PDIA Course Journey: Lack of Youth Participation in Papua New Guinea

Guest blog by Coletah Ronah Kibai, Kirk Gibson, Pricillar Napoleon, Andrew Lepani, Hannah Athaliah James, Hercules Jim, Maliwai Sasingian

Many members of this team work for The Voice Inc. in Papua New Guinea. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Young people under 35 make up about 70% of the population yet there is limited attention to how decisions affect young people or on issues specifically related to young people, leading to a range of issues – high rates of youth unemployment, low school completions etc… Our initial problem statement was the lack of effective youth participation in policy development in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Over the course of the PDIA journey, we have evolved with our understanding of the problem.

As a team, we have learnt so much – about trying out the wicked hard problems, doing one iteration action at a time to learning about our team and gaining a deeper understanding of the youth space.

One thing that we know the key learnings from the course (problem construction, deconstruction, designing change space, team norms, iterations etc…) can be used in our own spaces of influence to tackle the complex problems.

Some of key takeaways from our PDIA journey are:

  1. Problem construction and deconstruction
  2. Designing Change Space using Authority, Ability and Acceptance estimation
  3. Using team norms to keep team accountable
  4. Doing small iterations at a time to build momentum and expand and build either Authority, Ability and/or Acceptance

PDIA begins with problem definition (or ‘construction’). First, it triggers a discussion through which different interpretations of the work can come up with.

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PDIA fosters a sense of shared commitment among a group dedicated to addressing the problem – people feel “more ownership” over something they have had a role in shaping and defining. In our case The Youth Coalition (YC) aims to ensure the views of young people are represented in youth policies, for example when the YC took part in the Review of Laws on Use and Abuse of Alcohol and Drugs by the Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC).

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We also learned that it is also very important to design your iteration to experiment with many ideas and learn the ways forward with fitted solutions in groups.

We used the 4 main PDIA principles:

  1. Local solutions for local problems
  2. Pushing Problem Driven Positive Deviance
  3. Try, Learn, Iterate & adapt and
  4. Scale through Diffusion.

The Youth Coalition conducted a survey on the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs and got responses from young people 18-35 living across PNG. Key findings were analysed and disseminated by the YC to a network of over 20 Civil Society organizations/groups that work with young people on issues that affect youth in PNG.

The YC turned this into 2 reports. The YC then arranged and met with the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) including Deputy Secretary and presented our reports and discussed future plans for the YC going forward. This is the process of the “Knowing through doing and learning”.

We have also built relationships with important stakeholders such as the CLRC and the Deputy Secretary of the National Youth Development Authority for future plans.

Our problem definitely started off a big vague – Lack of youth voice into policy and law in PNG’ or something similar. We knew it was big and we thought important but we were also new in coming together as a group of organisations and the idea we could influence in this space of policy or law was also new to most of us.

In the beginning we struggled to fit our problem definition into the typologies in the course. We weren’t trying to fix a specific part of government or bureaucratic machinery but instead a problem around representation, equity, political voice.

We also weren’t a team of government workers, all is one agency or department with daily space to do this work. It was in our higher level role as civil society thinkers and leaders  that we took on this problem. So we had to make physical and mental time in our days to refine the problem into something that was manageable and made sense for us to work on.

This process of breaking down the problem and identifying the right causal ‘bone’ for the make-up of our team was particularly powerful. We all have so much capacity and ideas, but what are we best placed to do together, at this moment in time, to take on our challenge.

What emerged was some clear action on the problem, but definitely very small action; ‘gathering youth voice on 2 policies and presenting to an agency of government’. We don’t really know what will happen from here, we would like to keep working together to try and hold this agency (and other areas of government) to account for what we have found. But we are all realistic about our ability and time to continue as a team on this problem. Especially with Christmas shut downs and summer holidays taking our attention.

But we believe our team will continue on this problem in some way. Even if certain members of the team take leadership and run with it while others step back. We have hit on something, a well spring of need among young people and organisations to work in this way. Motivated by seeing what we were able to do in a short time. Our team believes our problem will not be solved fast, but perhaps our work will ripple through civil society and government and have unexpected outcomes.

We learned that PDIA is all about building state capability and fostering implementation policy.

To learn more, visit our website or download the PDIAtoolkit (available in English and Spanish).


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