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Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)

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  • Andrews, Matt

    (Harvard University)

  • Pritchett, Lant

    (Center for Global Development, Washington, DC and Harvard University)

  • Woolcock, Michael

    (World Bank)

Abstract

Many reform initiatives in developing countries fail to achieve sustained improvements in performance because they are merely isomorphic mimicry--that is, governments and organizations pretend to reform by changing what policies or organizations look like rather than what they actually do. In addition, the flow of development resources and legitimacy without demonstrated improvements in performance undermines the impetus for effective action to build state capability or improve performance. This dynamic facilitates "capability traps" in which state capability stagnates, or even deteriorates, over long periods of time even though governments remain engaged in developmental rhetoric and continue to receive development resources. How can countries escape capability traps? We propose an approach, Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), based on four core principles, each of which stands in sharp contrast with the standard approaches. First, PDIA focuses on solving locally nominated and defined problems in performance (as opposed to transplanting preconceived and packaged "best practice" solutions). Second, it seeks to create an authorizing environment for decision-making that encourages positive deviance and experimentation (as opposed to designing projects and programs and then requiring agents to implement them exactly as designed). Third, it embeds this experimentation in tight feedback loops that facilitate rapid experiential learning (as opposed to enduring long lag times in learning from ex post "evaluation"). Fourth, it actively engages broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate, relevant, and supportable (as opposed to a narrow set of external experts promoting the top-down diffusion of innovation).

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp12-036.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-036

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  1. Ostrom, Elinor, 2005. "Unlocking Public Entrepreneurship and Public Economies," Working Paper Series DP2005/01, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  2. Kraay, Aart & Kraay, Aart & Murrell, Peter, 2013. "Misunderestimating corruption," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6488, The World Bank.
  3. Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael, 2004. "Solutions When the Solution is the Problem: Arraying the Disarray in Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 191-212, February.
  4. Levy, Brian & Fukuyama, Francis, 2010. "Development strategies : integrating governance and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5196, The World Bank.
  5. Mukand, Sharun & Rodrik, Dani, 2002. "In Search of the Holy Grail: Policy Convergence, Experimentation and Economic Performance," Working Paper Series rwp02-027, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Kim S. Cameron, 1986. "Effectiveness as Paradox: Consensus and Conflict in Conceptions of Organizational Effectiveness," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(5), pages 539-553, May.
  7. Dani Rodrik, 2008. "Second-Best Institutions," NBER Working Papers 14050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
  9. Mair, Johanna & Marti, Ignasi, 2009. "Entrepreneurship in and around institutional voids: A case study from Bangladesh," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 419-435, September.
  10. Daniel Adler & Caroline Sage & Michael Woolcock, 2009. "Interim Institutions and the Development Process: Opening Spaces for Reform in Cambodia and Indonesia," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 8609, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  11. Nancy Birdsall & Ayah Mahgoub & William D. Savedoff, 2010. "Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid," Working Papers id:3308, eSocialSciences.
  12. Garud, Raghu & Karnoe, Peter, 2003. "Bricolage versus breakthrough: distributed and embedded agency in technology entrepreneurship," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 277-300, February.
  13. Andrews,Matt, 2013. "The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107016330, April.
  14. Lant Pritchett, Michael Woolcock, Matt Andrews, 2010. "Capability Traps? The Mechanisms of Persistent Implementation Failure - Working Paper 234," Working Papers 234, Center for Global Development.
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Cited by:
  1. Lant Pritchett & Salimah Samji & Jeffrey Hammer, 2012. "It‘s All About MeE: Using Structured Experiential Learning ('e') to Crawl the Design Space," Working Papers 1399, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  2. Pritchett, Lant & Woolcock, Michael & Andrews, Matt, 2012. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  3. Andrews, Matt, 2013. "How do governments become great? Ten cases, two competing explanations, one large research agenda," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  4. Andrews, Matt, 2013. "Explaining positive deviance in public sector reforms in development," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  5. Nathan Fiala & Cormac Mangan, 2013. "Improving Development Effectiveness through R&D: Dynamic Learning and Evaluation," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1325, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  6. Ricardo Hausmann & Brad Cunningham & John Matovu & Rosie Osire & Kelly Wyett, 2014. "How should Uganda grow?," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-030-14, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  7. Andrews, Matt, 2013. "Who really leads development?," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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