Develop a shared understanding of the issue and identify those aspects that are most amenable to intervention.
This stage requires participants to learn all they can about the issue/problem/opportunity and, in particular, about those causes that lend themselves to intervention. Participants in a collaborative process often come with their own (sometimes conflicting) perceptions of the primary causes and the most effective interventions. Building consensus about the “real” nature of the problem requires not only careful technical analysis but also an exploration of individual views.
To arrive at a shared definition of the issue, some groups first develop a shared set of assumptions and then create an “issue map” to graphically depict possible contributing causes and identify which of those might be most amenable to intervention.
Once there is agreement among participants that the issue is well defined and key assumptions are shared, this stage is deemed complete. The significance of developing a shared understanding is the foundation it provides for the analysis that follows; it is a prerequisite to building commitment for executing whatever strategy is developed by the group.
Once stakeholders begin to understand each others’ assumptions, it is easier to reach consensus on what the problem is and what sorts of interventions will be effective.