Mayada Magdy Ragheb is Chief Program Officer in the Japan International Cooperation Agency. She recently attended GDI’s annual conference, “Challenge Accepted: Delivering Services in Fragile, Conflict-affected and Transitional Environments” in Tunis, Tunisia, and shared her impressions with the GDI team in this interview article.
What did you learn at the conference that stands out for you?
I found the conference to be an enriching and fulfilling experience. While there, I interacted with many intellectuals and practitioners from key development partners. It was extremely beneficial to exchange practical experiences dealing with the delivery challenges that development programs face on the ground.
I came back with various findings and lessons to apply to our operations. For example, there is no one size-fits all solutions for dealing with delivery challenges and that understanding the local contexts is indispensable. Conference discussions focused on how the success of our operations lies not only in reaching indicators, but also in the process itself of how we undertake these operations. It means engaging with our counterparts, empowering them and building their capacities as we deliver our support. This is crucial to ensure sustainability of program outcomes.
From the rich discussions, I acknowledged so much the importance of being able to design our programs in a more flexible manner to enable us to respond promptly and appropriately to the needs and priorities of our counterparts, especially in fragile or transitional environments. I also realized how flexibility, adaptation and innovation are keys for successfully accomplishing our developmental support and how evaluation of projects, especially in fragile contexts, would require wider perspectives.
What practical aspects of the conference did you find most useful?
Many frank discussions were held through the medium of GDI’s Delivery Labs. In these sessions, the focus was not so much on achievements and success stories, as much as it was on exploring mistakes, failures, obstacles, and challenges. This was the case not only for counterparts, but also within our institutions. Ultimately, these were a practical way to draw out lessons for better project delivery and management. I got to experience many valuable resources that GDI acquires for sharing practical knowledge and supporting better delivery and I will make sure to utilize such resources whenever applicable.
Information on delivery experience and challenges often remain tacit knowledge - a black box, trapped in the minds of practitioners; besides being fragmented and unorganized. This valuable knowledge needs to be explicitly shared for better institutional memory. It strikes me as important that GDI is aspiring to achieve this by connecting practitioners across organizations and facilitating interactive problem solving and adaptive implementation.
Did you find that the conference connected to any other aspects of your everyday work in Egypt?
Absolutely. The conference was so much related to my daily operations and I would like to encourage other national staff to participate to GDI in the future and to benefit from its resources.
Last October, a regional knowledge sharing program among JICA overseas offices of Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Turkey was organized in Jordan, tackling the theme of “Cultural and Tourism Development.” The program’s formulation, preparation, participation and reporting was led by national staff. These staff members play crucial roles on the frontlines of implementation. It is these individuals and teams who are directly dealing with challenges and who end up accumulating vital knowledge about overcoming obstacles. To help bring together valuable knowledge and help staff deliver effectively, this program created the first internal knowledge-sharing platform of JICA, which will cultivate and document the field knowledge of JICA staff. It has potential to be expanded to other sectors with participation of more regional offices. We believe this platform will contribute to the improvement of JICA operations and organizational performance.