Root cause analysis (RCA) is a useful process for understanding and solving a problem. Using an array of approaches, tools, and techniques, you can identify what events—both negative and positive—are occurring, then look at the complex systems around those issues and isolate key points of improvement. Once correctly identified, you can begin to formulate solutions to fix the core problem.

Root cause analysis, sometimes referred to as “structural analysis,” assumes that it is more effective to systematically prevent and solve for underlying issues rather than treat ad hoc symptoms and putting out fires. Widely used in IT operations, manufacturing, engineering and accident analysis, RCA is highly effective in health and human services evaluations as well.  

The chart below from the Erikson Institute‘s Early Childhood Leadership Academy provides simple and concrete examples of RCA analyses.

Erikson Institute illustrates that it is important to think about why some of the individual data points look the way that they do. For example, examining the root cause of poor educational outcomes in Philadelphia shifts the focus from family income to investment per student, and thus uncovers a new realm of solutions. 

If your organization is tasked with implementing solutions to some of our country’s most complex health and human services issues, CCNY’s root cause analysis can help you look at your data in a new light. Our process leads to creative and cost-effective solutions for our nonprofit partners. Contact us today to learn more: