PDIA Course Journey: Supporting lasting Peace in Colombia

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.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Supporting lasting Peace in Colombia

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

Written by Tim McNaught and Anisha Poobalan

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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.

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Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Develop a Sustainable Tourism Project

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.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: AgriFinance in Kenya

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 in Sri Lanka: Evaluating Potential Sites for New Industrial Zones

Guest blog written by Priyanka Samaraweera

The Land Team (L team) consisted of government officials from multiple departments in the Board of Investment, Sri Lanka. This team was formed as a continuation of the Targeting Team in Phase 2 of the PDIA Sri Lanka project. The Targeting Team identified new priority sectors to diversify the economy. The Land team then worked to map out suitable lands for anchor investors in these new sectors. This was part of a PDIA engagement from May 2016 to September 2017.

L team members: Upali Senarath, Ranjan Sibera, Sujani Pilapitiya, Priyanka Samaraweera, Lalith Katugampalage, Nalini Egodawatte, Sukumary Niranjan, Tharaka Jayawardena & Marlon Perera. This is their story!

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Through the comprehensive analysis conducted, the Targeting Team was capable of identifying priority sectors for attracting investment and enhancing the exports of Sri Lanka. The next task was to identify suitable lands for establishing factories in these sectors, especially given that over 89% of the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) of the BOI are already filled. Since limited access to productive land for the potential Investors can be considered as one of the most important limiting factors to attract investments, due consideration should be given to resolving land issues prior to marketing priority sectors to the investor.

Having identified the problem, the Land Team began gathering information on available lands for investment projects. It was noted that the state owns over 80% of land in Sri Lanka, though this ownership is spread over at least ten different Ministries and Departments. The team met with many of these bodies, ultimately creating a database of over 600 available lands (Figure 1). Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Evaluating Potential Sites for New Industrial Zones

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