Episode 8: Pascale Dahrouj

BSC Director Salimah Samji interviews Implementing Public Policy (IPP) alum, Pascale Dahrouj, to hear more about how she is utilizing what she learned in the program as she works to resolve public problems.

Pascale Dahrouj is the Founder and CEO of Willminds LLC, which includes Consulting Services and a Mediation and Dispute Resolution Center. She focuses her work on anti-fraud and anti-corruption, policy support and implementation, stakeholder consultation and engagement as well as mediation and dispute resolution. She has served as strategic advisor in various ministries, most recently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants in Lebanon. Pascale has an extensive experience in the public and private sector, as well as international experience. To learn more about Pascale's IPP journey, read her BSC blog post, Decentralization in Lebanon.

For more information on Harvard Kennedy School's Implementing Public Policy (IPP) program, visit the website, read about the PDIA approach, and access the PDIA toolkit.


Salimah Samji Hello and welcome to the practice of resolving public problems podcast series. My name is Salimah Samji, and I am the Director of Building State Capability at the Harvard Center for International Development. This new series on the practice of resolving public problems features interviews with alums of our Implementing Public Policy IPP executive program at the Harvard Kennedy School. The episodes will focus on how our alums are using the PDIA tools and approach in designing and implementing public policy. We hope you enjoy them. Today, I'm speaking with Pascal Dahrouj, who is the founder and CEO of Willminds LLC, which includes consulting services and a mediation and dispute resolution center. She focuses her work on anti fraud and anti-corruption, policy support and implementation, stakeholder consultation and engagement, as well as mediation and dispute resolution. She has served as strategic adviser in various ministries, most recently in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigrants in Lebanon. She has an extensive experience in the public and private sector, as well as international experience with other organizations. She completed our IPP program in December 2019. Welcome, Pascal.

Pascale Dahrouj Thank you, Salimah. I'm very glad to catch up after two years actually of the IPP program and thank you for having me on board.

Salimah Samji Wonderful. Let's get started. So as you just mentioned, it's been two years since you completed the IPP program. What do you remember as being useful?

Pascale Dahrouj As you know, Salimah, it's been two years that I've attended the IPP program, and when I went there, I really didn't know what to expect. I knew we were going to be studying how to implement public policy, the process, what it entails, etc. But I really did not know what to expect at the beginning. And then we've had this PDIA approach learning process that I still do remember a lot of the steps or phases in it because I'm actually using it in my work, and I'm going to tell you later how and why, but it changed me a lot. I mean, it's a really dynamic tool that the IPP program puts in my hands and that I really when I came back and ended the program I tried to work on. You know, I've established my company. We've entered the IPP program in December 2019 actually, we finished the program. And I did establish my company in December 2019. It's Willminds. It has two branches, one is consulting and I do a lot of consulting for the public and private sector in matters related to policy. And then the Mediation and Arbitration Center where we handle dispute resolution. And I'm actually using it in both. But what I do focus and remember the most is the fishbone, of course, because it's a visual thing that you cannot remember when the bone is going and deconstructing the problem, putting the five whys of the causes and subcauses, etcetera. And I also do remember mostly the Triple A, the authority acceptance and ability, because you use them in every process and the policy. So, yeah, this is a tool that is in my hand now and that I'm using. And so, here's my learning.

Salimah Samji Can you share some examples, you talked about how you're using it in both of these areas, both of the branches that you work in - Could you give us some specific examples for our listeners?

Pascale Dahrouj Yes, well, let me tell you, in mediation, you know, mediation is helping two parties solve their dispute, and it's being now used worldwide, everywhere. It's like a step prior to going or instead of going to litigation, and it is the trend for the coming future. So I am specialized, and I'm a certified mediator. And I used to do mediation without using the PDIA approach. But then when I finished and graduated from the IPP program and I had this one time meditation where the problem was really complex between the two parties and they were arguing a lot. We were heading toward ending the mediation because it wasn't working at all. And then I said I raised like this since I'm the mediator and I drew the fishbone and I told them, wait, let's understand together the problem. We have this problem and we're talking throwing accusations this way. We're going to reach nowhere. Hold on. Let me deconstruct the problem. So I started putting and then themselves the parties to their disputes, actually, when participating and saying, Oh here, you should put this, here, you should put this. We finalized it. And then we all looked and now we understand. So let's start dealing with its causes of the problem to find the solution. And when I did this, I said, This is the way to do mediation. And let me tell you, Salimah, I don't think anyone uses this in mediation. That's why I really think it's an added value, not just for public policy and how it should be. It helps you implement and design public policy. It's also useful in dispute resolution. So and this is the new area where I would like to highlight PDIA and mostly constructing, deconstructing, and the further step of this whole process. Because for me, it was helpful and I'm using it. So this is how I started, and this is a real, tangible example I gave.

Salimah Samji A wonderful example of trying to take this bickering that's often personal and say, let's let's stop and let's figure out what is the problem that we both care about. And let's then agree to be able to create some space to be able to start making some change there and looking for some solutions. Have you shared you're learning with your colleagues? Now, I think for you, it's a different situation because after IPP, you formed this new company of yours and I guess as you formed your company, how did you think about sharing these tools with your colleagues at work?

Pascale Dahrouj OK, well, I did share my learnings because when I implemented myself, you know, I'm the founder of the company and the CEO also, I do manage everything that is related to how the work is processing and etcetera. So when I did this and I felt how it mostly worked on the cases that I've tried, of course, I told all my colleagues and those working with me and especially in dispute resolution as well and the consulting branch when we deal with policy. Because we deal with the entire policy process, we have the design, the implementation, and then we do the monitoring of the policy and whether they were implemented or not. I explain that to them, but definitely I did not go through all the PDIA approach. Well, I explain mainly the first initial process, how to understand the problem, the fishbone, the five whys, and etcetera. And then to always focus on the authority, and the ability to change, and the acceptance of the people where we're going to implement this policy or where this solution or agreement is going to be implemented. And I think I don't want to say most of those working with me are doing this, but some have tried and we're not able to cope with it. Some are actually doing the same as me. But I did share my learning at least part of this to focus on them. And it's one of the major tool I'm using myself in my company.

Salimah Samji Now you also work both in the public and the private sector. What relevance have you found for these tools in your work with the private sector?

Pascale Dahrouj You know, I've worked with the public sector for almost 12 years. I have been a consultant in many of the ministries and mostly dealing with the policies related to that specific sector. The last is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, by the way, I'm still a consultant dealing with the diaspora aspect for not only. And when I went to the private sector, while still also working with the public, I started using the fishbone. I always refer back to the fishbone because I told you it helps to really see the problem and the causes. I found out that we've missed a lot of opportunities in the past in the public sector where we could have done a lot of alteration and issued a new policies that are really based on the causes of the problem, what the people want, and implement them well. But well, it's never too late, and I think this process needs a lot of awareness for others to use it. I mean, I'm using it in my company with the part of the public sector that I'm working with, but of course, for other people to understand it and to use it, because when I use it in front of people, some people just see a fishbone and they ask me, What is this that you are drawing? There's no awareness of a concept. No, really. They think I'm like drawing something. But then when I finalize, they came to realize, Oh, this was good. So it needs awareness of what is this. There's actually a tool that people can use to understand and not just the writing on the whiteboard things. No, it's really you construct it, deconstruct it. Find the authority in order to reach the solution and then implement them. So.

Salimah Samji Great at the end of the IPP program, we all the alumni joined the IPP community of practice. What does the IPP community of practice mean to you?

Pascale Dahrouj OK, well, I'm still in touch with many of those that were with me in 2019. We talk in private from time to time. But you know, this community, those people with whom I shared a year and then the data of promotion that came the 2020, 2021, and I'm sure they're going to be more. We have something that differentiates us from the others. We share these learnings and this tool, and I'm sure like I'm doing, others are doing the same. We're a community of global thinkers and we have this tool at our hands. And if we work on three major issues, which is first awareness of this tool for other people to use it as well, in that case, this community will be will become bigger and bigger. Second, if we use it ourselves to deconstruct, construct and reach solution it mainly first, because you know that our policy that our common and global to all of us, that we can work together on this and then each one of us could apply this practice to his or her own country or fields or sector of expertize, et cetera. So awareness, helping others use it, and using it ourselves. Coming together for global policy and then each working alone in his/her country for the policies that are local.

Salimah Samji Wonderful, I like that. The idea of working together, also working alone, and having that cycle through where the learning is constantly shared both as individuals and together as a community. As part of this podcast series, we are doing rapid fire questions, so I'm going to ask you some of those. What are you currently reading?

Pascale Dahrouj Well, you're going to laugh at me, but you know, when this pandemic started, I've started like five months ago, I bought this huge book. I have it next to me. It contains the Old and the New Testament. Well, it's the biblical, but it's a book where it's also they analyze the events and the saying in the two Testaments. I needed to read this because, you know, with the pandemic and everything going on, I had too many questions and I needed to find the causes of everything, the creation of the human being and all the answers are there. So I still have not finished it yet, but I'm really enjoying reading it. And I came back to understanding a lot of the challenges that we as humans are facing, the roots of our creation, and I got many of the answers I had in this. I'm hoping to finish the book in the coming one months or two.

Salimah Samji It's an incredibly ambitious task, but I'm sure very rewarding as well. So that's really commendable of you to pick that up. But you know, in the pandemic, one thing that we have had more of is time.

Pascale Dahrouj Exactly.

Salimah Samji It's definitely a great use of your time. What's your favorite part of the PDIA process? I think I know the answer to this one, but I'll ask it anyway.

Pascale Dahrouj OK, well, I've said it along. It's the fishbone and the initial process, the 5Y and the fishbone, maybe. That's my favorite part. And I have to tell you, Salimah, you know, when I was attending the program and there was one week where we were actually in class in Harvard, and this is where we learned the fishbone exactly. When I was there, I was saying, What's this? I mean, I couldn't do my own problem there, but then when we came back and we had the time to do this. But my first impression was, what's this? I mean a fishbone? Should I put the causes? I think most of us had this impression and it was really difficult for us to do it at the beginning. But now we find it very easy. So, yeah, that's my favorite part.

Salimah Samji I totally remember how we'd given everyone a large piece of paper to draw their fish bones, and then they pasted it up on the walls around in the classroom so that people could walk around and see all of the fishbones. What advice do you have for people who are trying to solve public problems?

Pascale Dahrouj So my advice is to see yourself implicated in that public problem because every public problem implicates us as citizens. It's a public problem, so we all have a stake in this. So whenever one is working or trying to understand or do whatever step in the process of the public policy, they should consider the problem as if it's their own problem. They should try to really understand its root causes in order to find the right solution. And they should really work a process that is well elaborated, step by step, not rush into things. So, yeah, every public problem is one's own problem.

Salimah Samji Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your thoughts and experience with us today.

Pascale Dahrouj Thank you, Salimah, for the time you've alloted to me, and I'm really thankful and I'm really like beside the IPP program and whatever is required from me to help in the awareness and anything that is related, I'm really there, and I really motivate people to come, learn, take this tool and they will find the difference in their career and professional life.

Salimah Samji Wonderful, thank you so much, Pascal.

Pascale Dahrouj Thank you, Salimah.

Salimah Samji Thank you for listening to our podcast today. If you liked it, please check out our website bsc.cid.harvard.edu. Or follow us on social media @HarvardBSC. You can also find links and other information under the description of this podcast.