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Approaching Growth Challenges with a New Lens

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Guest Blog by Phillipa Kirby, LEG ’22

Some of my takeaways from the Leading Economic Growth course include:

  • The importance of defining and deconstructing the problem well prior to jumping to solutions. Deconstructing the problem also assists to define the binding constraints and entry points to effect change. 
  • Identifying binding constraints assists to focus energy and resources in those areas that are most likely to unlock growth rather than working on an extensive list of generic actions.
  • How building economic complexity supports growth in productivity. 
  • Growing collective knowhow assists to grow the product space of an economy. Growing collective knowhow isn’t about individuals knowing more, rather individuals knowing different and working collectively. As such policies around migration and inclusion should be considered.
  • PDIA as a method of activating a team to address a growth problem and the value of this approach in learning, iterating, and adapting.

The course content made me look at a different approach to my growth challenge. At the commencement of the course, I defined my growth challenge as “diversifying the towns economy away for the current dominant coal mining and coal-fired energy generation sectors”.  Through the course I reframed my growth challenge as “how to grow industrial sectors other than mining and energy generation in the town to diversify the economy”.  While it is a subtle change it helped to focus on the factors that may be barriers to growing the other sectors.

While I haven’t yet been able to integrate the learnings from this course into my work there are a number of key areas that I believe will be valuable into the future, including:

  • The PDIA to work towards addressing complex issues that don’t have a clear pathway to a solution.
  • Fishbone Diagrams to deconstruct problems and identify potential entry points and binding constraints.
  • Economic complexity theories around growing the numbers of letters in the economy and the importance of recognising the need to develop both public goods (vowels) and private goods (consonants).
  • Frameworks for measuring growth and inclusion – Measuring of inclusion in economic growth strategies and re-iterating the importance of inclusion as a strategy to enhance growth.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course, particularly engaging with other practitioners across the globe.  Discussing their challenges and contexts assisted to better understand my own.  The other element of the course I enjoyed was that it delivered practical frameworks and structures that can be utilised in my work. 

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 71 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2022. These are their learning journey stories.

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