PDIA Course Journey: Lagos Beats Plastic

Guest blog written by Emmanuel Adedeji Animashaun, Sedoten Agosa-Anikwe, Olumide Gregory Adeboye and Eriifeoluwa Fiyin Mofoluwawo

This is a team of development practitioners who work for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

The 15-week long PDIA course has finally come to an end. And it has been a time of multiple discoveries and intensive learning for Team Lagos Beat’s Plastic.

Emmanuel had learned about the course from course alumni, who explained the many advantages the course holds for practitioners in the public sector. He discussed this information with other people and selected individuals who displayed interest in learning a new approach. Together we formed Team Lagos Beat’s Plastic. Selecting a team of like-minded individuals is partially responsible for the team’s success. And this is one of the important lessons we learnt in the earlier weeks of the course.

Our team consists of 4 individuals from different backgrounds, but who are directly involved with work related to the environment. Thus, agreeing on a problem to solve was quite easy because waste management, and especially indiscriminate plastic disposal in Lagos waterways, was an issue that already ‘stared us in the face’. Hence, we started the course with the mindset of learning what is different about the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, and what role it can play in solving the challenge we selected: plastic waste management in Lagos state, Nigeria. Plastic waste pollution/management is an issue that had not received the necessary attention from agents tasked with waste management. About 20% of total waste generated in Lagos is plastic, which suggests to us the (potential and) need for increased attention either for achieving a cleaner city or economic reasons (or both) if this problem is solved.

The Building State Capability book and other essential readings have been wonderful companions for our team. The first five weeks of the course involved individual work (assignments, reflections and graded discussions) in laying a foundation for the course and future teamwork. In those weeks, we all filled huge gaps in our knowledge of how change works. We also learnt about the big stuck faced by countries.

In those first few weeks, we learnt terms like administrative fact-fiction, isomorphic mimicry, transplantation, and premature load bearing. While these terminologies were new to us, their manifestations were not uncommon in our experience. And when we had completed the modules, we could easily identify these manifestations in various public sector interventions in our country, and outside (in literature). We also learnt that externally designed interventions cannot solve internal problems, where internal capabilities to implement and manage the solutions were low or absent. It was very surprising for us to discover that many of these (external) interventions were actually failing and the lesson for us was that throwing (only) money at a problem does not solve the problem (as we saw in the case of new country South Sudan which was a multi-billion dollar and multi-international agency intervention). And for our problem, we found an example of failed transplantation and isomorphic mimicry in existing waste management systems. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Lagos Beats Plastic

PDIA Course Journey: Disaster Risk Management in Tanzania

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”. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Disaster Risk Management in Tanzania

PDIA and Climate Change Adaptation

written by Tim O’Brien and Salimah Samji

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We launched a pilot course entitled “The Practice of PDIA: Adapting to Climate Change,” in September 2017. This was our first attempt at customizing our free, PDIA online course to a specific theme of development problems. Our motivations in choosing climate change adaptation as an anchor for the course were:

  • A growing understanding that the impacts of climate change are increasingly making complex development challenges harder, and often presenting binding constraints to the growth of inclusive well-being in particular places;
  • A hypothesis that the tools and processes of the PDIA approach could be useful to address climate change vulnerabilities on various scales by empowering local teams and building local capabilities;
  • An observation that local vulnerabilities to climate change could present the kind of shared problems around which coalitions can form and capabilities can emerge for both adaptation and development;
  • An assumption that building resilience is rarely constrained by finance or technology, but often by a lack of shared knowhow to make use of these tools;
  • And a question of whether the development community’s toolkit for climate change adaptation might need to be less focused on discrete projects and “scaling solutions,” and more focused on building a highly-connected and adaptive global community of practice.

Continue reading PDIA and Climate Change Adaptation

We recently ran a PDIA course on climate change adaptation. Why?

written by Tim O’Brien

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Leader of farming cooperative in central Sri Lanka that diversified into ginger production as drought increasingly hurt rice cultivation.

If you live in a developed country, odds are that you think about climate change as something that will harm future generations — your children or your grandchildren perhaps. But if you live in a poor country, chances are much higher that you think of climate change as a source of problems that are affecting you and your family today. Climate change may not be the most important problem for you if you live in a developing country, but odds are that it is making your problems worse.

The climate is changing globally, but vulnerabilities are faced locally, usually in ways that exacerbate existing development challenges. For most poor farmers, when and how the rain falls matters a great deal. But climate change is tending to affect seasonal patterns on which many farmers rely, paradoxically increasing the frequency and severity of both droughts and floods, often in the same places. In many poor cities, climate change is increasing water scarcity, flooding, landslides and overall risk of extreme weather events. For people without electricity in tropical countries, heat waves are increasingly deadly events. For communities that depend on fishing as a means of both income and food, ocean acidification is both an economic and health issue. For countries with weak infrastructure, limited budgets and undiversified economies, macroeconomic vulnerability to weather shocks continues to grow more severe. Continue reading We recently ran a PDIA course on climate change adaptation. Why?