What’s the issue and how do you know?

Begin with the end in mind. Identifying the needs, issues and outcomes that matter with your clients and community is vital to developing an effective response. The focus for the ‘Identify’ phase is to build strong foundations for action; creating authentic relationships and agreeing on outcomes.

At this stage, you are identifying what needs to be, and can be, addressed by your service. You will:

  • Gather the information relevant to your issue; including the best available research, program data and information, client feedback and experiences and practitioner insights
  • Work with key stakeholders to review and translate this information for use in your context
  • Articulate the issue you will focus on and the rationale for this decision.

Working towards Outcomes

before moving into the Design phase it helps to articulate the need or issue as an outcome or a number of outcomes. Ask: what will change as a result of the work you will do?

You may find these outcomes articulated in an existing outcomes framework. There are lots of different outcome frameworks across the child and family service system, including likely, in your own organisation. Aligning the issues and outcomes you have identified with a credible overarching outcomes framework is considered good practice because it orients your work and helps with our collective learning and understanding of how positive results are achieved.

Remember: You don’t have to go out and gather new data- review existing, reliable information to avoid duplication and reduce the time and resources required to do this work.

Reflect and review

Effective practice is supported by a process of learning and continuous improvement: regularly take time out to Reflect and Review all the way through!

It is good practice to set up regular ‘check-in’ points to consider the data you have collected and how it can be used to strengthen your program or service. Start by asking:

  • What happened?
  • So what?
  • Now what?

Here are some Reflect and Review tools to get you started.

Resources Close

These resources can help you through the 'Identify' phase:


OPEN Quick Guide: Client Experience (Practitioner)

Client Experience, Quick Guide

This OPEN Quick Guide provides a useful overview of how to keep your clients, with their unique values, preferences and experiences, at the centre of planning and decision making.

ARPNet Dilly Bag: a practical field guide and research tools for use by Aboriginal research practitioners in Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Tool/toolkit

This is a practical guide to participatory and other research tools for Aboriginal research practitioners. It was developed by a network of Aboriginal Research Practitioners in the Top End who want to use participatory tools that enable participants to better understand why and what is being done.