BSC Video 3: Form ≠ Function

Development involves change, and change always happens within a context. The focus in development however, is on transplanting successes and adopting ambitious “best practice” modes of governance and public administration, which emphasize form (what organizations look like) and not function (what they actually do). This often provides the financing and legitimacy which allows continued dysfunction, while potentially crowding out space for local initiatives.

In this video, Matt Andrews, uses an example of internal audit reform in Burkina Faso to illustrate that when context is taken into consideration when introducing a reform, it functions even though it might take on a different form. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, read Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation and Limits of Institutional Reform.

BSC Video 2: Capability Trapped in a Big Stuck

In many nations today, the state has little capability to carry out basic functions like security, regulation or even core service delivery (health, education, water, etc). Enhancing this capability, especially in fragile states, is a long-term task. In this video, Lant Pritchett uses the example of Haiti and India to highlight administrative capability trapped in a big stuck. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, read Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation and Is India a Flailing State?: Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization.

BSC Video 1: Development as Four Fold Transformation

In order to better understand and respond to implementation failure, it is instructive to start with a big picture summary of what we think most people believe “development” to be. In this introduction video, Michael Woolcock discusses how a society undergoes a four fold transformation in its functional capacity to manage its economy, polity (political systems represent the aggregate preferences of citizens), society (rights and opportunities are extended to all social groups) and public administration (organizations function according to meritocratic standards and professional norms), becoming “developed” over time. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, read Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation.

Introducing the BSC Video series

written by Salimah Samji

Since the inception of the Building State Capability (BSC) program, the team has made over 50 presentations around the globe at places like the World Bank, IDB, ODI, SIDA, DANIDA, OECD, DFID, UNDP, USAID, and at several think tanks and universities. The positive feedback that we have received has encouraged us to conceive of a new way of sharing our approach with a wider and more diverse audience.

Today we are proud to launch the BSC video series – a set of short 2-5 minute videos highlighting the key elements of our approach, which we will release over the next few weeks.

We hope you enjoy the videos!

New Year, New Logo

Happy New Year!

Building State Capability is the Center for International Development at Harvard University’s newest program. Since the inception, the team has published 13 UNU-WIDER working papers and made over 50 presentations around the globe.

As we head into the second year, we are pleased to share our new logo with you – see below. The logo captures some of our key considerations:

  • Building metaphor: Building state capability is a complex task which takes time and effort.
  • Blocks of diverse shapes and sizes: There are a multitude of tools that you can use. No one size fits all.
  • Gaps in the sphere: Local context is paramount. You never start with a clean slate.
  • Builders both inside and outside: You need multi-agent leadership at various levels.

BSC Logo

Bridging the Capacity Gap in Burundi

written by Salimah Samji

The knee jerk reaction to building capacity is to organize more training workshops. These are taught by experts and held in fancy locations, with free-flowing food and refreshments. The attendees often do not include the front line workers who are ultimately responsible for implementation. In some cases attendees do learn new skills and are inspired to try them out, but they return to the same old organizations and systems – they are the only ones who changed. Then there is the case of technical advisors/assistants being parachuted into ministries to help build capacity. The reality however is that the job of these advisors is to perform functions and deliver results leaving no time to transfer skills or to build capability.

In a recent paper entitled, “Escaping the capability trap: turning “small” development into “big” development,” authors Campos, Randrianarivelo and Winning discuss the process used to build capacity in Burundi from 2006-2012. The World Bank Institute in collaboration with the government decided to launch a program whereby small initiatives would be launched to demonstrate quick and meaningful results that would in turn be showcased and used to generate political buy-in at cabinet retreats, ultimately expanding the program and sustaining a process of capacity building. They used Rapid Results Initiatives (RRIs) where small projects are created with measurable results in around 100 days. They began with a pilot of 2 RRIs in 2006 and had completed 246 RRIs by 2012. The authors consider Burundi’s experience as a “preliminary test” of the PDIA approach.

Initially the government was skeptical but agreed to conduct two small RRI pilots one in education and one in health. This process involved the entire chain of implementation actors and enabled these teams to learn what works and what does not. Team building and collaborative skills were necessary to ensure success.

  • Education: The problem was that it took one year to deliver textbooks to village schools. The goal of the RRI pilot was to reduce this delay in a province to within 100 days. They delivered 25,000 textbooks within 60 days.
  • Health: The problem was that there were few HIV/AIDS screenings of pregnant women in health care centers. The goal was to increase the number of screenings. They increased from an average of 71 per month to 482 in the first month, more than a six-fold increase.

The results of the pilots, as well as results from other African countries that had engaged in similar programs, were shared at a cabinet retreat. This helped create a shift in the mindset which allowed the methodology to be replicated in other ministries. In each retreat (4 in total) successful RRI experiences were shared, thus helping to build and sustain the authorizing environment. The results were impressive and include the suspension of payment to 728 ‘ghost’ individuals which saved the Ministry of Civil Service 60,000,000 Burundi Francs (US$ 470,000).

The authors quote the Ministry of Agriculture “leadership engagement from the top [the minister] right down to the base [even in decentralized provinces] encouraged a ‘spirit of results’ and mobilized people from all areas [the government administration as well as the local citizens] to work together to achieve what they wanted.” This is what Matt Andrews calls multi-agent leadership in his paper who really leads development?

Our recent untying development workshop had a session entitled new practice in action, which featured AGI’s work in Liberia, the Rapid Results Institute and the Innovations for Successful Societies at Princeton. You can watch the video here.

Bottom line: An RRI is one of many tools in the toolkit that espouses PDIA principles.

Happy Holidays!

PDIA: is not about perpetual muddling (Part 4/4)

written by Matt Andrews

This is the last of the four common excuses that I hear about why PDIA cannot be done in development. If you are interested, you can read the first, second and third one.

Excuse 4: International development experts often tell me that PDIA is not possible because it implies that we are always muddling through. “How do I sell a muddled reform project ?”

I firmly believe that PDIA has its most value when we are in complex settings dealing with complex problems, where we don’t necessarily know the solutions or how to implement the solutions. In such situations one needs a process of finding and fitting relevant solutions that are unknown at first. This is where PDIA comes in and is useful .

If PDIA is used at the start of reforms in such contexts, one can find and fit solutions that have functional impact. A more traditional project process can be used once one knows (at least to some degree) what to do and how to do it. So you don’t need to muddle along forever… And PDIA is not about perpetual muddling – it is about structured, experiential learning.