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. 

IPP Community Moderators: 01 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. Upper row: Doran Moreland and Nadia Islam. Lower row: Isabel Fontoura and Bandi Mbubi

Furthermore, in addition to a collective journey, we also experienced unique individual paths in the past six months serving as CoP moderators. This role, that we were so happy to say yes to, merged with personal challenges, resilience, moments of self-discovery, and a lot of external noise in the domestic and global arena. The title of our blog post is the combination of the elements that each of us chose as the most critical engines of our community on a personal level: Friendship, Energy, Innovation, and Community. 

Friendship (from Bandi): It has been a privilege and an honour to moderate our community of practice, together with three formidable colleagues, who although individually different from me, in their professional journeys, are at the same time similar to me, in their quest to be most effective in the art and science of policymaking and implementation. The IPP Programme, as a whole, has been to me a gift that keeps on giving, not only in terms of the tools and techniques it’s taught me but also in terms of the community it’s built to enable us all to share experiences and ideas. Through this process, I’ve found friends to walk within our separate journeys of tackling some of the most intractable and complex problems our World faces.

Energy (from Isabel): The CoP Community has been an energy booster in the direction of my dreams and a place that has enabled me to do more good at home in Brazil, offering a “positive spillover effect” I hadn’t anticipated. It has taught me that public policy innovation can be less complicated than I once imagined it was and, in the same symphony, that volunteering and offering hours of your week to help others in fields you have competence in can also be incredibly uncomplicated and rewarding. Using the PDIA motto of “tiny, simple steps of progress,” in addition to the CoP facilitation, I am now volunteering in my country by mentoring other women who aim to study abroad in top international universities for their postgraduate studies. 

Innovation (from Doran): One quality that seems to be shared throughout the IPP community is a commitment to life-long learning. It has been both intellectually stimulating and helpful to me professionally to observe the ways our community of practice fearlessly approaches problems and employs new tools to address challenges at hand. This spirit of innovation and constant improvement are the overarching themes of the IPP experience in my view, and I believe each agency, sector, legislative body, is a little better off by having an innovative IPPer within its ranks. As we strive to learn constantly and seek to improve, let us do so in ways that are creative, flexible, and inclusive of all viewpoints around us. It has been an honor to have a part in this community. And I am excited for the opportunities before each of us to serve, and make an impact.

Community (from Nadia): As we came together as mere classmates, in the beginning, our shared journey fostered a common bond among ourselves. Our quest to learn, and apply, and internalize the tenets of the course, became a transitional process for us. We emerged as a community.  Of course, in life, we are members of multiple groups and often they overlap.  But the IPP cohorts have a shared experience, outlook, and approach to policymaking and implementation that make us a unique community. We have already discovered the value of this kinship, the assurance of a safe and supportive group, where we can be ourselves without reservations. We know we can share and dare to be different and innovative, and absolutely count on each other for support, encouragement, assurance, and constructive positive criticisms without judgment. 

That is a rare resource in one’s life and professional development, and we will cherish that always. This community we have is like no other.  The IPP CoP is somewhat exclusive, it is because we value excellence, cutting-edge training, and frontline opportunities to contribute in our own arenas as influencers and implementers. As moderators, we have tried to cement these relationships for the long term. Our hope is that we all continue to enjoy these connections as we go forth in our shared world. 

For the four of us, it has been a privilege and honor to serve as IPP CoP moderators.

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