Implementing to design better: Clean energy transition for islands

Guest blog by Ana Laca

I work primarily in foreign affairs and regional development, but as a side passion project, I have been actively working on islands’ energy transition. I work for a European institution on legislative procedures, following particular files as they pass through a legislative train until their final adoption.

For my action learning process, I focused on islands’ energy transition as my project for this course. My policy challenge was to tackle the energy dependence of islands since they have an abundance of natural resources that could be used for renewable energy.

This is my most tangible project as I authored or co-authored three successful pilot projects approved for financing from the EU budget. Their purpose was to provide technical assistance for islands and rural areas, to start and guide them through their clean energy transition processes.

My incentive to apply and my first expectation was to learn more about the implementation process. I hoped to gain theoretical and practical knowledge on challenges practitioners face while implementing their policies, to take that with me and apply it in my work – which is legislative work. I wanted to learn about implementing public policy to cover the link I frequently think is missing in the institutions when we design public policies. I feel that we design without really having the perception of the policies’ implementation and outcome. To my (positive) surprise, this class was more practical than theoretical. 

Continue reading Implementing to design better: Clean energy transition for islands

Addressing Atoyac river pollution in Mexico

Guest blog by Santiago Creuheras

When I signed up for this course I was eager to learn from Matt Andrews and his team about implementing public policies. I was hoping to meet a group of high caliber students from all over the world willing to share their experiences. My expectations were high, and I am extremely pleased with this course’s outcome and results. The personal, professional, and academic quality of my virtual classmates was unique and impressive. Their experiences have built on my own. I am thankful for their support to redefine my challenge. Peer group exchanges have been one of the highlights of the program. Having an informal team of supporters and performing regular check-ins with each other has been very useful. It has kept us motivated and might be something we should continue doing going forward.

Continue reading Addressing Atoyac river pollution in Mexico

Reflections on LEG 2021 from Tanzania

Guest blog by Abdirehman Ahmad

The course has been useful to understanding many concepts of economic growth. I have been learning new things from the first day to the last.

The key ideas that will be takeaways are:

  1. The PDIA approach to tackling growth challenges. We often think of one-size-fits-all but in this concept, we learnt tailor-made solutions for every problem. Identifying the binding constraint among others.
  2. The idea of breaking down the big problem to smaller problems in a fish bone. Identifying who you need on board in tackling each small problem.
  3. The concept of inclusion among regions and distribution in development in tackling economic growth problems.
Continue reading Reflections on LEG 2021 from Tanzania

Improving Roadside Ecology in Calgary

Guest blog written by Andrew McIntyre

Public policy is hard. Mitigating climate change as biodiversity continues to decline, tackling growing wealth inequality, and building a healthy, pluralistic society in the face of rising authoritarian populist movements across the world are just some of the most significant problems facing governments in 2019. These problems are complex, but we must summon the will to tackle them. To paraphrase an insightful colleague in our Implementing Public Policy (IPP) cohort: as practitioners of public policy, our passion to overcome our challenges must, by necessity, be greater than the problems themselves. 

Only governments can truly address collective action problems and market failures. Governments also need to be able to address changing policy objectives and public expectations in the face of institutional and cultural inertia that resists change. But too often governments select the wrong tool for the task. Around the world we’re witnessing a breakdown in public trust and confidence in governments as the traditional public policy tools and processes used by governments fail to deliver the results necessary to meet public expectations and solve the complex problems we’re facing. Too often the risk-averse culture within public administration prioritizes the traditional approach to project management – what our IPP coursework referred to as “plan and control” – over the incremental testing, learning and building on successes. The erosion of the governments’ legitimacy in the face of these mounting complex problems calls for new tools.

So for me, IPP solidified many of the critiques I’ve long made – or simply felt but hadn’t yet clearly articulated – about how governments do their public policy work. Further, IPP presented a clear alternative approach to test and learn as we make progress incrementally on policy problems. The Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) method is actually quite straightforward. The simplest explanation of PDIA is that it focusses on correctly diagnosing and categorizing the problem(s) to be solved and then seeking authorization to create a space for learning and testing in order to scale up what works. This is in stark contrast to “plan and control” which is often mandated by governments – including the City of Calgary – as the only acceptable approach project management wherein a “solution” is quickly arrived at without much thought. The resulting work is structured around achieving this “solution” in a linear, sequential fashion. By spending more time carefully defining and testing the elements of the problem(s) PDIA helps ensure that governments address the delta between project success and the outcomes being sought. PDIA seeks to rectify why projects are often successfully completed but do not actually solve the problem.

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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 Lagos Beats Plastic

BSC Video 7: Understanding your Authorizing Environment

In the systems we operate within, who identifies problems? who identifies solutions? and how do these people mobilize the ones who have power and authority?  In our research we find that leadership is about multi-agent groups and not single-agent autocrats.

In this video, Matt Andrews, contrasts examples of anti-corruption reforms in Malawi and Botswana to illustrate that authority is cultivated, built in groups, and not around individuals. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, read Who Really Leads Development? and Limits of Institutional Reform.