Flexibility and Learning in Times of Global Uncertainty

Guest blog written by Nahuel Arenas-García

Nahuel and his team from Costa Rica successfully completed the 15-week Practice of PDIA online course that ended in May 2017.

angello-pro-na_qlpbdjHg-unsplash

Between January and May 2017, authorities and technical staff of the Costa Rican National Risk Prevention and Emergency Management Commission (CNE, for its acronym in Spanish) joined staff of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for the Americas & the Caribbean, to analyze gaps in disaster loss and damages data-collection system using the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach under Harvard University’s Building State Capability (BSC) program. The goal was to analyze challenges in the national data-collection system as a basis for the design of a capacity-building strategy for the implementation and monitoring of the National Disaster Risk Management Strategy, developed in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global blueprint for addressing disaster risk. Counting with reliable information about the impact of disasters is fundamental to understand risk, and understanding risk is a pre-requisite to address it effectively.

Among the many challenges involved in the development of disaster loss and damages databases are the criteria for data-collection, the quality of the data collected, the capacity of data collectors and the definition of roles and responsibilities for those involved in the process, including defining the institution that will consolidate and report the information. The PDIA methodology enabled the identification of crucial bottlenecks in these different dimensions and stages of the process and enabled the formalization of a multi-sectorial data collection system. As it was revealed in the exercise, an effective and accurate disaster loss and damages data collection system needs to result from a multi-sectorial effort at all levels, in this case led by the disaster management authorities. The capacity of one institution of government to lead such a multi-sectorial effort faces multiple institutional challenges, even when the normative framework in place assigns that institution the necessary mandate.

The nature of risk in the world has changed and is increasingly systemic, with complex interactions between the human, political and economic systems (e.g. international finance system, urbanization, global supply chains) and the natural systems.[1] Thus, to avoid fragmented responses to systemic problems, reducing disaster risk can only be achieved through a multi-sectorial, multi-actor effort. In this vein, Costa Rica’s institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic has become an example of the role that disaster management authorities can play to bring different stakeholders together in the face of risk.

The multi-sectorial data collection system, alongside a solid normative framework, were steps in the right direction for Costa Rica. The collaboration between UNDRR and CNE to build data-collection capabilities has evolved since the application of the PDIA. The leadership of the CNE coordinating the response to COVID-19 has enabled and strengthened the multi-sectorial approach to disaster risk (of natural, anthropogenic or biological nature). Costa Rica will be the first country in the world to pilot the UNDRR-led Global Risk Assessment Framework (GRAF), an initiative to analyze the complexity and interconnectedness of risk in a determined country and bring together global expertise to synchronize data, methods, models, insights, practical tools and incentives in open collaboration. In this context of systemic risk and complexity, approaches to implement solutions to problems in small steps and learn in quick feedback loops are crucial to deal with uncertainty. As the Global Risk Assessment Report puts it, “Our flexibility must be as dynamic as the change we hope to survive”.


[1] Global Risk Assessment Report 2019, UNDRR.

IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

Guest blog written by Fatima Kakuri

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 3.58.53 PM

Coming to Harvard to do this course, my goal was to gain advanced thought and greater insight into public policy concepts, theories, elements, types and stages of policy making, I was caught up in a subliminal whirlwind of nervousness and feeling out of place before starting the course, as I felt I may be out of my wit coming from the context of a developing country. My experience however was completely unexpected. The course has allowed me to see beyond my initial belief that it there has to be a theory that guides all our policy actions. The course has given me the opportunity to discover my own policy and political beliefs and to see in much greater detail the benefits and disadvantages of the vast array of policy ideologies that are present in the world today. Being able to interact with my colleagues with similar challenges was a separate lesson entirely. I also found that the style of teaching in this course helped me express my views accurately and concisely which turned out extremely useful!

My journey on this course had an unexpected impact on my views and perspectives to governance and life in general.

Key Findings:

I, like presumably 60% of the population in Nigeria, viewed policy from a solution based perspective, typically from the lens that we cannot develop a project proposal unless we had the idea of the end result, the plan would follow the idea of the proposal and after consultation with authorisers or budget funders that plan is collectively adopted for further planning to develop the implementation plan which most likely comes from logical frameworks to guide the timelines for implementation of that project.

The greatest assumption for me was that we had identified the problem, and that we had devised the right solution that will fix it; without any evidence as there was rarely ever any proper research done to support these assumptions and that we are superior to the people whom we create these projects or policies for so we rarely require their input, needless to say, that was a flawed mindset.

I learnt through this course and found that most commonly the people who develop/draft policies are rarely involved in the implementation and control process which becomes a fundamentally flawed process from the outset with the policy makers not being part of execution of the plan. So, my biggest discovery is finding that the most popular theory of developing a public policy plan which is widely practiced especially in my part of the world is not the most effective system. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

Practice Makes Purpose

Guest blog written by Eleanor Sarpong, Maggie Jones, Marco Mastellari, Mohamed Hejres

This blog is written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Alumni of this program become part of HKS’s Implementing Public Policy Community of Practice. These are the first set of Moderators of this Community. This is a reflection of their learning journey. 

When we graduated from IPP in December 2019 and began our journey together as a Community of Practice, 2020 was only a few weeks away. A new voyage. A fresh start. However, none of us could have predicted what the first six months of 2020 would bring. The world seemed to be on fire – and in some places, it was.

Wildfires.

Violence.

Pandemic.

Racism.

Protests.

It quickly became clear that our prospect for 2020 might be different than what we originally envisioned on our fresh, clean page of a new year. Our original challenges became more complex and in some cases they changed altogether. However, this is where the lessons of PDIA enter perfectly into play. PDIA is no stranger to the unknown and well-equipped our Community not only to enter the next phase of IPP, but to face new quandaries of an undecided future.

As we reflect over our time together, it is important to tie all these learnings back to the PDIA process. We hope we will be able to provide valuable insights by reflecting on four key check-in questions that continue to guide our work.

What did you do?

Over the past six months as moderators, we posted weekly announcements, shared blogs and videos, told personal stories, and hosted several Zoom calls. We were able to help each other better understand our environments and constraints we were working in. Occasionally, we would nudge discussions in WhatsApp or send reminders in hopes of engaging the group. Thanks to several active members in our Community, these discussions were always welcome, often sparking new ideas and resources. These conversations continue to connect us, even though we are thousands of miles apart.

It is important to note that absolutely none of this would have been possible without the help of Anisha and Salimah. Under their leadership and guidance we never had to worry about what blogs or links to share, questions going unanswered, or whether or not an idea was a good one. The constant feedback and support we received – and continue to receive – is remarkable and we are so grateful for the opportunity to work with them. Continue reading Practice Makes Purpose

IPP Program Journey: IT Project for a Pay Transparency Initiative

Guest blog written by Judith Buchanan

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

My Implementing Public Policy (IPP) journey began with enthusiasm (and was mostly sustained throughout). Having previously attended a Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education course – Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies – I was keen to attend the course. I knew that, not only would the course be enriching, the learning from other participants would be a big part of the experience and I was so right! IPP also appealed to me due to the extended virtual learning and the opportunity to apply the material to a work-related initiative. What I didn’t know when I applied is that my job would soon change and that as the course began I also started a parallel learning journey in a new role with new problems to address.

I chose to advance the IT project for a legislative pay transparency initiative and to get the building of the new capabilities started (Building on an existing system.) Of course, there were numerous governance protocols to address and in September we were delayed from getting our Gate 3 approval by two weeks. Luckily there was confidence in the work my team had done that we were able to get unofficial approval to advance. At the time, this was especially concerning given our planned implementation timelines (mid-2020) and knowing that we would likely face project difficulties along the way. Now as we await decisions on timing due to having a new Minister (see below), we continue to advance the development work as far as we can with the resources on hand. Were there to be a later implementation date, adjustments would be needed and we have made contingencies that allow for this. (Hoping it is enough but not too worried. Once we will be in our later stages there will be good momentum to obtain authority to complete the work.)

At the same time, over the journey we advanced on regulatory work and received input from stakeholders after the public comment period on draft regulations. Some stakeholders are of the view that the changes are premature and that a broader examination of the legislative framework is required. The enabling legislation, The Employment Equity Act, is 30 years old and could use a bit of “sprucing up” through a Parliamentary review. Were this to occur, my team would support the policy review and any subsequent legislative initiative. In the meantime, the team has been working on analyzing the stakeholder feedback to assess whether adjustments to the regulations are needed.

In Canada, the election for the federal government was held in October and a new Cabinet announced in late November. As of this date, we have yet to fully brief the new Minister on the pay transparency initiative and expect to do this shortly. Key decisions on timing are needed and this will set the path forward for the completion of the regulations and development of various program elements (guidance and tools for users). If and when we get to a legislative review, I certainly intend to construct my problem and create a fishbone (probably be a whalebone or a school of fish) to map all the elements at play. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: IT Project for a Pay Transparency Initiative

The Big Stuck: Updated

written by Lant Pritchett

chapter 1

The PDIA approach to building state capability grew out of a sense among practitioner/academics (or “pracademics”) that (a) organizational capability for implementation was key to success—as, if not more important the adoption of new policies or the creation of new programs and (b) that the existing models (both in the mainstream academy and in practice) for building capability in the public sector were not working and not up to the task.  Our shorthand name for the latter is “the big stuck”:  even when people acknowledge the importance of building state capability and are engaged in projects, programs, and policies to try and do so the facts on the ground are that state capability—at least on all of the standard measures—show little or no progress.

The idea for some new, even something pretty radically new as an approach, like PDIA, did not spring from a desire to create the latest new fad, but from a sense that the devil was not in the details of existing approaches.  Existing approaches to build capability were not working because of some minor flaw in the way these actions were themselves implemented, they were failing because key ideas about how to build capability—and even, really, what it was—were under-articulated and often just plain wrong.

Given the long lead time between research and publication the “big stuck” tables in our 2017 book were based on country data only through 2012, which now is 8 years ago.  So I went back and updated the book’s Table 1, the “big stuck” table with data from two sources:  the Quality of Government indicator (adapted from the International Country Risk Group) from the Quality of Government web-site and three of the state capability indices from the Worldwide Governance Indicators.  This brings the big stuck up to 2018 (latest available for these data) and, unfortunately the findings are roughly the same.

As Figure 1 shows the typical level of “quality of government” (measured as a combination of Rule of Law, Bureaucratic Effectiveness, and Control of Corruption) is slightly lower in 2018 than in 1996. Continue reading The Big Stuck: Updated

IPP Program Journey: Creating a Workplace Culture of Continuous Learners and Self-Starters

Guest blog written by Theresa Burnett

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

I came to the program thinking I had a good idea about how to make things happen in the workplace. I had some idea of policy implementation and the challenges of government organizations. All that said, I learned that I did NOT have an organized, step-by-step approach to address the myriad of challenges of this work. From what I have learned from others in the program, the situation we face in a U.S. District Court of New Jersey is not unique. I thought I was probably going to embark on some major training program that could be imposed from on high to the masses.

Wow, was I wrong.

There are so many things I learned in the last six months that it is difficult to name them all. I had become frustrated in my position as it seemed as though I had a small sphere of influence to make changes in a workplace that I value so highly. I came to realize that I had more influence than I thought because of the success of a Succession Development Program implemented three years ago. My authorizers perceived it a success because we completed this two year program, not necessarily for any objective reason. I consider it a success because out of the last eight supervisors promoted, seven successfully competed that Program. We were on to something but we weren’t exactly sure what. I chose the IPP team from that group, asking them: what do we need to do to plan for the workforce of the future District Court? How do we create jobs that millennials want? How do we get employees to be proactive on the job, solving problems, suggesting improvements, taking work off of their supervisors, not merely doing what they are told? How do we support managers/ supervisors so we can stem the tide of early retirements, resignations and burn out without implementing a program every two years in a panic?

I began what the team jokingly refers to as “Theresa’s listening tour.” I finally stopped reading the literature (OK, not entirely) and started asking questions. I had the team work on the first fishbone exercise with me. I had them ask their staff: what is needed for employees to do their best work for the Court? I asked the same of the other supervisors who aren’t on the Team. And I was surprised at how they really opened up. They appreciated that I asked and listened. Then I implemented what I could quickly, and again, they showed an increased connection to the work and to what I was asking.

Screen Shot 2020-06-02 at 12.02.11 PM

Oh boy, maybe some of the problems related to how managers/supervisors feel about the work is in part my fault (and other senior managers’) who think because we have been around a long time, we have heard/seen it all. We assume that everyone understands the importance of the work. We assume that we know best since we have been caring about the Court for decades. No wonder millennials say “OK Boomer.” So, I would say a key learning has been to more freely admit that I don’t have the answers but show that I care enough to keep asking (why, why, why, why, why) and listening. I have seen a change in supervisors who see that we are trying some of their ideas, ie, quarterly video conference meetings for all staff at once in the different offices, training and individual coaching sessions for supervisors, more training opportunities for entry level staff, more communication about the budget situation (even when all I can tell them is that we won’t know until December 21st). The Team members reported some of the same: that just starting the conversation with staff has made a difference, and they in turn have become more aware of what staff need. It seems that just the act of asking and listening and trying is changing the workplace. 

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Creating a Workplace Culture of Continuous Learners and Self-Starters

Register for our Implementing Public Policy (online) Program

Are you a public policymaker frustrated with the limited impact of your government’s policies? Do you see many policy ideas starting out with promise but ending up incomplete or ineffectively implemented? Are you trying to improve implementation? If so, you are not alone.

There is no more important time than now to convene policymakers and practitioners around the critical implementation challenges all cities, regions, and countries are facing. Join with peers from around the globe for a dynamic, highly engaging online-only version of Implementing Public Policy.

2020-04-ipp-online-v6-01

Led by faculty chair Matt Andrews, participants will learn the skills to analyze policies as well as the field-tested tools and tactics to successfully implement them. In an action-learning environment, including robust peer engagement and application to your work with the support of faculty, participants will have time to work on their implementation challenge, apply their learning to their own context, reflect on their experiences, share and learn, and become part of a global community of practice. Continue reading Register for our Implementing Public Policy (online) Program

IPP Program Journey: Lost in Authorization

Guest blog written by Marcello Milanello

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 1.32.58 PM

“The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you”. Despite the advice from Bob Harris, a protagonist role played by a melancholic Bill Murray, in the movie ‘Lost in translation’, he remains pessimistic and bland for the entire journey of the movie. While in Japan, in a reality that seems so different, Bob is lost not because of language or time zone, but because of his meaningless life back in California.

My PDIA journey was mainly focused on key external actors – the Japanese piece of my job: technical partners, mayors, city office staffers, and co-investors. Since I had the backup of my organization – both in terms of legitimacy and resources – it was under my governance to establish a pathway to reach our intended goals.

Anticipating a bumpy road, as it is usually when dealing with complex problems and organizations such as city offices, I had to find support. That was the reason why I attended the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course and got acquainted with the PDIA methodology: it was a way to deal with the unknown, a common ground in the Japanese step of my mission.

Preparing myself to Japan

I knew I would face uncertainty along the process of establishing a new role for Arapyaú Foundation to support local governments. I was hired in early December of 2018 with the mission to drive the experimentation during 2019 in establishing partnerships with municipal governments to increase their capacity through innovation. I had a great direct authorizer, resources to hire a small team and freedom to establish the pathway. The perfect setting for this journey.

Despite great conditions, I was still looking for ways to increase the internal knowledge of my organization to deal with public policy implementation. By far, the most valuable resource I could find was the IPP Program. My first and somehow unambitious move was to send the program brochure to my boss, the foundation director. She was not only convinced to support me but, most importantly, she decided to participate in it. Another great step in this journey: she would support me even more after understanding the complexity of implementing public policies. We were ready to roll.

As for myself, I was worried about the challenges of how to deal with different settings of four cities that would-be partners in our journey to increase their capabilities to solve complex problems. I was about to begin partnering with mayors in June and the timing was perfect for the program.

First sparks were amazing:

  1. Diagnosing the failure of policies: having worked for almost ten years in different governmental agencies, I got used to policy failure. How often it happens and possible reasons for that were major questions I had. Matt Andrew’s paper on Public Policy Failure: ‘How often’ and ‘What is failure, anyway?’ provided a warm feeling of not being alone in this.
  2. The duality between a plan & control approach and something else, bringing the waterfall vs. agile debate over tech projects to the public arena.
  3. The graph where functionality and legitimacy are expanded in synchrony, moving as a staircase from left-bottom to top-right started to demonstrate how long and careful the mission is – and above all, how important it is to take care about the process.

The week-long module in Massachusetts helped me move from the diagnosis to possible paths to act. There, I learned that:

  1. It is all about implementation – I should strategize to a certain point, but mainly being very disciplined in learning and delivering, in a cyclic manner.
  2. Even though I had legitimacy from mayors and support from local government department’ heads, I should incrementally look for more room to deliver.
  3. Since I would be running the program in each city, having this authorization placed in my team instead of me would be even better – and I would have to work even harder for it to happen.
  4. Doing something is better than doing nothing – even if it seemed a short step or even a wrong one: you learn from it.

After the week in Boston, being energized and focused on my journey, I had only one way to go: forward!

The expected unknown in Japan

The week after I arrived from Boston the projects were kicked off in the first two cities we partnered: Aracaju and Caruaru.

After a few weeks of building up the team, refining the strategy and selecting the subjects we would for those two cities, we kicked off in the other two: Cachoeiro and Blumenau (see photo above).

Since the beginning of the four partnerships, my team constantly used the PDIA approach to deal with the uncertainty that we faced in four different settings. The major takeaways we found during the implementation of the program were:

  1. Understanding how to disarm those who believe they have the solution ahead of problems – asking the right questions, bringing data and analysis and building up arguments so we could dig deeper into the problem.
  2. To lower the expectations of achieving impactful results in a short period of time when dealing with complex problems: it is very rare to have simple solutions for complex problems and we should acknowledge it from the beginning.
  3. Making the decision to invest time and people in the problem definition phase is key to accrue better results along the way.
  4. Spending time to deal with people that are neutral or not-enthusiastic to the project will eventually remove barriers that could have become insurmountable.

Being in four different parts of Japan – still insisting on the parallelism with the movie mentioned in the first paragraph – started to feel comfortable. I had learned a method on how to deal with uncertainty and I am sure that learning will be on my side in many journeys of my professional life.

Somehow, I feel that it was already part of me, but now I have a method to analyze and iterate with multiple actors. I felt more empowered to do so and my team completely bought it. We were understanding how hard it was and we were able to start moving things forward – with some variance across the four cities, of course.

…and then it is all about California

Everything was going well in Japan until something shakes in California.

The seemly solid foundation of my authorizers fell apart. While having a map of external authorizers and partners that would lead to the higher impact of the intervention I was involved with, I had lost sight of the risk of not having my internal authorizers backing me up anymore.

My direct authorizer left the organization and I started from scratch with the chairman of the board, inquiring me about the road we have taken. I had no idea how or if he was being informed about our program, while quickly learning he had little or no knowledge about it. I felt I didn’t have the correct narrative or that I could not understand his viewpoints: he was a major authorizer and I had never reached out to him before!

As usual, I kept asking myself if I should have acted differently and how to learn from this experience. Eventually, I have reached a few conclusions:

  1. I have used PDIA properly in a great number of situations, but I should have kept alert for changes in my own organization.
  2. Despite having built a great coalition of actors – my teams, partners, investors – I had missed sincere critics of my work. It would have made my narrative stronger and I could have more tools to deal with distrust and more structural questions.
  3. I felt that I had the correct internal environment, but I knew I was under the board radar. I felt it was something good for a while, so it would give me time to achieve results and built a narrative. Should I have acted differently, stating more and communication up often from the beginning? Still looking for that answer.

I have gone full PDIA oriented for the challenges faced at each municipality. I have hired people and contracted partners that were willing to take this bumpy road with me. Overall, I had a great team and great partners to move forward.

I will have results and transform a huge amount of lives by the end of 2020 – but there is a high risk that the program will be faced as a “failure experience”. I am still moving on to build this internal environment and I am sure I will have to go even deeper into the PDIA approach, especially with the new COVID-19 crisis.

In the end, I feel very distant from the ‘Suntory Time!’, as the ad played by Bob Harris in Japan during the movie.

To learn more about Implementing Public Policy (IPP) watch the course and testimonial video, listen to the podcast, and visit the course website.

 

IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing

Guest blog written by Rachel Cychosz

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Sharing. It’s the concept of “using, occupying, or enjoying something jointly with others” or “giving a portion of something to others”. It’s a concept that I’m confident most people learned as young children. It’s a simple concept, that’s why we learn it as children, because it’s something that can be understood without substantial explanation or justification, and as children it just makes sense. Why then, does sharing seem to be such a complex challenge for adults?

Working in government is a unique and interesting journey, always navigating to find a balance between meeting the demands of a political machine that yearns for immediate change to prove the success of their regime (often without understanding, advocating for, or appropriating the resources necessary to adequately address the request) and being able to spend sufficient time thinking through a given problem to find the best solution. Over the past seven years, I’ve worked in both policy development and more direct program management. I’ve struggled with different challenges, but ultimately found that much of it comes down to the same issues – how we choose to approach a problem.  Too often, the programs and policies that I’ve worked with approach problems with a direct to solution approach. More often than not, without much if any, consideration for the root cause of the problem, a “solution” is identified and pursued. There are any number of shortfalls that come out of this approach, but the most obvious is that it often only scratches the surface of the problem, resulting in (often another) failed attempt at a novel idea, which discourages program staff and disincentivizes innovation.

Going into this course, I was seeking a fresh perspective and a different way to think about and approach the problems I was facing in my program. Thinking back over the time since starting the course, PDIA was so appealing to me because it offered a mechanism to address exactly what I had been so frustrated about, but hadn’t been able to articulate a solution to addressing. The concept of not looking at something as one single problem, but diving into it more deeply to get to the root cause, find entry points, and apply an iterative approach to problem solving, was enlightening. It offered a different way of thinking, that so effectively changed the way we could approach new projects and program development.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing

IPP Program Journey: PDIA is a Journey about How to Engage

Guest blog written by Eleanor Sarpong 

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 5.22.43 PM

My first reaction when I was introduced to the course on IPP via email was hesitation- “Really how different will this course be to others on implementing public policy?” I asked. I was particularly anxious to know how to navigate the political minefield that often hamper public policy implementation. So, I applied for this course with high hopes to understand what new ideas I could adopt to help me with delayed policy implementation in my role as an external advisor to governments on ICT policies and strategies.

What I received in this course however, was eye opening and surpassed my expectations.  From the outset of the course, I was challenged to think differently with the concept of the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach. The cherry on the cake was the wonderful classmates I met, all of whom are working on some remarkable but complex policies and projects such as establishing a Ministry of Peace in a country emerging from years of near autocracy and recent civil unrest, to fighting land grabbers in the Amazon, or getting politicians to understand the impact of Brexit on the financial industry in the UK to implementing an investor drive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in a Middle Eastern country.

I joined this course with preconceived notions about how public policy implementation should be – following the plan and control approach commonly used in projects. What I left with however, was a new way of looking at implementing policy through a problem driven iterative approach that was agile in its format.  The entire PDIA process has been really insightful from looking at problem identification differently, and unearthing the underlying causes of a problem which are often multi faceted. In reality I’ve learnt that the policy implementation process is not a logical process. One can go back and forth on each stage but the learning or iterations is what makes this approach more engaging. An interesting part of this programme was applying the knowledge of the 5whys to the develop a fishbone diagram which gave me visual representation of the underlying causes of my chosen policy problem of poor and inadequate broadband in many parts Ghana. The next stage was searching for entry points based on the Triple A framework – Ability Authority and Acceptance. I’ve learnt to navigate the fine balance needed between legitimacy (measure of how the public perceives or accepts the policy and often judges the policy’s effectiveness) and functionality (the measure of the “what and why” a policy intervention is being pursued and to what extent that policy intervention resolves the problem or objective identified) and I know that it is not a linear process but zigzag in reality. Another powerful takeaway I took from this course is knowing the power of negotiation and having humility to confront difficult decisions and biases. I still remember vividly the day we were taught how to confront the problem of discrimination and inherent biases that rear up in some policies and how to tackle these through tactful negotiation and smart concessions.

This programme challenged me to redefine my policy problem and to focus. I discovered something new about my policy challenge during the problem construction and deconstruction phase of the process when two representatives from the regulator (who were directly linked to my challenge) pinpointed trust issues as an underlying cause that needed to be addressed. Subsequently I have been working with them to tackle this problem. Our review of the Everest Case Study amplified team roles and responsibilities in a way I had not considered. It forced me to evaluate the team I had assembled for my policy challenge and reassign roles. The process has however not been easy. One of the hardest part of my policy implementation journey has been managing the stakeholder relationships and ensuring continuous motivation for those who are part of this process, to stay on course. One complaint I continue to receive is that this process is too involving and time consuming.  While I’m self-motivated, getting my internal team to continue to support this new way of approaching policy was a challenge. When my internal team started losing momentum as the process moved slowly I knew I had to step in. The modules on motivation, follow up group conversations and Anisha’s blog on motivation helped me realise this turn of events was nothing new. I’ve tried to build a safe space by encouraging individual members of my team to candidly share what is working in our process and what is not. One common thread was the lack of time to pursue the iterative learning with our external stakeholders because we worked remotely. E.g. attempting to have calls with key stakeholders in poor bandwidth areas was frustrating. After we listed all the problems we collectively tried to find solutions or new ideas to address this challenge. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: PDIA is a Journey about How to Engage