Knowing through doing, and learning

written by Matt Andrews

In 2010, Lant Pritchett, Michael Woolcock and I started writing about PDIA (problem driven iterative adaptation) as a potential approach to do development differently.

We had been observing that many development initiatives were not yielding anticipated results, and more importantly not building any kind of capability in developing country governments.

We managed to describe the situation by referring to ‘capability traps’ like isomorphic mimicry and premature load bearing—‘successful strategies for continued failure’ that characterized much of the development landscape. We were able, further, to identify that the development community was especially susceptible to fall into these traps because projects tended to be solution-driven, linearly structured, and top-down, expert dominated.

Given this ‘observe, describe and identify’ research, we posited that an alternative approach might yield different results. Hence we came up with the principles of PDIA—start with problems, iterate to experiment with many ideas and learn the way towards contextually fitted solutions, in large and diffused groups. Continue reading Knowing through doing, and learning