Define the focal problem

Before being able to successfully define what to measure, it is important to understand the specific problem that is being addressed. There are many methods to map out a problem, its causes, its effects, and potential solutions, and these methods will help significantly clarify goals and further define measurable indicators for subsequent M&E activities.

One potential method to map out a problem and determine potential solutions – and therefore indicators – is known as a Problem Tree. Indeed, this method is not only useful for developing M&E approaches, but for planning a series of sessions or broader program, as discussed in Unit 3.

The problem tree is a method to map core problems, along with their causes and effects, which in turn can help identify clear and manageable objectives for a given intervention. A problem tree is broken down into three parts: a trunk, roots, and branches. The trunk is the core problem. The roots represent the causes of the core problem and the branches represent its effects. Problem trees are typically developed in a group exercise to make sure that various perspectives and backgrounds are considered before launching, and monitoring, a program of sessions or lessons.

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