Taking stock of our achievements in 2017

written by Salimah Samji

The Building State Capability (BSC) program had a very busy 2017. We are a small team of doers who are constantly testing, learning, reflecting, and adapting our approach – essentially PDIAing our way forward, often while charting new waters. 

Our work with PDIA has led to high levels of impact. Governments as well as other organizations have, made progress toward solving problems that have festered for many decades, learned how to use new tools for active problem solving, and—most importantly—have become empowered to do things that were previously elusive. However, we often forget, or are too busy, to share our achievements and learning. One of my resolutions for 2018 is to share more of these with you on a regular basis.

Let’s begin with the basics. BSC uses the PDIA approach developed by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, to build the capability of public organizations to execute and implement policies and programs. PDIA is a high impact process innovation that helps organizations develop the capability to solve complex problems while they are actually solving such problems. PDIA builds organizational capability by delivering results.

Our activities include:

  • High touch in-country engagements where we convene government implementation teams who remain engaged on a particular problem for an extended period of time with in-person check-ins every 3-4 weeks. The regularity of this process creates the space for teams to stop, learn, reflect, adapt and act, over and over again. In our experience, the tight feedback loops between plans and actions facilitate rapid experiential learning, which often leads to the emergence of new capabilities. In 2017 we worked in
    • Sri Lanka: 64 government officials from seven different ministries/agencies worked across 8 cross-sector teams to successfully complete a twelve-month experiential blended-learning training program. As a direct result of this work, the teams created their own sector targeting tool, produced market research and pitch books to attract high-priority investors, and improved the investment climate by surveying domestic firms and addressing their problems.
    • Sri Lanka: 39 diplomats successfully completed an 18-week experiential online training program on the topic of economic diplomacy. Through this program, the diplomats established actual contact with over 267 new firms (including large firms), all potential targets for FDI or new export promotion. These achievements speak to the enhanced capability of the diplomats and the emergence of a new and proactive approach to engaging in economic diplomacy.
    • Albania: 25 government officials from six different ministries/agencies working across 3 cross-sector teams to solve key problems that they had nominated. The projects included developing a social housing Public Private Partnership, designing a laboratory network for the accreditation of agriculture exports, and laying the groundwork to establish the first Technical and Economic Development Area in Tirana.

Matt in Sri Lanka

  • Medium touch across-country engagements where we collaborate with other organizations to offer an action based learning program where groups from multiple countries engage in a combined in-person workshop to learn the basics of PDIA, return to their countries to apply what they have learned, and then re-engage as a cross-country group to share and compare experiences. In 2017 we began a collaboration with
    • CABRI, an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa, to build capability for public financial management reform in Africa. 40 government officials working across 7 country teams from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, The Gambia and The Kingdom of Lesotho successfully completed the seven-month program.

Team Nigeria

  • Expanding the reach of our approach around the globe: We offer a free experiential online course which provides the necessary frameworks and tools needed to do PDIA. We also have a series of short videos highlighting key PDIA concepts and tools, write blogs, and publish papers to diffuse our tools and ideas to a broader audience. Specifically:
    • In late January 2017, the BSC book was published by Oxford University Press and we enabled an open access title under a creative commons license. As of November 30, 2017, the book had been downloaded over 4,500 times by users in 162 countries/territories. 20% of them were in Africa and 13% in South America.
    • We offered 4 free PDIA online courses in 2017: Principles of PDIA, two iterations of the Practice of PDIA and a new course for teams focused on solving problems related to Climate Change Adaptation. 437 development practitioners in 35 countries, worked an average of 5-8 hours a week, to successfully complete these courses. 45% were from the public sector and 24% from the NGO sector. 53% of them were from Africa. The results of these courses have been awe-inspiring – not only have course alumni learned new skills, they are also putting PDIA into practice in their own contexts.
    • Our BSC video series had over 50K plays in 164 countries. The World Bank is using our videos in Indonesia and has translated them into Bahasa. CABRI is translating the videos into French to expand our reach to Francophone Africa.
    • Our blog had 17K visitors with an average of 1K visitors per month who view an average of 2 pages.

In 2018 we hope to write more regular blog posts to share what we are doing and learning, offer more bespoke PDIA online courses, and to build a community of practice that collaborates, learns, shares, and grows together ultimately leading to more successful development outcomes.

Wishing you all a very happy new year with more PDIA learning adventures!

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