Developing a Strategy for the Border Region between Australia and PNG

Guest blog written by Geoff King

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in July 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

Having worked as a development professional for the better part of two decades, I was hoping Leading Economic Development would deliver a few additional tools I could add to my well worn tool belt. However, in several fundamental ways it has led to the evolution of my thinking and changed my practice.  

Growth diagnostics informed by complexity analysis, have changed the way I view the challenge of economic development.  The method, presented using accessible analogies, are powerful analytical tools that can help identify points of entry for further diagnosis/analysis informing economic development strategy.  I will never think of monkeys in trees the same!  

I was broadly familiar with PDIA thinking. However, applying the approach to a case I am currently working on brought the theory to life. From my experience, project/ program documents have become littered with claims of adaptation, iteration and learning as you go, but the rhetoric rarely translates into reality. 

PDIA uses an accessible conceptual vocabulary to provide a systemic, yet flexible, approach to complex (often meta) problems supported by practical tools and processes. While individual case studies demonstrate its success, a meta-study demonstrating its efficacy in a larger population of cases would help in gaining the support of skeptical decision makers questioning case selection bias (picking winners).

Working for the Australian Government in PNG, I lead a team that in week two of the course was tasked with developing a development strategy for the border region between Australia’s Torres Strait and PNG’s South Fly district of PNG. 

At its closest point, PNG and Australia are only four km of open water apart. Australia’s per capita GNP is 21 times that of PNG. One of if not the largest disparity in the world for any two countries sharing a border.  The gross regional product of the Far North Queensland region, comprised of 260,000 people, is one third of the GDP of PNG, with a population exceeding 8 million.  Life expectancy in South Fly is estimated to be around 60 years and maternal and child mortality is extremely high. In comparison, Australia ranks sixth on the global Human Development Index league table.

The region is ethnically and linguistically diverse, but has english as the lingua franca spoken by the vast majority of residents and taught in schools. This common language, to a degree, shapes a regional identity.  

Continue reading Developing a Strategy for the Border Region between Australia and PNG

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