Democratizing PDIA knowledge one practitioner at a time

written by Salimah Samji

We now have 569 development practitioners in 64 countries who have successfully completed a version of our free PDIA course.

Since we began our online journey in November 2015, we have learned, iterated and adapted our course three times, essentially PDIA-ing our way forward. More than 80% of each cohort has completed our course evaluation, which has enriched our understanding of how our content was received, as well as helped us identify learning gaps. To address some of these gaps, we went against conventional MOOC wisdom and increased the length of our courses in our last offering, by adding 2 weeks to Principles and 4 weeks to Practice. As we had hoped, this change did improve the learning and did not significantly change the attrition rates or the overall rating of the course.

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Here’s what we have learned in the third iteration:

  • Groups in the Practice course were able to hold their members accountable and they learned how to work together. 30 groups working on problems in 15 countries successfully completed the course in June 2017.
  • The practical parts of the course continue to be rated as most useful. In particular, problem construction, deconstruction, crawling the design space, authorization, isomorphic mimicry, reflections, and multi-agent leadership were listed as key takeaways for both the Practice and Principles courses. In their words:
    • Construction and the deconstruction of problems. Because it helped me focus on smaller element of a complex problem by the help of a fishbone, which in return helped me solved complex problem with ease.”
    • Authorisation – the clear articulation of what authorisation is, why it’s important to have, and why conflicting or unclear lines of authority can cause program failure or lack of authority to deliver a program.”
    • Crawling the Design Space Worksheet helped me to apply the concepts and tools in a real problem.”
    • Reflections, which allowed me to apply the learnt knowledge to my particular local context and experience.”
    • The real-life based experience, very hands on approach and some of the fundamental issues and reflections such as a new perspective on leadership in development contexts or tacit knowledge and ways to acquire it or how change happens in practice.”
  • The participants of the Practice course, a course for self-created groups working on a problem of their own, also listed change space analysis/AAA, iteration, teamwork, small steps, patience/persistence/grit, and contextualization as key takeaways highlighting the fact that they had understood the true meaning of doing PDIA. In their words:
    • The fishbone diagram served as a starting point for deconstructing and constructing our problem(s) and then served as a basis for the rest of the course, namely designing our entry points and interventions.”
    • The identifying change space enabled one know that even if there is small change space, there is still something one can do.”
    • The team exercises and bonding it brought about, the content of the course, concepts and ideas about leadership, change space etc. Above all, working contextually to solve problems.”
    • The PDIA tools are tangible outputs that I can easily explain how to use when approaching future problems. However, I also see the value in writing the reflections, as this cemented the important of the feedback process in learning from what worked and what didn’t.”
    • I have learned that it may be scary to thread through the unknown, but it is the best approach to find best fit solutions to an identified problem.”
    • The iterations helped bring theory into focus by practicing what we understood intellectually.”
    • The iterations. I believe it is the most important aspect of PDIA and without it chances of failure are great.”

We are delighted to announce that we will be offering the Practice of PDIA beginning September 3, 2017. Registration opens on Wednesday August 23. Stay tuned for more details!


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