The first step on the road to building a world changing company, is understanding the world that you want to change.
Before we even think about brainstorming, or designing any specific models our starting point is always an issue analysis.
Done right, an issue analysis positions us as sparring partners in the field, guides us in the placement of our businesses and enables us to build companies that have the potential to create systemic change.
Sounds nice, but what is one exactly?
Issue Analysis: How and why
Behind any issue is a complex web of stakeholders and solutions that must first be properly understood in order to create impact. In its simplest sense, an issue analysis is a way to map this web and better understand flaws of a value chain in which we intend to place our solutions.
A completed issue analysis gives us a view of what a value chain looks like as-is: what hurdles there are to overcome, what solutions are already being tried and where the biggest gaps are in which new solutions can be placed.
With this we can define the to-be we want to reach, and build the new system.
We often go into an issue analysis with a rough idea of what we want to focus on, but once completed, an issue analysis will often lead to new ways to look at the issue, a switch of focus, or even a shift in topic entirely!
This isn’t to say you can’t create an impactful business without conducting an issue analysis. Quite the opposite! There are many businesses which have been borne out of one great idea rather than a calculated approach. But to change entire systems for the better, we know that it takes multiple businesses, the positioning of which within the value chain is crucial. This is the core of our programmatic approach to venture building and takes an issue analysis from nice to have to absolutely mandatory.
So, how’s it done?
The first step is data collection. There is a lot of deskwork to be done in terms of collecting quantitative data around an issue. However, while this data provides a foundation, the core of Enviu’s issue analysis is collecting qualitative data that gives context to the quantitative data gathered from the comfort of the office.
What follows is the development of an ecosystem map, a document in which we take a deep dive on who is doing what, including everyone from experts and knowledge institutions to other businesses, governments and civil society. This defines who we should talk to in order to properly understand the issue.
Using this document we conduct an intensive period of field work which, more often than not, reveals that assumptions we made during deskwork were not correct after all.
Here are just some of the ways we get that first hand data:
- Site visits: visiting the physical locations of various links within the value chain lets us see how things really work, and reveals whether the data tells the full story.
- In-depth interviews: From knowledge leaders and industry stakeholders to customers and local communities, interviews are a rich resource with which we can understand the various ways in which the current value chain affects individuals. The best part – one interview leads to another and multiple referrals help us flesh out our ecosystem map.
- Researching existing solutions: There’s little point trying to reinvent the wheel, with a complete overview of what is already out there we can find opportunities for collaboration or identify the gaps in a value chain that need filling.
What we keep in mind
When it comes to actually building our solutions, we keep multiple methodologies in mind throughout the design process.
While we don’t follow a formal methodology when conducting an issue analysis, there are some key approaches or mindsets that we follow:
- Leave our assumptions behind: We ask open questions and stay open to learn. The point of an issue analysis is not to confirm what we think we know, but to better understand what we don’t.
- Keep solutions in mind: At the end of the day we are going to be building solutions, keeping this present helps us recognize potential and opportunities from the word go.
Putting it all together
Obviously, there is an end product, a physical document and an accompanying summary. But before we even get there, we take the vast amount of information we’ve gathered and distill it into conceptual conclusions.
Not only do we believe this is key to an effective issue analysis, it we know it requires a certain amount of boldness. It is on us (and all others proposing a better future) to concisely convey the flaws of the current system and in turn, put forward a strong vision of what a better future could look like and the solutions necessary to make that happen.
Clear conclusions and a strong call to action are crucial as our issue analyses are the starting point for onboarding funders, knowledge partners and other experts. Then, once ‘finished’, our Issue analysis isn’t simply abandoned as we dive deep into ideation and venture building. Quite the opposite!
By sharing our learnings and spreading knowledge through all available channels, we can inspire and influence others to join us in building a better future and forging a new normal.
Interested? Download the issue analysis from a selection of our programs below!