My PDIA Journey: Decentralization in Lebanon

Guest blog written by Pascale Dahrouj

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

When I first registered in this program, I never thought I could get that much insights on how to work out a complex problem by identifying entry points, root causes, possible solutions, authorizers and teams. I just thought it will be a learning journey filled with readings and videos that might help me with some ideas…But no…It was much more. 

The first part of the program was indeed an introduction of the entire concept of public policy and its implementation. But the most important part of the journey was the week course at Harvard where we spent intensive hours in learning about PDIA and doing our fishbone. A fishbone? I laughed at the idea first but when I ended up doing mine, I never felt more concerned and understanding of my problem. I am working on a public policy that will change the entire system of the Lebanese Republic. Decentralization… Moving from a central strong government control power to a decentralized functioning of the state. And guess what? My policy has not yet been ratified by the parliament. My work has a double shredded effort: getting the policy ratified and then implementing it. 

PDIA is a new concept for me as I had never heard of it before that week in June. Now, it has become part of my daily thinking. It is a guiding dynamic tool: it gives you all the necessary to help you think outside the box and do things yourself. You are the center of this entire approach. You have to know well the problem, deconstruct it and then construct the points, identify the authorizers and whom to approach, and mostly build your team so that your policy can get to a realistic end result. 

During this course, I enjoyed so much learning from other students and getting to know their problems and how they envision to solve it. The group sessions that we did also made me realize how vague my problems were …. I kept on narrowing them down… I kept on redoing and changing my fishbone based on feedback from my group… That learning process was the best part of it. You think that you grasp the context, but you come and hear the comments from your group or class, and then you have to do it all over again. Oh and not to mention the professors and directors of the program; They all added to me in different ways. The Pascale that went in June to Harvard is not longer the same Pascale… It is a different version equipped with hopes, prospects and determination. 

Decentralization in Lebanon is a difficult process. There are so much to change in the system and so much to build in people’s minds and spirits so it gets implemented. But I believe this is the only solution to save Lebanon from corruption and to forge better services for citizens. There are a lot of models of decentralization but Lebanese context is unique and we have to use aspects from each.

When I came back, I started implementing some of the tools I have learned. I started approaching people mostly to get the policy ratified in parliament. I had to work on approaching different parties, different members of parliament. The policy was being discussed in parliamentary committee so they reach a final version to be voted upon at the General Assembly.

However, the situation in Lebanon did not help me much. A revolution took place in October and all work on the policy, among others, has been stopped. The President of the Council of Ministers resigned, hence the entire cabinet, and parliament could not meet again to pass any policy. The economic situation is very bad. There are talks on the formation of a new cabinet now and I hope that public institutions can get back to normal work in few months. 

I will use this time now, until things are settled a bit, to review the entire policy and try to have individual talks with stakeholders in order to plan things ahead.

My confidence is strong that this is the only solution for Lebanon and I will make it happen. 

A word to each and every person out there trying to make a difference in the world: Implementation Public Policy is what you need! PDIA can get you closer to solving your problems and putting you in front of realistic approaches. Consider it the car that drives you to your destination. You may choose the brand and color but at the end the technology is the same.

Use it! Learn from it and make the change in the world!

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