A Hands-on Deconstruction of Youth Unemployment in Kenya

Guest blog by Moses Sitati

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

When I received a work email asking for my interest in taking the Leading Economic Growth course, I quickly had a look and was not entirely sure that it was the one for me. I did some quick mental calculation to check whether it made sense for me to devote scarce extra hours from my heavily stretched bandwidth for a 10 week period – I am so glad that it did.

Applying to the program required sharing an economic growth challenge that you intended to work during the program. This was very practical for me as I had just been co-leading a multi-disciplinary team at USAID/Kenya and East Africa in developing a five-year strategy to address youth unemployment. We had set ourselves a purpose to increase economically productive opportunities for young women and young men in Kenya and to empower them to actively engage in these opportunities. I reasoned that the course could be useful in providing new ways to analyze this challenge, and potentially offer solutions for me to think about. I would soon to find out that application of the theory and ideas taught in the course was designed as the primary learning arena for the program.

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Promoting Equitable Investment and Job Generation in Fort Worth, Texas

Guest blog by Robert Sturns

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

When I began the Leading Economic Growth program, my goal was really driven by a desire to understand how we could have a more equitable distribution of investment and jobs throughout my community. As we really begin to dig into issues of economic complexity, I discovered that our issue was much larger than just ensuring an equitable distribution of jobs. We really needed to focus on driving overall investment to the community as a first step and then ensure that those opportunities were experienced across the City. You can see this shift in thinking occur as you look at the fishbone exercises I completed over the course of the program.

As I studied the issue and thought through our challenges, I began to really see the binding constraints that are impacting our efforts. While marketing and promotion of the City is an easy first step that should be encouraged, it is increasingly difficult to convince new large-scale businesses to open in certain areas of the city. Business consolidations and web technology have eliminated many of the traditional neighborhood serving businesses and left low-income alternatives in their place. Because the high-skilled jobs are in other areas of the city that lack public transportation, these communities do not get the benefit of growing know how through a formal corporate environment and rely on individual operators in a less formal environment that impacts wages and know how. Low human capital is also a challenge for our underserved areas in that the high school graduation rate for minority (particularly African-American) students lags significantly behind their white counterparts.  This suggests that they will not be prepared for the incoming jobs of the future if we do not begin to take steps to address this problem.

Since marketing/promotion of the City has been an identified area of need that could be easily implemented, I was very interested in working on a CINDE like approach to our marketing challenges that would engage partners at the city, chamber(s) of commerce and the business community. By utilizing this model, the entities could focus on specific targets within an industry and spend time and effort on marketing to those businesses and building relationships. We have already begun having those conversations with the chamber of commerce, and have developed a perception survey that was sent out to over 100 site selectors to gauge their impressions of Fort Worth, and why we may not be seeing as many recruitment opportunities as we would like to see. Following the survey, both the city and chamber will begin to look at how we can develop a more comprehensive and proactive pitch campaign utilizing additional feedback from our local business community.

As I mentioned, identifying the true binding constraint on our growth was also a key part of the course that I focused on during the program. Fort Worth completed an economic development strategic plan three years ago that comprised over 200 recommendations or policy reforms to be undertaken by various organizations across the city. While we have made progress on many of the recommendations, that has not resulted in significant new business attraction/investment or new job creation. The recommendations and polices we have pursued do not seem to have identified the real binding constraint of why we are not attracting more development opportunities. In particular, one challenge that was highlighted in my fishbone diagram, is that we do not have the resources in place to accomplish some of the more primary tasks we need to complete as identified by the plan. In looking at how we could improve our efforts, we will need to drill down to what is our true binding constraint and focus our efforts there as additional resources are not likely in the near future. It will be imperative to pare back a lot of the recommendations going forward and focus on what is truly making an impact on our community.

A final insight from the course that was very illuminating was on the concept of the city’s identity and sense of “us”. Fort Worth, while being the 13th largest city in the U.S., describes itself as being a large city that maintains a small-town feel. We pride ourselves on our western heritage by embracing slogans like “The City of Cowboys & Culture” which is part of our identity and make up the sense of what makes us Fort Worthians. However, that sense of “us” does suggest a community that is not very diverse or progressive to those not from Texas, and can be a significant challenge when trying to attract new investment from other parts of the country. Younger residents of the city have a much different perception of the city and how it needs to promote itself. While they still have pride in the “maverick” spirit of the city, younger residents are more aligned and interested in the progressive neighborhoods, artists, creatives and entrepreneurs that make up the community. In addition, our minority residents often do not see themselves reflected in the perception of “us” that is promoted nationally and should have better representation. In considering enhanced marketing efforts and promoting the city in order to deal with the growth challenge, we will have to balance keeping some semblance of what makes the city what it is, while promoting the opportunities it can provide and what it could be in the future.

Given that my growth challenge is specifically about investment and equity, I was really intrigued by the efforts of bringing inclusion to the forefront of our growth strategies and would like to explore this in more depth in the future. In looking at models like the Brookings Metro Indicators or OCED, setting metrics on wage growth, poverty rates and job growth in underserved areas, seem to be efforts that should be pursued at the city, state and national level. The big question will be how to balance growth while also tackling inequity. As Dr. Hausmann so eloquently put it during our closing session, the problems we face may be clear, but the proposed solutions may not give a full answer to the problems due to our assumptions and beliefs about the nature of the world. We need to look outside of assigning blame and focus on addressing the overall problems of inequality. How can cities/regions/countries truly galvanize support across multiple entities and expand cooperation in order to focus on addressing the problem of inequality? This will likely be the defining issue of economic growth over the next few decades.

To learn more about Leading Economic Growth (LEG) watch the faculty video, and visit the course website.

HIV: Patient Safety and Infection Prevention in India

Guest blog by Vijay Yeldandi 

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.

Why IPP? Honestly because I needed a navigator! After 25 years of doing public health work in India focusing on HIV Infection Prevention, I realized that not everything I did was a resounding success. While some projects were gratifying, in retrospect there were many hard lessons to learn and much heartburn to endure. Many of my friends and colleagues would remark “Oh there goes Vijay again….. where angels fear to tread…. Yes, it is true I have always been an unapologetically optimistic (hopelessly romantic) Gandhian revolutionary going about trying to make the whole world a better place. My anthem is John Lennon’s IMAGINE https://youtu.be/SfGuTigICo8

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Implementing online services in Manila, Philippines

Guest blog by Chris Tenorio

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.

A simple communication via email dated June 4, 2020 from Prof. Matt Andrews inviting me to be part of the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Program made me think if whether or not this program would further improve my way of governance in public office and enhance my knowledge on managing public challenge even though I already had an overview about Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) as discussed by Prof. Matt in his book Building State Capability and in the previous program, Leading Economic Growth. Such email, which clearly explained the overview of the program and brief enumeration of tools that can be used in exploring several frameworks of implementation, convinced me to be part of the cohort for six (6) months.

As Prof. Matt introduced the program, he asked us to identify the public policy challenge in our own organization or office that we would want to devote our dedication and commitment during the duration of the program and utilizing PDIA principles and processes in addressing the identified challenge. I decided to work on the implementation of online services which can be implemented by our office—the Manila Civil Registry Office.

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Promoting agricultural sector products to diversify the economy in Mongolia

Guest blog by Batjargal Khandjav

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

The Leading Economic Growth Program has been an absolutely inspiring intellectual journey for me during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. It was a unique opportunity to reflect on key principles of economic growth while using toolset to better understand the unfolding of policy choices and drivers of economic growth for my own country. The breadth of the information and cases from around the world brought by the course and participants helped me to confront ideas and challenge existing ones. The weekly assignments that relied on information obtained during the weeks are very engaging and the comments provided by the grader helped me to stay focused and better adapt ideas and principles taught during the course, in a concrete circumstance of my country.

Each of the modules of the LEG Program offered ideas and learnings that gave new and interesting perspectives and helped me to assess the main problems and obstacles for the economic development of Mongolia, look for the roots of these problems, analyze possible solutions to these barriers.

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Tackling high rates of poverty and low growth among MSMEs in Nigeria

Guest blog by Member Feese

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

My key learning from the Leading Economic Growth course is how to effectively define a challenge / problem using the 5-whys technique and not use the solution to define the problem. For instance, the definition of my first economic problem was lack of transportation infrastructure in Nigeria, however, I discovered that that definition was narrow and did not identify the main problem of why transportation infrastructure was lacking. Using the 5-whys technique, I was able to redirect my challenge to tackling high rates of poverty and low growth rate among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the binding constraint, concentrating on transportation infrastructure. If poverty and growth rate are addressed, transportation facilities will improve.

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the level of poverty in Nigeria is currently about 40% of the total population, 83 million people, with MSMEs contributing a large portion of that figure. MSMEs are a primary source of jobs, accounting for about 96% of businesses and 84% employment (PWC, June 2020). However, the economic climate faces challenges of poor infrastructure, unfriendly business environment, high incidence of informal sector, etc., which adversely affects the MSME sector. More specifically, the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the sector, which has affected household livelihoods across the country.

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Troubled Waters Under the Bridge: Time for Inclusive Growth in Equatorial Guinea

Guest blog by Cesar Augusto Mba Abogo

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

Equatorial Guinea (EG) is a little known country. In fact, Wikipedia in its entry on the country warns not to confuse it with Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau. In the period between the month of April 2019 and the month of October 2020, I had the honor of serving as Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning in probably the darkest economic downturn the country has known since the mid-nineties of the twentieth century when it became a producer and exporter of hydrocarbons. At the end of 2019, the country was beginning to emerge from the recession into which it had fallen in mid-2014, we had closed a comprehensive agreement with the IMF that included the traditional macrofiscal stabilization component but also a commitment to strengthen fiscal governance, fight corruption, allocate greater resources to social sectors, stabilize the banking sector and boost diversification of sources of economic growth… and then the health and financial pandemic of COVID19 crashed down on Equatorial Guinea.

But before I go into detail about the most relevant learnings, in my humble opinion, of HKS´s Leading Economic Growth course and how it has changed my understanding of the challenge of inclusive growth facing my country, let’s talk a little about this my unknown country.

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What Scrabble-playing Monkeys Have to Do with Contractors in Texas: Lessons from Leading Economic Growth

Guest blog by Maggie Jones

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

Finding contractors in Texas right now is hard. Really hard. Finding contractors to work on a niche federally-funded home repair program with lots of red tape and paperwork is nearly impossible. Or so we thought. Fortunately for us, the many lessons from Leading Economic Growth over the last 10 weeks have been and will be put to work over the months and years (and then some) to come, not only for this particular challenge, but for future obstacles as well.

Society knows more, not because individuals know more, but because individuals know different.

What a relief! We do not have to know all the things! Want even better news? It is probably better that we don’t. This point resonates when thinking about the game of Scrabble. Imagine everyone on your team or in your community has the following letters: A, B, and C. There aren’t many words you can spell (or points you can get). But let’s say everyone on your team or in your community has different letters – perhaps 10, or 15, or more – then you can build longer words (and get more points). The same applies to productivity and ultimately economic growth.

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How I became a believer in the PDIA process

Guest blog by Linda Chasey

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.

I thought that I would learn some new tools that would refine what I was currently doing with solving problems and implementing policy when I first started the IPP course. Perhaps learn the best practices or would be told what to do in different situations. I am known for getting things done and have never been afraid to tackle complex challenges nor learn as I go. I am not afraid of change and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve process and procedures so I did not think that I would struggle with trying to solve problems using this new PDIA concept, boy was I wrong.

I was a few months into the course and had built my fishbone, developed a workgroup, and started talking about what we were going to do. One of the homework sessions I had submitted a new fishbone and stated I was changing my problem statement and was now going to do this more focused problem. The staff responded to my homework and was very nice but really told me that I needed to trust in the PDIA process and try it again.

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Urban Development in Argentina: How IPP helped me achieve my goal

Guest blog by Catalina Palacio

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 is the story of an inspiring journey.

Everybody is working hard around the world looking for increasing their wellbeing, which in turn affects the improvement of the quality of life of others. Everybody plays a determinant role to make lives better, even more, when people share the public policies sphere due to it is the core of the society’s balance. In this regard IPP journey has turned into the most significant experience which gives all the participants extraordinary tools to be better practitioners, better people and better leaders around the world.

My entire working experience has been with public sector in different countries where I have noticed such similar situations: unsolved problems, a lot of effort with unsatisfactory results from some practitioners, lack of ownership from some staff and so on, as a result, the social, economic, and environmental dimensions are increasingly unbalanced. In this context, I decided to course the IPP journey hoping to get meaningful technical tools to add value to my professional skills to make the difference when facing the less desirable public policy arena conditions. No matter how high my expectations were, definitely this course has exceeded them. Not only gave me valuable technical information regarding a better understand of the current situation and how to deal with to be more effective, but also taught me the importance of the human aspects, how to be aware of myself as a person facing complex problems and how to build teams, encourage and support its members as people as well as a practitioners.

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