PDIA Course Journey: Family Farming in Colombia

Guest blog written by Alejandro Rueda, and Sonia M

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

Throughout 15 weeks, our team was able to identify the causes behind our problem, to elaborate on them, to design strategies, to iterate, and, not less important, to discuss, debate, and engage as a group during the whole process. Although the primary objective of our team is to generate recommendations for public policy to overcome the problem of inefficient market access for family farmers, we were able to constantly work to make our strategies implementable for any public officer. We also had the good fortune of having one of our team members working for the Ministry of Agriculture directly involved in generating public policy for family farming. The course was very important to articulate a better, more centered, and methodologically stronger proposal as well as to guide a course of action taking into account the above.

The course left us various key takeaways.

  • The first one has to do with the importance of working as a team. This includes the whole process of defining who will be in the group, why, and what are the clear roles and tasks each one had to perform. It also includes the need to be periodically communicating and discussing, to be listening to the other points of view, and articulating it to the whole PDIA process. During the past months, we engaged in very serious as well as enriching discussions that shape the strategies that today we are articulating.
  • A second takeaway, which we consider is the key to action, is the process of identification of the main problem and its sub causes in a logic that denies pre-set solutions. This helped us to better understand what we were doing and how we should be doing it. The fishbone was a key element in our group since one of our authorizers is now using it (with some modifications) to strengthen our proposal.
  • A third takeaway of the course is the constant reminder to direct your efforts towards action. This is essential not only for the outcome, but for the whole process. If you start focusing on the more realistic and basic tasks your team can manage to do in a week, your are definitively approaching to the problem solved scenario. The latest not meaning that is a direct highway to the solution but, as you encounter difficulties in the way, manage to solve them and move along with what you’ve learned, you are a step closer to solving it.
  • A fourth takeaway is to engage fully to the process. A team that is active, that discusses and acts accordingly, that is constantly evaluating the process, reporting on the progress, bringing ideas of action and strategies for improvement, is a team that in engaged. Also, the engagement of team members will result in a more efficient engagement of third parties.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Family Farming in Colombia

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: Higher Education Access in Ecuador

Guest blog by Daniela Espinosa Alarcón, Gabriela Suarez Buitron, Luis Fernando Ochoa, Verónica Villavicencio Pérez

This is a team working at the National Secretariat of Higher Education and Technology in Ecuador. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

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Developing strategies based on identifying the core complex problem that we have to solve has contributed to a change of collective mind-set. In the public sector in Ecuador we tend to work according to political agendas instead of working towards a long term project. Working towards the solution of a problem gives us a clear path to plan better strategies and better public policies.

Being together as a team in this course has been one of the most important elements to take away. Accomplishing great things alone can be hard. Thus, surrounding ourselves with great colleagues and professionals improved our capacity to build strategies to solve our problem, being more effective and strengthening our professional bonds. Setting clear norms and supporting each other has been key for success.

Finally, we have learned that projects do not have to be perfect from the beginning. In the way many things can go wrong, the important thing is to identify the mistakes and correct them in time. PDIA is a great tool to have this constant exercise of reflection and correction of our plans towards the solution of complex problems. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Higher Education Access in Ecuador

PDIA Course Journey: Lack of Youth Participation in Papua New Guinea

Guest blog by Coletah Ronah Kibai, Kirk Gibson, Pricillar Napoleon, Andrew Lepani, Hannah Athaliah James, Hercules Jim, Maliwai Sasingian

Many members of this team work for The Voice Inc. in Papua New Guinea. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Young people under 35 make up about 70% of the population yet there is limited attention to how decisions affect young people or on issues specifically related to young people, leading to a range of issues – high rates of youth unemployment, low school completions etc… Our initial problem statement was the lack of effective youth participation in policy development in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Over the course of the PDIA journey, we have evolved with our understanding of the problem.

As a team, we have learnt so much – about trying out the wicked hard problems, doing one iteration action at a time to learning about our team and gaining a deeper understanding of the youth space.

One thing that we know the key learnings from the course (problem construction, deconstruction, designing change space, team norms, iterations etc…) can be used in our own spaces of influence to tackle the complex problems.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Lack of Youth Participation in Papua New Guinea

PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Blood Transfusion in India

Guest blog written by S. Subash, Vimala Devi Vidya and J. Ravishankar

This is a team of physicians working as District Blood Transfusion Officers for Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) living in India. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

We enrolled into the PDIA course without knowing what it was and what we needed to do. But the Project Director of TANSACS encouraged us, gave us objectives that we were struggling with and directed us to engage with this new tool/approach. So one fine day, we joined the ride on “Practice of  PDIA 2018F” with our objective to solve – How do we address the problems faced by Government blood banks, in acquiring 20% of blood units collected by private blood banks in Tamil Nadu, India.

Government blood banks in Tamil Nadu are facing a shortage of blood units and acquiring 20% of blood units from private blood banks was a strategy to increase the blood stocks. But private blood banks were not willing to part with blood units as it was money for them. They either did not report their blood donation camps or under-reported their collection in camps. Either way, the Government blood banks were suffering from increasing demand and a reducing donor pool.

We started with a 6 member team and early on, we learnt about the big stuck faced by countries aiming for development. The book “Building State Capability” became the bible for the next 15 weeks. We learned new terms like Implementation gap, Isomorphic Mimicry, Premature load bearing and Transplantation. Some of our team members could not spare the time and energy needed for PDIA and bowed out. And this was the ‘first lesson learnt’ for us and we rallied and reinforced ourselves that we will fight to the finish, like plotting the map of 1804!

We found that the problem we were facing belonged to the typology ‘Implementation intensive service delivery’ which was not wicked hard category. We came to know that success of a leadership is not for the face of the leader but through multi-agent leadership. We formed the team norms and started our group activity of engaging our problem. As we constructed and deconstructed our problem and formed our first fishbone diagram, we found that there were many sub-causes that led to our problem. Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Solving the Problem of Blood Transfusion in India

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

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