Engaging youth in sustainable development in Barbados

Guest blog written by Arpita Tiwari, Diana Ly, Emma Catalfamo, Hina Musa, Katherina Hruskovec Gonzalez, Morgan Benson 

Early Days 

The first PDIA meeting for the KEYS to Success team focused on one goal: getting to know each other. Our team members came from different backgrounds, different programs within HKS, even different countries, and each of us was curious about what the team dynamic would look like. We built our team Constitution – a critical trust-building exercise for the PDIA process – which guaranteed enough psychological safety for each of us to freely participate and contribute. Over the next six weeks, each team member grew in our ability to think critically about our problem, propose creative solutions, and ensure that these ideas were most useful for our authorizer and ultimately for Barbados.  

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Examining public administration and budget in Peru

Guest blog by Nohelia Navarrete Flores

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.

There is a phrase that reads “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. After 10 years of managing Public Health projects, I had realized that it was more than just a phrase; it was a fact, and I started reflecting on how to make that weak link stronger.
I first thought of joining the Implementing Public Policy course to complement what I had learnt in Leading Economic Growth. I was looking forward to experiencing a longer and adaptive process to help me developing the policy challenge I had identified in the previous course.

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Lacking access to mortgage credit for family housing in Argentina

Guest blog by Pablo Curat

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.

  1. What were your expectations of IPP Online when you signed up?

I am an economist and for 30 years I have worked in the regulation and supervision of financial, microfinance and fintech entities and in design and implementation of development policies related to access to financing for small and micro-enterprises, agricultural producers, etc. Either as part of the public sector (I was Director of the Central Bank in Argentina) or collaborating as a private consultant.
I had always done it my way, without a specific methodology, contributing my professional capacity and trying to adapt to the different contexts and political and economic priorities and interacting proactively with actors from the public and private sectors.
The need for more tools attracted me from the first moment to enroll in the IPP course 1) By the name itself, it was certainly not a theoretical but a practical course, focused on implementation, excellent news…. 2) However, I had a great uncertainty: the cultural, social, economic and political contexts in the countries are so varied. How can you offer an IPP course that is useful to practitioners around the world? Is it the same to implement public policy in the USA as Argentina or Ethiopia? So I thought there were only two alternatives: the IPP-HKS course was a success or it would be one more academic course, perhaps full of generalities.
My expectations were to incorporate knowledge, methodologies and experiences that would allow me to be more effective and efficient in my work as a policymaker or as an external consultant.

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Promoting design for global business in Brazil

Guest blog by Isabel Tarrisse da Fontoura

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.

“The flow of life envelopes everything. That’s life: it heats up and cools down, it tightens and then loosens up, it becomes calm and then unrests. What it wants from us is courage”.

João Guimaraes Rosa

1. An act of courage

The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) program Implementing Public Policy (IPP) is an act of courage. It is so from the day you decide to commit to six months of action learning in the middle of a global pandemic to, today, as we end this journey with 142 peers from 47 countries and the HKS team, and we’re moving ahead working on pressing challenges we care too much about to let go.

The good part is that every ending is a new beginning.

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Using PDIA to Improve Public Education in Brazil

written by Salimah Samji

São Luis, Maranhão, Brazil – December 2021

In August 2021, we began an engagement with Instituto Sonho Grande (ISG) in Brazil to build the capability of public servants working in secretariats of education in the states of Maranhão and Paraíba.  

In this virtual action learning program, 60 public servants working across 11 teams, learned how to use PDIA to solve locally nominated problems, through action-oriented work.

The teams in Maranhão worked on the following problems:

  • Low learning in Mathematics
  • High teacher turnover
  • School dropouts
  • Age-grade distortion
  • School feeding programs

The teams in Paraíba worked on the following problems:

  • Low learning in Portuguese and Mathematics
  • Vacancies for Teachers and Technicians
  • Data for strategic decision making
  • School infrastructure
  • Clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • Budget execution
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Diversifying the ICT market in Brazil

Guest blog by Marcia Matsubayashi

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 61 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in December 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

If I could summarize this course experience in one word it is “inspiring”. I am sure all my colleagues who attended this course were inspired by the faculty to mobilize for action, since we feel more empowered (and knowledgeable) to make the impact in our societies.

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Exploring electromobility in Latin America

Guest blog by Raúl Rodríguez Molina

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 decided to enroll in the IPP program as a continuation of the Leading Economic Growth Program, which I found extremely interesting. LEG gave me the opportunity to engage in group work methodologies, like PDIA, which somehow I have seen being implemented but not formally, not following a rigorous process.

I am working as an infrastructure specialist for an international development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank. Supporting countries to design effective policies for which the Bank provides financial and technical resources is the core of my job. We (the IABD) are not policy makers, but we need to work on project derived from a sound public policy exercise. I hoped that coupling LEG and IPP in such short sequence of time would give me a conceptual refresh of the framework and basics of a good Public Policy, looking at different regions of the world and from different actor’s perspectives. One crystal clear message to me is that context matters a lot, so two similar problems cannot be tackled in the same way to get the same results. That is why it is so important to implement problem deconstruction methodologies. PDIA helps you exercise a constant evaluation and questioning process to ensure you are not just moving in the right direction, but also working with all the actors needed.

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Building ownership for growth strategy in Mexico

Guest blog by Agustin Filippo

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 61 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in December 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

Economic development is predicated under the assumption that it is possible to lift people out of poverty, which is the reason that attracted so many people to the field (myself included). Countries that managed to succeed end up with a diversified and sophisticated product mix. More importantly, these economies are change-ready, and will constantly find new products and services to use themselves and exchange with the world. In the 10-week LEG program at Harvard, great care is paid to identify with precision the mechanics of economic growth and what can be done to ignite and accelerate growth in each locality. There’s a lot to be learned, although much in the form of open questions and try-it-yourself methods.

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Can the private sector help to pave the way to tackle complex challenges in the Northern Triangle of Central America?

written by José Eguigure and Daniel Barjum 

A few weeks ago, Vice President Kamala Harris, and other top officials, including Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency of International Development, and former professor at Harvard University, attended the inauguration of Xiomara Castro as the first female President of Honduras in its 200 years of independence. According to several sources, including the New York Times, this is a clear statement of the U.S. foreign policy on strengthening its ties within the Northern Triangle of Central America, and represents a good opportunity to pave the way in tackling complex challenges in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Can the private sector help to deliver on this cause? How?

Vice President Harris launched “a Call to Action to the Private Sector” last year to join government efforts to increase economic opportunities within the region and “address the root causes of migration” to the United States. Twelve companies and organizations such as Bancolombia, Microsoft, Mastercard, the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, among others joined this effort back in May 2021. Recently, seven new partners have joined including Grupo Mariposa, Cargill, PepsiCo, and CARE International, and all together “have invested more than 1.2 billion dollars.” Although this is a promising initiative supported by the nonprofit Partners for Central America, the major challenge now is how to deliver on this promise, allow for stakeholder engagement, and give agency to local communities. Finding the right approach or blending of approaches will be crucial for the implementation of this strategy. 

The first question we need to ask ourselves is how much do we know about the problem and how different do stakeholders frame it? Then, how do we get high levels of legitimacy among local communities and sustain it across time? How can we overcome countries’ binding constraints, in Honduras for example, its low ease of doing business? Since there are a lot of unknowns and ambiguities, a good way to start these conversations is by engaging and building trust with key stakeholders in each country. Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) can be a useful methodology to complement current efforts. PDIA is a “learning by doing” approach that empowers stakeholders to breakdown problems, identify potential solutions, iterate, and build capabilities while learning throughout the process. PDIA poses a unique and effective approach to development, borrowing ideas from both private and public sector initiatives and experiences around the world.   

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