Ranking Priorities

Objective: To understand the problems facing different community members and to compare across the priorities of different people.

Materials/Preparation: Idea cards, markers, small stones or tape.

Participants: Two groups, one of women and one of men, both should have a mix of well-being groups. This exercise has also been conducted with groups separated by well-being ranking or ethnic group, and engaged children.

Steps: Pairwise Ranking

Following introductions, the facilitator asked participants to reflect on their problems.

Then, participants were asked to prioritize six problems that they feel is most important to them. For this, the facilitator gave some examples based on issues identified in the context analysis.

Once finished, participants presented their 6 key problems, and the facilitator noted each on a separate idea card.

The facilitator then selected two different cards (each with a problem written on it) and presented it to the group. The facilitator then asked the group to choose the more important one, and recorded their choice on a prepared matrix. The group then discussed their reasoning behind the choice.

The facilitator then repeated the exercise with a different pair of questions, until each relationship between problems was ranked.

After returning from the community, research teams then compared the responses from the men’s group and women’s group.

To probe into the analysis, some questions to consider, either with communities or when analyzing responses after the exercise, may include (SEAGA Field Handbook):

  1. What are the different problems identified by women and men? Which problems result from the gender-based division of labour or from inequitable access to resources? Which problems are shared by both?
  2. What are the different problems identified by the different socio-economic groups? Which problems result from poverty or discrimination? Which problems are shared by all groups?
  3. Which problems relate to the Development Context issues? Which problems relate to the Livelihood Analysis issues? Both?
  4. Are the problems related to one another?
  5. Was there consensus or disagreement about the ranking of problems in order of importance?

Example: Power to Lead - Analysis with Girls' Groups

Using pair-wise ranking, this exercise focuses on the following personal rights. To begin, the facilitator introduces each right and invites participants to briefly discuss each one, fostering a common understanding of each:

  • A right to quality health care
  • A right to quality education
  • A right to be respected for who you are
  • A right to principally involved with decision-making processes that affect your life
  • A right to equality, most notably gender equality
  • A right to protection from physical and psychological harm
  • A right to express and act upon your opinions and dreams

Using a grid as below, show a matrix where rights can be considered in pairs (it is best to have drawn the matrix on a chalkboard prior to the beginning of the session):

Health Care







Health Care















The cells marked with N/A do not need to be discussed, as they would require comparing a right with itself OR where two rights have already been compared.

Distribute to each participant the handout with a copy of the matrix, on which they should complete the activity.

Explain that participants should individually consider each pair of rights, going down the columns while first considering this question: “Which of the two rights is more critical to ensure that you are able to become the woman you wish to be, or to achieve your dreams?” Thus, starting with the first column “Health Care” go down to a light cell, that in the row of “Education” and consider the question with those two rights. Participants should discuss which of the two—Health Care and Education, in this case—is more necessary for their hopes for the future.

Upon choosing one of the rights, the participant should write in the empty cell  the right which they feel is more critical.

Participants should read and make decisions for each open cell (a total of 21 cells).

After each cell has been filled, tally the number of times each right appears in one of the previously open cells (i.e. not including the column and row headings). The maximum tally for any right is 6. The number of times a right was selected demonstrates the participants’ perception of how critical that right is to ensuring that they are able to become the woman they wish to be. Note that it is acceptable for some rights to be selected the same number of times. This reveals that participants put similar priority on those rights (though looking at the comparison between two rights that that are tied should show which they actually deem more important.)

Variations: Prioritizing Issues

Following a introductions, the facilitator asks participants to brainstorm an issue.

Looking across issues, the facilitator asks participants to prioritize issues, which can be done through multiple means:


Participants are asked to each rank from a scale of 1-5, what value each issue gets in terms of:

  • How important / serious is the issue?
  • How common is the issue?
  • How much can we affect change in regard to this issue?

Once each participant has ranked these questions, the facilitator works with participants to add up the scores for each issue.

Sticker Ranking

Once issues are listed, each participant is handed 2 or 3 stickers each and asked to walk up and place a sticker next to the issues they think are most important. The stickers around each issue are then added to develop a listing of prioritized issues.


Participants may vote for the most important issue through a show of hands, or writing in a secret ballot.

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