Identify a wicked problem or engage the community

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty.

—Winston Churchill

At this point, it’s highly likely that you will already have a problem or opportunity in mind to focus on. Whether you do or don’t, it is important to understand that change will only occur if people in your community care enough about the problem or opportunity to act upon it. If you want to create change in your community, go where the energy is. The key is to find the energy and follow it. Being a lonely prophet and leader with no followers can lead to change but it is the hardest and loneliest role to take.

As you can imagine, there are many problems affecting communities but, in general, there are just two types of problems; those for which there is a simple and well-known solution and those that are complex or chaotic in nature. Complex problems often require multiple perspectives and a wide-ranging set of evidence to even begin the process of addressing a failure at source; yet these efforts are frequently undone by ignoring the people with the most important perspective – those most affected by the problem itself. These types of problems require more collaborative and more innovative approaches. Examples include climate change, obesity, social isolation, indigenous disadvantage and land degradation.

Opportunities, on the other hand, come in many forms. They may come in the form of a technology, a business gap or a new community service. They may come in the form of a community builder, organiser or leader who is already making a difference. They may come in the form of an available asset or resource that is being under-utilised. Indeed, opportunities may come in any of these forms or a combination of these – connecting communities with businesses interested in their good causes, for example.

Table below : Some typical problems or opportunities affecting communities:

Problems to fix:

Opportunities to build upon:

  • Poor economic performance.
  • Industry i.e unsustainable industry sectors.
  • Lack of affordable housing.
  • Changing land use.
  • Poor rural transport.
  • Frontline services at risk.
  • Poorly maintained parks, paths, toilets.
  • Lifeless town centres.
  • Outward migration of young people.
  • Growing and ageing population.
  • Income inequality.
  • Climate change.
  • Declining resources.
  • Large population here or nearby with needs.
  • Good digital connectivity.
  • High levels of specific skills.
  • Good infrastructure (including housing) that might be appealing.
  • Strong higher education institutions with specific research expertise.
  • Appealing and/or productive climate.
  • Rich or rare natural resources.
  • Strategic location.
  • History and heritage.
  • Empowered local leadership with interest or expertise in specific areas.

One thing we can guarantee is that turning problems into opportunities will at times feel like a confrontation of beliefs. Be prepared for a tumultuous battle between old and new, radical versus conventional. Chances are the Getting Ready stage will be one of the greatest catalysts for innovation you will have. Throughout this process, we will offer you a range of methodologies to choose from to help you apply the most appropriate methodology to the problem you are facing.

So, to identify a wicked problem or engaging opportunity, firstly understand that there are three different types of project:

  • Those that the community can take charge of, entirely.
  • Those that the community can do in partnership with others (government, businesses etc).
  • Those that can only be undertaken by government or larger community organisations.

It will become clearer which type of project you are undertaking as you go through the CLIP Process.


  1. Download the CLIP One Page using the links below. There is a print version or a digital version which you can fill in on your computer, you just need Adobe Acrobat Reader (free).
  2. Write in your definition of the Problem or Opportunity that you wish to focus on. Leave the rest blank at this point, as the plan will be developed as we go through the different stages.
  3. Save your plan (or keep it safe if printed) so that you can update it as you need.