PDIA Course Journey: Monitoring FONACIDE in Paraguay

Guest blog written by Daniel Canteros, David Riveros Garcia, Irene Clementina Esquivel Hermosilla, Sofía Belén Pozzo Centurión.

This is a team working a grassroots NGO called reAccion Paraguay which fights corruption in the education sector through promoting citizen participation and technology. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

In terms of education, Paraguay ranks among the worst in the world, only countries in civil war, continuous political conflicts or periodically affected by natural disasters have worse rankings. Hence, for a country that has lived in a relatively stable democracy for over 25 years, the education problem is a considerable challenge for the future of our nation. We applied to the PDIA course because we have been tackling a problem related to funds for infrastructure in the education sector that are not reaching the neediest schools.

Our team faced a particular challenge. None of our members are from the public sector. We are from a grassroots NGO called reAcción Paraguay, which fights corruption in the education sector through promoting citizen participation and technology. We train students to monitor a national fund for education infrastructure, so that public resources go to the neediest schools. During the course we worked hard to catalyze the 4 years of experience we have monitoring the National Public Investment Fund for Development (aka FONACIDE).

The processes of the FONACIDE law are unknown and not respected by government and non-governmental actors alike (i.e local governments, ministries, parent associations, students, directors, teachers). Our team has verified these irregularities and several others for over four years through the implementation of a monitoring mechanism. It consists of visiting the neediest schools to collect data about the infrastructure works for schools financed with FONACIDE. We then work with university students to match the collected data with open government data in order to expose irregularities.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Monitoring FONACIDE in Paraguay

PDIA Course Journey: Reform and Rebuild Nigeria

Guest blog written by Adepeju Francis-Abu, Beatrice Izeagbe Okpara, Kennamdi Charles Onwuliri, Lami Wendy Adams, Pemwa Danbaba.

This is a team from Nigeria working for the Federal Ministry of Justice, Government Agencies and the private sector. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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Our team is an interesting mix of people from different organizations within and outside the Nigerian public service and was peculiar because only one of us had prior experience in development work. However, we were all driven by an interest to make a difference within our environment with the hope that the effect would eventually cascade to the entire public service, hence the group name Team RRN (Reform and Rebuild Nigeria).

In the past 15 weeks we’ve expanded our perspective, network, acquired some vital skills in problem solving through PDIA and gained an entirely new perspective on designing solutions by learning to take little and realistic iterative steps towards small & quick wins.

A major takeaway for us individually and as a team was learning to construct and deconstruct our problem using analytical tools like the 5-whys, fishbone diagram, and triple A change space analysis which enabled us to properly assess our problem and determine its true nature and components. Unsurprisingly, during the deconstruction exercises, our team’s initial problem morphed into the streamlined problem statement we eventually focused our engagement on.

In addition, we gained an important lesson “crawling the design space” that we could combine best practices with other practices (latent practice, existing practices, and positive deviance) to achieve desired results. We surprisingly found out that the emergence of ideas could come from latent and positive deviance space, like our serendipitous discovery in the second week of iteration. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Reform and Rebuild Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: Supporting lasting Peace in Colombia

Guest blog written by Catalina Riveros Gomez, Irina Cuesta Astroz, José Luis Bernal Mantilla, Juan Carlos Garzón-Vergara, Juan David Gelvez Ferreira.

This is a team from Colombia working for an independent think tank called Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

In many cases, people use to think that public issues are so complex and it is necessary to re-structure the system to improve or to change a reality. On the other hand, many academics argue that the solution is already done in other part of the world, so we just have to implement what worked in other country/city and the problem is solved. However, the public affairs are complex, it changes and have different reactions depending the time and the territory. With that in mind, this course taught us many things:

  • First, we learned that it is possible to advance in the solution of complex problems, developing small and concrete actions. To do this, it is important to understand that there is no single solution, but we can have multiple alternatives, from which we learned and adapted our responses.
  • Second, we understood that we should not have a fixed plan, but a strategy opened to change based on what we have learned. A key tool for this is iteration to identify what adjustments do we need to do to move ahead.
  • Third, we learned how the iterative process works in practice, and why it is relevant not only to ask what we did, but also what we learned and what we will do to solve it.
  • Fourth, not everything that presents itself as a problem is actually a problem. As highlighted in one of the sessions, many times what exist are solutions disguised as problems. This is a key element, as it facilitates the formulation and dissection of the problem into small pieces that can then be addressed independently.
  • We also learned that time management and expectations regarding possible goals are very important. We had to adjust our expectations about the results we could achieve and set up realistic and doable actions.
  • Finally, we also learned that it is important to translate ideas into practice, because it is through actions that we can learn and adjust what we want to do. I understand better the “try, learn, adapt” method and how the iteration process works.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Supporting lasting Peace in Colombia

The Big Stuck in State Capability and Premature Load Bearing, Some New Evidence

written by Lant Pritchett

In the book Building State Capability one of the explanations of the very slow progress shown in acquiring effective and capability administration in developing countries was that the adoption of “best practice” from countries with different and higher capability administration actually made it more difficult to build capability.  The attempts to do too much, too soon, with too little through adopting formal laws and policies that required sophisticated and robust capabilities for implementation did not help, and in fact hurt.  While some people argued “stretch targets” would create pressures for progress, instead the gap between formal laws, regulations, policies and existing capability stretched the robustness of organizations to breaking, producing low level capability traps and a abetted a “big stuck.”

A recent working paper provides some new evidence of this “premature load bearing” using data from the Doing Business indicators and the Enterprise Surveys, both from the World Bank.  The Doing Business indicators provide each year for each country a single data point on how many days it would take a typical firm to get a permit for a construction warehouse (taken as a generic kind of construction permit) according to the existing formal laws.  This measures the de jure, formal, regulatory requirements for doing business.  In many of the same countries the World Bank also surveyed firms in the Enterprise Survey and, among the many questions they asked, they asked firms who had actually built a new structure how long it had taken them to receive their permit.  This is the de facto measure of how business is actually done.

Previous work, Hallward-Driemeier and Pritchett (2015) showed that (a) across countries there is very little correlation between the DB and ES days for a construction permit (or opening a business or clearing customs), (b) the DB average across countries for a construction permit is around 190 days whereas the ES reported times have a median of around 30 days, and (c) the variance across countries in the times they report is very large, much larger than the variability across countries in ES reported median times—the difference in times between the firms reporting fast times and slow times in the same country is larger than the difference between the fastest and slowest countries.

Continue reading The Big Stuck in State Capability and Premature Load Bearing, Some New Evidence

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

Written by Tim McNaught and Anisha Poobalan

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Tourism is a strong contributor to Sri Lankan economic growth. The bulk of development in this sector has been in the south and west of the island. The northern and eastern regions, the areas most affected by the civil war and most in need of an economic boost, have experienced slower development. In an effort to promote tourism in the east, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) put together a team to work on the Kuchchaveli project. The K-team was part of the Sri Lanka PDIA project from September 2016 – September 2017.

The team was initially challenged with constructing the problem, which included identifying what the problem was and why it mattered. The team’s first problem statement, “Changing of existing land alienation policy” (Figure 1), was an accurate assessment of the situation but failed to promote immediate and urgent action. The team reflected further and a few quick calculations on the opportunity cost of inaction led the team to ask “Why delay 14,000 jobs to [the] public and [lose] $205 mn per annum to country?” (Figure 2). Now this was a problem that could be rallied around. Instead of being framed simply from the perspective of potential investors, it clearly quantifies how solving this problem could boost the economic well-being of an entire community. This sense of urgency is essential to building momentum towards action.

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Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

PDIA Course Journey: AgriFinance in Kenya

Guest blog written by Agnes ManthiBeatrice GithinjiConstance Gichovi, Peter Onguka

This is a team from Kenya working in the private sector. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

The course was quite eye-opening to the dynamics in play when it comes to solving problems. Working as a team in this course resulted in a lot of learning from the different modules at every level of the PDIA problem solving approach. Some of these key takeways include:

  • Problem construction – the team was able to understand and appreciate the importance of clearly defining our problem, why it matters, to whom it matters and who else it should care. This helped to be able to start preparing our approach by identifying the people we need in order to solve the problem.
  • Problem deconstruction through the fish bone diagram by asking ourselves several why’s made us begin to understand the complexity of the problem and realization that there are more underlying causes than we had earlier thought.
  • Change Space identification and finding entry points– this step was more critical for us since it set the wheels in motion and helped us start working on coming up with a strategy with which to start working on finding a solution to our problem. This is because we learnt how to analyze the authorization, capabilities and ability requirements around our sub causes (identified through problem deconstruction) and identified where we had change space and what we had to do to create some change space if need be.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: AgriFinance in Kenya

PDIA Course Journey: Family Farming in Colombia

Guest blog written by Alejandro Rueda, and Sonia M

This is a team from Colombia. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Throughout 15 weeks, our team was able to identify the causes behind our problem, to elaborate on them, to design strategies, to iterate, and, not less important, to discuss, debate, and engage as a group during the whole process. Although the primary objective of our team is to generate recommendations for public policy to overcome the problem of inefficient market access for family farmers, we were able to constantly work to make our strategies implementable for any public officer. We also had the good fortune of having one of our team members working for the Ministry of Agriculture directly involved in generating public policy for family farming. The course was very important to articulate a better, more centered, and methodologically stronger proposal as well as to guide a course of action taking into account the above.

The course left us various key takeaways.

  • The first one has to do with the importance of working as a team. This includes the whole process of defining who will be in the group, why, and what are the clear roles and tasks each one had to perform. It also includes the need to be periodically communicating and discussing, to be listening to the other points of view, and articulating it to the whole PDIA process. During the past months, we engaged in very serious as well as enriching discussions that shape the strategies that today we are articulating.
  • A second takeaway, which we consider is the key to action, is the process of identification of the main problem and its sub causes in a logic that denies pre-set solutions. This helped us to better understand what we were doing and how we should be doing it. The fishbone was a key element in our group since one of our authorizers is now using it (with some modifications) to strengthen our proposal.
  • A third takeaway of the course is the constant reminder to direct your efforts towards action. This is essential not only for the outcome, but for the whole process. If you start focusing on the more realistic and basic tasks your team can manage to do in a week, your are definitively approaching to the problem solved scenario. The latest not meaning that is a direct highway to the solution but, as you encounter difficulties in the way, manage to solve them and move along with what you’ve learned, you are a step closer to solving it.
  • A fourth takeaway is to engage fully to the process. A team that is active, that discusses and acts accordingly, that is constantly evaluating the process, reporting on the progress, bringing ideas of action and strategies for improvement, is a team that in engaged. Also, the engagement of team members will result in a more efficient engagement of third parties.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Family Farming in Colombia