The thousands of miles that separate Guinea from the United States and COVID 19 were overcome by technology to enable us to attend this public policy implementation training at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. When the opening bell rang in June, I knew I was about to embark on a new adventure that would not only change my life, but also end the suffering of so many young people in my country, Guinea.
After many years working in the for-profit private sector, I moved about two years ago into a government-owned company that was set up several year ago to be an execution arm for what used to be called the Ministry of Labor. This company grew to be a huge enabler for the transformation plans for that ministry and several other government entities and even some private companies. After being on the receiving end of public policy, I am now ever closer to influencing and even participating in drafting policies. Having been outside my comfort zone, I thought that nothing would be better than going back to school to learn how to better deal with the new challenges in front of me. I went through several options, but IPP grabbed my attention with its structure and scope. I thought this would be a good start for me to understand policy making and implementation and I honestly thought there would be a lot of theory. I didn’t mind that, but I was very interested in learning what it would take to succeed in the implementation of those policies. By that time, I have already worked on a couple of small policies that saw the light and were implemented successfully, but I wanted to tackle bigger problems and I needed to be well-equipped.
I had some concerns about the program being completely online, but I also knew that this could work although 20 weeks seemed a very long time for a training course. After the second week, I was completely convinced that this set up was going to be way better than a condensed 2-week course as it allows participant to fully digest the content and put what they have learned into real action. The course exceeded my expectations in every measure imagined and I would certainly like to see more of such courses in all disciplines.
The past 10 weeks participating in the LEG have signaled a period of personal and professional growth. Being part of a global online learning environment was a massive shift from my previous learning experiences which were almost entirely based on face-to-face teaching and group learning exercises. I have engaged in studies with professionals from the African continent, but this was my first exposure to such a diverse student population. Orientation to this approach took a few weeks but being part of a smaller peer learning group assisted greatly with the immersion into the course’s content and participatory dynamics.
What can I say? This has been one of most interesting trainings I have attended in a while. Right from the first class where we were asked to think about crossing a country in 2015 with a well-drawn map versus crossing the same country in 1804 when there was no map in existence. This class sort of felt like the 1804 case. I came into the class with a preconceived notion on economic growth and a set of ideas of how my growth challenge should be tackled by my organization and government, but I as the class progressed, kept leaning something new at the end of each class and adjusting my thinking as we went along. This was PDIA in practice (Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation) a step-by-step approach which helps you break down your problems into its root causes, identify entry points, search for possible solutions, take action, reflect upon what you have learned, adapt and then act again.
The course was broken down into 4 components, reading and watching the weekly materials provided by the faculty, working on a weekly assignment, participating in a small group discussion and a live question and answer session with the faculty every Tuesday. There were optional sessions with TA every Friday.
When I received a work email asking for my interest in taking the Leading Economic Growth course, I quickly had a look and was not entirely sure that it was the one for me. I did some quick mental calculation to check whether it made sense for me to devote scarce extra hours from my heavily stretched bandwidth for a 10 week period – I am so glad that it did.
Applying to the program required sharing an economic growth challenge that you intended to work during the program. This was very practical for me as I had just been co-leading a multi-disciplinary team at USAID/Kenya and East Africa in developing a five-year strategy to address youth unemployment. We had set ourselves a purpose to increase economically productive opportunities for young women and young men in Kenya and to empower them to actively engage in these opportunities. I reasoned that the course could be useful in providing new ways to analyze this challenge, and potentially offer solutions for me to think about. I would soon to find out that application of the theory and ideas taught in the course was designed as the primary learning arena for the program.
The Guinean tertiary education and Technical Education and Professional Training (TVET) system is dominated by programs that do not meet the needs of the labor market. Inappropriate orientation of training is a major cause of programs’ lack of relevance to business requirements. The system lacks scientific, technical, and professional training opportunities. Graduates rarely develop entrepreneurial skills, as most aspire to enter the public service. Challenges include overstaffing, poor linkages between training institutions and businesses, an over abundance of theoretical courses, dilapidated laboratories, and a lack of practical activities. The result is a very high unemployment rate among young graduates, despite many years of study.
Unemployment is highest among Technical Education and Professional Training (TVET) – 40% and Higher Education graduates -60%. With the exception of large-scale mining companies, the economy is dominated by informal enterprises and low productivity jobs and a skills mismatch between graduates and those demanded by employers.[i]
This problem is politically sensitive (the population of Guinea is young) and it affects the country’s growth as well as its prosperity. Once this problem is solved, it will put an end to the paradox of seeing employers complaining about the lack of skilled labor on the ground to fill the available positions.
Moreover, including entrepreneurial programs in the skill-training will also save most unemployed graduates complaining about the lack of jobs/employment; they can instead use their initiative to create their own enterprise with some kind of support both financially and morally.
For all these reasons, the Government of Guinea and its partner the World Bank, have set up a project to address this problem which will aim to boost the employability and employment outcomes of Guinean youth in targeted skills programs. More specifically, it aims to improve the effectiveness of training programs in universities and vocational institutions, and provide professional opportunities to young, job-seeking graduates by strengthening their skills through training, internships, jobs, or personalized support for business setup.
The project is based on public-private partnership. Its success in terms of impact and sustainability depend on the ability to use standard project management tools, the commitment of the various stakeholders and the quality of the partnership. For all these reasons, these points have been identified as critical and are essential for the sustainability and effectiveness of the project. Continue reading Enhancing the employability of young people in Guinea
It is not surprising to anyone who is a part of the PDIA community that Matt Andrew’s book Building State Capability uses medical metaphors and examples to describe public policy. Like Matt, I too believe that policy-making is a form of therapy for society’s ailments. (Wouldn’t be great if all bureaucrats took a version of a Hippocratic Oath upon entering the service to build a person-centered practice?) And just like medicine, policy work is uncertain and difficult. And the more you learn, the more you understand your limitations. PDIA offers a way to make that task of healing societies a little less treacherous.
I decided to enroll in Implementing Public Policy (IPP) class because I was stuck. I was stuck and I was helpless. I was stuck and I was helpless and I was miserable. I needed something to fix my misery. Coming into the class, I had no idea what to expect. At first I did not really understand the language of PDIA. It all seemed too cerebral to me. My problem was about very poor and unskilled older people who are trying to get a job, any job and just can’t. They rely on the state’s program I administer to help them. The program has limited federal funding and can accommodate less than one percent of the eligible population. We do all we can to help as many as we can, but half the people we serve are just not getting the jobs, even when the economy is fine. Agencies that I work with ask me for more funding, but I don’t have it. All I can do is provide creative solutions to help them. And it is not a new problem for me – after all I have been doing my job for ten years – I simply ran out of ideas on how to solve the problem of chronic and persistent unemployment for this vulnerable population. After ten years of public service, I felt I was a failure.
IPP started with a bang for me – there were people from all over the world with the energy and enthusiasm unmatched in my day to day reality of a state office. They were all highly accomplished, driven, enthusiastic and yet everyone had a similar problem to mine, they all were struggling with their “problems.” Corrupt governments, indifferent agency heads, low budgets, unclear guidance – all familiar aches. We became a team in just a few days. We shared so much in common. Our individual problems became common problems, individual pains became a common condition. And the fantastic and practical PDIA team became our therapists, our mentors on our individual paths to alleviate some of the pain we felt for ourselves and the people we advocate for in our work. Continue reading Three Lessons of PDIA, or the Art of Public Policy
Guest blog written by Lara Khaled Abdullah Hussein, Mai Aziz Shafiq Elian, Rana Riad Al-Ansari
This is a team of development practitioners who work as strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation specialists for the Ministry of Labour (MoL) in Jordan. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.
We were encouraged to enroll in this course by the Growth Lab who was providing technical assistance to the Royal Court in Jordan. We didn’t know at that time what was required and needed to complete this course.
We agreed on the group norms; that helped our team function well over the course journey. We constructed our problem “Increase of the Unemployment Rates in Jordan”. This issue is crucial on the National and international levels; it affects poverty levels, hunger, health, and social aspects. The Increase of Unemployment Rates is linked to the stability of political situation and economic growth where workers produce goods and services, and in turn receive wages which can be spent on buying goods produced. Nowadays this problem is the most important one for MoL and its stakeholders; government institutions, civil society, private sector and donors.
We learnt a lot from the course videos, readings, individual reflections, online group discussions and our team discussions. The process of building our capabilities was through the learning-by-doing approach. We constructed the problem, deconstructed it into causal strands (‘fishbone’ (or Ishikawa) diagram), and then scored each of the strands in terms of their importance and accessibility yielding ‘entry-point’ problems where they could start to work (change space). We identified the actions that could be taken to start addressing each of the selected ‘entry points’, we carried two iterations and designed the third one.
Figure 1 below shows our fishbone diagram that was first constructed and then deconstructed and analyzed, given the change space we had, we preferred to focus on one sub-cause of our main problem, that is, limited professions for foreign labour. Then we defined suitable entry points and authorizing environment. Continue reading Solving the Problem of Unemployment in Jordan
Guest blog written by Raunak Thapa, Sayujya Sharma, Shraddha Gautam, Srizu Bajracharya, NatashaKafle, Sameer S.J.B. Rana
This is a team of six development practitioners working for an NGO in Nepal called Daayitwa. They successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2019. This is their story.
We first came to know about the PDIA Course through our colleagues at Daayitwa, who had previously taken the course. They told us how it would help us understand the problems we were working in as an organization. We were very excited about what it does and how it works.
Daayitwa works towards building an entrepreneurial environment for youths in the country – the majority of whom are leaving the country every day for better opportunities in foreign countries. However, most have fallen to work for labor jobs. Some countries in the middle east house many Nepali workers, who sometimes do not return to the country, to their families because of their dire financial situation at home.
Daayitwa since its initiation has been working to make an enabling environment for youths through its different programs: Fellowship, Rural Enterprise Acceleration Program, Leadership Course, and Yuwa Aaja! (Youth Engagement for Youth Employment.)
The six of us (who took the PDIA course) actually come from different entities under Daayitwa; however, we were keen to understand the experience that our friends who had taken the course appreciated so much. Initially, we didn’t comprehend many questions like what is our problem? Who does this matter to? When would be the appropriate time to take actions? How do we work towards the problem?
Sometimes, when you come into an organization – there is already a set way of doing things, which everybody follows. But the PDIA course, helped us (the six of us) look at problems we were looking at in more detail, and gave a chance to work closely and to understand how to deconstruct the issues that we were working to identify solutions. Continue reading Youth Unemployment in Nepal