To start mapping a problem system, you should first be clear about what the problem is. Writing a short ‘problem statement’ can provide this clarity.

A good problem statement will explain what the problem is, how it is manifesting today, who is affected by it, and which other problems it perpetuates. ( NOTE: you don’t have to describe why it persists – that’s for your system map to answer!)

You can choose to end your problem statement with a ‘how might we…’ question that helps frame the problem in terms of an aspirational and actionable goal. ( NOTE: be careful not to bake a solution into your ‘how might we...’ statement – it’s important to remain open-minded about possible interventions!)

Example of a problem Statement

One in six people lack access to electricity. Most are poor and live in rural areas. One in two also lack access to clean cooking facilities. These people either use dirty or polluting fuels, or spend a lot of time collecting fuel to meet basic needs. This has a negative impact on their health and their ability to progress on other fronts, such as education and employment. How  might we provide clean, reliable and affordable energy to the rural poor?