IPP Program Journey: Poor Tax Collection in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Fuad Kayode Laguda

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

I must disclose that coming for this course was a product of careful decision-making and determination. It is not easy combining my job schedules with the academic tasks. The course structure, coupled with the quality of the administrators, lecturers and fellow colleagues, actually surpasses my expectations. It exposed me to improved patience, persistence, importance of building, having a team, diverse way of solving problems and formulating policy. This course has allowed me to understand and showcase the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) to my authorisers and other decision makers.

The key learnings were too numerous to explain in details. However, I will not forget the “Fishbone” as well as the sequential techniques of problem solving. IPP has enriched my proficiency in critical thinking and programmatic application of various approaches to identifying and solving complex problems through strong network for consultation and collaboration as well as partnership for actions with different national or corporate decision makers.

However, IPP has made me more confident, courageous in handling data and emphasis on the importance of mobilising and working with a team(s) to implement the data. 

This course has taught me to appreciate little successes and that every effort taken to solve challenges are not a waste. It builds me for connecting with authority and building legitimacy around my actions. It has allowed me look for opportunity in the problems I proposed to solve. 

The IPP networking system is highly remarkable to the extent that implementation of the instructions, ideas and policy innovations passed in the classes (on-site and off-site) becomes successfully feasible. PDIA is a remarkable learning for me because it opens my eyes to gaining the confidence of authorisers through the cultivation of informal engagement with them. PDIA taught me to manage constructively every shortfall and celebrate every slight achievement.    

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Poor Tax Collection in Nigeria

IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

Guest blog written by Fatima Kakuri

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

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Coming to Harvard to do this course, my goal was to gain advanced thought and greater insight into public policy concepts, theories, elements, types and stages of policy making, I was caught up in a subliminal whirlwind of nervousness and feeling out of place before starting the course, as I felt I may be out of my wit coming from the context of a developing country. My experience however was completely unexpected. The course has allowed me to see beyond my initial belief that it there has to be a theory that guides all our policy actions. The course has given me the opportunity to discover my own policy and political beliefs and to see in much greater detail the benefits and disadvantages of the vast array of policy ideologies that are present in the world today. Being able to interact with my colleagues with similar challenges was a separate lesson entirely. I also found that the style of teaching in this course helped me express my views accurately and concisely which turned out extremely useful!

My journey on this course had an unexpected impact on my views and perspectives to governance and life in general.

Key Findings:

I, like presumably 60% of the population in Nigeria, viewed policy from a solution based perspective, typically from the lens that we cannot develop a project proposal unless we had the idea of the end result, the plan would follow the idea of the proposal and after consultation with authorisers or budget funders that plan is collectively adopted for further planning to develop the implementation plan which most likely comes from logical frameworks to guide the timelines for implementation of that project.

The greatest assumption for me was that we had identified the problem, and that we had devised the right solution that will fix it; without any evidence as there was rarely ever any proper research done to support these assumptions and that we are superior to the people whom we create these projects or policies for so we rarely require their input, needless to say, that was a flawed mindset.

I learnt through this course and found that most commonly the people who develop/draft policies are rarely involved in the implementation and control process which becomes a fundamentally flawed process from the outset with the policy makers not being part of execution of the plan. So, my biggest discovery is finding that the most popular theory of developing a public policy plan which is widely practiced especially in my part of the world is not the most effective system. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

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: The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN)

Guest blog written by Abiodun Samson Oladipo, Adeola Busola Olayinka, Camilla Esther Araoye, Ibikunle Peter Olalekan, Emmanuel Oluwatosin Oke, Titi Oyeola.

This is a team of development practitioners who work for the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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Journeying through the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) course could be likened to an adapted 1804 challenge, we simply sailed out with great expectations of learning new concepts within the development space. We knew the course was going to be educative but we never knew what would evolve. Today, we can categorically say the 15 weeks journey was worth it;

‘the course content; the critical thinking; the debates full of diverse insights; the guides, the weekly deadlines clashing with job demands, and all the fun derived interacting on each modules will be greatly missed.’

PDIA has given us a story to tell in our career progress, the story of six people in six different disciplines and expertise with two members in different locations, but working together to solve a problem – an amazing team building tool the PDIA process is, amalgamating a pool of ideas to solve a complex problem. Agreeing on a problem to work on wasn’t difficult, the team members had concerns about why our organisation wasn’t achieving its stated mandates beyond cultural affinities binding the Southwest region of Nigeria. Our organisation was established by the six States governments of the region to enact a development paradigm that would accelerate socioeconomic development across the States in the geopolitical region, thus, we were regarded as the development think tank of the region. However, a problem lingered! For over 5 years, the six states governments were not adopting the policy/program recommendations coming from their think tank. Based on this, we set out on the PDIA journey with the expectation that the process would help us to change the status quo.

Though with a pre-identified problem statement, one outstanding insight from the PDIA process was the need to reconstruct the problem in a manner that wasn’t biased towards a pre-conceived solution, and deconstruct to identify root-causes. This process reformed our thought process, we started seeing the intrinsic issues with solution entry points easier than the problem statement itself. This understanding of multiple entry points for resolving the root-causes and the process of iteration opened our minds to actions required to solve the problems; we spent about eight weeks interrogating/learning more about our problem. Thus, we developed a flexible mindset to the problem and became more convinced we are on the right path of finding the appropriate route to our solution, this energized our spirits to push through: Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN)

PDIA Course Journey: Coordinating the National HIV Response in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Ime Michael Mukolu, Oluwaseun David Oshagbami, Rashidat Jogbojogbo, Sodipe Oluwaseun Oluwasegun.

This is a team of four development practitioners who work for the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

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With the processes and strategies learned from PDIA as well as anticipated support from critical stakeholders, we can say we are on the right track towards achieving effective coordination of the National HIV response.

The following were progress made thus far:

  1. We conducted a fishbone analysis of our problem and that gave us a better understanding of what we are dealing with.
  2. We also conducted two iterations under which we accomplished the following:
    1. We finalized a concept note to review the National Policy on HIV/AIDS and got the approval of our Authorizer to hold a two day Policy Dialogue meeting.
    2. We brought critical stakeholders together for a Policy Dialogue meeting, where we had discussions towards providing a clear direction to the HIV response.
    3. We documented policy recommendations required to improve funding and coordination of the HIV response and shared same with all critical stakeholders.

Overall, PDIA has re-orientated the team to see problems differently. To use problems as a launch pad to build state capability especially in the field of HIV/AIDS coordination in Nigeria. The course helped sharpen our skills on how to approach problems by simply identifying the causes, sub-causes, relevant stakeholders that are critical to solving the identified problem and how to engage them. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Coordinating the National HIV Response in Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: The Thrills and Bliss of Working on PPPs in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Alinnor Doris Chibumma, Daniel Ayako Filibus, Emmanuel Philip Chorio, Mohammed Barma Adam, Patrick Egie Ederaro, Felix. O. Ogbera.

This is a team of six development practitioners working for the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) in Nigeria. 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 journey of our PDIA training was like the 1804 journey where the destination was quite unfamiliar and the terrain very challenging. But the journey had to be made to achieve success. PDIA is about matching your capability with your challenge. Therefore, the composition of our team was made up of people of diverse backgrounds.

Owing to our diversity, we started by building our team, agreeing on the problem we aimed to solve; setting the ground rules for our team’s operations and success. We agreed to accept our differences, our idiosyncrasies and agreed also on common ground to promote unity as a hallmark towards achieving our goals of carrying out a successful PDIA training by finding and fitting the contextual solutions to our problem – Low Acceptance of PPP’s by MDA’s in Nigeria.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: The Thrills and Bliss of Working on PPPs in Nigeria

Using the PDIA Approach for Menstrual Hygiene in Nigeria

Guest blog by Uchechi Okonmah

There have been a lot problems and misconceptions surrounding Menstruation in developing countries particularly in Nigeria. Menstrual Hygiene management amongst women and adolescent girls has become a matter of concern in recent age especially in rural areas where accesses to modern facilities are hindered by a number of factors and myths surrounding this subject.

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This era as described by the PHAAE Organization as an “era of new puberty” by a recent study where increasing number of girls starts to develop their sexuality at an early age of 7 or 8. In sharp contrast to the 1960s, where only 1% of girls would enter puberty before their 9th birthday.

In tackling this issue, PHAAE adopted the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) in order not to be mired by the “big stuck” or “capability trap” where developing countries and organizations thereof are stuck doing the same thing year after year that doesn’t improve or help the situation or produce results. Even when everyone can agree in broad terms that Menstrual hygiene management amongst adolescent girls and women in marginalized areas is very poor as a result of lack of modern facilities, an inability to actually implement a strategy that addresses this means there is little or nothing to show for this realization despite the time, money and efforts (if any). Continue reading Using the PDIA Approach for Menstrual Hygiene in Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: Reform and Rebuild Nigeria

Guest blog written by Adepeju Francis-Abu, Beatrice Izeagbe Okpara, Kennamdi Charles Onwuliri, Lami Wendy Adams, Pemwa Danbaba.

This is a team from Nigeria working for the Federal Ministry of Justice, Government Agencies and the private sector. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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Our team is an interesting mix of people from different organizations within and outside the Nigerian public service and was peculiar because only one of us had prior experience in development work. However, we were all driven by an interest to make a difference within our environment with the hope that the effect would eventually cascade to the entire public service, hence the group name Team RRN (Reform and Rebuild Nigeria).

In the past 15 weeks we’ve expanded our perspective, network, acquired some vital skills in problem solving through PDIA and gained an entirely new perspective on designing solutions by learning to take little and realistic iterative steps towards small & quick wins.

A major takeaway for us individually and as a team was learning to construct and deconstruct our problem using analytical tools like the 5-whys, fishbone diagram, and triple A change space analysis which enabled us to properly assess our problem and determine its true nature and components. Unsurprisingly, during the deconstruction exercises, our team’s initial problem morphed into the streamlined problem statement we eventually focused our engagement on.

In addition, we gained an important lesson “crawling the design space” that we could combine best practices with other practices (latent practice, existing practices, and positive deviance) to achieve desired results. We surprisingly found out that the emergence of ideas could come from latent and positive deviance space, like our serendipitous discovery in the second week of iteration. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Reform and Rebuild Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: Unravelling premature load bearing in Nigerian public institutions

Guest blog by Andrew Omoluabi,Folake Oluwayemisi Aliu, Saheed Mustafa, Ukeme E. Essien, Wakaso Semira,Oluyemisi Elizabeth Akpa

This is a team working at WaterAid in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Propelled by the quest to gain a deeper understanding of the sharp variations in the outcomes of past and ongoing technical assistance received by various Nigerian public institutions, a team of six Nigeria-based development workers embarked upon this journey of PDIA.  At the time of enrolling for the PDIA course, none of us knew anything about the approach.  We were nudged on to commit the next 15 weeks of our lives through the persuasive acumen of the team member that made the discovery.

After 15 weeks of having our creed for capacity development shaken to its very foundation, learning new terminologies like “Big Stuck”, “Premature load bearing”, “Isomorphic Mimicry”, and the hair pulling that came with our weekly WhatsApp based meetings, each team member is proud and relieved at the same time to have made it to the end of the course.  Was our group cohesion anywhere near what we saw of the Orpheus Group… far from it.  Was the course worth the effort? A unanimously resounding yes from the group, especially since PDIA is at the heart of the sort of complex problems that we as development workers tackle daily.

We learnt new things and had some of our assumptions overturned.

One of the key learning for us was that we had been guilty of developing the capacity of public institutions in the likeness and image painted by our respective funding agencies.  Unbeknown to us that we had been perpetuating isomorphic mimicry ourselves.  It is no wonder therefore that you find instances of agencies that on the outside look like they possess all the requisite conditions to succeed but, on the inside, lack the capability.   Making this determination is however not as easy as it seems.  We learnt that to do this effectively, we needed to apply the processes and principles of PDIA.  For instance, we had to go beyond the symptoms of the capacity problem to the root causes by iteratively constructing and deconstructing the problem. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Unravelling premature load bearing in Nigerian public institutions

PDIA Course Journey: Budget Crisis in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Ajani Solomon Oluwatimilehin, Jil Faith Bandele, Olusegun Michael Bandele, Victory Oluwafunmilayo Bandele.

This is a multidisciplinary team with different backgrounds living in Nigeria. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

The common goal, the ideas shared, the meetings, the arguments, the agreements, the team work, the working deadline, the lessons learned indeed it has been 15 wonderful weeks of the PDIA journey. We are delighted to be sharing our journey blog as we have crossed all weekly hurdles and successfully reached the apex of this 15 weeks course.

When the opportunity to enroll for this course came up, the first challenge was setting up the team, when that problem was solved, most of us in the team where clueless about the course……what is PDIA? What does it entail? 15 whole weeks…..?

Fortunately for us, one member of the team had prior knowledge of PDIA and its application and he encouraged us. In his words he said “PDIA will open your mind’s eye individually and collectively as a team” he also said, “this is the future so grab a seat in the front row.” With these words, we were encouraged and eager to see what the next 15 weeks will bring. We are glad to say that this decision was worth it.

We enrolled in this “Practice of PDIA course with one topic in mind; we aimed to understand in which way PDIA (which stands for Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation) could help us to solve the budget crises in Nigeria which has over the years has become cyclic in nature as we have the same issue every year. Budget crisis in Nigeria is a reoccurring problem which over the years has tremendously slowed down the process of development of the country. Budget creation and approval has always been a tug of war, between the presidency, the executive and legislative arms of government which eventually has a ripple effect on the everyday Nigerian and the system in its entity as the budget has to be approved so that funds for fiscal projects can be released. It is a yearly occurrence and the crisis can last for the greater part of the year, with accusations and counter accusations arising on the budget documents and the budgeting process in its entity. That is why the team is embarking on a problem solving exercise through a data driven budget system based on facts and figures to eliminate areas of contention brought about by intuition, assumptions and gut feeling in the budgeting exercise. So with this in mind, we were more than eager to learn new ways so to break the cycle. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Budget Crisis in Nigeria