When the CPWF plans an intervention, it starts by developing a ‘problem tree’. Here, a problem is identified. Next, we identify the reasons why the problem exists. In turn, these reasons may be caused by other reasons, and so on. In this way, we develop a thorough understanding of a problem and its causes.
The problems that the CPWF addresses are called ‘basin development challenges’. These represent significant problems in the basins where we work, and which we think research might be able to help in addressing.
Once the problem tree has been created, we begin to explore how each of the problems can be addressed. By turning the problem around, we identify the impact we want to achieve. Most water and food problems are caused by human actions. As a result, solving the problems requires changes to human behaviour – changes in the way they do things. Most of the time, the behavioral changes we seek are amongst ‘end users’ – those whose behaviour is immediately responsible for the problem (and immediately responsible for the solution). But the CPWF is not a development program, and many of the problems it addresses are of a development nature, so the CPWF partners together with ‘next users’. These are governments, development agencies or NGOs who are development professionals. Together, the CPWF and the next users define the kinds of research products needed to solve the problem. This, finally, defines the research we implement.
This impact pathway helps us to understand problems, the actions and technologies needed to solve it and who we need to partner with. It is in this way that we can develop a direct relationship between the research products we develop and the impact we seek.
In the Mekong, a key part of how we implement this process is through dialogues and multi-stakeholder platforms.
If you want to learn more about impact pathways and how we use them, click here.