MELAYANI (Menguraikan Permasalahan Perbaikan Layanan Dasar di Indonesia) supports district governments in Indonesia to use a problem-driven approach to tackle challenges in delivering services, taking into account their own conditions and capacities. MELAYANI is being piloted in three districts, starting mid-2017.
The provision of basic public services to the poor and near-poor is largely the responsibility of subnational governments in Indonesia. Provision of responsive basic service delivery increasingly depends on subnational governments’ capacity to analyze and solve problems through collective action.
MELAYANI encourages districts to work on service delivery challenges that are meaningful to them, though still contributing to the President’s Nawa Cita priorities. The program provides support in the form of an iterative approach to help district governments identify service delivery problems, test solutions, monitor implementation, learn by doing and modify solutions based on these lessons.
The MELAYANI methodology draws on leading international studies and lessons on service delivery reforms, including the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), Deliverology, and an earlier pilot of a World Bank instrument - Rapid Assessment and Action Plan.
MELAYANI aims to:
The Problem-solving Process:
Challenges with decentralization
Seventeen years ago, Indonesia embarked on its so-called big bang decentralization. Almost overnight, responsibility to deliver many public services was transferred to local governments. This was done, in part, with the hope that the decentralization would make local government more agile and responsive to issues facing local communities. However, results have yet to materialize in many locations.
In my view, a key factor driving poor results is the central government’s approach to regulating local governments. In a decentralized environment, the central government has a legitimate role as a regulator to standardize service delivery or financial management procedures. However, in practice, they have been more focused on controlling inputs and processes, with little attention to accountability for results. This approach results in the proliferation of regulatory constraints and a fearful bureaucracy that make it difficult for local leaders to respond to citizen’s problems.
A community focused approach
It is this ‘we cannot do it’ attitude that I have tried to break as Bojonegoro Head of District, a district with a population of 1.2 million in East Java. I worked to ensure that the local government understood problems faced by citizens of Bojonegoro. For this, the Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful framework (as opposed to a useful set of performance indicators). They provide a structure around which to gather data and explore the problems in Bojonegoro, but still give the flexibility to discover what is actually happening and to understand our own development position.
This local data is important, but does not yet ensure that ‘people problems’ become ‘government problems’. For this, we must use the data to develop priorities that are meaningful to us.
Local governments in Indonesia must provide various annual reports, all to different ministries with different visions. We are evaluated on a wide range of indicators, not all of which are in line with local needs. For example, Bojonegoro faces high risks related to natural disasters, including floods and droughts. However, the evaluation indicators for natural disaster preparedness focus more on fires, and as a result are not a good fit for Bojonegoro’s needs.
Instead of just following the national evaluation indicators, data allows bureaucrats to have a clear story as to why they should focus on local issues, such as flood control. It allows them to move from “tick the box” accountability to really starting to address the different needs of the district.
A clear understanding of citizen’s problems can also change the budget process. Our budget used to look the same year after year, as agencies submitted last year’s budget with a few minor adjustments. I challenged my staff to begin the budgeting process by understanding the problems that citizens of Bojonegoro face. We called this ‘problem-based budgeting’.
In addition, by focusing on key local problems, the conversation shifts from one focused on budgets to one focused on resources. These are very different. Budgets are limited and very political. Resources exist at every level: with individuals, in villages, community organizations, through the district level and above.
A good example of this process is the development of our Smart and Healthy Village Movement (Gerakan Desa Sehat dan Cerdas, GDSC). Besides utilizing the data collected by government statistical agencies, I initiated a bottom-up data collection process, every village in the district was asked to collect data on a set of indicators. Their performance was monitored and rewarded against the improvement of these indicators.
Keeping track of progress
Finally, it is important to keep track of progress. To do this, we held a weekly management review to discuss priority programs. We also developed a computer application to monitor program performance. But, we soon learned that without “off-line” follow through, an IT system can become, a meaningless sophistication without real impact. Similarly, in addition to using a localized version of LAPOR, a nationally developed computer application that enables citizen to report their problems, the Bojonegoro government also held weekly Friday meetings at the district hall, where everybody could come and ask questions.
One size does not fit all
Based on my experience in Bojonegoro, it is clear that advancing development outcomes at the local level involves advancing government beyond a one-size-fits-all strategic model, to one that allows local governments to understand and respond to the unique issues and character of each village and district area . The steps that we followed can also deepen our understanding of the framework presented in the 2017 World Development Report, which sets out commitment, coordination and cooperation as drivers of policy effectiveness.
Bojonegoro uses ‘people problems’ and a strong problem-solving orientation to both build commitment and support coordination. Policies that are anchored in demonstrated community need are more meaningful to local stakeholders. The routine discussion of these problems in Friday meetings allows for citizens to give feedback, but also for them to look for ways that they can work together with government to address the issues that they face.
The approach by Bojonegoro of identifying and breaking down problems, then finding and fitting appropriate solutions is now supported by MELAYANI – a World Bank program which supports local governments to solve challenges related to basic services in Indonesia. The program draws on the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) model to provide additional tools for identifying problems and developing, implementing and refining solutions.
International, national and local government officials shared experiences in crafting and implementing responses to citizen problems at the MELAYANI executive seminar. Videos of key presentations and discussions can be found here.
Monday, Jul 23, 2018 Author: Karrie McLaughlin
The provision of basic public services to the poor and near-poor is largely the responsibility of sub national governments in Indonesia. Following the country’s “big bang” decentralization in 2001, sub-national transfers to the province, district and village levels now account for half of the government budget (net of subsidies and interest). District governments, in particular, are largely responsible for managing health and education services, supervising 75,000 villages and managing 80% of the road network. Progress in basic service delivery, therefore, depends on sub national governments’ capacity to analyze and solve problems through collective action.
As the locus of service delivery provision has changed, so too has its nature. While not overcome entirely, many of the basic infrastructure problems have been addressed: schools and health centers have been built, teachers, midwives and doctors have been hired, citizens are using their services. The low hanging fruit have largely been plucked, and districts are left looking toward the top of the tree at more difficult problems, such as improving the quality of education or health services or coordinating services for a more meaningful impact.
There is a common element to these more difficult problems—they are complex, context-specific and cannot be solved by districts simply acting as implementers of one-size-fits-all prescriptions from the central government. The root causes of these problems are multi-faceted and frequently vary from one location to another, and as such require a careful understanding of the local situation and the development of solutions that respond specifically to local needs. This calls for district governments to play a more active role in identifying, understanding and responding to local service delivery problems that they face.
MELAYANI – Untangling Problems in Improving Basic Services (Menguraikan Permasalahan Perbaikan Layanan Dasar di Indonesia) is a pilot program that seeks to respond to these challenges. It does so by building local government capacity to analyze and solve service delivery problems. In three pilot locations, the World Bank team is working with local government departments and leadership to help them unpack and explore problems that they have identified in search of root causes and contextually relevant solutions.
Politically, MELAYANI takes seriously the content of the 2017 World Development Report. It supports local government to select the problems that they feel are most important, helping to ensure that they are locally politically salient. With its focus on problems, the program encourages cooperation and coordination: by anchoring analysis in an issue, rather than a particular “sector” it allows both for more actors to be involved and for the identification and mobilization of new resources. In addition, by providing support to local governments to better understand citizen problems, it provides clearer arguments for policy stability and commitment.
Technically, the program weaves together several strands of thinking. It is anchored in the Program Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, but augmented by other schools of thought, including Deliverology and experiences of the World Bank team in implementing MELAYANI’s predecessor, the Rapid Assessment and Action Plan (RAAP) approach. The program shows the cycle that government follows as well as how the MELAYANI coaches support them along the way.
In addition to supporting local governments, MELAYANI has the additional goal of shining a light on how capacity building and local level change can happen. Future blogs will track the progress of the program and share lessons from the field.
 A full collection of the PDIA papers is available at https://bsc.cid.harvard.edu/publications/policy-area/pdia-building-state-capability
 Barber, Michael, Andy Moffit and Pauk Kihn (2010) Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders. Corwin: California, USA
 World Bank (2015) Rapid Assessments and Action Plans to Improve Delivery in Subnational Governments. World Bank: Washington DC