PDIA in Practice Series

Many government policies and reforms fail in developing countries. Research at the Building State Capability (BSC) program ties such failure to the tendency of governments to adopt external ‘solutions’ that do not fit their contexts and overwhelm their capabilities. We believe that governments should build their capabilities by employing processes that allow their own people to find and fit their way to solving their country’s real problems.

We propose a process for doing this, called problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) and have been working since 2009 to explore ‘how to do’ PDIA practically, in the real world. These notes will summarize engagements in this journey, and what we learned from each engagement. We'll do so by answering an adapted set of questions we always ask of PDIA in practice: What did we do? What results emerged? What did we learn? What did we struggle with? What was next?

PDIA to Inform Budget Reform in Mozambique
This note covers our experience working with officials in Mozambique’s public financial management sector, between September and December 2009. This was right at the start of the journey in learning how to do PDIA. We were exploring the basic idea that a conversation about problems could spark new ways of doing reforms. Mozambique’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) had come to the end of a ten year public financial management (PFM) reform initiative. The reform was widely hailed as a success, having established a new IT-based system for financial management. However, some observers (including experts at the World Bank) were concerned about compliance gaps and weaknesses in the system, which no one could quantify but which were thought to pervade the system. A new Public Finance Vision document had been developed (in June 2009) to design the next decade’s PFM reform, focused on continuing the reforms as they had been done (with more IT roll-out and expansion). [Read more]

Keywords: Problem Construction, Adaptation Windows, Problem Driven Convening

Contributing to a Problem Driven Project in Mozambique
This note covers our experience working with a broad group of officials across Mozambique’s public financial management (PFM) sector, and donors (particularly the World Bank) between March 2010 and December 2013. This was an early engagement in our learning on how to do PDIA, where we focused on helping government officials (and donors) prepare for and design a problem-driven donor-funded project on PFM for service delivery. The project aimed to address gaps in the implementation of the country’s PFM system (the product of over a decade of reform), which manifested in financial, personnel, procurement and supply chain deficiencies at the local level and impeded the provision of key services to citizens. [Read more]

Keywords: Problem Deconstruction, PDIA Action Pushes, Searchframe, Snowflake Model