PDIA Course Journey: Local Problems, Local Solutions to the Indonesian Education Sector

Guest blog written by George Adam Sukoco Sikatan, Lanny Octavia, Sarah Ayu, Wahyu Setioko

This is a team of development practitioners who work for INOVASI and DFAT in Indonesia. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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It is at last the final week of the course, and we say this full of gratitude and relief. None of us had anticipated just how intense and demanding this course was going to be, from the essential (and optional) reading, individual and groups assignments, to reflection exercises and graded discussions; needless to say they were onerous! At the same time, the abundance of knowledge was exciting and overwhelming.

Working in the public/development sector, in a large, populous country such as Indonesia, the 4 of us often come across bewildering, deeply rooted problems that seem just impossible to resolve. The PDIA approach shines a positive light on this situation and more importantly, confidence to overcome them. We learned to deconstruct a problem into smaller pieces and find the root cause using a relatively simple, yet powerful, tool namely the 3A analysis (Authority, Acceptance and Ability).

Another key takeaway from our group is the importance of reflective process to help us look into failures, challenges and feedback as opportunity to grow and construct (or when necessary, deconstruct all over). This methodology taught us to become better listeners, to arrive in a situation with an open mind instead of a will to impose external practices. These reflections and adaptations to the local context, allow us to remain relevant both to the problem that we are trying to solve and towards our beneficiaries.

This course also reminded us of the importance of collaboration and coordination with a broad range of stakeholders. We understand now that multiple perspectives, incentives and even interests are actually useful in defining problems and formulating solutions. Sharing a common goal at the beginning of the work had founded a sense of belonging and motivation for all team members, even when the time is hard and problem becomes more challenging.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Local Problems, Local Solutions to the Indonesian Education Sector

Introducing our new Practice of PDIA Podcast Series

written by Salimah Samji

One of the core values of the Building State Capability (BSC) program is to make our tools and approach publicly available for use by development practitioners who are in the weeds of implementing public policies and programs.

In the same vein, we have:

  • Enabled an open access title of our Building State Capability book, published by Oxford University Press, and is available as a free downloadable pdf. Over the past two and half year, the book has been downloaded 15,000 times across 176 countries.
  • Developed a PDIA Toolkit which is a DIY guide for teams who want to use PDIA to solve their own complex problems. Our Toolkit has been released under a creative commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) and is currently available in English and Spanish (with French and Portuguese titles being developed).
  • Offered our flagship PDIA online course, a free course for teams looking to solve complex problems. 1,264 development practitioners in 87 countries have successfully completed our online courses.

We are pleased to announce our new 12-part Practice of PDIA Podcast series which will walk you through the PDIA approach to solving complex problems. This series is based on a video series we use in our online course. We hope that you find it useful!

Part 1: The Big Stuck and Capability for Policy Implementation. In many developing countries the capability of the state to implement its policies and programs is a key constraint to improving human development.

 

Part 2: Techniques of Successful Failure. Many reform initiatives fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because organizations pretend to reform by changing what policies and organizational structures look like rather than what they actually do.

 

Continue reading Introducing our new Practice of PDIA Podcast Series

Why I Almost Left Local Government (and Why I Decided to Stay)

Guest blog written by Maggie Jones

Public sector work is not for the faint at heart.  Over a 48-hour period, you may experience a rollercoaster of emotions including:

  • Inspiring others about why they should pursue a career in local government
  • Shutting the office down early due to a citizen threat
  • Receiving one of your best performance appraisals of your career
  • Regrettable HR decisions
  • Making a policy change that positively impacts your work and those you serve
  • Being reprimanded for making said policy change
  • Power struggles
  • “We’ve always done it this way”

Swiss Army KnifeFor much of my career in public service, I’ve been faced with angry constituents, toxic work environments, bad bosses, mean girls (and guys), and meetings that should have been emails.  I’ve been bullied, threatened, gaslighted, and incredibly uncomfortable.  There are days when you start to see the lotus coming up through the mud and then there are days when you’re hiding your favorite blog posts and articles from Medium and Fast Company under your desk like contraband.

I’ve always been a bit of a Swiss Army knife: multi-tool (multi-job), reliable, practical, adaptable.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve always been equipped to handle life in local government.  Sometimes the Swiss Army knife doesn’t cut it and you need something else.

Over the years I had three amazing supervisors, one who later became a wonderful mentor and friend. Robert Sturns taught me how to manage up, navigate the ever-changing political landscape, and ask the right questions at the right time.  He also taught me how to be resilient, that leadership comes at all levels, and that kindness always wins.  Rob gave me the freedom and support to try new things, even if it meant failing (forward).  Even as an A-Team of three, our little division’s workflow produced as much (if not more) than an entire high-performing department, which can certainly be attributed to Rob’s coaching leadership style and the diversity of our team’s skills and talents.  Reflecting on this time with the A-Team has brought me back to life on the toughest of days and has sparked me to lead my own team in a way that I hope inspires them, too.

Eventually my career track moved me away from that job and I found myself in a series of situations that challenged my ethics as well as my heart.  “We’ve always done it this way” was king, “change” was a bad word, asking questions was frowned upon, and we weren’t getting the desired results at cost to those were were claiming to serve.

And then, in a series of events, everything changed. Continue reading Why I Almost Left Local Government (and Why I Decided to Stay)

PDIA Course Journey: The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN)

Guest blog written by Abiodun Samson Oladipo, Adeola Busola Olayinka, Camilla Esther Araoye, Ibikunle Peter Olalekan, Emmanuel Oluwatosin Oke, Titi Oyeola.

This is a team of development practitioners who work for the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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Journeying through the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) course could be likened to an adapted 1804 challenge, we simply sailed out with great expectations of learning new concepts within the development space. We knew the course was going to be educative but we never knew what would evolve. Today, we can categorically say the 15 weeks journey was worth it;

‘the course content; the critical thinking; the debates full of diverse insights; the guides, the weekly deadlines clashing with job demands, and all the fun derived interacting on each modules will be greatly missed.’

PDIA has given us a story to tell in our career progress, the story of six people in six different disciplines and expertise with two members in different locations, but working together to solve a problem – an amazing team building tool the PDIA process is, amalgamating a pool of ideas to solve a complex problem. Agreeing on a problem to work on wasn’t difficult, the team members had concerns about why our organisation wasn’t achieving its stated mandates beyond cultural affinities binding the Southwest region of Nigeria. Our organisation was established by the six States governments of the region to enact a development paradigm that would accelerate socioeconomic development across the States in the geopolitical region, thus, we were regarded as the development think tank of the region. However, a problem lingered! For over 5 years, the six states governments were not adopting the policy/program recommendations coming from their think tank. Based on this, we set out on the PDIA journey with the expectation that the process would help us to change the status quo.

Though with a pre-identified problem statement, one outstanding insight from the PDIA process was the need to reconstruct the problem in a manner that wasn’t biased towards a pre-conceived solution, and deconstruct to identify root-causes. This process reformed our thought process, we started seeing the intrinsic issues with solution entry points easier than the problem statement itself. This understanding of multiple entry points for resolving the root-causes and the process of iteration opened our minds to actions required to solve the problems; we spent about eight weeks interrogating/learning more about our problem. Thus, we developed a flexible mindset to the problem and became more convinced we are on the right path of finding the appropriate route to our solution, this energized our spirits to push through: Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN)

PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Unemployment in Jordan

Guest blog written by Lara Khaled Abdullah Hussein, Mai Aziz Shafiq Elian, Rana Riad Al-Ansari

This is a team of development practitioners who work as strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation specialists for the Ministry of Labour (MoL) in Jordan. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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We were encouraged to enroll in this course by the Growth Lab who was providing technical assistance to the Royal Court in Jordan. We didn’t know at that time what was required and needed to complete this course.

We agreed on the group norms; that helped our team function well over the course journey. We constructed our problem “Increase of the Unemployment Rates in Jordan”. This issue is crucial on the National and international levels; it affects poverty levels, hunger, health, and social aspects. The Increase of Unemployment Rates is linked to the stability of political situation and economic growth where workers produce goods and services, and in turn receive wages which can be spent on buying goods produced. Nowadays this problem is the most important one for MoL and its stakeholders; government institutions, civil society, private sector and donors.

We learnt a lot from the course videos, readings, individual reflections, online group discussions and our team discussions. The process of building our capabilities was through the learning-by-doing approach. We constructed the problem, deconstructed it into causal strands (‘fishbone’ (or Ishikawa) diagram), and then scored each of the strands in terms of their importance and accessibility yielding ‘entry-point’ problems where they could start to work (change space). We identified the actions that could be taken to start addressing each of the selected ‘entry points’, we carried two iterations and designed the third one.

Figure 1 below shows our fishbone diagram that was first constructed and then deconstructed and analyzed, given the change space we had, we preferred to focus on one sub-cause of our main problem, that is, limited professions for foreign labour. Then we defined suitable entry points and authorizing environment. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Unemployment in Jordan

PDIA Course Journey: Girls and Poverty in Kenya

Guest blog written by Jaynnie K Mulle, Meital Tzobotaro, Rosemary Okello-Orale, Stephen Brager, Warren Harrity.

This is a team of five development practitioners who work for USAID and Strathmore University in Kenya. 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 course provided a number of valuable tools, principles, and practices that are already being put to use.  Additionally, a great takeaway is our team that was formed for this course, I am not sure how if it all we would have come together to work on something in a way that this course brought us together,  but we are glad for this opportunity to create this team.  Specific key takeaways include the emphasis on defining and deconstructing a problem rather that “applying solutions”;  assessing the AAA’s and including the development of the authorization space as part of the activity; crawling the design; and appreciating that this practice is hard but rewarding.   In many regards this course was a gift that enriched our thinking, refueled our enthusiasm, and helped us to look at our problem in a new and exciting way.  Allow us to offer you a gift in return, if you’ve not done so already, read about one of the earliest PDIA practitioners in the “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”

Other take-aways from the course include:

  1. Instead of adopting the solution that other people have to solve a problem, the course helped us to learn how to search for solutions to our problem,
  2. The 1804 metaphor of taking small steps to solve complex problems,
  3. The use of the fishbone to identify the cause and effects in problems and how they are interconnected. Most importantly how fishbone allows for prioritizing relevant cause so that the underlying root cause is addressed first,
  4. The importance of using iteration, and,
  5. How people are at the center of all PDIA elements

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Girls and Poverty in Kenya

PDIA Course Journey: Coordinating the National HIV Response in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Ime Michael Mukolu, Oluwaseun David Oshagbami, Rashidat Jogbojogbo, Sodipe Oluwaseun Oluwasegun.

This is a team of four development practitioners who work for the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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With the processes and strategies learned from PDIA as well as anticipated support from critical stakeholders, we can say we are on the right track towards achieving effective coordination of the National HIV response.

The following were progress made thus far:

  1. We conducted a fishbone analysis of our problem and that gave us a better understanding of what we are dealing with.
  2. We also conducted two iterations under which we accomplished the following:
    1. We finalized a concept note to review the National Policy on HIV/AIDS and got the approval of our Authorizer to hold a two day Policy Dialogue meeting.
    2. We brought critical stakeholders together for a Policy Dialogue meeting, where we had discussions towards providing a clear direction to the HIV response.
    3. We documented policy recommendations required to improve funding and coordination of the HIV response and shared same with all critical stakeholders.

Overall, PDIA has re-orientated the team to see problems differently. To use problems as a launch pad to build state capability especially in the field of HIV/AIDS coordination in Nigeria. The course helped sharpen our skills on how to approach problems by simply identifying the causes, sub-causes, relevant stakeholders that are critical to solving the identified problem and how to engage them. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Coordinating the National HIV Response in Nigeria