International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Process for developing a causal chain

Steps in the process

There are 2 key steps in the CCA process:

Step 1: Identification of the components of the causal chain for each priority transboundary problem and associated environmental and socio-economic impacts

Step 2: Further development of the causal chains based on the outputs from Step 1

Step 1: Identification of the components of the causal chain

As with the previous steps (Identification of Priority Transboundary Problems and Analysis of Impacts), this step can successfully be accomplished through a collaborative process involving the TDA Development team. An example of a collaborative CCA workshop is given here.

Ideally, this workshop will be a separate event from the workshop that focused on transboundary problems and impacts but this will depend on the time, funds and human resources available for the task.

Step 2: Further development of the causal chains based on the outputs from the CCA Workshop

It is highly probably that the outputs from the CCA workshop will only provide a starting point for the completed causal chains. At the very most, it will produce a comprehensive list of sectors, immediate, underlying and root causes for the priority transboundary problems with information on linkages between different levels.

The purpose of this step is to complete each causal chain and provide quantitative or qualitative data to substantiate the analysis if possible. The two approaches for undertaking this step are:

Both approaches are valid - table (or matrix) based causal chains are generally simpler to produce but provide less information and do not show linkages between causes whereas flow diagrams are more difficult to construct but are generally more informative and show the linkages between causes. Irrespective of the approach used, each chain should be supported with a narrative with quantitative or qualitative data or indicators.

Advice from the field

  • At each stage in the CCA, keep asking ‘Why?’ Generally five iterations of asking ‘why’ is sufficient to get to a root cause.
  • Causes interact It is very likely that there will be links between several causes and the same effect or the same cause producing several different effects. In addition, activities in different sectors of society (e.g. agriculture, industry, transport, etc.) will result in specific causes and effects but these are likely to interact with other sectors.
  • Do not underestimate the time needed to carry out CCA - It is unlikely that all the CCAs will be completed in one workshop. Work will need to be continued between sessions.
  • Expertise Ensure that the TDA Development team members working on the CCAs cover all the areas of expertise needed. In particular, good social, legal, political and economic experts will be required.
  • Work in a stepwise manner Start with the immediate causes and work towards the root causes.
  • Preparedness Try to be well prepared prior to the main causal chain workshop. Have the CCA methodology well developed and understood by key members of the TDA Development team.
  • Briefing The CCA process can be difficult for people to conceptualise, so ensure that the Development team are adequately briefed prior to any workshop by key members of the team and try not to be over ambitious.