Increasing the dynamism of the implementation of French public policies

Guest blog written by Kanan Dubal, Jess Redmond, Ankita Panda, Arba Murati

No amount of information or research can and did prepare us for the intensity and unlearning that the Problem Driven Iterative Approach (PDIA) process demands. Theoretically, we knew what the PDIA process was, but the course facilitated an opportunity to learn, implement and receive constant feedback on the application of PDIA to a real policy case.

PDIA provides a blueprint to follow, but it’s not that straightforward. Each time we thought we had defined the problem and then deconstructed it, a new conversation or reading would spark a new idea, and new way of thinking about the problem leading to many versions of a problem definition. The deconstruction of the problem using the ‘fishbone’ approach helped us dive deeper into the problem whilst breaking a big issue down into smaller problems.

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Can PDIA become a regular part of how a government works?

Guest blog written by Peter Harrington

Recently I have been engaging with a government in a middle-income country which is using PDIA methods to tackle some of their thorniest public problems. As one would expect there have been successes and failures, and lots of learning. But in addition to this, leaders in the government want to ‘embed’ PDIA permanently into the way their government works. This raises some interesting questions for PDIA – can the methodology be institutionalised as part of the way a government works? If so, what does this look like? And what is required to make that successful and sustainable?

The government has decided that it wants to embrace more innovative methods of getting things done, and governments through the ages have had similar ambitions. There has been a recognition that existing ways of working leave some problems unsolved, and a good place to start is to understand why this might be.

Governments by their nature function in routines. These are established pathways which, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the government’s capability, serve a range of functions in maintaining the operations of the state. These functions are well established but can also change, adapting to new conditions and new social or economic needs through shifts in policy, legislation, new services and new ways of working. As such governments can be understood as complex adaptive eco-systems which are themselves embedded in and interacting with a larger complex adaptive system: wider society.

As functioning (or dysfunctioning) systems, governments get an awful lot of things done. To borrow an analogy used by Matt Andrews, the amount of coordination it takes to make a streetlight switch on at a specific time each day is actually quite extraordinary. But as systems whose configuration is a response to and reflection of their societal context, governments are by their nature unable to solve every problem through their regular operation. Some problems are complex, and/or emergent, and require different types of know-how to solve. Some of these problems may arise directly because the machine of the state is configured in such a way as to neglect, exacerbate or even cause that particular issue. Think of a robot vacuum cleaner: they are pretty smart these days, programmed to trundle around your house hoovering the floor space and capturing a lot of dirt. When it’s done the floor looks pretty clean, but anyone with a Roomba knows that it can’t catch dirt gathering in the hard to reach corners, and it may have even pushed extra dirt into some of those corners. Getting into those nooks and crannies requires something different – probably a human, using a different tool.

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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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Public space usage in Bratislava

Guest blog by Lenka Galetova

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.

My journey in the Implementing Public Policy course has been full of changes, surprises and overcoming expectations. In the beginning, there was a nice announcement of by my chief – the mayor of the city of Bratislava, that he selected me as the member of his team to take part in this exciting online course led by Harvard teachers. I felt his high expectations and I imagined that by the end of the course there will be some great innovative fancy policy product which I will create with the help of the course. I was focused on the output of it.

Throughout the course I found that it is the process and a way of thinking which I am going to learn and get familiar with. And it was even better than I had imagined. Some of the learned elements could seem obvious to you – that you should think of your feelings, points of view and the feelings and points of view of your team members and colleagues. But frankly – how often do we really take into account all these “obvious” important elements? And how often we do neglect the stance of our colleagues in order to assure that the delivery of the solution will be swift, quick and straightforward. Or even more common fault – how often do we tend to start the project and deal with the policy challenge with the ready solutions for the problem? Have you ever considered that even your perception of the problem itself could be not the best one or could be even incorrect?

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Embracing discomfort and finding a path forward

Guest blog by Diana C. Tello Medina

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 must confess that I knew a little bit about what to expect when I joined the IPP course. I had the opportunity to take another Harvard course, co-chaired by Matt, and he teased me. The more I learned about this new methodology, the more I wanted to know how it worked, how it has worked in different contexts, what the secrets were, and how could I implement it.

I honestly didn’t know what I was about to go through. I love wake-up calls, I love getting out of my comfort zone. I always say that I feel uncomfortable when it starts feeling comfortable. And this course was exactly that: a methodology on how to never get comfortable. A methodology on how to dig deeper into the root causes of problems, knowing that those answers could take you into many directions. Into directions where you, your authorizers, your colleagues, the people you care about, may not want to go. Into directions where you WILL have to disappoint someone. Always. But you know it’s your duty, because you care, because that’s what you signed up for when you decided to care, because turning around is comfortable, and you don’t like that.

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Building resilience into U.S. government functions

Guest blog by Adam Harrison

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.

IPP Learning Journey: Learning in the Age of Pandemic

In early 2020, I was lucky enough to be selected into the Harvard Kennedy School’s executive education class, “Implementing Public Policy (IPP).” I was thrilled that my supervisors at work had shown the confidence in me and interest in my development to make this opportunity available. Even more, I was excited to spend a week in Cambridge with a diverse group of professionals from across the country and the world. The experience would be enriching . . . and a few good meals in Boston’s North End would be pretty nice, too. 

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Lacking stakeholder engagement in policy-making process in Turkey

Guest blog by Emir Gelen

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.

IPP Program Journey: Empathizing with peers from public sector

As a young public policy professional having seen and worked both in government and private sectors a little more than 10 years of experience, I have been always aware of the importance of self-development. The COVID-19 period has changed the way of doing business, social interactions as well as corporate cultures and even the running of bureaucracy. Besides the heartbroken outcomes and drastic impacts of the pandemic process, I believe that the “new normals” of our daily lives have provided us a new opportunity of using our time more efficiently. The company I am working for has a principle called “Learn and Be Curious” which tells us that leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. I am a person with high curiosity about new possibilities, so this is how I decided to enroll in Harvard Kennedy School’s Implementing Public Policy Executive Education program.

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Managing Public Finances for the Future

Written by Matt Andrews

I have been part of a creative team teaching an executive course on public finance for over a decade. This team has spent lots of time discussing the changes we have all experienced in the world in recent decades, and what the main objectives of public finance might be now—in what is an ever-changing world.

Out of this discussion, I propose what I call the Pillars of Public Finance Performance in Our Changing World—the objectives we should be paying attention to when determining how well our public finance systems are working:

  1. How does the system impact equity?
  2. How does it foster fiscal sustainability?
  3. What about the way our public finances impact environmental sustainability?
  4. Do we have a high level of effectiveness in the system?
  5. Do we foster inclusion in the processes and products of our public finance system?
  6. How is our public finance system impacting innovation and growth?
  7. You add yours…
  8. Does our system promote accountability, of politicians to citizens, and bureaucrats to politicians and citizens, and current citizens to each other and future generations?
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