Explore or reframe the problem

We sometimes fail to uncover what the users’ actual problems are or where the real opportunities lie from their perspective...

Program officer


The Program Officer quoted above went on to note that "we excel at solving the problems we see from our own perspective, because they tap into our own experience and skills." Indeed, it can be the case that resources are spent trying to solve for the problem as defined from the point of view of global health funders.

Incorporating design expertise into an investment early can is critical for helping us to shift our focus. Rather than designing an intervention from the perspective of global health funders and implementers, and potentially starting with the solution already in mind, reframing the problem changes the lens through which we are looking at the problem and opens up new opportunities for imagining solutions.

Illustration of the double-diamond design process

Common outputs or deliverables

Tips and tricks

  • Consider that a good design process may send you back to reframe the challenge your intervention is seeking to overcome from a more person-centered point of view. Make time for that exploration in the project scope, timeline and resources.
  • Consider how a strong design process helps for you to uncover the risks or unknowns that your  investment is trying to surface. Think about the type of partner that might be needed for your audience to get attuned to these risks and unknowns.
  • Reframing the challenge often needs buy-in from key stakeholders in your team and potentially from additional partners to the intervention. Consider the time and effort needed to generate this buy-in and whether your design partner is prepared to support making this a collaborative process.
  • Consider that reframing your question often demands that you question the assumptions on which your original question was based. This is a hard exercise, because a lot of our assumptions are deeply ingrained and unspoken.
  • The investment can benefit from a partner who has experience in the area under consideration or has a clear and appropriate process for reviewing existing literature. Being able to reframe a problem is grounded in knowledge of the various ways the problem has been framed in the past.


  • Beware of thinking that this will be an immediate silver bullet. Opening up your question to new opportunities means there are likely to be some bad ideas interspersed within the good ideas. Don't let this turn you off.
  • We often jump into problem-solving without critically evaluating the problem itself. But innovation occurs when we are able to frame and reframe the challenges presented to us effectively.

Questions for potential partners

  • How do you plan on leveraging existing knowledge from the field of global health? How do you make room for this in your process?
  • What kinds of exercises, frameworks, processes or tools do you rely on to effectively and productively make space in the project for reframing the problem from a key user/stakeholder perspective?
  • Who are the key stakeholders you would want to bring together to do this problem reframing? Who is critical to have in the room with us during this process?
  • What is your process for helping stakeholders feel comfortable challenging their own and other's assumptions in a productive and safe way?