IPP Program Journey: From South Africa To Boston and Back

Guest blog written by Nkere Skosana

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

From the moment I saw the advert on Twitter and read through the content provided, something just told me this is the real deal. I felt there was no way I could not find more about the course. It has always been my approach not to do any academic course for the sake of just obtaining a qualification but to engage in a course that speaks to real issues that we get confronted with as Public Servants on a daily basis.

The initial assignment already gave a hint of what was to come and the approach in terms of policy analysis and implementation. Breaking down the policy challenge in terms of who the critical stakeholders are, determining upfront what meaning of success one has to attach to its implementation was key. 

Getting to HKS, one was struck by the diversity of participants in the course from all walks of life and different continents. Amazingly, there were lots of similarities in terms of the challenges we encounter in our policy environments. The course turned out to be more than what I had expected. It was more interactive and practical and the wealth of experience and knowledge from the team of experts presenting was exceptional.

The course leader provided insights into experiences from different continents and the examples of real life situations and the kind of challenges encountered helped to us to realise that PDIA is not a theoretical but practical approach to policy implementation.

Some key learnings

One of the key insights from the course was the distinction between the Plan and Control policies which most institutions use and PDIA. The former may be useful in ensuring the achievement of policy products on time and within budget and this becomes the drill. PDIA on the other hand seeks to drill down to the heart of the problem, explore a variety of options and ensures that policy impacts are achieved which is what people mostly are looking for. 

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: From South Africa To Boston and Back

Building State Capability in the Western Cape, Step by Step

Building State Capability (BSC) has been successfully applying its Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) methodology in various governments across the world, including in growth enhancing policy initiatives directly related to the promotion of investment.

BSC has trained several government officials from the Republic of South Africa in their PDIA online course. Two teams from the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), one team from the Government Technical Advisory Center at the Treasury, and one team from the Office of the Premier of the Northern Cape successfully completed the course that ended in December 2018.

In August 2019, BSC signed an MOU to work with 5 teams of individuals drawn from the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, with facilitators from Wesgro, to promote economic growth in the region using their PDIA methodology. This was initiated by the Premier Alan Winde.

The teams are working on five priority sectors which include:

  1. Construction and property development
  2. Light manufacturing
  3. Atlantis special economic zone (manufacturing hub that focuses on green energy)
  4. Information technology and business process outsourcing
  5. Commuter transport

This engagement entails the creation of an economic war room where BSC provides online learning environment where the teams learn how to apply the PDIA approach to solving their complex problems. The teams report jointly to the Premier and the Mayor of Cape Town.

A recent article by Claire Bisseker in the Financial Mail, entitled, Strategic shift for Western Cape, details some of this engagement. Continue reading Building State Capability in the Western Cape, Step by Step

PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

Guest blog written by Lindiwe Ndlela, Subethri Naidoo, Xavier MacMaster

This team works for the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

Our PDIA journey started quite innocently with us seeing it as an escape from the routine of the everyday run of the mill challenges of public service.  We thought we had a chance to engage with something theoretical, relevant, but ultimately which would remain an intellectual exercise.  We are now PDIA converts, for the first time excited about the potential for practical change in our bureaucracy!

During the individual submissions, we were ecstatic about what we were learning. Reality crept in when we received our first group assignment. By assignment 7, frustration set in as we faced the challenge of deconstructing our problem.  We learnt that our initial problem construction was inadequate and weak. The reality was hard, particularly in drilling down to answer analytical questions of why it mattered, to whom; and who needed to care more.

We learnt that we could not fast forward to a solution, which is a typical, default behavior. This was new to us. For the first time we had to think deeply, about the need to unpack the problem, using the tools to which were being exposed.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Bringing PDIA to GTAC

PDIA Course Journey: Going Back in order to go Forward (South Africa)

Guest blog written by Lolo Isabelle Balindile Manzini, Xolani Innocent Mthembu, Katerina Nicolaou-Manias, Godfrey F. Phetla, Vijay Valla

This team works for the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) in the Government of South Africa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in December 2018. This is their story.

It sounds counter-intuitive to go back over and over again in order to go forward. Going back to the drawing board to re-examine, re-assess, review, refine and revise the problem statement and its root causes is one of the key underpinning principles of Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) on a path towards achieving either policy reform, sustainable development or providing enabling support to small business in the mainstream economy. PDIA fosters constant learning, both on a professional and personal level, while devising context-specific, small, actionable steps that promote success, through identifying pockets of excellence (positive deviance) and then building dynamic sustainable solutions to the problem being addressed.

After a 15-week time-intensive and demanding course both professionally and personally, you cannot possibly walk away without turning all of your pre-conceived ideas of problems in every aspect of your life (and how you problem solve them) upside down and inside out.

The PDIA experience teaches you continual reflection, re-examination, re-assessment, revision and refinement in your approach to addressing all facets of the problem, making progress by learning about the problem and through putting small steps into place to address it, making progress towards solving it.

Continue reading PDIA Course Journey: Going Back in order to go Forward (South Africa)