Guest blog by Artem Shaipov
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.
Having earned in 2018 a certificate for successful completion of the online series “The Practice of PDIA: Building capability by delivering results” offered by Building State Capability at the Harvard Center for International Development, I learned about the Implementing Public Policy Program (IPP) from the PDIA Community’s first newsletter. I jumped on this opportunity to learn and grow professionally as I knew from my previous experience with the Harvard Center for International Development that my new learning journey would be full of new ideas, discoveries, insights, lessons learned, and takeaways.
As I was already well-versed in the PDIA methodology before signing up for the IPP, I expected to learn more about leadership in public policy implementation, mobilizing teams for common policy purpose, and delegation for better policy results. I was also looking into opportunities for expanding my professional policy network by joining the IPP’s global community of practice.
Thanks to Harvard’s online learning platform connecting you to the IPP team, classmates, and course materials, I benefited from a continuous flow of cutting-edge knowledge throughout the course. I learned a lot about the typology of policy challenges and what makes them complex. I deepened my understanding of complexity and unknowns in the contexts of public policy implementation as well as learned to navigate through complexity and different layers of big “P” and small “p” politics. It was particularly helpful to learn about and use an analytical tool developed by HKS for reflecting on and determining the complexity of a given policy challenge.
Further, in the course of IPP, I learned more as to why public policies fail, how, how often, and why many of them deliver products without producing impact. I better understood the differences between the solution and leader driven change and PDIA. Moreover, I gained a much more nuanced understanding of strategic leadership, including its four Ps: Perception, People, Process, and Projection, and polished my respective skills through action learning. Furthermore, I developed a better understanding of action learning as well as why and how it leads to facilitated emergence that is needed for solving complex development problems.
It was very rewarding to learn about multi-agent leadership as an effective mechanism for enabling change under conditions of uncertainty. It was very useful to learn about a snow-flake model of mobilizing a network of teams, study considerations beyond reason, i.e. emotions, in implementing public policy and how to harness positive emotions to achieve policy objectives, understand the role of inquiry as opposed to advocacy, and so much more.
Being Task Leader for Legal Education Reform for the USAID New Justice Program, I play an important role in the multi-agent leadership jigsaw of legal education reform in Ukraine and regularity take risks when I lead various projects aimed to enable a comprehensive reform of Ukraine’s legal education system. I see comprehensive legal education reform as a precursor for the success of the whole justice sector reform in Ukraine, which is aimed to ensure a constant supply of one of the main public goods – justice. This is what motivates my public policy work and drives my thirst for knowledge in public policy.
I signed up for the IPP to upgrade my policy implementation toolkit and to address my current public policy challenge, which has to do with building Ukraine’s state capability to uphold the rule of law and administer justice. As of today, such capability is poor with the country ranking 72nd in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2020 and 126th in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. This immense, systemic problem is comprised of numerous smaller problems, one of which is the poor quality of legal education as evidenced by comprehensive studies on the state of legal education, legal employer and law student opinion surveys, and media reports on corruption in law schools. The legal education system represents the supply side of the justice system, playing a role of the reinforcing feedback loop for the legal profession which is of fundamental importance to a well-functioning judiciary in a democratic society, upholding the rule of law, and combating corruption.
Through the IPP I worked to address my policy challenge by taking steps to create conditions for improving legal education quality in Ukraine. As a policy response, I promoted and contributed to a comprehensive legal education reform aimed to transform Ukraine’s legal culture through providing to future generations of legal professionals quality legal education with ethics, integrity, and professional responsibility at its core. This response requires a number of multilevel, multifaceted interventions ranging from the development and implementation of legal education standards, standards for licensing of law schools and accreditation of law programs to the overhaul of law school admission and graduation exams and the improvement of faculty’s capacity to teach a modern curriculum as well as other measures necessary to prepare legal professional of the future whose professionalism and integrity will ensure Ukraine’s capability to uphold the rule of law and deliver justice.
Through the IPP I constructed and deconstructed my public policy challenge (see below my adapted fishbone diagram outlining my policy challenge), learned to focus legal education reform on identified problems, not solutions, improved my understanding of problem narratives and approaches to framing them, applied the AAA-analysis (Ability, Acceptance, and Authority) to find space for change, prioritize policy interventions, and proceed to address causes and sub-causes of my policy challenge iteration by iteration.
Empowered with new knowledge and tools, I managed to accomplish a lot within a relatively short timeframe. My efforts required both teaming and team building as I had and continue to have several teams to work with and such teams are comprised of different professionals with expertise in different fields, some teams are more stable and aimed at addressing broader issues, some are short-term and laser-focused on very specific tasks. There is no need to go into detail of everything I did in the course of my action learning, yet I should stress that my ability to initiate, enable, and lead multiple streams of policy work has risen substantially thanks to the application and newly-gained methodologies and practices aimed at facilitated emergence.
I cannot thank enough to my stellar HKS faculty and IPP classmates from across the world who made my learning journey so worthwhile. My special thanks go to Matt Andrews, Salimah Samji, Amber Thacher, Alison Thomson, Rob Wilkinson, and Monica Higgins for giving their best and enabling inspirational learning.
I would like to end my brief reflection with a metaphor to help my fellow policy professionals better visualize one of my key takeaways from IPP. Change that is required to solve a complex problem resembles a big, sophisticated lock that can be opened using a number of keys inserted from different sides and angles of the lock at the same time. This by nature cannot be accomplished by one (even heroic) individual. Such a task requires well-coordinated, purposeful teamwork. Good luck with unlocking your policy locks!