Problem analysis

In the simplest case, a coastal stretch does not fulfil its requirements and people (the government, interest groups) want certain functions to be improved. It becomes more complicated when a coastal stretch does fulfil its requirements, but that it is anticipated that within a few years it will not. When will that be, and when should measures be taken, and which measures are viable? It becomes even more complicated, when a single party has a problem (for instance a project developer) whereas all other parties judge the situation as being acceptable.

The policy maker is not only confronted with problems or wishes, but sometimes also with preferred directions of solutions. He then can follow two approaches:

  • The solution-oriented approach. This approach is characterized by the implicit decision to start a project. Studies focus on the possible effects and costs of the proposed intervention, and result in a view on the feasibility of alternatives.
  • The problem-oriented approach. This approach first analyses the underlying problem then studies the possible solutions.

The solution-oriented approach does not include an analysis of the problem for which the solution is meant. Consequently, one runs the risk that at the end, the ‘best’ alternative does not solve the problem. Quite often it occurs that during the policy making process, the question arises to which problem the proposed solutions actually refer. Then the underlying problem is analysed, which actually means that a shift occurs in the orientation of the research: from solution-oriented towards problem-oriented approach.

A problem analysis following the problem-oriented approach consists of problem orientation, problem delimitation and problem definition.