Watch our new PDIA video!

We have been told many times that the acronym PDIA is clunky and that it doesn’t easily roll off the tongue. Matt Andrews’ response to that has been, “it doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters that you do it.” BUT in order to do it, you need to first understand what it is.

We are delighted to share with you our latest video to help explain what PDIA is and is not.

This video was created by the talented Peter Durand at who was an absolute pleasure to work with. We are thrilled with how it turned out and hope that you find it useful.

Feel free to share the video. You can also tag us on Twitter using @HarvardBSC or #PDIA.



PDIA Course: Taking the classroom to the field and the field to the classroom

written by Salimah Samji

When we launched the first PDIA online course in November 2015, we had a burning question: Is it possible to teach PDIA in an online environment?  To answer this question, we essentially PDIA-ed our way forward by learning, iterating, and adapting our online course – and the answer is a resounding YES!

As of the end of last year, 804 development practitioners in 75 countries have successfully completed a version of our free PDIA online course.

PDIA online course poster Dec 2017

Continue reading PDIA Course: Taking the classroom to the field and the field to the classroom

We recently ran a PDIA course on climate change adaptation. Why?

written by Tim O’Brien


Leader of farming cooperative in central Sri Lanka that diversified into ginger production as drought increasingly hurt rice cultivation.

If you live in a developed country, odds are that you think about climate change as something that will harm future generations — your children or your grandchildren perhaps. But if you live in a poor country, chances are much higher that you think of climate change as a source of problems that are affecting you and your family today. Climate change may not be the most important problem for you if you live in a developing country, but odds are that it is making your problems worse.

The climate is changing globally, but vulnerabilities are faced locally, usually in ways that exacerbate existing development challenges. For most poor farmers, when and how the rain falls matters a great deal. But climate change is tending to affect seasonal patterns on which many farmers rely, paradoxically increasing the frequency and severity of both droughts and floods, often in the same places. In many poor cities, climate change is increasing water scarcity, flooding, landslides and overall risk of extreme weather events. For people without electricity in tropical countries, heat waves are increasingly deadly events. For communities that depend on fishing as a means of both income and food, ocean acidification is both an economic and health issue. For countries with weak infrastructure, limited budgets and undiversified economies, macroeconomic vulnerability to weather shocks continues to grow more severe. Continue reading We recently ran a PDIA course on climate change adaptation. Why?

PDIA for growth in Honduras: A student project with major promise

written by Matt Andrews

We at the Building State Capability program have the good fortune of working with amazing practitioners from all over the world, and on topics of real importance. This semester, for instance, I am working with a team of three mid-career students from Latin America on a project applying the problem analysis in PDIA to the challenge of growth in Honduras. Marco Midence is from Honduras, Jorge Jimenez is from Mexico, and Jose Arocha is from Venezuela.

In keeping with the PDIA approach, their work started with ‘problem construction’—identifying a problem statement to draw attention to the problem. It goes something like this: Honduras has struggled to achieve the economic progress needed to pull many of its people out of poverty or to create jobs for those people moving into middle income categories. Continue reading PDIA for growth in Honduras: A student project with major promise

Why are there so many mass shootings in the USA?

written by Matt Andrews, Mark Moore, Lant Pritchett and Salimah Samji

This is a crowdsourcing effort to understand why … and to help foster a common response.

Many governments lack the capabilities to play the roles needed for their countries to work well and prosper. These capabilities are often missing because policy-makers cannot agree on the ‘solutions’ they need, and thus fail to invest in the capabilities they must develop to make needed solutions work.

This manifests in policy passivity, where policymakers fail to identify or resource the policy vehicles needed to address social needs. This then leads to problems that persist over time.

Mass shootings are just such problem, persisting—and even growing—in the United States, where government seems to lack the answers—or even capabilities—to respond. Continue reading Why are there so many mass shootings in the USA?

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

written by Anisha Poobalan

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Meet the Investment Promotions team, a group of Sri Lankan government officials from various departments, experts in differing fields, and all novices at the daunting task ahead of them – attracting foreign investors to Sri Lanka. I had the privilege of working alongside the I-team as a coach and colleague for a year. This post is an introduction to the ‘I team’, the challenges faced, victories celebrated, and the learning and experience gained for all involved, coaches and team members alike. Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

Using PDIA to tackle off-budget spending in Liberia

Guest blog by Alieu Fuad Nyei


Like many other African countries, budget execution is a huge challenge in Liberia. Last fiscal year (July 2016 to June 2017), off-budget spending was over 15% of the approved budget while in-year budgetary transfers have been on the increase, significantly undermining the credibility of the approved budget. This huge ratio of off-budget spending led to cutbacks in on-budget programs in areas such as health and education, either delaying or reducing the scale of medical and educational supplies to schools and hospitals across the country. Efforts over the years to address this problem have failed mainly because they focused more on improving the quality of the budget document and less on the root causes that have allowed this problem to continue unabated. Using the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, we started a 7-month journey to better understand and tackle the problem of spending entities (SEs) not executing their budgets as planned. Continue reading Using PDIA to tackle off-budget spending in Liberia