2.4 What evidence do you have that this is worth the investment?

It is important to consider your issue in terms of the investment of time and resources needed and the outcomes expected. Moreover, you need to consider whether the evidence for your problem definition is reliable and complete.

In Case Study 1: Problem definition in Ethiopian healthcare, the evidence that women did not give birth in a health facility was reliable, but incomplete; accessibility and the supply of health services were only part of the problem, demand from women was a more core issue. Case Study 2: Asking the right questions, below, picks up the issue of data gathering, this time focusing on child mortality rates in Ethiopia. It explains how the initial data collection approach was flawed, leading to inaccurate data, and how this was revised to include a more culturally sensitive approach to interviewing women.

Case Study 2: Asking the right questions

Asking a mother how many of her children have died failed to gain an answer that matched the child-mortality statistics. Netsanet, an interviewer in the data-collection programme, relates his experience:

In some rural areas you can ask a mother ‘How many kids have you had?’, ‘How many kids have died?’ She might tell you three or four have died, for example, but she is often not including the newborns that died. This is because they don’t see a newborn as dying; they see a newborn as ‘being lost’. So they don’t count it. It is a cultural practice in some areas. So you have to ask how many kids have died and how many have you lost.

This demonstrates that getting at the evidence you need requires careful questioning that takes account of how informants understand your questions.

(Adapted from: Childs and Fawssett, 2015)

This example demonstrates that a problem definition is not only about defining the key issue you are trying to address, but also examining the evidence base of the problem. If you need to evaluate evidence in greater detail, you might benefit from looking at the Evidence Planning Tool [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in the DIY toolkit.

Evaluating whether addressing the problem is worth your investment, in terms of time, resource and expected outcomes, is a challenging task. To establish this, you might ask:

  • Does the problem align with the strategic vision of your organisation?
  • Are the perceived benefits greater than the costs?
  • Can the beneficiaries and benefits be clearly identified?

2.3 What social/cultural factors shape this problem?

2.5 Can you think of this problem in a different way? Can you reframe it?