Guest blog by Pat Jacquez-Nares
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.
This was a journey that I was not prepared for, but I enjoyed the ride. I was given the opportunity from the mayor of the city that I work for, he also is my boss, to take this course, and I did not know what to expect. I was very thankful that he considered me and gave me the opportunity to attend this course. The course was very good and very useful in my daily interactions at work and at home. The key learnings that I will take from this course are the PDIA tools to help solve my problems. The need to identify the problem, then break down the problem, identify where the problems lie, find the solutions to these problems, fix these problems, then reflect on the outcome and keep doing it until the entire problem is solved. The mayor also gave me the problem he wanted me to solve with this training course. The boards and commissions vacancies and the retention of the existing members. This also entailed the youth council for the city I work for.
This was a very challenging problem for me because the appointment of the members to the advisory boards and commissions are very political and are done by the mayor, my boss, the person that asked me to take this course. The best solution for this problem is to have the mayor relinquish some of his appointing power or take nominations from his fellow council members. This was not going to happen. I still went through the process and did the work for this problem and to try to get to this solution without losing my job. I gathered support for my other colleagues on what I would need if the mayor agreed at the minimum to take nominations from his council colleagues. My co-workers discouraged me on the presentation to have the mayor relinquish any of his power because it was an election year and it was a very stressful time for the mayor as he was campaigning. Therefore, I modified my sights from the entire boards and commissions to just the youth council. What I did was gather data on the successful youth councils in the surrounding cities and at the county level. I asked them what they did to recruit and retain their members, what incentives were given to these members and if they provided any type of payment. I again engaged with my colleagues and gathered the necessary support for my newly created proposal for the mayor. It was for the youth commission to be run out of the Parks and Community Services department. To have the age of the teen participants lowered to include middle school students, this would promote parental support and increase the participation and the retention. This would also include a rebranding and marketing of the youth commission. Their main priority would be community service and leadership. What the young participants would receive in return of their service, would be leadership training, community service hours, assistance with college applications, reference letters and information on potential scholarships. The city would also provide a scholarship based on their years of service and their participation. The mayor agreed to the new program parameters and the change of administering department.
The main motivator of the change in the focus of my big problem, to just one commission, was the need to make a change to at least one advisory board. When this change proves to be successful, this same method will be used for the other boards and commissions. The solution has to be tested and proven successful, in order to gather the additional support for the bigger challenge and change in the recruitment, appointment, and retention of the other advisory board members. There are no words that can express how much these tools will help me with the implementation of other policies and the solutions to many problems. The course really did provide the names to most of the tools that I had already been using; however, knowing the correct names, procedures and processes, will help add validity to my recommendation and support my solutions.
The words of wisdom that I have to share with my fellow PDIA practitioners around the world is that they have to remember that progress is not always linear. Take the time to celebrate their small accomplishments. Understand your perception and how you are projecting into the situation. Be aware of how you are delivering the message and focus on the shared narrative. Lastly, leadership is a practice, not a position. You may have to let others lead so that your full leadership will be seen.
I also want to thank the members of my group #21, the Voices, for all their support, insight, and assistance.
You all are the BEST!!