Guest blog written by Annisaa Rachmawati, Agusti Padmanisa, Yossy Rachmatillah, and Senza Arsendy.
This is a team of four development practitioners working for an education program in Indonesia, INOVASI, that aims to find out ‘what works’ (and conversely what does not work) to improve student learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy in basic education. They are a multidisciplinary team of officers working in communications, program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and operations unit. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.
The term PDIA is something that our team is familiar with, in fact it’s a buzzword we hear everyday at work. Our project uses PDIA as its underlying approach, yet there seems to be different interpretations and debates around how it should be translated into program implementation. Having observed this notion for a while, we decided to enroll in PDIA Online Course to learn rigorously about the approach. We were convinced that this course will equip us with practical knowledge to actually do what we preach in our project.
There are four principles which encompasses PDIA. First, we need to ensure that our intervention is “problem driven” instead of solutions driven. Second, we need to engage relevant stakeholders and create environment which allows for “authorization of positive deviance”. Third, we need to foster experiential learning through “iteration and adaptation”. Last, we “scale through diffusion” successful interventions for reform to be sustainable.
The problem we are trying to tackle is “early grade students in remote areas in Indonesia have difficulties learning to read”, a persisting issue our country has been struggling for decades despite the many efforts collectively put by the government, donor programs, and education practitioners. Policies and best practices (either locally nominated or externally imported) seem to be successful in a short period of time, deceiving us into thinking that we might have solved this problem for good. Not long after specific project or intervention is completed, the same problem reoccurred – leading us right back into capability traps. (Isomorphic mimicry alert!)
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.
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
Guest blog written by Artem Shaipov, Ivan Shemelynets, Sheverdin Maksym, Maryna Yakubovych.
This is a team works for the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Legal Education Committee of the Ukrainian Bar Association, and the USAID New Justice Program in Ukraine. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
What were some key takeaways from this course?
This rigorous, insightful course helped our team to become a true team in the first place. We learned a lot on teamwork and multiagent leadership and obtained a better understanding of how, in fact, change materializes in different contexts.
We also gained a bird’s eye view on state capability and its development through the reading on the “big stuck” in state capability. We also got a more nuanced understanding of the accountability mechanisms through studying four relationships of accountability and how they affect development.
Guest blog written by Daniel Canteros, David Riveros Garcia, Irene Clementina Esquivel Hermosilla, Sofía Belén Pozzo Centurión.
This is a team working a grassroots NGO called reAccion Paraguay which fights corruption in the education sector through promoting citizen participation and technology. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
In terms of education, Paraguay ranks among the worst in the world, only countries in civil war, continuous political conflicts or periodically affected by natural disasters have worse rankings. Hence, for a country that has lived in a relatively stable democracy for over 25 years, the education problem is a considerable challenge for the future of our nation. We applied to the PDIA course because we have been tackling a problem related to funds for infrastructure in the education sector that are not reaching the neediest schools.
Our team faced a particular challenge. None of our members are from the public sector. We are from a grassroots NGO called reAcción Paraguay, which fights corruption in the education sector through promoting citizen participation and technology. We train students to monitor a national fund for education infrastructure, so that public resources go to the neediest schools. During the course we worked hard to catalyze the 4 years of experience we have monitoring the National Public Investment Fund for Development (aka FONACIDE).
The processes of the FONACIDE law are unknown and not respected by government and non-governmental actors alike (i.e local governments, ministries, parent associations, students, directors, teachers). Our team has verified these irregularities and several others for over four years through the implementation of a monitoring mechanism. It consists of visiting the neediest schools to collect data about the infrastructure works for schools financed with FONACIDE. We then work with university students to match the collected data with open government data in order to expose irregularities.
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.
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
Guest blog written by Catalina Riveros Gomez, Irina Cuesta Astroz, José Luis Bernal Mantilla, Juan Carlos Garzón-Vergara, Juan David Gelvez Ferreira.
This is a team from Colombia working for an independent think tank called Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.
In many cases, people use to think that public issues are so complex and it is necessary to re-structure the system to improve or to change a reality. On the other hand, many academics argue that the solution is already done in other part of the world, so we just have to implement what worked in other country/city and the problem is solved. However, the public affairs are complex, it changes and have different reactions depending the time and the territory. With that in mind, this course taught us many things:
First, we learned that it is possible to advance in the solution of complex problems, developing small and concrete actions. To do this, it is important to understand that there is no single solution, but we can have multiple alternatives, from which we learned and adapted our responses.
Second, we understood that we should not have a fixed plan, but a strategy opened to change based on what we have learned. A key tool for this is iteration to identify what adjustments do we need to do to move ahead.
Third, we learned how the iterative process works in practice, and why it is relevant not only to ask what we did, but also what we learned and what we will do to solve it.
Fourth, not everything that presents itself as a problem is actually a problem. As highlighted in one of the sessions, many times what exist are solutions disguised as problems. This is a key element, as it facilitates the formulation and dissection of the problem into small pieces that can then be addressed independently.
We also learned that time management and expectations regarding possible goals are very important. We had to adjust our expectations about the results we could achieve and set up realistic and doable actions.
Finally, we also learned that it is important to translate ideas into practice, because it is through actions that we can learn and adjust what we want to do. I understand better the “try, learn, adapt” method and how the iteration process works.
Tourism is a strong contributor to Sri Lankan economic growth. The bulk of development in this sector has been in the south and west of the island. The northern and eastern regions, the areas most affected by the civil war and most in need of an economic boost, have experienced slower development. In an effort to promote tourism in the east, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) put together a team to work on the Kuchchaveli project. The K-team was part of the Sri Lanka PDIA project from September 2016 – September 2017.
The team was initially challenged with constructing the problem, which included identifying what the problem was and why it mattered. The team’s first problem statement, “Changing of existing land alienation policy” (Figure 1), was an accurate assessment of the situation but failed to promote immediate and urgent action. The team reflected further and a few quick calculations on the opportunity cost of inaction led the team to ask “Why delay 14,000 jobs to [the] public and [lose] $205 mn per annum to country?” (Figure 2). Now this was a problem that could be rallied around. Instead of being framed simply from the perspective of potential investors, it clearly quantifies how solving this problem could boost the economic well-being of an entire community. This sense of urgency is essential to building momentum towards action.
Guest blog written by Agnes Manthi, Beatrice Githinji, Constance 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.
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.
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