What is it?

You need to begin with an initial statement that sets out the issue (usually a problem or challenge) which needs to be addressed, and which provides a clear statement of remedial action, saying what, by whom and by when. Think of the challenge as the gap between what should occur in your community and what is actually happening.

For example, the gap between a group’s acceptable or desirable health and their current wellbeing. This should be looked at as early as possible. There will be opportunities to adapt or change this initial statement as the work progresses.

Why do this?

Setting out what is to be achieved and the rationale for it will:

  • Help all those who become involved (at whatever stage) to understand the initial reasoning behind decisions and actions
  • Highlight the expectations of funding bodies, commissioners and other key stakeholders
  • Help people to question initial assumptions and adapt the initial challenge statement as the input of stakeholders becomes known
  • Help to engage with all interested parties so they can develop a sense of ownership and commitment

How might you do this?

With three core components:

  • At this stage, you may want to form a core team (or steering group) whose skills and experience will largely determine later interventions
  • Very rarely will there be only one approach. Teams require a mix of abilities relevant to the stage of the process and the tasks at hand. It is quite possible that the composition of the team (and the stakeholders involved) will need to change because the skills and experience needed will themselves be constantly evolving. An early question you could ask is ‘are team members knowledgeable and experienced in social marketing?’ You will find further detail on setting up a steering group in the scoping stage
  • Set out the initial expectations of everyone involved. At this stage, the initial expectations of the team and major stakeholders such as funding bodies and commissioners will be assessed
  • This will be an ongoing process as yet more stakeholders are identified, and expectations may therefore change. It is not uncommon for people to have different expectations and failing to acknowledge this at the start means they are likely to resurface later. Working together to agree the initial challenge statement, helps identify these differing perceptions
  • Set out an initial statement of the challenge being addressed. There are a number of important questions to ask in order to develop a clear statement. This can be adapted as the work progresses, but having a basic statement at the start should help all those involved.

More In developing a Challenge Statement, the following questions should be asked:

  • What is the presenting issue?
  • What is likely to happen if no action is taken?
  • In terms of behaviour what are the key challenges? (describe the issue in terms of behaviour rather than a policy aim)
  • Who are directly affected by the issue now?
  • Who could be affected in the future?
  • What is driving the concern now? (for example: relevant national or policy drivers)
  • What relevant targets are already in place or are expected shortly?

Example: Challenge Statement

The serious health harms from smoking are now widely acknowledged. Nationally, 20% of those under age 18 smoke at least three cigarettes a day according to a 2002 survey.

However, a local survey found higher levels in community XXXX. Here most teens (around 56%) admitted to smoking at least three cigarettes a day. The survey also found that the number of young Afro-Caribbean women who smoked had doubled in the previous five years.

The consequences of this are likely to be higher-than-average rate of smoking in adults, more chronic health problems, and a worsening health gap between particular ethnic minority communities and the general population.


  • It is useful to think in terms of building something positive as much as reducing or eliminating something negative

    The term ‘challenge’ has been specifically used to avoid the tendency to simply focus on a ‘problem’. Try to consider the desired behaviour you seek, rather than the negative one you are trying to eliminate

  • Try to get some initial working assumptions on paper to provide an initial steer or guide

This can then be readily adapted and updated as more information becomes available. Setting out an initial sketched plan will help everyone to focus on the work to be done, and consider how they might be able to contribute


  • A written initial Challenge Statement

Intended Outcome

  • An initial understanding of the expectations of different parties
  • A clearer understanding of the nature of the challenge.