PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

Guest blog written by Lindiwe Ndlela, Subethri Naidoo, Xavier MacMaster

This team works for the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Our PDIA journey started quite innocently with us seeing it as an escape from the routine of the everyday run of the mill challenges of public service.  We thought we had a chance to engage with something theoretical, relevant, but ultimately which would remain an intellectual exercise.  We are now PDIA converts, for the first time excited about the potential for practical change in our bureaucracy!

During the individual submissions, we were ecstatic about what we were learning. Reality crept in when we received our first group assignment. By assignment 7, frustration set in as we faced the challenge of deconstructing our problem.  We learnt that our initial problem construction was inadequate and weak. The reality was hard, particularly in drilling down to answer analytical questions of why it mattered, to whom; and who needed to care more.

We learnt that we could not fast forward to a solution, which is a typical, default behavior. This was new to us. For the first time we had to think deeply, about the need to unpack the problem, using the tools to which were being exposed.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

PDIA Course Journey: Littering in Bangalore City

Guest blog written by Sridhar Pabbisetty, Deepthi MR, Manivannan Ponniah, Salma Fahim.

This team is made up of a Public Policy and Sustainable Urbanisation expert, a Public Relations Officer, Bangalore Electricity Supply company, and two civil servants. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka is dubbed as the IT city and Garden city alike. Residents of the city have called it retired-persons’ paradise. Over the last 15 years, the city has become a booming hub for IT companies which have not only brought in infrastructural development, but also has expanded leaps and bounds in terms of income. While the city saw rapid development on one side, it also began seeing heaps of garbage being generated and hit a roadblock when it came to managing its solid waste.

The city’s municipal corporation is called Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike  is responsible for managing the city’s waste. BBMP decided to set up a solid waste management wing. This would help in managing solid waste of the city. Here are a few numbers to take into consideration:

1.         Bangalore generated 57,00 MT of waste every day
2.         Almost 1200 MT is unaccounted for
3.         This comes to about 22% of the total waste!
4.         Even though the BBMP has 30,000 cleaning workers, this is the state of affairs.

As we began understanding our problem, we got deeper insights about the demon we were dealing with. Littering is a cultural problem in India. People lack basic civic sense, irrespective of class. This leads to heaps of garbage strewn around on streets and street corners. Besides there are not adequate number of dustbins placed by the Municipality nor is the system of collecting the garbage from these public bins very effectively monitored. It is a problem with immense political and economic dimensions, we as a team decided to focus on one crucial sub component of ‘littering’ to work on.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Littering in Bangalore City

PDIA Course Journey: Agricultural Inefficiencies in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Guest blog written by Sakineh Roodsari, Son Truong Can (Kenny), Dinh Quoc Cong, Nguyen Uyen, Phuoc Hung Thach, and Long Ho.

This team is made up of an independent group composed of 6 individuals coming from both the public and private sector. They are a multidisciplinary team of professionals who have worked in the following positions: the head of agricultural cooperatives and farm division – Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), a former manager of an agriculture cooperative in Tan Thanh Tay, director of Cu Chi High Tech Agriculture Cooperative, former World Bank consultant, project finance specialist, and as a facilitator of ASEAN SMEs Academy. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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How do we solve our wicked hard problem of farmers’ lack of motivation to learn, follow safe standards, and new techniques with higher value added? Although our team only has three members with experience in the agriculture sector, we all understood the urgency of working on this problem. In particular, because food safety is one of the biggest concerns in Vietnam, and the lack of food safety is the number one cause of cancer. Due to the agriculture inefficiencies in the value chain, it is difficult to tackle this problem using conventional methods.

This course taught us a series of toolkits that required innovative and experimental approaches to development, through a process called Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA). During the first half of the course, we learned a lot of concepts. One particular term that really stuck was Isomorphic Mimicry. “Isomorphic mimicry is the tendency of governments to mimic other governments’ successes, replicating processes, systems, and even products of the “best practice” examples.” The governments appear capable, but in reality are not. So how do we step away from mimicry? 

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Agricultural Inefficiencies in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

PDIA Course Journey: Stop, Look, and Listen! Preventing Recruitment of Youth into Illicit Activities in Southern Colombia

Guest blog written by Cameron Berkuti, Christina Schultz, Diana Acuña, Juan Pablo Castaño, Kelly Brooks, Susan Kemp

This team successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

As development practitioners, we tend to rush in with solutions to deal with complex problems. We impose so-called best practices without digging deep to uncover the roots of a problem due to donor demands and other pressures to show short-term gains. However, acknowledging that a problem is “complex” means that we first need to step back and give ourselves room to figure out how to achieve sustainable impact. We found this to be the case when confronting the problem of youth recruitment in Vaparaiso, Colombia, where we applied problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA).

In post-conflict Colombia, following half a century of civil strife, youth in municipalities previously controlled by the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are experiencing an emerging threat to their well-being. Violent groups that benefit from illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and illegal mining, are taking advantage of the power vacuum, left by the demobilization of the FARC, by coercing youth to join their ranks. The small, isolated municipality of Valparaiso, with a population of nearly 12,000, is no exception. Lack of trust in the judicial system and local authorities to bring perpetrators to justice and prevent retaliation has led to a severe underreporting of this phenomena. The mayor’s office and family services are responsible for preventing youth recruitment. The municipality is further hampered by limited budget resources, administrative capacity, and information to comply with its obligations regarding prevention and response to recruitment.

This is clearly a “wicked hard” problem that we had been contemplating from six different chairs in Colombia and remotely from the US. The first task we took on was that we stopped and conducted an initial problem analysis to agree on what exactly we were trying to solve. This consisted of constructing the problem – the municipal government of Valparaiso did not have the capacity and resources to deal with this emerging critical concern of youth recruitment. We subsequently deconstructed this seeming intractable issue by reaching out to stakeholders, looking at available (although scarce) data, and continually asking “why”. We discovered a range of root causes, from law enforcement still being conducted from a military perspective to a deteriorating social fabric. Mapping out the sub-causes only further confirmed that the problem could not be solved in one go. Rather than being overwhelmed by this complexity, we realized that there was ample space in authority, acceptance, and ability that provided us an entry point in one root cause – local government, schools, parents and others did not see the value in engaging youth in solving their own problems. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Stop, Look, and Listen! Preventing Recruitment of Youth into Illicit Activities in Southern Colombia

PDIA Course Journey: Enhancing Women’s participation in Nigeria

Guest blog written by Adetunde Ademefun, Lois Chinedu, and Suleiman Oluwatosin

This team is made up of of experienced Programme, Research and Communication Staff and Assistants who work at the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF). They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Amazingly, when we were asked to be part of the PDIA course and were told the members of our team, concerns were raised about tight schedules, especially how in Nigeria, we are preparing for the elections and it would not be seemingly possible to dedicate time for meetings to ensure a coordinated flow of information. But, we did it!

For a fact, this course has appeared to be both a fascinating and an emerging field. The PDIA course was very well done and we enjoyed it. The instructors were really good and instrumental to our success as a team. The first part of this course that really brought us closer as a Team was Module Five where, we learnt about “People as the Source of Capability”. This particular module helped reinforce the importance of team work in an organisation

Two very vital modules that got our critical thinking caps on, and as such revealed to us that we have not completely explored all the alternatives to solving one of the Key Goals of our Organisation (Enhancing Women’s Participation in Governance) were Deconstructing Problems  and Identifying the Change space. It was while studying this module that we identified entry points to solving problems such as advocating through lobbying, creating voter sensitization programmes through policy makers, etc. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Enhancing Women’s participation in Nigeria

PDIA Course Journey: Going Back in order to go Forward (South Africa)

Guest blog written by Lolo Isabelle Balindile Manzini, Xolani Innocent Mthembu, Katerina Nicolaou-Manias, Godfrey F. Phetla, Vijay Valla

This team works for the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) in the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

It sounds counter-intuitive to go back over and over again in order to go forward. Going back to the drawing board to re-examine, re-assess, review, refine and revise the problem statement and its root causes is one of the key underpinning principles of Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) on a path towards achieving either policy reform, sustainable development or providing enabling support to small business in the mainstream economy. PDIA fosters constant learning, both on a professional and personal level, while devising context-specific, small, actionable steps that promote success, through identifying pockets of excellence (positive deviance) and then building dynamic sustainable solutions to the problem being addressed.

After a 15-week time-intensive and demanding course both professionally and personally, you cannot possibly walk away without turning all of your pre-conceived ideas of problems in every aspect of your life (and how you problem solve them) upside down and inside out.

The PDIA experience teaches you continual reflection, re-examination, re-assessment, revision and refinement in your approach to addressing all facets of the problem, making progress by learning about the problem and through putting small steps into place to address it, making progress towards solving it.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Going Back in order to go Forward (South Africa)

PDIA Course Journey: CFI in Cambodia

Guest blog written by Lee Henley, Vann Sokha, Jenny Ciucci, Zoey Henley

This team successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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CFI is a small NGO in a rural part of Battambang Cambodia, we work with some of the most resource poor children in Cambodia. We have worked in this community for ten years and we wanted to ensure that our NGO could support generations of children and their families to come. As an organization we had been giving a lot of thought to financial sustainability but we didn’t know where or how to get started, but had seen many other NGOs start successful social enterprises and we thought that must be our answer! We enrolled in the online PDIA course with a vision of our successful sustainable future, ready to use our new found skills to put our ready-made solution into action.

Very quickly we learnt that maybe our problem wasn’t so clear cut as we thought. We were faced with a wicked hard problem without a clear plan in place; ……..enter PDIA.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: CFI in Cambodia