Addressing Economic Constraints in Libya

Guest blog by Saleh Abdallah

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

Frankly, when I applied for Leading Economic Growth course, I had a different set of mind of what would this course be like at the end of 10 weeks. I have worked in bi-lateral and multi-lateral development institutions and as a consultant with the African Development Bank who has been implementing a ten-year Strategy to improve the quality of Africa’s inclusive growth, and the transition to green growth. I was not sure whether I would participate in this course as I was heavily engaged with heading an energy corporation that acquired many hours of work in addition to COVID-19 lockdown in the Fasting Month of Ramadan. But I am more than pleased that I did. What distinguished this course is the fact that it brought together leading experts in economic development with practitioners from around the globe to focus on practical approaches to shared growth and development led by Professor Ricardo Hausmann and Professor Matt Andrews who themselves were involved in the economic growth of some countries aided by strident TAs answering all questions, queries and offering clarifications if needed.

 I must say that very powerful new tools were learned that will help and allow me to better chart the road ahead, identify the obstacles to prosperity in my growth challenge and define actions that can lead to economic growth, one of such approach is to focus on expanding my country’s set of productive capabilities and expressing them in a more diverse and complex set of products and services (utilizing the product space in the Atlas Lab). It also calls for me to rethink economic strategies and build bandwidth organizations that are capable of unlocking new prosperities.

These exposures in this course aided me to write a more thorough document. Ideas such as “inclusive growth” enriched my understanding more when dealing with it on the national & subnational level. I have witnessed its incredible results when I was leading a bilateral development corporation in Sri Lanka for over eight years by creating family self employment for thousands of families where they were included in our business activities.

I thought it would be better summarizing what I have learned from this course into the following points: 

  1. PDIA is an effective tool for solving complex growth problems especially in rough areas where there is complexity as the PDIA method builds capacity within an organization, as well as political involvements.
  2.  Diagnosing the problem is vital:  We usually tend to think of a solution-oriented approach rather than the real diagnostic of the problem and we often believe we know what the problem is (i.e., misappropriation) and we proceed to challenge it without diagnosing the problem and get down to its root causes which must be addressed before the problem can be tackled.  
  3. The binding constraint is indefinable: Comprehending the biding constraints can be sometimes a challenge and as important like the growth problem itself. Our claim to pretend we know and figure out the binding constraints instantaneously is a wrong judgement, we must dig into facts, figures and talk to all involved to reach a sound judgement bearing in mind that we are not always welcome to address binding constraints due to numerous factors including political pressures, corruption, generation gap …etc. 
  1. Inclusive growth is the strong growth: Definitely, there is a great deal to learn about the “sense of us” as its narrative seems key to any growth story and hence it is fair to say that it stands for All of us and not leaving any one behind; we take a look at how we use GDP as a measurement for growth and job creation in the job market, but yet we don’t look at the lives of other people especially the halve-nots. Also, inclusive growth should lead to deep reductions in poverty and a correspondingly large increase in jobs. Unlocking a country’s great potential. It brings prosperity by expanding the economic base across the barriers of age, gender and geography, investing in infrastructure that unlocks the potential of the private sector, championing gender equality and community participation. It will also help improve skills for competitiveness, ensuring that those skills better match the opportunities and requirements of local job markets. To be inclusive is to be “PARTNERS NOT UNDERPRIVILEGED OR WAGE WORKERS”.
  2. Green growth:  We ought to ensure that inclusive growth is sustainable, by helping a country gradually transition to “green growth” that will protect livelihoods, improve water, energy and food security, promote the sustainable use of natural habitants.
  3. Strong leadership is not the whole story about growth:  While a visionary and strong leader is vital around which people to rally, he alone can not lead and execute the whole growth strategy as they neither have the skills nor the expertise. I believe that game-changing growth requires leadership from multiple agents which is very different from the heroic leadership many believes is a key to success in great policy involvements. Tyrant leadership does not allow people to take the lead, express their ideas freely, and develop as leaders. We must realize that Leadership is risky and a good way to manage risk is to share it (risk mitigation); so, having multiple agents in our leadership group makes it possible to ensure that our initiative survives job movements and other challenges that individual leaders have. 
  4.  The invisible power is tied behind our back: the invisible power of the market is not operating the way it is supposed to as it seems to have been purposely sidelined in the interests of the few mentioned above. There is some thing wrong in the functioning system as we see it from the unequal distribution of growth but rather heavily concentrated in the hands of the few who have given a little back to the system that helped them build their own wealth.
  5.  One country’s approach is suitable for all: is possibly the most adverse thought and idea we usually adopt. Believing so, makes us not realizing our growth potential and preserves the existing state of affairs. The only way to properly tackle our growth problems is through our untiring efforts to do things differently (i.e., Singaporean & Sri Lankan cases, Albania).   It is like what we have seen in the case of Chiapas in Mexico as a sub-national case where best practice in one Mexican dominion was not easily replicated in others. But they can be useful as a guide and a marker against which to judge our progress and outcomes. 
  6. Planting more trees makes it easier for monkeys to jump: Being from Libya with an area of 1.8 million sq km, most of which is desert, it is apparent we don’t have many trees that you may use its shade to protect your self from the burning sun! Hence, we ought to plant more trees for the monkeys to jump. Utilizing the product space, there are diverse array of potential exports especially by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and to attract investment agencies like the Privatization and Investment Board & the Foreign Export Agency. We ought to look at the other countries experience that built their capacity from the ashes and became one of the most prosperous leading economies of the world like Singapore.
  7.  Our world-wide economy is built on a feeble foundation: In my opinion that our worldwide economy is not built on solid but rather unsteady if not to say untidy foundations. This is clear from the economic system’s inability to resist the crises we face once in a while like what we have been going through during the COVID-19 current crisis. The gap of the Have & Have nots is growing as wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a few (half of the world’s net wealth belongs to the top 1%, top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth, top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth (Distribution of wealth-Wikipedia Bearing in mind that the world population increase definitely affects economic growth as well as productivity giving the fact that the economic veracities can not accommodate more billions of people.

How would use what I have learned:

As we are recovering from the pandemic of COVID-19 and approaching the end of the Fasting month of Ramadan, I will be heading to Libya to start my real journey of utilizing the PDIA approach to address some of the country’s growth problems in the relative sector. Actually, I have already discussed some of the learned approaches including PDIA and the inclusive growth with the ministry of economics & the Privatization and Investment Board and arranged a meeting with them. We will discuss and try to develop a plan of action that involves many agents within the government as well as in the other levels of the three regions in the country.

One of the biggest challenges we will face is the political interest groups who are aligned with the militias where both have their own interest in the continuation of the current turmoil in Libya. This is another important component of any economic growth I wish the next course would touch on more: “Economic Growth in countries coming out of a turmoil”.

The world I understand and believe in is that the majority is controlled by the minority (the few) politically and economically! Giant corporations of the top developed countries are controlling most of Africa’s natural wealth but yet the poorest of the poor we find them in Africa (people who don’t even have a clean water to drink and they celebrate when we dig water-well for them!) and the hundreds of thousands of African youths trying to migrate to Europe to have a better with their natural resources that have been stolen from their own countries! I may pose the following question that the next course could cover:

As we have seen in my view the shaky foundations of the economic system and that in every crisis economists try to amend some of the flaws by recommending new or additional scenarios or even change some theories while the gap between the have & the have-nots continue to increase; Do you think the world may see another popular economic revolt to counter the current system? Similar to the Bolshevik one or different!  By they there is a saying that goes like this “when economists fail to solve a problem, they create new terminologies to keep us busy with” 😊

In conclusion, in spite of have been working in sovereign funds and development areas around the world, I truly found this course incredibly valuable, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and appealing. I enjoyed the weekly lectures and I actually enjoyed my weekly assignments. I thoroughly enjoyed my Tuesday meetings with Peer Group 3; actually, we have agreed to keep in touch outside of this course. If given the opportunity, I would definitely take another course like this one.  My sincere thanks to All the profs, the staff, the TAs, the organizers and coordinators as well. Special thanks to TA-Awab for your time in reading, making valuable comments and grading my weekly submissions. I wish you the best of luck in your current and future endeavours.  HAPPY EID!

To learn more about Leading Economic Growth (LEG) watch the faculty video, and visit the course website.

Honoring the memory of a lost child: A father’s inspirational pursuit of policy change

Guest blog by Anjan Chimaladinne

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

On August 13, 2016, my 16-year-old son passed away unexpectedly and suddenly. My wife and I have established scholarships in his name at his high school and the college he was planning on attending. For the 4 past years we rendered help to several other social causes. In the United States, suicide was the second leading cause of death for persons aged 10–24 from 2000-2017 and mental health is leading contributor for suicides. This issue has been bothering us for the past 4 years and we wanted to help and did not know how to. The Covid-19 and work from home situation opened time and helped me find and enroll in the Implementing Public Policy course. My initial expectation of this course was, it would certainly help me do something in honor of my son, Anshul, and save at least few lives.

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Friendship, Energy, Innovation and Community: The Heart of the IPP Community and Fuel for Good

Guest blog written by Isabel Fontoura, Nadia Islam, Bandi Mbubi, Doran Moreland

What makes people not run away from but run towards challenges to get things done when facing complex policy problems? Although any sole answer is unlikely to cover all of the nuances of the question we pose to you at the start of our final post as your IPP Community of Practice (CoP) moderators, we do have a hint that is at the core of our community: seeing others move in the same direction. As a group, we believe that failing is ok and failing forward is even better; that taking risks is scary but can be truly rewarding; and, most importantly, that having a trust circle to share the successes and navigate the bumps of policy implementation, is what will ultimately enable innovation. It is also what will offer the extra boost one needs to do great things.

Such drive to deliver great work is especially needed in our world right now, as countries and communities battle the health and economic challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, if we are to build back better effectively and not only in rhetoric, this will have to be done by people. By you. That’s why the chance to read the blog posts of community members that were published during the semester and share information about them in our weekly announcements was a high point of this role for the four of us. It confirms that the IPP cohorts of 2019 and 2020 have come together as one, with a strong, collective voice and ready to fuel change in complex environments, inspiring others all around the globe to do so as well. 

This brings us to an African proverb we find an excellent fit for who we are as an IPP community: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. As moderators, we found new friends in our personal development and continuous learning in the first semester of 2021, and we have had a chance to know more about colleagues that were new to us. We were also excited to facilitate monthly sessions in which our collective learning (about ourselves, others, and public policy tools) grew stronger, including sessions with Rob Wilkinson and Monica Higgins that allowed the community to be updated on their latest research in the field. Other sessions focused on the self-care of community members and discussions about the next steps in our PDIA journeys after the program.

In between moderator engagements to prepare these events and idea exchanges ahead of our announcements, we can assure you: being a CoP moderator was truly fun, and for that, we are also grateful. At the start, despite Salimah Samji and Anisha Poobalan´s kind words of wisdom, support, and superb planning skills, we were nowhere close to knowing exactly what we would do: we would brainstorm ideas about how to host events for days or have pretty herculean reflections on what size the announcements should be. But having a cultural and professional melting pot between us – nationals from the United States, Brazil, Congo, and Bangladesh with different career stories – confirmed that letting go of pre-ordered templates is a way to heaven and opens the door for authenticity and uniqueness. As moderators, we learned with each other and for each other. 

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Pay attention to the problem!

Guest blog by Gabriel Aduda

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

My initial attempt at being part of the very first edition of the Implementing Public Policy Program in 2019 was fraught with challenges, due to my work schedule. At that time,  I was responsible for organizing national events in the Presidency, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and also saddled with organizing the Transition to second term of the Buhari Administration and the Democracy Day 2019 on 12th of June; an activity that was significant, as it was just a few days away from the second term swearing in of Mr. President. The thought of me heading to Boston to attend the physical kickstart of the program at the same period was clearly unthinkable and my boss simply said to me without looking up at me across his table “.I am sure you have deferred your course at Harvard” to which I replied without arguing “on it sir” and I went off to drop Amber a mail…. the rest is history.

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On being and becoming a “development expert”

written by Michael Woolcock

The Three Stages of Expertise by Simon Wardley

Half-way through my HKS course on ‘Social Institutions and Economic Development’ I host a class, usually timed to be given on the eve of spring break, on what it means to be a “development expert”, especially as it pertains to engaging with social institutions. For better or worse, I now have enough grey hair and professional visibility to often have that awkward title bestowed upon me, but while I like to think I have come to know a little about development processes, and probably know more now than I did 25 years ago, the notion of being deemed a development “expert” is a label I try to wear lightly, if I must wear it at all. In this class, I stress that technical expertise is real, rare, its application deeply necessary and consequential, and for certain kinds of development problems, exactly what you need. For other kinds of development problems, however – and certainly the bulk of those problems associated with building state capability – routinely prioritizing the singular deployment of a narrow form of technical expertise as the optimal solution is itself part of the problem (in the sense articulated in the “Solutions when the solution is the problem” paper I wrote with Lant Pritchett back in 2004). 

These days, my preferred metaphorical, ideal-type juxtaposition is between expertise that fills a space and expertise that creates and protects space; this distinction roughly corresponds to, respectively, Theory X and Y in the management literature (as famously articulated by Douglas McGregor in 1960). I like this distinction expressed in the terms of ‘filling’ versus ‘protecting’ space because it broadly reflects the different skills and sensibilities that, to me, are so readily on display in development decision-making – whether in the board room, the online seminar, the policy forum, the diplomatic table, or the village meeting hall. The space-fillers primarily perceive their job, and their kindred colleagues’ job, as one of “controlling” (empirically, epistemologically, managerially) the extraneous “noisy” factors intruding on the space they’ve carefully “identified” so that, into this space, their particular, somewhere-verified “solution” can be deftly but decisively inserted. It’s what Atul Gawande calls the savior doctor model, in which one provides “a definitive intervention at a critical moment… with a clear, calculable, frequently transformative outcome.” I’ve checked the key indicators (‘vital signs’), asked my go-to questions, diligently eliminated various possibilities; I’ve scanned the decision-tree as I understand it, and determined that the highest-probability solution to this problem is X. The faster and more “cleanly” I can do this, the more genuinely ‘expert’ (and efficient and effective) I believe myself to be. Providing such decisive input into this space is emotionally thrilling; it vindicates all my years of elite education and hard work, pays me real money, yields the tantalizing allure of future successes at grander scales with higher stakes, and bestows upon me tangible professional accolades and high social status. Like nature, I abhor a vacuum, so I’ve confidently stepped in where the “less rigorous” fear to tread. I’m trained and socialized to think counterfactually, so I can’t help but indulge my vainglorious ceteris paribus fantasy that, but for my presence at that moment, things would have turned out so differently… Heck, I’ve changed history!

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Combating climate change in Peru

Guest blog by Irving Ojeda Alvarez

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I started the Policy Leadership Credential program early this year when a friend of mine referred that there was a practical implementation public policy course to be delivered virtually and complement the PLC.

I have been working on the policy side for many years, too many I would say, and from my archaic perspective, the implementation of them was just a piece of cake. Just do it! Follow the manual or guidelines; nothing would require detailed planning or thinking; I could not be blinder, how wrong I was.

I am working in a control planned institution where everything has to be done in a timely manner following the work plan that has been created not to allow any deviation of subjective thinking, Outcomes have to be delivered, and expectations objectives reached. Of course, my work finished as soon as the implementation begins, and then I endeavor to follow up, report, report, and report.

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Time, Teams and Tenacity

Guest blog by Pamela Byrne

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

Reflecting back on my implementing public policy learning journey, three elements stand out. Implementing public policy takes time; it requires a highly functional team and; tenacity is essential for success. So let me explain these “T”s in some more detail.


When presented with a complex problem, your automatic reflex could be that you need to solve the problem quickly…. That was my tendency. But you need to resist that innate tendency to jump to the solution or to apply a solution that has worked in another place, for another purpose or under a different set of circumstances. Because to truly solve complex problems and achieve the right outcomes from public policy initiatives – outcomes that make a difference in people’s lives – you must take the time to construct and deconstruct the problem you are facing at the outset. So many times, policy initiatives have failed because we have not taken the time to really understand what the problem is or have not spent enough time gathering the information, the insight, the intelligence to bring us to a deep understanding of what the real issues are that need to be resolved.

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Agri inputs market reform in Liberia through the PDIA lens

Guest blog by Darkina Sie Cooper

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I was super excited signing up for the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Online Program, especially haven completed the Leading Economic Growth (LEG) program and being introduced to the PDIA concept and meeting already Prof. Matt Andrews and seeing how amazing he is; I was also eager to dive deeper into the PDIA concept and was looking forward to approaching my problem differently. Given that the IPP is 6 months long, I was particularly looking forward to additional tools and a more dynamic approach in solving my policy challenge. Looking to develop the tools to pitch my ideas and gain buy-in from authorizers were among my many expectations. I was also extremely excited looking forward to meeting more amazing professors and drinking from their fountain of knowledge. Certainly, the course didn’t disappoint, all these were provided for in the long but insightful journey of learning on the go. But above all these, and most importantly, I remain ever thankful to the Kistofes Fellowship of the HKS for allowing me to join not only an amazing program but meeting an amazing group of people from all over the world, from diverse background, sharing their stories; all these couldn’t have been possible and could have only been one of those many exciting dreams if not for you. A million thanks, I am humble!

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An insightful journey to self-discovery and public policy effectiveness

Guest blog by John Miller Beauvoir

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

As a field-tested international development professional who crisscrossed 15 countries in Africa and in the Americas to support policy implementation, I carry my fair share of disillusion, cynicism and frustration regarding the slow pace of change and the lack of effectiveness of foreign aid. This is a matter of significant concern that led me to pursue my master degree in international development, with an emphasis on the implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action.

From the hot and arid villages of Niger to the valleys and mountains of Haiti, I witnessed first-hand the shortcomings of conventional wisdom and orthodoxy when it comes to public policy formulation and implementation in complex settings fraught with unknowns and uncertainty. I was very eager to explore new ways of conceptualizing and implementing public policies beyond “plan and control” and the rigid approaches that are blatantly inappropriate for countries with ever-changing political and social contexts. Moreover, having read a great book entitled “Politics and Policy implementation in the Third World”, I was convinced that policy implementation professionals must take into account the political economy and the overall  ecosystem of intervention for context-specific, targeted approach to policy-making.

 I was ready for out-of-the box solutions. And this is exactly what the Harvard Kennedy School’s IPP program delivered.

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Navigating innovations in emergency services with PDIA

Guest blog by Ken Bailey

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I have been privy to the legislative and public policy process for well over 10 years, mostly with an amateurish understanding and certainly lacking the tools to be consistently effective. Having muddled in this space for a number of years, I have been successful on many fronts, again more through tenacity than with clarity of purpose. I have authored and pushed through several pieces of legislation, most of which have become part law in my State. Additionally, I have played the politics at the regional level, attempting to shape policy positions, largely with mixed results. As to be expected, my overall results have more losses than wins. Though it was not this loss / win ratio that bothered me. What concerned me the most was the idea that there was a better way of doing things that I was not aware of, thus I looked in to the Implementing Public Policy course at the Kennedy School.

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