Unsustainable civil service expenditure in Fiji

Guest blog written by Susan Kiran


I never imagined I would have the privilege of enrolling in a course from the Harvard University even though I had always harbored the dream of going to Harvard. When the IPP online opportunity was offered, I grabbed it instantaneously and I did not regret any single moment of having to wake up for the group sessions and the Q&A sessions, the weekly assignments and later the fortnightly assignments. It was not easy juggling a full-time job with its many demands, and being a mom to two girls, but it was a worthwhile journey of understanding how to implement policy solutions for complex problems especially in the public sector.

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Reducing plastic pollution into the oceans before it is too late

Guest blog written by Yiming Dong, Nada ElSehemy, Daiana F. Molero, Pedro Ossa, Ena Solorzano 

It was the beginning of the Spring semester. One Monday in late January was our first class of PDIA in action. That day we knew that for the next seven weeks we would be working on a completely unfamiliar topic: municipal solid waste management in China. Moreover, our team was unknown to us. We would have to learn a complex topic from scratch while forging a working bond with new colleagues in that short time.  

“Don’t worry, trust the process, don’t get ahead of yourself. Step by step, you’ll get there.” We heard that advice in class and read it on the feedback of deliverables. However, we had a hard time believing it was true. Finally -spoiler alert- the day of our final presentation arrived, and we could deliver. The process had worked. 

We learned about the circular economy, plastic polluting the ocean, and waste management strategies. But, most importantly, we experienced firsthand ways to make teamwork and solving complex problems easier.  

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Becoming an active participant in your learning journey

Guest blog by Andrew McIntyre

Although a journey starts with a beginning and an end, it is the actual experiences that occur between those two points that are the most important. In this current period of COVID the experiences, while less hands-on, can be more intense and thought-provoking due to the time for reflection and the focus on alternate communication stimuli. Such was the case with the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education course that I recently undertook at Harvard Kennedy School. Beginning the course, I had the normal expectations of learning new skills, tools and interacting with people from all over the world to learn about how I could better implement my current projects. Little did I expect that the online learning, while delivering these expectations, also allowed me to be both the object and subject of active learning approach to exploring improved leadership and a participant observer of effective online interactions and perspectives. The progress of the course itself, mimicked the very tools that it shared, all of which seek to improve public policy in development situations.

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Supporting women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Guest blog by Renata Rubian

  1. What are some key ideas/learnings that you will take away from this course?

I have truly enjoyed my experience with the Harvard Leading Economic Growth course. It is a pleasure to experience the dynamics between the brilliant duo – Prof. Ricardo Hausmann and Prof. Matt Andrews – given their approaches and explanations are complementary. Some of my key take away include:

(i) Understanding inequality as a significant cost and impediment to sustainable economic growth, which elevates the need to think about how to generate shared prosperity and growth that is inclusive by looking at multidimensional aspects of inequality. These include disparity on income, inequalities because of gender, geography (spatiality), digital divide, inequalities of capabilities (capacities differ among individuals, institutions, societies), etc.

(ii) The need to understand a problem before attempting to think of a solution. Understanding that a complex problem can be broken in bite sizes, but the nature of the problem also evolves, and it is important that understanding a problem is an iterative process (that also adapts and evolves). The dynamic nature of a development problem is important to highlight. Once a constraint/bottleneck is removed, another constraint starts to become more binding and so forth. By identifying the binding constraints, prioritizing and sequencing them – this process makes it more feasible for countries to tackle complex situations.

(iii) The role of public investments to facilitate transformational shifts, including the need for a high bandwidth organization that is capable to facilitate connections and information across sectors/knowledge areas etc.  

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Breaking down an insurmountable challenge

Guest blog by Gonzalo Pizarro

I joined the Leading Economic Growth (LEG) executive education course along with two colleagues from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a growth challenge which seemed clear yet insurmountable: Providing the city of Kabul, in Afghanistan with an economic growth strategy after the government collapse, deterioration of security, massive exodus of people, and freezing of international aid, which represented 43% of GDP in 2019.

“Lack of political will across the board to negotiate a solution” – and – “nothing can be done until the security situation improves” were the two tenets that were a given entering the course.

During the 10 weeks of the LEG course, my approach to solving the problem radically changed. First, I was asked to define the problem. My first definition was objected to, as it contained a solution in it. I had to keep iterating the definition of the problem for several weeks, up until the growth problem was exactly that, a growth problem.

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Improving economic complexity and diversity in Afghanistan

Guest blog by Rishi Chakraborty

There are several key learnings that I will take away from this course. The first key learning for me was the novel way of thinking about development from the perspective of economic complexity and diversity, especially in terms of production/exports through the analogy of the forest with “branches”, “peripheries”, and “central clusters” of the Product Space. In all of my years of having studied economics at the BA and MA levels, this analogy of a forest and “monkeys” in the Product Space has been the most intuitive that I have encountered to date to describe a country’s economic growth challenges, and its simplicity and ingenuity will ensure that I will remember this concept for the rest of my life. Indeed, I am incredibly grateful that Professor Hausmann, Professor Matt Andrews, and the entire team at HKS LEG has shared this concept with us! 

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Examining the commercial viability of a ‘Mega Food Park’ in India using PDIA

Guest blog by Ajay Chaudhry

To be honest when I joined the IPP online, it was purely an experiment in COVID days. The idea was to engage myself more constructively and to gain knowledge. I searched upon many courses and finally zeroed in on this. Learning through ‘Implementing Public Policy’ at HKS has been an amazing experience.  I got new insights on the work I had been doing for last two decades. There were successes and failures, highs and lows during the journey of a long career. The course content at IPP at HKS brought back the whole journey and gave me a chance not only to learn new ways and means to tackle and implement public policy but also enabled me to analyze the work done in the last two decades of my career in the light of PDIA. I can vividly recount all those stories of success and failure where the elements of PDIA were present and where they were missing. It is remarkable to find that long lasting success was achieved whenever I was closer to the principles and tools explained in PDIA. Although I was not aware of this beautifully carved out project implementing approach which amalgamates the principles of management, psychology, history and other relevant disciplines. Motivation, morale, and leadership concepts revealed to me fresh dimensions which were hitherto unknown to me.

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When well formulated policies meet implementation roadblocks in Bangladesh and Vietnam

Guest blog by Sehyeon Baek

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

I have been working in the private sector as well as the public sector back and forth for quite some time. In 2015, I was recruited by one of the Korean government agencies for the innovation and startups support. At the end of December 2017, I resigned from the agency although I was fully employed until I would retire at 60. In 2018, I joined one startup as COO and successfully led the investment raising, $21M, for the startup from Japan and Hong Kong. In 2019, I was recruited by the current organization with 21 member countries again. And I have seen so many great policies and masterplans to be formulated, and yet, when it came to implementing them, it did not seem to move forward at all.

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The survival of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in India using PDIA

Guest blog by Tapasya Obhrai Nair

The journey through the IPP course has been like the pilgrims’ progress. Every stop has given some insight and revelation and shown the path to the next stop or destination. I signed up for this course to learn from other practitioners of public policy about their experiences and the alternative ways of approaching problems. I felt that the course would equip me with new tools and methodologies to better understand issues and to find ways of addressing them. It has been more than a satisfying experience for me in this respect.

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Complexities of multiple stakeholders in developing hydroelectricity in Pakistan

Guest blog by Masood Ul Mulk

I lead a public service organization (nonprofit) working in the northwest border regions of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, known for its turbulence, delivering development and humanitarian aid. The government presence is thin on the ground and service delivery in the region remains poor. Government policies change rapidly, as individuals and personalities change in government. Institutional culture is weak in the area and policy and implementation revolve around networks and social relationships. Conflict, space allowed to public service organisations, turf issues between civilian and military authorities, conservative culture, tribal values, sectarian divides, all add up to the uncertainty and complexity of working in the region. As practitioners we face the conflicting challenge of, on one hand meeting the needs of the poor and vulnerable communities in an uncertain and complex environment; while on the other hand satisfying policy makers and donors, who because of their training and accountability requirements design policy solutions which are rigid and linear to address these problems with little success.  For us the challenge is explaining to them the complex situation on the ground and the need for an iterative, adaptive and learning approach to address the complexity.  Reading about PDIA, had convinced me that exposure to the course on implementing public policy at Harvard will help me better understand where the policy makers and donors are coming from, and how I should be convincing them to adopt a radically different solution to the intractable problems on the ground which was based on responsiveness, iteration and learning. I also know that if I, a practitioner on the border regions of Pakistan, say this it will carry very little weight, but if I have the Kennedy School to back me up it will be a different proposition altogether. In this sense the course was of immense help to me and to my organization. It clarified concepts and gave me the tools to address such issues in a better way.

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