replacing? Should we do further enhancement, expand or scale back this solution?

Potential faults or defects

What could possibly go wrong with this solution? What can we do?

Consequences What are the immediate and long-term consequences of putting the idea into action?

Testability and prototyping

How can we try the solution on a small scale?

Pre-evaluation How can we further modify the solution to meet the needs of those who will evaluate it next?

Source: ”27 creativity&innovation techniques explained” assembled by Ramon Vullings&Marc Heleven;

Card 10 Excursion Technique

This method is very useful for forcing a group to have new thought patterns to formulate solutions by using analogies.


In the 1st step - the excursion - the facilitator asks participants to take an imaginary excursion to a physical location (a museum, a jungle, a city, another planet, etc.), which has nothing to do with the real problem. After the excursion each participant writes down 8-10 images, which he/she saw during the journey (things, people, places or items) in column 1 of a table.

In the 2nd step, the facilitator asks participants to draw analogies or express relationships between what they saw on the excursion and the problem to solve, and to write them in the column 2 next to each of the items identified in the first column.

In the 3rd step, participants are asked to determine what solutions to the problem are suggested by the analogies or the relationships in column 2, and write them in column 3 beside the items and analogies identified in the other columns.

In the 4th step, participants share their experiences from the excursion: what they saw, their analogies and their solutions.

In the 5th step, as with brainstorming, participants may discuss on each other’s ideas. The facilitator/leader helps the group come to a common solution or a set of solutions to the problem.

Source: ”27 creativity&innovation techniques explained” assembled by Ramon Vullings&Marc Heleven;

Card 11 Definitly not that one!

Choosing from among many options is difficult, but it is easier to find something bad than something good!

The problem to be solved is analyzed; different solution options are generated. It is not easy make a choice from many options. The method helps us to remove the bad choices.

Ask the group to look at all the solutions. Split them into two categories: “No” and “Maybe”. If the group is in doubt, the solution should be placed in the “Maybe” category.

Remind the group that the category “Maybes” should include some fresh and exciting ideas, not just logical and objective ones.

Method helps us eliminate some of the unsuitable solutions, so we can better choose a solution that suits well our specific problem.


Card 12 Disney Method

To get the most out of creativity and to prevent getting stuck on certain options, it can be useful to divide our problem-solving in various steps.

Method invented by Walt Disney involves three approaches to creative thinking: dreaming, realistic and critical thinking. Using the template the group can apply this method easily with colored labels to distinguish the different thinking directions.

Group thinks at the problem in different ways. First, with blue labels, we think at problem like dreamers: without any restrictions, what ideas would be the most ideal for solving this? With green labels, we think like realists: how can we use these dreams to turn the problem in a real solution? And writing on red, we think like critics: what are the solving options’ weakest points?

After each phase, the labels are organized on the template bellow. Instead of having a discussion between dreamers and critics, we quickly get a general view of all the ideas, the ways to make them happen, and the obstacles to be overcome.


Card 13 Shifting Technique

Using this method group takes advantage of personal and group creativity. In classic brainstorming sessions, some members might feel too shy or threatened to present their ideas or to challenge bad ideas. Another common problem is group think; the group can end up exploring a particular area for solutions and ignore all others by remaining too focused on the ideas. Method helps us sistematically avoid these issues.

Using this method group takes advantage of personal and group creativity. In classic brainstorming sessions, some members might feel too shy or threatened to present their ideas or to challenge bad ideas. Another common problem is group think; the group can end up exploring a particular area for solutions and ignore all others by remaining too focused on the ideas. Method helps us sistematically avoid these issues.

The problem is brainstormed as a group - participants get closer to each other and brainstorm on the problem; 5 minutes for this part.

Then problem is brainstormed individually - they spread out and work in private on the problem to come up with more ideas and solutions. They can record their ideas on paper if they wish; 3minutes for this part.

Then problem is brainstormed again based on personal and group ideas/solutions identified so far - participants come back together and present their ideas systematically one by one to the group. Each person has 1 minute to do so.

Once everyone has presented own ideas, participants have another 5 minutes to discuss the options in the group and brainstorm for an ideal final solution.These steps are repeated as much as necessary.

Source: adaptation after

Card 14 Multi-perspective Method

Multi-perspective thinking, which is the recognition that various perspectives exist with respect to an event, idea, or problem, can influence problem solving.

It was found that using more perspectives led to the creation of more solutions for that problem.

Perspective changing or considering more deeply the needs of another person (generally a stakeholder), was found to be strongly associated with developing a diverse array of creative solutions, which is an outcome more likely to produce useful solutions.

The problem is examined openly and with a lot of imagination by looking at the existing challenge into community through the eyes of a certain person or role (e.g. single mothers; people over 50; people who only travel to that community etc) in order to develop new (multiple) perspectives on the problem.

It is important to make sure that there are no limits in the views expressed and to give free rein to free association.

After a certain period of acclimatisation, the first interesting ideas and thoughts are already generated here.

Source: adaptation after Senge Peter, Bryan Smith, Richard Ross, Charlotte Roberts and Art Kleiner: ”The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization”.

Card 15 Comparing Proposals

This method is a simple matrix for weighing proposals/solutions from different perspectives.

It captures alternative proposals developed by the group, and analyses the corresponding trade-offs. It will help the group understand that there are different options, and that there areno easy answers to complex issues.

The eventual objective of the method is to agree on how to address the issue and decide on what actions will flow from the dialogue. The agreement should be expressed in such a way that it gives participants a sense of shared ownership.

Source: The tool is designed by The National Issues Forum (NIF) and is also known as the ”NIF Study Guide” -

Card 16 Positive Deviance

The method is based on the belief that in every community that suffers from deep rooted problems, there are some (the ”deviants”) who are innovative in dealing with the issue. Despite having access to the same resources, the positive deviants have developed ways of dealing with problems that through a process of learning can be shared by the whole community.


a) Recognition: a group community must first come together and recognize the issue that need to be addressed.

b) Definition: Having recognized the problem, group members must gather information to assess its scale and to identify the different solutions adopted by members of the community.

People who are adopting unusual behaviours which create positive outcomes are identified as the positive deviants.

c) Positive Deviance Inquiry: This stage involves observing the deviants with a focus on their behaviour, actions and attitudes in dealing with the problem. Rather than turning the deviant into a local celebrity, the inquiry is intended to empower ordinary community members. This is achieved by recognizing that if a neighbour, no different in status or resources from oneself can tackle the problem, then so too can any other community member.

d) Acting into a new way of thinking: Having identified the strategies of the deviants, the community chooses an approach to the problem to adopt. Activities are then designed to help spread the information or skills required amongst community members. This stage is not intended to merely show best practices; it is supposed to foster a new mentality by ’acting into a new of thinking‘ through the use of the designed activities.

Source: Pascale Richard, Jerry Sternin&Monique Sternin: ”The power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems”, Harvard Business Press.