Mark Aboagye is the Head Dormitory Assistant of KDI School Dormitory. He is also a World Bank’s Global Delivery Initiative Case Author. We spoke to Mark about his experience as a case author.
1. Thank you for speaking with us. Mark, please tell us a little about yourself.
I am Mark, a 2018 MPM student from Ghana. I am a development research enthusiast with interests in governance, labor market policies, subjective well-being, and policy evaluation. Aside from my academic and professional life, I also enjoy playing football and being in the company of resourceful friends who always challenge me to be a better person.
2. You are arguably one of the most recognizable students here at KDI School due to your position as the Head Dormitory Assistant, any pressure? And how do you deal with the expectations of your status?
Although my position as the Head Dormitory Assistant comes with a lot of responsibilities, I don’t feel pressured at all. It is actually a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. I am always thankful for such a wonderful opportunity to serve and help my colleagues to adjust to life here in Korea. Besides, I work with an incredible team of equally competent Dormitory Assistants who make the work feel like a piece of cake. On a lighter note, I am not sure I am that recognizable.
3. As you know, KDI School in collaboration with the World Bank’s Global Delivery Initiative have a partnership that gives KDI School students the opportunity to become case authors: As one of those who have benefited from that opportunity, could you please tell us about your experience as an author thus far?
Participating in the Government Reform Case Writing Practicum course as well as the World Bank GDI Case Writing Program has been arguably the most remarkable part of my KDI School journey. The professors structured the course such that we got to review and discuss successful real-life development projects which have been implemented across the world. Getting the chance to be directly coached by a team of professors and a World Bank expert on a real-life case I had crafted, is a rare opportunity I got through this program. Not to mention the opportunity I had to present my case at the just ended 2019 World Bank Case Study Writing Workshop. Needless to say, my participation in this program has taught me a lot and has the potential to open numerous doors for me.
4. Please tell us about your case study?
My case study delves into how two metropolitan city governments in Ghana, Accra Metropolitan Assembly and Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly, with the help of Global Communities, an international Non-Profit Organization introduced reforms in their development planning and budgeting process. This in effect transformed the process from a top-down to a bottom-up process by way of enhancing participatory governance, especially for the urban poor, in a project known as IncluCity. The IncluCity project was a four-year program implemented from October 2011 to September 2015 with a fund of $4million sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rapid urbanization and economic development in Ghana had led to a rise in the number of informal settlements and slum areas usually occupied by the poor. These poor people did not have access to quality services, lacked knowledge about their responsibility as citizens and had no say in the governance and development of their communities. Therefore, the IncluCity project was implemented to improve constructive participation of the urban poor living in deprived communities in governance to enhance their ability to advocate for quality services and accountability. The case study shows how the various delivery challenges including inadequate data and baselines on service delivery, inadequate skilled manpower and organizational capacity, inadequate channels of communication, and inadequate stakeholder engagement were tackled through a series of activities to reform the planning and budgeting process.
5. Could you please tell us about your field trip to Ghana for your case study?
5-1. What were the significant challenges you experienced while on the trip?
I did a lot of background work before I embarked on the field trip so there were not so many significant challenges. Notwithstanding, a few of my interviewees rescheduled the meeting without giving me prior notice. Also, I had to change some of my proposed interviewees since they were either not available or they proposed other people who were better suited to provide information on the project.
5-2. What was the biggest revelation from the trip?
Besides getting the professionals who contributed to the success of the project to share their experiences, I also got a better understanding of local governance in Ghana. The interviews revealed that the disconnect between local government authorities and citizens in bigger cities is much deeper than in smaller towns. Therefore, identifying and working with a variety of local champions and leaders was a faster and cost-effective way to reach the entire community members. The project mainly targeted leaders of community-based organization as a conduit to get to the ordinary people. It would not have been a sustainable idea if the project team had decided to work directly with every single individual member of the community. Working through these community champions was not only cost-effective but also a sustainable way of community engagement. These champions relayed the information and training they got to their group members and convinced them to actively participate in the activities of the city government.
6. Please tell us about your case writing process?
The case writing process is quite rigorous. Prior to the field trip, I had over six weeks of consultations with my professor to craft a proposal which would later serve as a basis for the interviews as well as the final case. The proposal was mainly based on desktop research and a review of publicly available documents about the project. Through this research, I identified the gaps in information which necessitated the trip. After the trip, I gathered all the information and authored the first draft which I submitted to the World Bank consultant for his review and expert advice. He did a very detailed review and made suggestions for the final draft. I hope to submit the final draft in December 2019 and get the case published by the World Bank possibly in February 2019.
7. What would you say you have learned from this experience?
One of the most remarkable things I have learned is the difference between writing an academic research paper and writing a development case study. Since I am a graduate student, my writing usually tends to be more academic, however, I learned that the structure and tone of a development case study are different. It tries to tell a dramatic story by highlighting the efforts, challenges, inflection points, successes, failures, and lessons learned. This story should be appealing to readers with diverse professional backgrounds and interests including project managers, researchers, students, donor agencies, etc. I also believe I have upgraded my interviewing skills through a combination of expert advice from seasoned case writers and experience from my field trip.
8. Do you have any advice for next summer’s batch of case writers?
I would first like to encourage as many students as possible to participate in this program. However, they should have a clear understanding of what they want to do before they sign up for it. The program is time-consuming and demanding, albeit a great learning opportunity. Thus, participants need to devote a lot of time and effort to craft a very good proposal before they embark on the field trip. Pre-trip research is the defining factor for a successful field trip and, therefore, a good case study. If the case writer doesn’t get this right, he or she might find it difficult to complete the process and author a good case. Finally, participants need to seek enough clarity on the GDI case study structure. It has a special structure which might be confusing to an author who does not devote much effort to master it. I wish them well and I hope to read their interesting cases someday.
Thank you for the interview, Mark.