Complexity is Simple with PDIA

Guest blog written by Ahmad Aljazaeri

After many years working in the for-profit private sector, I moved about two years ago into a government-owned company that was set up several year ago to be an execution arm for what used to be called the Ministry of Labor. This company grew to be a huge enabler for the transformation plans for that ministry and several other government entities and even some private companies. After being on the receiving end of public policy, I am now ever closer to influencing and even participating in drafting policies. Having been outside my comfort zone, I thought that nothing would be better than going back to school to learn how to better deal with the new challenges in front of me. I went through several options, but IPP grabbed my attention with its structure and scope. I thought this would be a good start for me to understand policy making and implementation and I honestly thought there would be a lot of theory. I didn’t mind that, but I was very interested in learning what it would take to succeed in the implementation of those policies. By that time, I have already worked on a couple of small policies that saw the light and were implemented successfully, but I wanted to tackle bigger problems and I needed to be well-equipped.

I had some concerns about the program being completely online, but I also knew that this could work although 20 weeks seemed a very long time for a training course. After the second week, I was completely convinced that this set up was going to be way better than a condensed 2-week course as it allows participant to fully digest the content and put what they have learned into real action. The course exceeded my expectations in every measure imagined and I would certainly like to see more of such courses in all disciplines.

Continue reading Complexity is Simple with PDIA

Adding depth and dimension to public policy projects

Guest blog written by Razan Farhan Alaqil

Joining the Implementing Public Policy course started as a “cool” yet very far idea during a ministerial meeting that I was attending. But then, I went back to my team, and we all truly thought “Why not?” Within a matter of weeks, I was registered for the course along with my work colleagues; Dr. Hiba Rajab and Alanoud Al Saud.

While we were submitting our applications during the Holy month of Ramadan, I reflected a lot before answering the question around my long-term career goals, and how this course would help me achieve them. After long thoughts, and while fasting, I wrote the following:

Growing up, I always said that I wanted to ‘change the world.’ Whether that was through my actions, work, or volunteering, I always had that urge to plan a career that would serve this purpose…. I started making that dream of mine a reality.  It was becoming clear because those policy amendments I was working on were influencing not only businesses, but also people’s lives, and each individual was changing their world in their own way.”

That’s how I applied to this course. Confident that the actions we make have a larger butterfly effect on the world, confident that my job was helping me change the world.

My colleagues and I developed our challenge statements together, and we were committed to bringing that knowledge we were about to gain to our wider team in the company, to our stakeholders in the private and public sectors, to individuals working and living while being influenced by the work we were advocating for in policies.

Continue reading Adding depth and dimension to public policy projects

Developing the national business climate policy for Morocco

Guest blog by Abderrazak Mourchid

When I applied for the Harvard Kennedy School IPP training in May 2020, I was looking to build up my capacity in public policy implementation, especially since I was mandated by the Head of Government of Morocco to develop the national business climate policy for Morocco for the next five years. It was the first time I had been invited to carry out such a strategic exercise for my country. The complexity of the exercise lies in the fact that it involves a variety of stakeholders and that it was necessary to determine the priorities for Morocco in the medium term in order to develop the private sector and improve the attractiveness of investment. This exercise was supported by a steering committee that I established and that includes the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Internal affairs. 

Continue reading Developing the national business climate policy for Morocco

Addressing economic growth in the Middle East

Guest blog by Anton Osin

The course has been a journey, and it has exceeded my expectations as it provided me with deeper understanding of several economic concepts and gave me exposure to HKS faculty and peers students from across the globe. The intensity of this course and the volume of information gradually transformed into quality and deeper understand of economic concepts and case studies.

Continue reading Addressing economic growth in the Middle East

Increasing human and physical resources across Saudi Arabia

Guest blog by Hathal AlOtaibi


 To be honest, my expectations were met and might have even been exceeded as this course helped me think in a strategic way about the challenge I face as a public servant. While the analysis part is not deeply embedded in the scope of this course, the implementation side was well covered and I really could not ask for more.

Continue reading Increasing human and physical resources across Saudi Arabia

Decentralization in Lebanon

Guest blog written by Pascale Dahrouj

When I first registered in this program, I never thought I could get that much insights on how to work out a complex problem by identifying entry points, root causes, possible solutions, authorizers and teams. I just thought it will be a learning journey filled with readings and videos that might help me with some ideas…But no…It was much more. 

The first part of the program was indeed an introduction of the entire concept of public policy and its implementation. But the most important part of the journey was the week course at Harvard where we spent intensive hours in learning about PDIA and doing our fishbone. A fishbone? I laughed at the idea first but when I ended up doing mine, I never felt more concerned and understanding of my problem. I am working on a public policy that will change the entire system of the Lebanese Republic. Decentralization… Moving from a central strong government control power to a decentralized functioning of the state. And guess what? My policy has not yet been ratified by the parliament. My work has a double shredded effort: getting the policy ratified and then implementing it. 

PDIA is a new concept for me as I had never heard of it before that week in June. Now, it has become part of my daily thinking. It is a guiding dynamic tool: it gives you all the necessary to help you think outside the box and do things yourself. You are the center of this entire approach. You have to know well the problem, deconstruct it and then construct the points, identify the authorizers and whom to approach, and mostly build your team so that your policy can get to a realistic end result. 

During this course, I enjoyed so much learning from other students and getting to know their problems and how they envision to solve it. The group sessions that we did also made me realize how vague my problems were …. I kept on narrowing them down… I kept on redoing and changing my fishbone based on feedback from my group… That learning process was the best part of it. You think that you grasp the context, but you come and hear the comments from your group or class, and then you have to do it all over again. Oh and not to mention the professors and directors of the program; They all added to me in different ways. The Pascale that went in June to Harvard is not longer the same Pascale… It is a different version equipped with hopes, prospects and determination. 

Continue reading Decentralization in Lebanon

Formalizing Egypt’s Informal Sector

Guest blog by Perihan Tawfik

Being an Egyptian Woman, a holder of a master degree of the Public Policy and Public Administration from the American University in Cairo (AUC, 2007), member of the AUC Public Policy Hub (2018) and working for the International Labor Organization (UN Specialized agency) encouraged me to think about enrolling in a public policy course at Harvard’s premises. 

Applying to “Implementing Public Policy”, blended course, at Harvard Kennedy School was a very interesting challenge from March to December 2020 until the moment the course turned to be an online course then the challenge started to grow bigger in me. I had an initial expectation to learn from the Harvard premises experience and from the interaction with professors and mates especially that I considered the online part as an introduction and conclusion while the body of the course is mainly the in presence-week.

Continue reading Formalizing Egypt’s Informal Sector

Addressing Economic Constraints in Libya

Guest blog by Saleh Abdallah

Frankly, when I applied for Leading Economic Growth course, I had a different set of mind of what would this course be like at the end of 10 weeks. I have worked in bi-lateral and multi-lateral development institutions and as a consultant with the African Development Bank who has been implementing a ten-year Strategy to improve the quality of Africa’s inclusive growth, and the transition to green growth. I was not sure whether I would participate in this course as I was heavily engaged with heading an energy corporation that acquired many hours of work in addition to COVID-19 lockdown in the Fasting Month of Ramadan. But I am more than pleased that I did. What distinguished this course is the fact that it brought together leading experts in economic development with practitioners from around the globe to focus on practical approaches to shared growth and development led by Professor Ricardo Hausmann and Professor Matt Andrews who themselves were involved in the economic growth of some countries aided by strident TAs answering all questions, queries and offering clarifications if needed.

 I must say that very powerful new tools were learned that will help and allow me to better chart the road ahead, identify the obstacles to prosperity in my growth challenge and define actions that can lead to economic growth, one of such approach is to focus on expanding my country’s set of productive capabilities and expressing them in a more diverse and complex set of products and services (utilizing the product space in the Atlas Lab). It also calls for me to rethink economic strategies and build bandwidth organizations that are capable of unlocking new prosperities.

These exposures in this course aided me to write a more thorough document. Ideas such as “inclusive growth” enriched my understanding more when dealing with it on the national & subnational level. I have witnessed its incredible results when I was leading a bilateral development corporation in Sri Lanka for over eight years by creating family self employment for thousands of families where they were included in our business activities.

I thought it would be better summarizing what I have learned from this course into the following points: 

  1. PDIA is an effective tool for solving complex growth problems especially in rough areas where there is complexity as the PDIA method builds capacity within an organization, as well as political involvements.
  2.  Diagnosing the problem is vital:  We usually tend to think of a solution-oriented approach rather than the real diagnostic of the problem and we often believe we know what the problem is (i.e., misappropriation) and we proceed to challenge it without diagnosing the problem and get down to its root causes which must be addressed before the problem can be tackled.  
  3. The binding constraint is indefinable: Comprehending the biding constraints can be sometimes a challenge and as important like the growth problem itself. Our claim to pretend we know and figure out the binding constraints instantaneously is a wrong judgement, we must dig into facts, figures and talk to all involved to reach a sound judgement bearing in mind that we are not always welcome to address binding constraints due to numerous factors including political pressures, corruption, generation gap …etc. 
  1. Inclusive growth is the strong growth: Definitely, there is a great deal to learn about the “sense of us” as its narrative seems key to any growth story and hence it is fair to say that it stands for All of us and not leaving any one behind; we take a look at how we use GDP as a measurement for growth and job creation in the job market, but yet we don’t look at the lives of other people especially the halve-nots. Also, inclusive growth should lead to deep reductions in poverty and a correspondingly large increase in jobs. Unlocking a country’s great potential. It brings prosperity by expanding the economic base across the barriers of age, gender and geography, investing in infrastructure that unlocks the potential of the private sector, championing gender equality and community participation. It will also help improve skills for competitiveness, ensuring that those skills better match the opportunities and requirements of local job markets. To be inclusive is to be “PARTNERS NOT UNDERPRIVILEGED OR WAGE WORKERS”.
  2. Green growth:  We ought to ensure that inclusive growth is sustainable, by helping a country gradually transition to “green growth” that will protect livelihoods, improve water, energy and food security, promote the sustainable use of natural habitants.
  3. Strong leadership is not the whole story about growth:  While a visionary and strong leader is vital around which people to rally, he alone can not lead and execute the whole growth strategy as they neither have the skills nor the expertise. I believe that game-changing growth requires leadership from multiple agents which is very different from the heroic leadership many believes is a key to success in great policy involvements. Tyrant leadership does not allow people to take the lead, express their ideas freely, and develop as leaders. We must realize that Leadership is risky and a good way to manage risk is to share it (risk mitigation); so, having multiple agents in our leadership group makes it possible to ensure that our initiative survives job movements and other challenges that individual leaders have. 
  4.  The invisible power is tied behind our back: the invisible power of the market is not operating the way it is supposed to as it seems to have been purposely sidelined in the interests of the few mentioned above. There is some thing wrong in the functioning system as we see it from the unequal distribution of growth but rather heavily concentrated in the hands of the few who have given a little back to the system that helped them build their own wealth.
  5.  One country’s approach is suitable for all: is possibly the most adverse thought and idea we usually adopt. Believing so, makes us not realizing our growth potential and preserves the existing state of affairs. The only way to properly tackle our growth problems is through our untiring efforts to do things differently (i.e., Singaporean & Sri Lankan cases, Albania).   It is like what we have seen in the case of Chiapas in Mexico as a sub-national case where best practice in one Mexican dominion was not easily replicated in others. But they can be useful as a guide and a marker against which to judge our progress and outcomes. 
  6. Planting more trees makes it easier for monkeys to jump: Being from Libya with an area of 1.8 million sq km, most of which is desert, it is apparent we don’t have many trees that you may use its shade to protect your self from the burning sun! Hence, we ought to plant more trees for the monkeys to jump. Utilizing the product space, there are diverse array of potential exports especially by the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and to attract investment agencies like the Privatization and Investment Board & the Foreign Export Agency. We ought to look at the other countries experience that built their capacity from the ashes and became one of the most prosperous leading economies of the world like Singapore.
  7.  Our world-wide economy is built on a feeble foundation: In my opinion that our worldwide economy is not built on solid but rather unsteady if not to say untidy foundations. This is clear from the economic system’s inability to resist the crises we face once in a while like what we have been going through during the COVID-19 current crisis. The gap of the Have & Have nots is growing as wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a few (half of the world’s net wealth belongs to the top 1%, top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth, top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth (Distribution of wealth-Wikipedia Bearing in mind that the world population increase definitely affects economic growth as well as productivity giving the fact that the economic veracities can not accommodate more billions of people.

How would use what I have learned:

As we are recovering from the pandemic of COVID-19 and approaching the end of the Fasting month of Ramadan, I will be heading to Libya to start my real journey of utilizing the PDIA approach to address some of the country’s growth problems in the relative sector. Actually, I have already discussed some of the learned approaches including PDIA and the inclusive growth with the ministry of economics & the Privatization and Investment Board and arranged a meeting with them. We will discuss and try to develop a plan of action that involves many agents within the government as well as in the other levels of the three regions in the country.

One of the biggest challenges we will face is the political interest groups who are aligned with the militias where both have their own interest in the continuation of the current turmoil in Libya. This is another important component of any economic growth I wish the next course would touch on more: “Economic Growth in countries coming out of a turmoil”.

The world I understand and believe in is that the majority is controlled by the minority (the few) politically and economically! Giant corporations of the top developed countries are controlling most of Africa’s natural wealth but yet the poorest of the poor we find them in Africa (people who don’t even have a clean water to drink and they celebrate when we dig water-well for them!) and the hundreds of thousands of African youths trying to migrate to Europe to have a better with their natural resources that have been stolen from their own countries! I may pose the following question that the next course could cover:

As we have seen in my view the shaky foundations of the economic system and that in every crisis economists try to amend some of the flaws by recommending new or additional scenarios or even change some theories while the gap between the have & the have-nots continue to increase; Do you think the world may see another popular economic revolt to counter the current system? Similar to the Bolshevik one or different!  By they there is a saying that goes like this “when economists fail to solve a problem, they create new terminologies to keep us busy with” 😊

In conclusion, in spite of have been working in sovereign funds and development areas around the world, I truly found this course incredibly valuable, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and appealing. I enjoyed the weekly lectures and I actually enjoyed my weekly assignments. I thoroughly enjoyed my Tuesday meetings with Peer Group 3; actually, we have agreed to keep in touch outside of this course. If given the opportunity, I would definitely take another course like this one.  My sincere thanks to All the profs, the staff, the TAs, the organizers and coordinators as well. Special thanks to TA-Awab for your time in reading, making valuable comments and grading my weekly submissions. I wish you the best of luck in your current and future endeavours.  HAPPY EID!

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.

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

Together for a better Business Climate in Morocco

Guest blog written by Thami El Maaroufi

By attending the IPP course with Harvard Kennedy School, my main objective was to learn how to improve our approach in designing, developing, and implementing a public policy efficiently, using high standards, the best practices, and innovations. 

Attending this course with peers from all over the world was also for me a great opportunity to learn from them about their experiences, challenges, success stories and failures in implementing public policy. Learning from participants was an interesting part of this journey. 

As the general coordinator of the national Committee for business environment in Morocco, and given my role and functions within this Committee, it is important for me to continuously develop my skills and knowledge; to be up to date on how to motivate and keep on board authorizers and stakeholders, to identify pain points and most importantly issues to address. It is also equally important for me to continuously learn how to effectively lead multidisciplinary teams, oversee the implementation of reforms, and ensure proper monitoring and performance evaluation. In this regard, the IPP course has been very useful for me and has enabled me to develop astute skills in addressing more effectively the design and implementation of public policies.

Our national Committee, chaired by the Head of Government, has ten years of experience in public-private dialogue to identify, on a regular basis, the main constraints faced by entrepreneurs and foreign investors in the country. The Committee is also seen as a delivery unit for the implementation of cross-department’s reforms.

Due to the successful implementation of multiple reforms, Morocco has improved its ranking in the Doing Business report published by the World Bank Group, moving from the 128th position in 2010 to the 53rd position in 2020.

But beyond this international ranking, the Kingdom needs to create a more conducive environment with less constraints and difficulties for firms to enter markets, create wealth, grow and export.  

I was confident that this course would provide me with more skills, tools, and tactics to successfully contribute to one of the most important projects we are currently working on in our country, namely the design and implementation of the national strategy to improve the business environment. 

Continue reading Together for a better Business Climate in Morocco

Jumping the Wall

Guest blog written by Mohamed Hejres

I applied for this course as I was seeking clarity on best practice and innovation that would support my organization. The issue that I had identified was the methods that the Bahrain government adopted towards addressing, designing, advocating and implementing public policy initiatives. I was seeking ways that my organization, the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB), could be an effective part of the government process.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board became an advisory body (exclusive to the government), to support policy advocacy and policy implementation. This came after a major restructuring of the government. However, I found that our role could be more efficient.

I felt that we, BEDB, require adding value, as I saw a standard approach towards any policy. This is done through a single project manager, where he/she would request for a benchmarking activity with issue in hand. No innovation nor engagement processes, which is commonly used internationally.

I saw an opportunity in this course. Little did I know that this was going to be a life changing experience. I felt excited once I was accepted into the program. The excitement had no limit, but I was concerned about whether this course would really benefit my hunger to bring some more effective methods to how we, in Bahrain government, deal with policy development and/or policy change.

The method of which the course started had enabled me to start with enthusiasm, especially the course material and videos which we had before the start of the course in Boston.

Also, it will be unfair to limit learnings of this course to few. I would start with the main word that attracted me to this experience, “iterative adaptation”. I have been practicing policy development and change, where I had understood some part of the Iterative Adaptation; however, this has enabled me to have a clear path towards employing it and involving teams in such an approach. My colleagues in this course were amazing, they shared all their views and many success, and many times, failures as well. This was an amazing experience and learning curve for me. Continue reading Jumping the Wall