Technique 2.90 Problem Definition Worksheet


Problem statement: what are we trying to solve?  
Decision-makers Criteria/measures for a successful effort
- What audience are you addressing?
- What needs to be decide/act upon?
- How would the decision-maker judge a successful problem-solving effort?
Key forces acting on decision-makers - Time frame for a resolution
- What are your concerns and issues around the decision?
- How will you address conflicting agendas?
- How quickly are the answers needed?
Accuracy necessary
- What is off-limits or not under consideration? - What level of accuracy is needed?


The answers to the above questions helps with the evolution of the problem statement, ie identify the positives and negatives of each cut of the statement (see example below)

An example is a charity that wants to look at how to preserve the Wild Pacific Salmon


Problem statement: to substantially increase the number of Wild Pacific Salmon

Decision-makers Criteria/measures for a successful effort
- Head of Foundation Environmental Program
- Foundation's Board of Trustees
- Other stakeholders like environmental organisations, other grant makers, government agencies, fisheries, Indigenous groups, etc
- 5 foundation filters:
i) importance
ii) the organisation could make a difference
iii) have an enduring impact
iv) outcomes can be measured
v) contributes to a portfolio of effect
This demonstrate credibility of Foundation's initiative approach
Key forces acting on decision-makers - Timeframe for a resolution
- First initiative of new foundation
- Want to establish a good reputation
- Want to prove a new model of philanthropy
- Up to 15 years but have to prove can design a program and get traction
- Annual reviews
Accuracy necessary
- Foundation does not favour direct political policy work or hard-edge advocacy (science over politics, pragmatism over movements)
- Willing to spend $10 - 15 m. annually
- Outcome focused, not input
- Need to demonstrate that the initiative could generate ecosystem scale outcomes over a single generation


Evolution of problem statement: how to preserve the Wild Pacific Salmon


1st cut To substantially and sustainably increase the number of wild Pacific salmon - simple
- appears measurable
- measurability is challenging
- ignores importance of species diversity
- does that link to full ecosystem health
- specific enough?
2nd cut To have a substantial and measurable impact on the long-term sustainability of the wild Pacific salmon and to ensure that the northern Pacific Rim watersheds that they inhabit remain diverse, well functioning ecosystems - expressed in outcomes
- indicates importance
- aims for long-term
- measurable, eg count fish
- ecosystem or species program?
- Salmon numbers alone and don't provide threshold. How much is enough? When finish?
3rd cut Maintain a well functioning salmon ecosystem at the scale of the North Pacific by preserving the potential of salmon populations to fully utilise the natural fluctuating carrying capacity of the oceans - identify specific natural mechanisms for ensuring threshold question
- meets the other foundation criteria
- ties eco-system and species survival together
- carrying capacity is not scientifically understood yet
- can be overwhelmed by other factors


NB All these frames could be overwhelmed by a bigger global environmental threat, like climate change

(sources: Charles Conn et al 2018)

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