Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) is an approach we have developed to help escape capability traps. PDIA rests on four core principles:
Local Solutions for Local Problems: Transitioning from promoting solutions (pre-determined by external experts) to allowing the local nomination and articulation of concrete problems to be solved.
Pushing Problem Driven Positive Deviance: Creating environments within and across organizations that encourage experimentation and positive deviance, accompanied by enhanced accountability for performance in problem solving.
Try, Learn, Iterate, Adapt: Promoting active experiential (and experimental) learning with evidence-driven feedback built into regular management and project decision making, in ways that allow for real-time adaptation.
Scale through Diffusion: Engaging champions across sectors and organizations who ensure reforms are viable, legitimate and relevant.
In this video, Lant Pritchett, provides an overview of PDIA core principles: problem solving; authorizing positive deviation; iterating and adapting; and scaling practices through diffusion. We believe that success builds institutions and not vice versa. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.
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.
The process of building state capability involves people, who are the ultimate complex phenomena; embedded within organizations, which are complex; and organizations are embedded in rules systems (e.g. institutions, cultures, norms), which are themselves complex. In this video, Michael Woolcock, highlights the fact that reforms do not take place in a vacuum. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.
It is important when thinking about building state capability, to first ask, what is the “type of problem” you are trying to solve? In this video, Lant Pritchett, provides a framework to determine the capability required for implementing development projects. He begins by asking whether your task is transaction intensive, followed by whether it is locally discretionary, to better understand if the nature of the task is logistics or implementation intensive. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.
Policy implementation requires agents of organizations who are responsible for implementation, to do the right thing, at the right time, and in the right place. In this video, Lant Pritchett, uses an example of delivering the mail and issuing driver’s licenses to illustrate this point. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.
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.
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.
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.
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.