Escaping Capability Traps through Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)
The authors argue in this CGD Working Paper that many development interventions are not sustainable because of "isomorphic mimicry," where the state or program adopts ‘best practices' from other places and disregard the specific characteristics of local context. The authors analyze different types of reform promoted by multilateral organizations such as World Bank, WTO, and IMF that restrain local experimentation. To escape what is described as a "capability trap" – where the demands of an intervention overwhelm local capacity - the paper introduces a Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), guided by four core principles: "reform activities should:
- aim to solve particular problems in particular local contexts, via
- the creation of an ‘authorizing environment' for decision making that encourages experimentation and ‘positive deviance', which gives rise to
- active, ongoing and experiential (and experimental) learning and the iterative feedback of lessons into new solutions, doing so by
- engaging broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate and relevant-that is, are politically supportable and practically implementable."
To apply a PDIA, the authors present a variety of tools such as Ishikawa diagrams to examine the problem carefully in order to identify the right entry point for initiating a program solution.