Skip to content
The Innovation Process
Activity 1.3 A

Prioritise information and identify patterns

This activity will help you uncover key findings from the Starting Point Assessment, and to structure this knowledge into recognisable themes and patterns for subsequent analysis and interpretation.

At this point in your innovation process you will have generated and gathered a considerable amount of information from the different activities you have completed in the first two modules – now you have to make sense of it. The following two exercises are designed to be carried out in sequence.


You now have a rich collection of exploratory and evaluative data on key areas such as context, past efforts or existing services, and the challenge. Working independently or with your team, take 30–60 minutes to go through your notes, annotated documents, interview transcriptions, drawings, etc, and write down 3–5 answers to each of the following questions:

  • What have you learned that surprised you the most?
  • What was the most frequent thing that came up?
  • What information do you think is most important to make note of?

You should use one sticky note for each answer. To encourage concise and impactful reflections, write these down in the style of a newspaper headline. For example, ‘Faulty Filter Causes Financial Woes!’ Next, if working with a group, take turns sharing with each other which insights you’ve selected (explain your choices) and post them on the wall.

Custering and Affinity Mapping

Go back to your initial Knowledge Areas map. You should now be able to cluster the insights you have developed in the newspaper headlines exercise and be able to sort them into each of the areas: Problem, Context, and Past Efforts.

There may be information that does not fit into any of the three areas. If so, it is ok to start a new theme with a cluster. Clusters are where the information you have gathered from your different sources seem to be connected and can be ‘clustered’ into recognisable themes and patterns.

Once you have created this initial clustering, you may want to draw connections across clusters as well. This can help you see the ‘problem space’ from different angles. You can use pens or string to draw the connections. Make sure that you label each connection, so that you don’t end up with an unintelligible meatball-and-spaghetti diagram!

  • What patterns start to emerge with respect to your research questions?
  • Can you identify common features, sources or elements?
  • What are the possible explanations that come out of this exercise?

Consider what your clustering tells you about how the problem is starting to be framed, and whether it would be recognisable to members of the crisis-affected population. Consider also whether your clustering and framing might be overly influenced by the way the humanitarian system and architecture currently approaches this problem.

Further Inspiration

Centre for Care Innovations (2017) Catalyst Method: Affinity Clustering.
Further guidance on clustering