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 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.
This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in July 2020. These are their learning journey stories.
2020 will surely be the unforgettable year for all the people around the globe. Everything has been required to be changed. Everybody has been stopped to rethink the course of life and work.
In May 2020, the first ever Leading Economic Growth (LEG) Online was launched. The timing was perfect. Everybody was gradually adjusted to new-normal lifestyle. Online meeting became common. What is more, everybody seek opportunity for being equipped for next step towards post-COVID era.
It should have been an experimental course for Harvard Kennedy School too, but it turned out to be a huge success. More than 200 students from 70 countries joined at maximum, and kept on actively enjoying and engaging with live lessons, group works and reading/writing assignments every week (though it was tough, actually).
My Struggle: Am I trapped in status-quo?
I have been working in Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for 7 years. JICA is bilateral development agency, which provides ODA towards more than 180 countries with more than 90 overseas offices.
Since 2017, I have been assigned to JICA Myanmar Office and responsible for Electricity Sector Development. With total 1.2 billion USD Loan portfolio, we provide supports to Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) on developing electricity infrastructure for Generation, Transmission and Distribution together with capacity building programs for electricity development planning and engineering.
Due to COVID-19, all the operations were required to be reconsidered. But even before COVID-19, I had been struggling as one development officer. The core question was “Is our cooperation effective enough to bring real change?”
The energy sector in Honduras has a history of inefficiency. Financial and energy losses have festered for decades. Various reforms and interventions (often supported by external agents, like this World Bank project) have not solved the problem.
In November 2018 a new unit in the President’s Office helped to mobilize a team of officials to take a fresh look at the problem and address it using the PDIA method—where the focus is on working relentlessly to understand the problem in new ways and to then tackle the problem in a pragmatic, step-by-step manner.
The team initially identified that their problem was to come up with a rapid strategy to liberalize the nation’s energy company. This was largely because an externally inspired law had set the country on a path towards liberalization years ago and officials were wanting to make progress on this path. They believed that the liberalization solution in other countries would solve the problems in Honduras.