Youth Unemployment in Kenya: My Journey as a Leading Economic Growth Student

Guest blog by Albert Waudo

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

What can I say?  This has been one of most interesting trainings I have attended in a while.  Right from the first class where we were asked to think about crossing a country in 2015 with a well-drawn map versus crossing the same country in 1804 when there was no map in existence.  This class sort of felt like the 1804 case.  I came into the class with a preconceived notion on economic growth and a set of ideas of how my growth challenge should be tackled by my organization and government, but I as the class progressed, kept leaning something new at the end of each class and adjusting my thinking as we went along.  This was PDIA in practice (Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation) a step-by-step approach which helps you break down your problems into its root causes, identify entry points, search for possible solutions, take action, reflect upon what you have learned, adapt and then act again.

The course was broken down into 4 components, reading and watching the weekly materials provided by the faculty, working on a weekly assignment, participating in a small group discussion and a live question and answer session with the faculty every Tuesday.  There were optional sessions with TA every Friday.

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A Hands-on Deconstruction of Youth Unemployment in Kenya

Guest blog by Moses Sitati

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

When I received a work email asking for my interest in taking the Leading Economic Growth course, I quickly had a look and was not entirely sure that it was the one for me. I did some quick mental calculation to check whether it made sense for me to devote scarce extra hours from my heavily stretched bandwidth for a 10 week period – I am so glad that it did.

Applying to the program required sharing an economic growth challenge that you intended to work during the program. This was very practical for me as I had just been co-leading a multi-disciplinary team at USAID/Kenya and East Africa in developing a five-year strategy to address youth unemployment. We had set ourselves a purpose to increase economically productive opportunities for young women and young men in Kenya and to empower them to actively engage in these opportunities. I reasoned that the course could be useful in providing new ways to analyze this challenge, and potentially offer solutions for me to think about. I would soon to find out that application of the theory and ideas taught in the course was designed as the primary learning arena for the program.

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From Pyrethrum Exports to the Knowledge Economy: Exploring Trade Between Kenya and Canada

Guest blog written by Bishal Belbase, John Diing, Mayra Hoyos, Stephanie Shalkoski

This is a blog series written by students at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard School of Public Health who completed “PDIA in Action: Development Through Facilitated Emergence” (MLD 103) in March 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

As a pedagogical procedure for learning Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation a group of four students from Mexico, Nepal, the United States, and South Sudan studied bilateral trade between Kenya and Canada with the help of an external authorizer: Dr. George Imbenzi, Honorary Consul General of Kenya to Canada. This global team, codenamed “Canadian Safari,” met with several Kenyan government officials, as well as, a Kenyan student studying in the US, a Canadian educator with non-profit experience in Africa, and an academic/practitioner of Kenyan-origin who leads a Harvard-based program, Building State Capability. 

Uncovering Unseen Challenges in Kenya-Canada Trade

Our first thought was that the lack of a trade agreement was the major cause for limited trade between Kenya and Canada. However, when we broke down the problem of fledgling trade between the two countries into subproblems, we ended up with some causes we didn’t expect. (see fishbone diagram in figure 3).

One cause we noticed was the lack of capacity of Kenyan diplomats – in terms of technical knowledge and negotiation skills. Also, due to the frequent turnover of Kenyan officials, there was limited institutional memory. 

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PDIA Course Journey: Girls and Poverty in Kenya

Guest blog written by Jaynnie K Mulle, Meital Tzobotaro, Rosemary Okello-Orale, Stephen Brager, Warren Harrity.

This is a team of five development practitioners who work for USAID and Strathmore University in Kenya. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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The course provided a number of valuable tools, principles, and practices that are already being put to use.  Additionally, a great takeaway is our team that was formed for this course, I am not sure how if it all we would have come together to work on something in a way that this course brought us together,  but we are glad for this opportunity to create this team.  Specific key takeaways include the emphasis on defining and deconstructing a problem rather that “applying solutions”;  assessing the AAA’s and including the development of the authorization space as part of the activity; crawling the design; and appreciating that this practice is hard but rewarding.   In many regards this course was a gift that enriched our thinking, refueled our enthusiasm, and helped us to look at our problem in a new and exciting way.  Allow us to offer you a gift in return, if you’ve not done so already, read about one of the earliest PDIA practitioners in the “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”

Other take-aways from the course include:

  1. Instead of adopting the solution that other people have to solve a problem, the course helped us to learn how to search for solutions to our problem,
  2. The 1804 metaphor of taking small steps to solve complex problems,
  3. The use of the fishbone to identify the cause and effects in problems and how they are interconnected. Most importantly how fishbone allows for prioritizing relevant cause so that the underlying root cause is addressed first,
  4. The importance of using iteration, and,
  5. How people are at the center of all PDIA elements

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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.

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