fbpx PDIA in Action: Development Through Facilitated Emergence | Harvard Kennedy School
Matthew Andrews Photo

Matthew Andrews

Edward S. Mason Senior Lecturer in International Development


Many policy experts use what we call plan and control methods to introduce new solutions into complex settings. The results are often limited. In many cases this is because the challenges in development are too complex to allow for effective planning or to support the success of ex ante strategies in reform or policy execution. In the face of such complex challenges, we believe that practitioners should be using more flexible facilitated emergence methods, where they focus on problems instead of solutions, move forward step by step (instead of following a long-term plan) and allow for flexible adaptation (instead of control-oriented implementation). Even though many development practitioners see the rationale behind this argument, and even agree that a more flexible approach is needed, they do not know HOW to pursue a process that is not based on ‘plan and control’. These practitioners often do not know what alternative methods involve. In response to this, the current course introduces students to a specific alternative approach to doing what we call facilitated emergence. This approach is called problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) and is the approach taken through the Building State Capability (BSC) Program at the Center for International Development (CID) at HKS. Students will engage in a short application of PDIA to get a feel for how one might do facilitated emergence, learning how to facilitate discussions about problems and potential solutions, engage with teams, and facilitate an iterative learning process.