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

PDIA Course Journey: “There is Rubbish Everywhere!”

Guest blog written by Sinit ZeruSafiatou DialloDiaraye DialloHimideen Toure and Sophie Tidman

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

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During a press conference held before his second term, Guinea’s President, Alpha Conde, eloquently summarised our team’s chosen challenge: “there is rubbish everywhere!”  In the capital, Conakry, there are sixty-five public places that have become informal dumping grounds – including beaches, roads and markets – holding nearly 35,000 tonnes of rubbish. Every day, 1,000 tonnes of waste are produced in Conakry.  Waste is expected to increase 5% every year, fuelled by population growth and single-use plastic packaging.  The arrival of the first rainfall this year pushed garbage previously retrieved from gutters into homes.  As the rainy season continues to October, overflowing landfill sites threaten lives and cholera outbreaks are feared.

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Several actions have been initiated, including the coordination of a pilot project led by the Prime Minister for efficient waste management and professionalization of the sector.  Citizens, especially the youth of Conakry, have increasingly taken action into their own hands: tweeting selfies in front of piles of rubbish, and organising volunteer clean-up operations of beaches and roads. More recently, an entire neighbourhood blocked traffic on one of the main roads of the capital to express their frustration after having their homes destroyed by landslide of rubbish.

The PDIA method offered the opportunity to break down the challenge and reach out beyond the standard stakeholders and conventional ‘best practice’ approaches.  Three key learnings emerged from our team’s experience of tackling this challenge using PDIA: Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: “There is Rubbish Everywhere!”

PDIA Course Journey: Team Soedalan

Guest blog by Ana de Apraiz, Alberto Nuñez, Eduardo Gomez and Sofia Guillot

Team Soedalan successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in June 2018. They are a multidisciplinary team of development professionals with different backgrounds living in Spain.

When we were asked to be part of the PDIA course sponsored by CID, most of our team members claimed something like: P-D-…What?

Fortunately, at that time at least one of us had more information about the course and he encouraged us to participate saying: “you will see, it’s going to be very interesting, it’s related to building state capability, and it introduces an innovative methodology that helps to implement projects and programmes in a development context.

We enrolled in this “Practice of PDIA 2018S” 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 identify new ways of action to face the problem of high maternal mortality rate in Dominican Republic.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Team Soedalan

PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

written by Anisha Poobalan

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Meet the Investment Promotions team, a group of Sri Lankan government officials from various departments, experts in differing fields, and all novices at the daunting task ahead of them – attracting foreign investors to Sri Lanka. I had the privilege of working alongside the I-team as a coach and colleague for a year. This post is an introduction to the ‘I team’, the challenges faced, victories celebrated, and the learning and experience gained for all involved, coaches and team members alike. Continue reading PDIA in Sri Lanka: Learning to Engage New Investors for Economic Diversification – Let’s Go Fishing!

Using PDIA to tackle off-budget spending in Liberia

Guest blog by Alieu Fuad Nyei

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Like many other African countries, budget execution is a huge challenge in Liberia. Last fiscal year (July 2016 to June 2017), off-budget spending was over 15% of the approved budget while in-year budgetary transfers have been on the increase, significantly undermining the credibility of the approved budget. This huge ratio of off-budget spending led to cutbacks in on-budget programs in areas such as health and education, either delaying or reducing the scale of medical and educational supplies to schools and hospitals across the country. Efforts over the years to address this problem have failed mainly because they focused more on improving the quality of the budget document and less on the root causes that have allowed this problem to continue unabated. Using the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, we started a 7-month journey to better understand and tackle the problem of spending entities (SEs) not executing their budgets as planned. Continue reading Using PDIA to tackle off-budget spending in Liberia

My PDIA Journey

Guest blog by Awa Touray

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The reality of public service is that you are often bogged down with routine tasks that don’t often allow you the room to innovate and initiate. So, in an environment that is very reactionary, the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) project provided an exciting avenue to be proactive in tackling public financial management (PFM) problems. The team spent a 7-month long journey of discovery and learning in tackling the problem of high virements and arrears leading to a misalignment in the appropriated budget and spending. Continue reading My PDIA Journey

Motivating teams to muddle through

written by Anisha Poobalan

In theory, PDIA seemed like the most logical, straightforward way to go about solving a problem. A team is formed, they deconstruct the identified problem and then attack each causal area, learning and adapting as they go. Being in the field, meeting with the teams weekly, hearing about the obstacles cropping up at each turn, I realize how frustrating and discouraging this work can be. The first challenge is to get the government officials working, but then comes the task of motivating them to keep at it. The temptation to just give up and revert to the status quo grows greater with each pushback they face.

Motivation is central to this work and motivation is difficult. Each team responds to different methods of motivation at different stages on their journey. Various strategies might boost a team for a week or two before they slow down again. In the past two months, the teams were motivated by presentations to high level authorities, responsibility sheets, healthy inter-team competition, inspiring stories from successful economies, brutally honest conversations, site visits, and more. A common factor in all these strategies is the accountability it creates. Creating a culture in which mid-level civil servants are inspired, empowered and then held accountable for delivering real outputs, is necessary if they are to remain motivated.

Throughout the project, teams voiced concerns at their lack of authorization. They doubted that superiors would support their work and proposals and this demotivated them. One team worried that policy makers would not incorporate their proposals and inputs from external consultants might outweigh the teams’ findings. Another team questioned their authority to directly engage with investors and yet another team worried about their inability to influence change. Over the past two months, teams have presented and received the support of several high-level policymakers, ministries and stakeholders. Much to the teams’ surprise, their superiors are keen to expedite approvals, empower the teams, and take ownership of the proposals made. Real work led to engagement which led to authorization and this high-level support and expectation has motivated the teams beyond belief.

Inter-team meetings and synergies motivate and create accountability as well. The teams eventually understood how dependent they were on each other and success for one team meant success for the whole group. If one team was slacking or faced a road block, the output from another team may not be demanded or used to its full potential. For example, when two inter-dependent teams met for the first time, they realized that although theoretically, the output from the first team was world-class, real world experience and engagements were necessary to inform these results. That was a gap the second team had learned to and now had the capability to fill. This meeting helped link their new, or in some cases latent, capabilities. This growing interdependence has created accountability for each team to deliver. As one team continued to work, they identified a gap in the economy that would challenge their success in the future. They were overwhelmed by the severity of the problem and realized they did not have the bandwidth to address this themselves. Much to their relief however, at the next launchpad session they found that another team was already addressing this issue and the team could assure external parties that the challenge was being addressed. The team worked harder at filling this gap once they knew another group was depending on them to succeed. These are big steps in a system that lacks synergy and suffers from severe coordination failure.

Navigating the local landscape in any context is difficult, but some of these officers have struggled with repeated coordination failure for almost 30 years. This leads to frustration, discouragement and cynicism about change. One of the teams experienced this when trying to share a summary document with another government agency. They had to share this document to get support from higher level officials and expedite their work. What should have taken two days, took over two weeks. A disheartening but useful lesson, this team is learning to plan ahead, follow up and prepare for such delays in their timeline. Another team is still waiting on the approval for a document submitted around six months ago. The time and energy spent on inter- and intra-agency coordination is frustrating but the teams have made considerable progress despite the difficulties. Their persistence and continued efforts are inspiring and we hope that these notes will encourage you to persevere in your own challenging contexts.

Anisha Poobalan worked with us on the PDIA Sri Lanka project from September 2016 to September 2017.

This is part of a blog series that is tagged “PDIA Journey,” written by people who have participated in a PDIA process.