Reducing plastic pollution into the oceans before it is too late

Guest blog written by Yiming Dong, Nada ElSehemy, Daiana F. Molero, Pedro Ossa, Ena Solorzano 

It was the beginning of the Spring semester. One Monday in late January was our first class of PDIA in action. That day we knew that for the next seven weeks we would be working on a completely unfamiliar topic: municipal solid waste management in China. Moreover, our team was unknown to us. We would have to learn a complex topic from scratch while forging a working bond with new colleagues in that short time.  

“Don’t worry, trust the process, don’t get ahead of yourself. Step by step, you’ll get there.” We heard that advice in class and read it on the feedback of deliverables. However, we had a hard time believing it was true. Finally -spoiler alert- the day of our final presentation arrived, and we could deliver. The process had worked. 

We learned about the circular economy, plastic polluting the ocean, and waste management strategies. But, most importantly, we experienced firsthand ways to make teamwork and solving complex problems easier.  

Continue reading Reducing plastic pollution into the oceans before it is too late

Addressing Atoyac river pollution in Mexico

Guest blog by Santiago Creuheras

When I signed up for this course I was eager to learn from Matt Andrews and his team about implementing public policies. I was hoping to meet a group of high caliber students from all over the world willing to share their experiences. My expectations were high, and I am extremely pleased with this course’s outcome and results. The personal, professional, and academic quality of my virtual classmates was unique and impressive. Their experiences have built on my own. I am thankful for their support to redefine my challenge. Peer group exchanges have been one of the highlights of the program. Having an informal team of supporters and performing regular check-ins with each other has been very useful. It has kept us motivated and might be something we should continue doing going forward.

Continue reading Addressing Atoyac river pollution in Mexico

Lagos Beats Plastic

Guest blog written by Emmanuel Adedeji Animashaun, Sedoten Agosa-Anikwe, Olumide Gregory Adeboye and Eriifeoluwa Fiyin Mofoluwawo

This is a team of development practitioners who work for the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.

The 15-week long PDIA course has finally come to an end. And it has been a time of multiple discoveries and intensive learning for Team Lagos Beat’s Plastic.

Emmanuel had learned about the course from course alumni, who explained the many advantages the course holds for practitioners in the public sector. He discussed this information with other people and selected individuals who displayed interest in learning a new approach. Together we formed Team Lagos Beat’s Plastic. Selecting a team of like-minded individuals is partially responsible for the team’s success. And this is one of the important lessons we learnt in the earlier weeks of the course.

Our team consists of 4 individuals from different backgrounds, but who are directly involved with work related to the environment. Thus, agreeing on a problem to solve was quite easy because waste management, and especially indiscriminate plastic disposal in Lagos waterways, was an issue that already ‘stared us in the face’. Hence, we started the course with the mindset of learning what is different about the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, and what role it can play in solving the challenge we selected: plastic waste management in Lagos state, Nigeria. Plastic waste pollution/management is an issue that had not received the necessary attention from agents tasked with waste management. About 20% of total waste generated in Lagos is plastic, which suggests to us the (potential and) need for increased attention either for achieving a cleaner city or economic reasons (or both) if this problem is solved.

The Building State Capability book and other essential readings have been wonderful companions for our team. The first five weeks of the course involved individual work (assignments, reflections and graded discussions) in laying a foundation for the course and future teamwork. In those weeks, we all filled huge gaps in our knowledge of how change works. We also learnt about the big stuck faced by countries.

In those first few weeks, we learnt terms like administrative fact-fiction, isomorphic mimicry, transplantation, and premature load bearing. While these terminologies were new to us, their manifestations were not uncommon in our experience. And when we had completed the modules, we could easily identify these manifestations in various public sector interventions in our country, and outside (in literature). We also learnt that externally designed interventions cannot solve internal problems, where internal capabilities to implement and manage the solutions were low or absent. It was very surprising for us to discover that many of these (external) interventions were actually failing and the lesson for us was that throwing (only) money at a problem does not solve the problem (as we saw in the case of new country South Sudan which was a multi-billion dollar and multi-international agency intervention). And for our problem, we found an example of failed transplantation and isomorphic mimicry in existing waste management systems. Continue reading Lagos Beats Plastic

“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 “There is Rubbish Everywhere!”