Relevance Tree

Relevance trees look very much like standard organizational charts. They help us understand different layers of complexity and granularity to a challenge.

When to use it?

Relevance trees can help us to analyze challenges in which there are clear levels of complexity, and in which the lower levels show more granular distinctions. It can also help identify problems and solutions, the ‘optimum’ solution, and articulate the requirements of particular policies, technologies, etc.

How to do it?

  1. Identify a high level topic for analysis.

  2. In succeeding levels of the tree, list out components of the topic with greater degrees of detail.

  3. At each level, show how entries are connected to an item in the preceding level.

  4. Ideally, entries at a particular level should not overlap with each other.

  5. Analyze items at the same level from the same point of view for consistency.

People: 2-5

Time: 30 minutes

Pros and Cons

  • Can help study the complexities of a challenge or a goal
  • May be able to show new and insightful connections


  • Requires critical judgments of connections that, if wrong, can weaken the results


(See picture on card) – borrowed from “

​Additional Resources

UNDP Foresight Manual (p. 30), available at “

European Commission Joint Research Centre “