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