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Diagnostic Process Handout


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This handout describes the diagnostic process to allow programs to move from broad awareness to a sharper understanding of specific systems constraints to be address by their interventions. It should be used to distinguish symptoms of under-performance from their root causes.

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Diagnostic Process Handout

  1. 1. The Diagnostic Process M4P programmes need to be guided by a good understanding of specific market systems. Poor people are affected by the market systems in which they operate, which in turn are affected by other market systems and the broader socioeconomic context. Programmes therefore need to understand how specific market systems work (or don’t work) and maintain an awareness of the wider socio-economic context. This requires a diagnostic process which enables programmes to move from broad awareness to sharper understanding of specific systemic constraints to be addressed by their intervention. This process seeks to distinguish the symptoms of underperformance from their root causes. Why is it important? Appropriate information – and its effective interpretation – shapes intervention design, enables programmes to ascertain prospects for sustainability and guides interventions throughout the life of a programme. Market assessment should:  Help programmes understand the capacity and incentives of market players to determine prospects for change and sustainability.  Identify potential drivers of change and partners for intervention.  Generate intelligence and insight which can be used to influence market players.  Provide information for baseline and measurement purposes. Key M4P principles and framework The diagnostic process is like a filter, which starts with understanding the wider socio-economic context and then narrows down the focus of assessment to identify specific constraints affecting a market important to the target group. The process is about moving beyond a superficial description of the symptoms of a market’s underperformance to understand the root causes of this underperformance – which can be addressed by programme intervention. The diagnostic process focuses on the types of information required for decision-making and action, not on the use of specific tools to collect information. Once practitioners are clearer about the types of information they need, choices can then be made about where to get information, what tools to use and who should do what. Experience indicates that, rather than a specific tool or methodology, the most useful quality facilitators can bring to bear is the spirit of curiosity: not to take market underperformance at face value, but to continually ask ‘‘why?’’. In other words, facilitators need to keep digging down to identify the real causes of market underperformance rather than stopping at the superficial symptoms.
  2. 2. Information required from the diagnostic process Tools and information sources for the diagnostic process