Guest blog written by Ignatus Jacob Matofali, Shamim Ahmed Zakaria, Catherine Peter Marimbo, Nyambiri Kimacha.
This is a team of four development practitioners working for the Prime Minister’s Office, OPML, and the World Bank in Tanzania. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.
Development is not something that can be achieved overnight and through ideas that worked in other contexts.
It is important to make room for really understanding problem and context instead of suggesting solutions that are external and may not work in the specific country context. There should be a clear definition of the problem by the agents who are facing the problem and they should be involved in finding solutions to that problem. There is no single solution to complex problems which means that solving it requires finding the root cause of the problem by deconstruction, though this process multiple solutions to a problem will be generated as a result of the emergence of new ideas.
We initially only had scratched the surface and thought, perhaps the issue with disaster risk management in Dar es Salaam was simply that there are no disaster management committees. We thought that maybe by having these committees established and functional then our problem would be solved. Then as we got further into the course and were forced to construct and deconstruct our problem, we learnt that we were missing the bigger picture and that what we had done was propose a solution to what we thought was the problem. Further development of fishbone diagram, led us to understand that lack of committees at ward and sub-ward level was only really one sub-cause in a much more complex setting. Other issues such as a general lack of awareness of disaster issues by community members etc. came into play and eventually we restructured our problem and established about six sub causes in total. Our problem statement then changed from “Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) at ward level are non-existent or not fully functional in addressing Disaster Risk Management (DRM) in Dar es Salaam” to “Disaster Risk Management efforts in DES aren’t effective in managing disasters”.
After starting to work on the 2 out of 6 identified sub causes with a small step and iteration we managed to get more insight on other constraints that deteriorate the formation of DRM committees at wards and sub ward levels. Through Dar es Salaam DM Coordinators we found that WEOs and Community Development Officers (who are the disaster management coordinators at lower levels), are not motivated to ask citizens and other stakeholders in the sub-wards and wards to form yet another committee.
The course has broadened our understanding of the problem, initially some of us thought this problem will be solved by only one solution but after applying PDIA we came to realise behind this one big problem there are multiple causes which actually need more attention before even thinking of tackling the problem. PDIA enabled us to better understand the roots of the problem and the network we had to create change.
While, quick wins and checklist to please donors and development partners are the easy way out and the path that guarantees more funding, it is not always the best path for sustainable development. Before jumping into solutions, you need to assess and create the space for the agent to act, you need to determine whether the three A’s, which are the authority, acceptance and ability, are available. You need to analyze the change space and strategize ways of increasing it.
Understanding who has authority and the authorizing environment, enables one to mitigate potential setbacks in projects and continuously growing the network of agents that are part of a specific search for a solution is key. Understanding the dynamics of authority and anticipating changes in the authority is also key.
We will use this knowledge in our day to day work and specifically in local development projects. It has and will help us better identify when funders transplant ideas and to see in advance how we as consultants can better find ways of making sure external ideas/solutions are better suited or can be tailored to suit the context we are working in. In development consulting, there are a good number of projects, where donors provide the financial support but the methodology or approach does not cater to the context and ultimately upon conducting M&E realising that what they hoped for was not achieved. Sometimes the problem is that the construction and deconstruction of the problem was not done. I think PDIA has made us more conscious of what we try to achieve as development work and it helps in understanding failures when they occur.
Our World Bank group member is considering using PDIA for identification of issues related to disaster risk management at Municipality level provided she is able to secure the funds for it. In her role, she engages with communities on a lot of World Bank funded projects at Municipal level and PDIA could provide a way forward in identifying the root cause of many development problems in Tanzania.