Examining options for food and drug supply safety in the U.S. in response to pandemic restrictions

Guest blog by Laura Draski

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.

When I first applied to be part of the Implementing Public Policy cohort, I expected to learn much about various techniques, tools and theories used in implementing policy. About the nuts and bolts of how to design and create policy that can be implemented. About how to manage a process of complex and intersecting implementation. I would graduate with a toolkit to pull out of my belt and a formula complete with a calculator to plug in my variables and expected outcomes of measured success. Indeed, the Harvard Kennedy School Playbook for Implementing Policy.

And I did learn tangible tools and some phenomenal ideologies and guiding principles. Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) is now part of how I see and respond to the world. I talk about teaming, snowflake models and trust triangles as if they’re a normal part of dinner conversation. I pride myself in being able to construct a mean and comprehensive Fishbone Diagram. And, truly, these are all helpful skills and knowledge to draw upon when considering complex policy problems.

But what I didn’t expect to learn in this course was about leadership and how much your own leadership skills can influence not only a successful policy outcome, but the leadership ability and success of others. About the importance of building relationships (and it’s all about the relationships), and about learning from and influencing others. I was struck by the model of multi-agent leadership where risk is shared and where true leaders acknowledge that complex problems can only be solved when you mobilize and provide opportunity for others to exert their leadership.

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Examining economic inequity in King County, Washington

Guest blog by Allison Ashton

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.

Growth challenge: My growth challenge is regional economic inequity. The reason it matters is because BIPOC communities, women, and workers with lower levels of educational attainment in King County are experiencing increasing barriers to opportunity that inhibit their success and potential to contribute to and benefit from our tremendous regional economic success.

Country/region/municipality: King County, WA, USA

King County, Washington, is currently experiencing simultaneous crises in public health, the economy, and social justice. The ripple effects of these crises are likely to last many years into the future and change our society forever. While challenging, these crises are giving us once-in-a-century opportunities to build back better and avoid the mistakes we’ve made coming out of previous recessions, which have exacerbated inequities.

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Improving Food Safety Standards in Ukraine

Guest blog by Kateryna Onul

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 COVID-19 crisis has coincided with reform within my organization and an urgent need to find new approaches to working with the public sector in different parts of the world. I was looking for tools that could help me continue working on improving policy and regulatory frameworks in the food safety sector despite the turbulence of the environment in all dimensions. 

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, it became clear that as economic ties changed and new political forces and scientific paradigms emerged, the need for new approaches to the development and implementation of public policies became acute. The COVID-19 crisis has become a catalyst that clearly shows areas where traditional approaches to implementing public policies are no longer efficient. I have read many times in various sources about the PDIA approach, which made it possible to find solutions to problems in the political dimension when there are many unknowns and uncertainties. I understood that completing the IPP Course would give me the opportunity to study PDIA both in theory and practice. Unfortunately, due to the intensive work schedule, I did not have the opportunity to leave for six months and immerse myself in student life. I took the opportunity to take the IPP Harvard Program Online as great luck that I did not miss.

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Creating Space for Better Post-Covid Public Policy Spending

written by Matt Andrews

Governments across the world are struggling with the many policy challenges wrought by Covid-19. While this pandemic is not yet over, many are already thinking about the recovery to come. Governments will undoubtedly be needed in this recovery process, helping people get back to normal or charting new paths to better normals—what some call ‘building back better’. 

I fear that governments are set to fail in their efforts to provide such help, however, because of limits to the budgetary and policy prioritization space needed to address post-Covid needs.

Will we have enough money to build back better?

Covid-19 hit the world at a time when many public finance experts were already commenting on the large role governments have turned out playing in their economies. Government spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was at historical highs in many countries prior to the pandemic given decades of growth in budgets across the world.  Consider the following graph and examples of such growth in countries as varied as South Korea, India, South Africa, the USA, Spain and Italy.

Figure: Government spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product, various countries, 1850-2020  

Source: Our World in Data and the IMF data mapper

These budgets continued expanding in response to Covid-19, fostering record debt levels across the globe. A Brookings paper written last year notes, for instance, that “In 2020, global government debt increased by 13 percentage points of GDP to a new record of 97 percent of GDP. In advanced economies, it was up by 16 percentage points to 120 percent of GDP and, in EMDEs [emerging markets and developing economies], by 9 percentage points to 63 percent of GDP.” 

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Resiliency amidst adversity: Applying PDIA in the Philippines

Guest blog by Florida P. Robes

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.

Enrolling in Harvard Executive Education, specifically availing the “Implementing Public Policy Online” certificate course is one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life for three main reasons. First, it made me strong amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, being able to virtually interact with like-minded people interested in public policy has been a solid emotional support system. Second, I have learned how to utilize the Problem Driven Iterative Approach (PDIA), which has my holy grail as a legislator. Third, I find the 4P’s leadership model as a very useful tool to analyzing public policy, which I am currently applying to convince stakeholders to lobby for my “Government Pre-Audit Act of 2020”.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought extreme mental and emotional stress to me as an incumbent elected leader. The Philippines has been responding poorly to the pandemic, with poor rates of mass testing and a totally unprepared health care system. Taking this course made refocus on the things that matter most, and that is to understand the problem and take baby steps to solve it, through PDIA. I am blessed to have a virtual support from Harvard Executive Education and my peers in the class, sharing their personal experiences and opinions on the content of the course.

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“Knowledge can be global, but solutions must be local” lessons from my conversation with Dzingai Mutumbuka

Written by Marla Spivack

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to sit down for an in-depth conversation with Dr. Dzingai Mutumbuka, the first Minister of education of Zimbabwe after its independence, a global education leader and (to our great fortune) the chair of the RISE Delivery Board. 

I had already been fortunate enough to benefit from Dr. Mutumbuka’s insights on the global education architecture, through conversations he’d led with the Board. I also knew his thoughts on the most pressing challenge facing education systems today: the prolonged school closures due to COVID-19 and the risks they posed to further exacerbate the learning crisis. But this was the first time I had a chance to ask Dr. Mutumbuka about his experience as an education leader. Our conversation, which was recorded and is available as the first episode in RISE’s new podcast, touched on a range of issues education leaders face: navigating complex political challenges; setting and sticking to clear priorities; building effective, equal partnerships with donors; and leveraging global knowledge to develop local solutions. 

Negotiating complicated politics

We started our conversation with Dr. Mutumbuka’s reflections on leading the new ministry  of education in the newly independent, post conflict Zimbabwe. Black parents, whose children had been excluded from quality education for decades under the apartheid government demanded a swift move towards equity, integration, and inclusion, but at the same time white parents feared that integration would erode the quality of the children’s education. 

Dr. Mutumbuka knew that negotiating these complicated issues would require consultation and coalition building. He started his tenure by meeting with all relevant stakeholders, white parents, black parents, teachers, trade groups, industrial groups. 

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Food security in Burien, WA during COVID-19 pandemic

Guest blog by Kevin Schilling

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.

COVID spread within three months of my first term on Burien City Council.  When I ran for the office a few months prior to that, my expectations for policies to implement focused primarily on improving coordination between our city’s robust social service providers and the city’s administrative capabilities.  However, these priorities quickly changed with the financial and logistical impacts of COVID on our city operations, business operations, and educational offerings.  I knew I needed to turn to an opportunity to expand my implementation skills to harness the power of municipal government to fill the gaps of service provided by non-profits and churches.  Municipal governance no longer only required a perpetuation and continuation of budget changes and code adjustments, we now needed to recognize and adapt our priorities to an ever-changing global environment reacting to a public health crisis intersecting a racial justice crisis as well as economic recessions.  Through the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education program in implementing public policy, I expected the opportunity to learn and grow my skills in understanding how to do just that. 

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How Benin can lead post-COVID economic recovery

Guest blog by Thierno Olory-Togbe

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.

As a Principal Legal Counsel at the African Legal Support Facility, I have the opportunity to advise African governments facing inadequate capacities in strategic sectors such as sovereign debt, infrastructure and natural resources.  Despite the increased efforts of African governments in improving public sector efficiency, the optimization of benefits from the exploitation of natural resources and economic diversification remain critical to reduce poverty on the continent.

The current COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant global economic and financial crisis have led to major disruptions for African governments in the achievement of their development objectives. This challenge requires practical problem-solving approaches. Hence, my participation to Harvard Kennedy School’s executive course on “Leading Economic growth” was an opportunity to better understand how this could be done from a very practical perspective. It was an opportunity to learn how to use appropriate diagnosis, decision-making and implementation tools.

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Impact of COVID-19 on Benin Republic’s Economy

Guest blog by Aadam Soulebon

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 expectations:

When I was offered to sign up for the online version of this program, at first glance, I had concerns. This was my very first HKS course. Indeed, I was afraid that the resulting interaction would not add a substantial value to me besides the class materials. I was looking for something to solidify my competence in the field of public policies as a practitioner but also the HARVARD experience, the interaction with teachers but also the richness of exchanges with classmates.

Guess what: I’ve had a lot more than I can put into words …

Working as Special Assistant to the Senior Minister of Planning and Development of Benin Republic, the highest-ranking Minister, public policies are in our core business. We oversee the implementation of all public policies launched by the government. In most cases, we conceive, we mobilize resources and we monitor while the sectoral ministries are in charge of implementation. As we are reaching the end of this course, I am going back to my normal  life with technical tools, experience sharing,  and a network to rely on through the years. I am more confident in my job and am able to come up with options and solutions instead of questions while dealing with public policies.

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