Developing Country Education Systems that Learn

written by Lant Pritchett

Change is hard.  It is hard for individuals.  It is extra hard for organizations.  Change is especially hard for organizations when they have been successful.  Organizations often develop strategies, norms, and practices that are tailored to produce success in a particular activity or context.  When those strategies are successful, organizations have an especially difficult time to create and manage change that is not simply “more of the same, better.”

This is true even of large, successful, well-managed private sector organizations facing (organizational) life or death consequences.

The Big Store recounts how Sears, a veritable American retailing behemoth—accounting in the early 1970s for one percent of all US GDP—fell into a crisis and how incredibly hard it was to turn the organization around.  Even when people could see the organizational crisis it was often the people who were the very best at doing what made the organization a success in the past who were in top management positions—and hence those least likely to be able to recognize the need for, plan out, and lead change.

Continue reading Developing Country Education Systems that Learn

PDIA Course Journey: Disaster Risk Management in Tanzania

Guest blog written by Ignatus Jacob Matofali, Shamim Ahmed Zakaria, Catherine Peter Marimbo, Nyambiri Kimacha.

This is a team of four development practitioners working for the Prime Minister’s Office, OPML, and the World Bank in Tanzania. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

Development is not something that can be achieved overnight and through ideas that worked in other contexts.

It is important to make room for really understanding problem and context instead of suggesting solutions that are external and may not work in the specific country context. There should be a clear definition of the problem by the agents who are facing the problem and they should be involved in finding solutions to that problem. There is no single solution to complex problems which means that solving it requires  finding the root cause of the problem by deconstruction, though this process multiple solutions to a problem will be generated as a result of the emergence of new ideas.

We initially only had scratched the surface and thought, perhaps the issue with disaster risk management in Dar es Salaam was simply that there are no disaster management committees. We thought that maybe by having these committees established and functional then our problem would be solved. Then as we got further into the course and were forced to construct and deconstruct our problem, we learnt that we were missing the bigger picture and that what we had done was propose a solution to what we thought was the problem. Further development of fishbone diagram, led us to understand that lack of committees at ward and sub-ward level was only really one sub-cause in a much more complex setting. Other issues such as a general lack of awareness of disaster issues by community members etc. came into play and eventually we restructured our problem and established about six sub causes in total. Our problem statement then changed from “Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) at ward level are non-existent or not fully functional in addressing Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in Dar es Salaam” to “Disaster Risk Management efforts in DES aren’t effective in managing disasters”. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Disaster Risk Management in Tanzania

Premature load bearing: a fresh look at the WDR 2011

Guest blog written by Paul von Chamier

In 2011 the World Development Report shed some light on the extent of the challenges that drive premature load bearing, a concept discussed in earlier BSC blog posts. Among hundreds of figures presented in the Report was a simple table that showed how long it should take for so-called fragile countries to achieve a “decent”  level of governance. To define that “decent” level the author, Lant Pritchett, used the World Bank’s World Governance Indicators and assessed how many years it would take until fragile countries hit the threshold of governance quality of the top 40 percent of the best performing countries, this was a score of 6 on the scale of 0-10.[i] The results of the exercise were somber:

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The results suggest that more robust leadership will be instrumental if those countries are to achieve a satisfactory level of governance. If fragile countries were to continue at their current average pace they will not pass the threshold in any foreseeable future. Even in a very optimistic scenario, in which the fragile countries would all at once start improving their institutions at the pace of 20 best performing countries (the likes of Singapore, Taiwan, Denmark, and Canada), it would still take three decades to accomplish. This is the case even though that threshold only denotes a decent level of governance (i.e. not even the level that people in the most developed countries enjoy). Progress, even when rapid, takes place at a very slow, organic pace and even when strong leadership is present it might take a whole generation to bear fruit. 

Continue reading Premature load bearing: a fresh look at the WDR 2011

PDIA Course Journey: Youth Unemployment in Nepal

Guest blog written by Raunak Thapa, Sayujya Sharma, Shraddha Gautam, Srizu Bajracharya, Natasha Kafle, Sameer S.J.B. Rana

This is a team of six development practitioners working for an NGO in Nepal called Daayitwa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

We first came to know about the PDIA Course through our colleagues at Daayitwa, who had previously taken the course. They told us how it would help us understand the problems we were working in as an organization. We were very excited about what it does and how it works.

Daayitwa works towards building an entrepreneurial environment for youths in the country – the majority of whom are leaving the country every day for better opportunities in foreign countries. However, most have fallen to work for labor jobs. Some countries in the middle east house many Nepali workers, who sometimes do not return to the country, to their families because of their dire financial situation at home.

Daayitwa since its initiation has been working to make an enabling environment for youths through its different programs: Fellowship, Rural Enterprise Acceleration Program, Leadership Course, and Yuwa Aaja! (Youth Engagement for Youth Employment.)

The six of us (who took the PDIA course) actually come from different entities under Daayitwa; however, we were keen to understand the experience that our friends who had taken the course appreciated so much. Initially, we didn’t comprehend many questions like what is our problem? Who does this matter to? When would be the appropriate time to take actions? How do we work towards the problem?

Sometimes, when you come into an organization – there is already a set way of doing things, which everybody follows. But the PDIA course, helped us (the six of us) look at problems we were looking at in more detail, and gave a chance to work closely and to understand how to deconstruct the issues that we were working to identify solutions. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Youth Unemployment in Nepal

PDIA Course Journey: Tackling the problem of basic education in remote areas of Indonesia

Guest blog written by Annisaa Rachmawati, Agusti Padmanisa, Yossy Rachmatillah, and Senza Arsendy.

This is a team of four development practitioners working for an education program in Indonesia, INOVASI, that aims to find out ‘what works’ (and conversely what does not work) to improve student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy in basic education. They are a multidisciplinary team of officers working in communications, program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and operations unit. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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The term PDIA is something that our team is familiar with, in fact it’s a buzzword we hear everyday at work. Our project uses PDIA as its underlying approach, yet there seems to be different interpretations and debates around how it should be translated into program implementation. Having observed this notion for a while, we decided to enroll in PDIA Online Course to learn rigorously about the approach. We were convinced that this course will equip us with practical knowledge to actually do what we preach in our project.

There are four principles which encompasses PDIA. First, we need to ensure that our intervention is “problem driven” instead of solutions driven. Second, we need to engage relevant stakeholders and create environment which allows for “authorization of positive deviance”. Third, we need to foster experiential learning through “iteration and adaptation”. Last, we “scale through diffusion” successful interventions for reform to be sustainable.

The problem we are trying to tackle is “early grade students in remote areas in Indonesia have difficulties learning to read”, a persisting issue our country has been struggling for decades despite the many efforts collectively put by the government, donor programs, and education practitioners. Policies and best practices (either locally nominated or externally imported) seem to be successful in a short period of time, deceiving us into thinking that we might have solved this problem for good. Not long after specific project or intervention is completed, the same problem reoccurred – leading us right back into capability traps. (Isomorphic mimicry alert!)

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Tackling the problem of basic education in remote areas of Indonesia

Using the PDIA Approach for Menstrual Hygiene in Nigeria

Guest blog by Uchechi Okonmah

There have been a lot problems and misconceptions surrounding Menstruation in developing countries particularly in Nigeria. Menstrual Hygiene management amongst women and adolescent girls has become a matter of concern in recent age especially in rural areas where accesses to modern facilities are hindered by a number of factors and myths surrounding this subject.

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This era as described by the PHAAE Organization as an “era of new puberty” by a recent study where increasing number of girls starts to develop their sexuality at an early age of 7 or 8. In sharp contrast to the 1960s, where only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their 9th birthday.

In tackling this issue, PHAAE adopted the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) in order not to be mired by the “big stuck” or “capability trap” where developing countries and organizations thereof are stuck doing the same thing year after year that doesn’t improve or help the situation or produce results. Even when everyone can agree in broad terms that Menstrual hygiene management amongst adolescent girls and women in marginalized areas is very poor as a result of lack of modern facilities, an inability to actually implement a strategy that addresses this means there is little or nothing to show for this realization despite the time, money and efforts (if any). Continue reading Using the PDIA Approach for Menstrual Hygiene in Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: Legal Education Reform in Ukraine

Guest blog written by Artem Shaipov, Ivan Shemelynets, Sheverdin Maksym, Maryna Yakubovych.

This is a team works for the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Legal Education Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association, and the USAID New Justice Program in UkraineThey successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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What were some key takeaways from this course?

This rigorous, insightful course helped our team to become a true team in the first place. We learned a lot on teamwork and multiagent leadership and obtained a better understanding of how, in fact, change materializes in different contexts.

We also gained a bird’s eye view on state capability and its development through the reading on the “big stuck” in state capability. We also got a more nuanced understanding of the  accountability mechanisms through studying four relationships of accountability and how they affect development.

Our comparing and contrasting the 2015 problem with the 1804 problem was quite an eye-opening experience as we better understood how a true development is made possible — through problem-driven, iterative adaptations. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Legal Education Reform in Ukraine