International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Collaborative workshop for developing causal chains

Length of Workshop:

Approximately 8 hours + of the second TDA Development Workshop


Initially in plenary to describe the process followed by small breakout groups. After plenary, TDA Development Team members divide into groups of between 3 and 8 each taking responsibility for a transboundary problem. Mixed discipline groups work well – ensure that the group members working on this process cover all the areas of expertise needed. In addition to natural scientists, social, legal, political and economic experts will be required. Preferably, the Project Manager will define the groups prior to the workshop. At the end of the group work, each working group should report back in plenary.


To reach a consensus between the TDA Development Team of the immediate, underlying and root causes for each priority transboundary problem.

The Task:

Each group:

  1. Decide on a facilitator/chair, a rapporteur and ensure all members know each other.
  2. Review the priority transboundary problems and their associated environmental and socio-economic impacts
  3. For each transboundary problem, identify and list:
    1. The key sectors (e.g. industry, agriculture, fisheries etc)
    2. The immediate causes
    3. The underlying resource uses and practices that contribute to each immediate cause
    4. The underlying social, economic, legal and political causes of each immediate cause
    5. Link the resource uses and practices, and social, economic, legal and political causes
    6. Determine the root causes

The groups will also need to make linkages so provide white boards, flipchart paper or Post It notes as available.

Note: There might not be enough time to do all of the steps. The task can be reduced according to the level of engagement of the groups, their energy levels and the time available.

Report back and discussion:

In plenary, ask for feedback from each group. Limit the time for each group (e.g. 10 minutes) and keep a close eye on timekeeping. Allow time for a critical discussion within the group and ensure all comments are captured by a rapporteur.

It might be useful for a second round of group work to incorporate any ideas from the whole group. This would need to be agreed by the project manager, prior to the workshop. If a second round is decided, consider moving team members between groups.


  • Comprehensive list of sectors, immediate, underlying and root causes for the priority transboundary problems with information on linkages between different levels
  • Annotated list of discussion comments from TDA Development Team