Neighborhood indicator for Lancaster, PA

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Guest blog by Milzy Carrasco

Greetings current and future IPP sisters and brothers.

When I registered for Implementing Public Policy course, I was expecting to have an intensive focus on policy making and implementation in line with the course title.  The learning I received exceeded my expectations.  Building community and relationships with classmates globally was an incredible experience.  The tools of 4P’s, Triple A, and the entire PDIA process is one of the key learning experiences that I am taking away and sharing with co-workers and external partners.  The tools learned in IPP are tools that you can share across departments and across sectors. 

The implementation challenge I worked on (and would like to note the work is on-going) is focused on identifying neighborhood issues and developing an internal across-department working group.  In 2019 Mayor Sorace initiated an internal working group dubbed, “Neighborhood Working Group” (NWG) in-line with the resident engagement process created by the department I oversee, Department of Neighborhood Engagement (DoNE).

Figure 1 City of Lancaster Resident Engagement Process

Also, a quick note, the Mayor at this time was new in office approximately 6 months, and shortly after I was hired and DoNE was created.  The Neighborhood Working Group was formed soon after and consisted of deputy directors and leadership from all departments that totaled 14 members.  Everyone’s focus was unique to their department goals and needs.

The group was successful in assisting and creating a neighborhood indicator that identifies on a block level, blocks with the greatest opportunity for improvement.  Some of the struggles we faced:

  1. The group was large and decision making was challenging
  2. We had clear resisters to the process and made progress additionally challenging
  3. Creating a process for addressing neighborhood issues and reviewing policies was difficult

We celebrated some successes and had a ton of functional operations issues as a working group.  Ultimately the group fizzled, and we broke out into three various groups: Intel, Action, and Planning Teams. 

Through IPP, I had several Ah-HA moments.  Our NWG was too large; we did not have the proper staff represented in the group.  There was not a clear goal, lacked authorization, and we never defined who this mattered to or why it mattered.

I was not ready to give up on this model and knew it would work.  Through my policy challenge, I reconvened a much smaller working group with some previous staff and new staff.  I began the meeting with stating, “this is new, I am learning, and I want you to learn with me if you would like to” and to my surprise there was an openness with the team.  What I did in-line with IPP, I listened, I was more responsive to questions and concerns, and realized the working group was more responsive and open to share ideas. It encouraged more engagement with in the working group.  We have now finalized phase 1 of 3 of a block revitalization project, “BEAVER STREET” and the work will continue utilizing the PDIA process – THANK YOU FISH-BONES.  So thankful for this gift!

Figure 2 Neighborhood Assistance Program 2020 – City of Lancaster DoNE

My words of wisdom for future IPP applicants: Listen, complete your reading assignments, and talk about your learning with your colleagues.  This is a life-long gift that will change the way you address complex issues.  I can’t thank the IPP team enough and the relationships I have been able to build will never be forgotten. 

Muchas Gracias

Milzy Carrasco

City of Lancaster, PA

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.

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