The six +1 steps of the Compram method (DeTombe)

step 2

analysis and description of the problem by different teams of actors

2 In step two of the Compram method a power analysis is made. The different power groups, the actors, discuss the problem in their own groups and give their perception of the problem, indicate what their desired goals are, on which points they want to cooperate and on which points not.

 The second step is to consider the problem as an interest and power problem for the different actors involved. The problem should be discussed by the different actors, each with their own group to determine what their definition of the problem is, what their goals are, what their handling space is, and what their power, interest, and emotions are.

 Handling complex societal issues can not be developed by the problem-owner alone. Whether the project is developed for a profit motive, or with the intention to handle a societal problem, there are always many actors involved. Some of the actors are invited to join the problem handling process. The actors invited by the problem-owner to join the problem handling process are called included actors. These actors can be included in the whole problem handling process, or only in parts of the project.

 Handling complex societal issues are not developed in a vacuum. Sooner or later people hear about the project.  In a democracy other actors have the right to react. Not all actors that want to be involved in the project are allowed to join the project. Some actors are not invited because they are a competitor of one of the actors that is already included in the problem handling process. Some actors are deliberately excluded because they do not seem to be important in the view of the problem-owner. Some actors are just overlooked. The actors that are not invited by the problem-owner to join the problem handling process are called the excluded actors.

The Actors and Groups: Actors have a direct interest in the goals and outcomes of the problem handling process. The process affects them directly. Two kinds of actors can be distinguished: well-organized groups and unorganized groups, which are often forgotten. Both groups, however, are affected by the problem handling process. The well-organized actors coordinate their interests, and try to influence the process. Unorganized and less organized groups, like the elderly, the handicapped, and children, have an interest in the outcome of the problem, but they do not have a particular defender of their interests. In theory, policy makers should take care of the interests of both the well-organized and the less-organized groups, however, in practice, it is exceptional that the interests of the unorganized groups are taken just as seriously as those of the well-organized groups. The actors involved in the problem handling process each have their own view on the problem, their own definition of the problem and their own goals. Often actors have hidden agendas. In COMPRAM, both the actors and the unorganized groups are invited to join the problem handling process at an early stage (DeTombe, 2000a). The problem owner, as well as including the major actors, must agree on the way the problem handling process is guided. Therefore, the method has to have credibility (DeTombe, 2000c). Before starting the problem handling process, the problem owner and the actors should be introduced to the way the problem will be guided.

Complex societal problems involve actors and the actors have direct interest in a certain kind of outcome of the problem. Power plays an important role in coming to an agreement between actors. Power is the second basic element in handling complex societal problems. Each actor has particular interestsí, goals and ideas toward which direction the problem should change. Each actor or group of actors have their own steering instruments to support, change or prevent changes.

The problem owner is a special actor who initiates the problem handling process. The problem owner must have legal or social rights to handle the problem, otherwise the other actors will not cooperate or will ignore the outcome of the problem handling process

The problem owner alone can not handle complex societal problems. Other actors involved in the problem are needed for handling the problem. These actors need to be included in the problem handling process, because without them the problem can not be changed.

Each actor has a specific relation to the other actors. Some relations between the actors are based on common interests, others on law. Law institutionalizes some rules between actors. Law specifies the rights, duties, and procedures to be followed. Here law specifies the power, however, there is a large area in which rights are not specified. Here the actors should come to an agreement with each other.


The method Compram prescribes in a framework model of six +1 steps how to handle these kinds of problems. This is the Basic Approach of the method Compram (see for a more detailed description of the Compram approach DeTombe, 1994; DeTombe, 2003).

Prof. Dr. Dorien J. DeTombe
Founder and Chair International - , Euro - , West-Euro- & Dutch Operational Research Research Group Methodology of Societal Complexity
Sichuan University, Chengdu, P.R. China
Chair International Research Society on Methodology of Societal Complexity
多莉恩德通教授 华人民共和国四川省成都市 一环南路一段24 四川大学
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EuropeTel: +31 20 6927526