Tell it with an Impact Tree

logo 2I have been acting as a forester for the impact tree and waving pruning shears for the last few days. Since the impact tree model seems to open other people’s tangled thoughts, too, I shall tell you a bit more about how I outline things in the tree. 

I’m sure there are many ways to draw impact trees and forests; here is how my work process goes.

Remind yourself what the wicked problem that you’re solving or the great change you want to achieve was? Take one step back in order to model and measure impacts. The idea of the impact tree is to depict a piece of that change that lies in your own hands to accomplish – at least if those hands are holding the hands of right partners. 

The trunk is formed by an achievable aim: a service promise on what kind of positive things we are providing, how much and to whom. If the aim is not clear, or outlining the matter otherwise seems to call for it, you should first consider drawing a problem tree. In a problem tree, the roots describe the reasons leading to the problem, and further developments. The trunk is the actual problem, and consequences to the existence of the problem grow in the foliage.


A tree lives and dies with its roots. The roots of an impact tree tell you what must happen for you to achieve your goal. Thinking of the roots is a good phase to also start drafting the stakeholder map, as you will probably not make all necessary things happen on your own. The soil is fertilized by measures – with the appropriate pH-value – that strengthen the roots of the tree and are absorbed through the trunk all the way to the foliage. 

The branches describe what will happen when you reach your goal: What type of changes will it cause on the individual basis, how are they carried through to families, work communities, schools and day nurseries. How are the multiplier impacts of the changes reflected e.g. in police operations, the use of social and health services and ultimately in local government finances or the public health.  

In order for the tree to work, make sure the cause and effect relation relies on solid research and  /or empirical information, and the foliage includes indicators that describe changes in a reliable manner. Remember to check if the information for the indicators is available, whom you get it from and if there is information on costs.

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