Guest blog written by Alinnor Doris Chibumma, Daniel Ayako Filibus, Emmanuel Philip Chorio, Mohammed Barma Adam, Patrick Egie Ederaro, Felix. O. Ogbera.
This is a team of six development practitioners working for the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.
The journey of our PDIA training was like the 1804 journey where the destination was quite unfamiliar and the terrain very challenging. But the journey had to be made to achieve success. PDIA is about matching your capability with your challenge. Therefore, the composition of our team was made up of people of diverse backgrounds.
Owing to our diversity, we started by building our team, agreeing on the problem we aimed to solve; setting the ground rules for our team’s operations and success. We agreed to accept our differences, our idiosyncrasies and agreed also on common ground to promote unity as a hallmark towards achieving our goals of carrying out a successful PDIA training by finding and fitting the contextual solutions to our problem – Low Acceptance of PPP’s by MDA’s in Nigeria.
Public Private Partnership (PPP) is a concept that is generally applied to solving infrastructural challenges across countries of the world but is relatively new in Nigeria.
The huge infrastructure deficit in Nigeria calls for collaboration between the government and the private individuals/groups to help address this daunting challenge by leveraging private finance and expertise. Owing to the fall in oil price which is the country’s key/main source of revenue, meeting the huge needs of governance has really become so daunting, and therefore, government has resorted to using PPPs as a viable alternative in infrastructure procurement methodology. However, this policy is not well accepted by the MDAs who are used to traditional methods of procurement where direct contracts are awarded and kickbacks received.
The PDIA course therefore, provided an opportunity for our team to investigate why there was resistance and what possible ways could be sought out. Previous approaches in tackling the hydra-headed problem could not yield any positive result. However, taking this course has aided us in deconstructing the problem and digging deep into the root causes by using the critical 5 why’s question/techniques; why does it matter, who does it matter to and to whom does it matter most. Who need to care more, and how do we get them to give attention; all with a view to resolving the problem. In it we discovered to our delight, the need for continuous engagements and dialogue with the necessary authorizers/political champions to gain their support and acceptance with enough ability (human resources, financial and the skills) to carry out the needed reform. In addition, the process provided an opportunity for us to see the need for continuous awareness creation on the imperative and relevance of using PPPs in the country by engaging extensively with the media and other necessary information dissemination outlets to achieve our goal.
Some key takeaways for our team from this course include:
- We were taught to always find a space to advance forward. Therefore, there is the need to crawl the design space to have the authority, the acceptance and ability (The triple As approach) to move forward. In addition, we learned that as much as possible borrowed ideas taken from other domains and transplanted in form of best practices that end up not working should be discouraged, and instead context specific solutions should be identified using existing practice, latent practice, positive deviant or a hybrid of both.
- Through PDIA we learned that knowledge could be acquired by doing (tacit knowledge), i.e. learning by doing through which experience is built or gained over time. In the work context therefore, people should be encouraged and given the opportunity to identify their problem, work towards solving it and getting use to how to solve the problems with solutions that are relevant to the context. In summary, it is essential to work, reflect, assess challenges and determine the next step forward. Again, emphasis was laid on the need to allow those handling assignments to be allowed to learn to do the work themselves instead of consulting some experts to do the work. It is only by allowing people to learn by doing the work that their capacity will be built to work well in the future.
- During the period also, we learned how to be practical about dealing with problems before us by ensuring that the ‘next steps’ identified are small enough to be possible.
- The learning methodologies used such as: Video/Transcripts, Case studies, Online discussions, group assignments, individual reflections all added colours to the learning process and great benefits were derived from all the stages. The case studies provided opportunities to learn about the capability and implementation gaps in existence in some countries of the world and by this we are better equipped to bridge the gap in our domain. The Online discussions were unique periods to interact and exchange ideas with other participants on the platform. Learning from each other on prevailing issues further broaden our scope of understanding and added value in areas where hitherto gaps were existing. This is another level of learning which has benefited this group in the course of this training. From the group assignments, it was an opportunity to brainstorm and find and fit solutions. It further reinforced the relevance of teamwork, collaboration and integration of ideas for common good.
The lessons learned from undertaking this course will be adequately utilized in our work place and in addressing developmental challenges in Nigeria. We look forward to sharing the cheering news about the impact of embarking on PDIA with people around us to enable them to enroll and also benefit from this unique learning experience.
Overall, the 15 weeks PDIA journey was a thriller with immense impact. Our profound and sincere thanks to Harvard PDIA Team and all those who made this great program happen.