Dissecting challenges, mapping entry points & building teams: My IPP learnings

Guest blog by Laney Stone

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.

This has been an interesting year, to say the least, and when it became clear that I would need to stay at home for some time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I considered how I might use my time in a constructive way. I was excited to see that the HKS 2020 course on Implementing Public Policy (IPP) had been moved online for accessibility during the pandemic. I quickly applied, hoping to gain insights into how best to design and implement public policies and what pitfalls should be avoided, but was not sure what exactly to expect from six months of Harvard via Zoom and Canvas. I was pleasantly surprised by how much we covered and worked through every week, and by the depth of interpersonal, leadership, and management strategies that we explored. Our Zoom sessions were not so different from in-person sessions, and six months of engagement let us put our learning into practice and exchange ideas on a consistent basis. 

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HIV: Patient Safety and Infection Prevention in India

Guest blog by Vijay Yeldandi 

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.

Why IPP? Honestly because I needed a navigator! After 25 years of doing public health work in India focusing on HIV Infection Prevention, I realized that not everything I did was a resounding success. While some projects were gratifying, in retrospect there were many hard lessons to learn and much heartburn to endure. Many of my friends and colleagues would remark “Oh there goes Vijay again….. where angels fear to tread…. Yes, it is true I have always been an unapologetically optimistic (hopelessly romantic) Gandhian revolutionary going about trying to make the whole world a better place. My anthem is John Lennon’s IMAGINE https://youtu.be/SfGuTigICo8

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Implementing online services in Manila, Philippines

Guest blog by Chris Tenorio

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.

A simple communication via email dated June 4, 2020 from Prof. Matt Andrews inviting me to be part of the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Program made me think if whether or not this program would further improve my way of governance in public office and enhance my knowledge on managing public challenge even though I already had an overview about Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) as discussed by Prof. Matt in his book Building State Capability and in the previous program, Leading Economic Growth. Such email, which clearly explained the overview of the program and brief enumeration of tools that can be used in exploring several frameworks of implementation, convinced me to be part of the cohort for six (6) months.

As Prof. Matt introduced the program, he asked us to identify the public policy challenge in our own organization or office that we would want to devote our dedication and commitment during the duration of the program and utilizing PDIA principles and processes in addressing the identified challenge. I decided to work on the implementation of online services which can be implemented by our office—the Manila Civil Registry Office.

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Promoting agricultural sector products to diversify the economy in Mongolia

Guest blog by Batjargal Khandjav

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.

The Leading Economic Growth Program has been an absolutely inspiring intellectual journey for me during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. It was a unique opportunity to reflect on key principles of economic growth while using toolset to better understand the unfolding of policy choices and drivers of economic growth for my own country. The breadth of the information and cases from around the world brought by the course and participants helped me to confront ideas and challenge existing ones. The weekly assignments that relied on information obtained during the weeks are very engaging and the comments provided by the grader helped me to stay focused and better adapt ideas and principles taught during the course, in a concrete circumstance of my country.

Each of the modules of the LEG Program offered ideas and learnings that gave new and interesting perspectives and helped me to assess the main problems and obstacles for the economic development of Mongolia, look for the roots of these problems, analyze possible solutions to these barriers.

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Troubled Waters Under the Bridge: Time for Inclusive Growth in Equatorial Guinea

Guest blog by Cesar Augusto Mba Abogo

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.

Equatorial Guinea (EG) is a little known country. In fact, Wikipedia in its entry on the country warns not to confuse it with Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau. In the period between the month of April 2019 and the month of October 2020, I had the honor of serving as Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning in probably the darkest economic downturn the country has known since the mid-nineties of the twentieth century when it became a producer and exporter of hydrocarbons. At the end of 2019, the country was beginning to emerge from the recession into which it had fallen in mid-2014, we had closed a comprehensive agreement with the IMF that included the traditional macrofiscal stabilization component but also a commitment to strengthen fiscal governance, fight corruption, allocate greater resources to social sectors, stabilize the banking sector and boost diversification of sources of economic growth… and then the health and financial pandemic of COVID19 crashed down on Equatorial Guinea.

But before I go into detail about the most relevant learnings, in my humble opinion, of HKS´s Leading Economic Growth course and how it has changed my understanding of the challenge of inclusive growth facing my country, let’s talk a little about this my unknown country.

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How I became a believer in the PDIA process

Guest blog by Linda Chasey

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 thought that I would learn some new tools that would refine what I was currently doing with solving problems and implementing policy when I first started the IPP course. Perhaps learn the best practices or would be told what to do in different situations. I am known for getting things done and have never been afraid to tackle complex challenges nor learn as I go. I am not afraid of change and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve process and procedures so I did not think that I would struggle with trying to solve problems using this new PDIA concept, boy was I wrong.

I was a few months into the course and had built my fishbone, developed a workgroup, and started talking about what we were going to do. One of the homework sessions I had submitted a new fishbone and stated I was changing my problem statement and was now going to do this more focused problem. The staff responded to my homework and was very nice but really told me that I needed to trust in the PDIA process and try it again.

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Urban Development in Argentina: How IPP helped me achieve my goal

Guest blog by Catalina Palacio

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.

This is the story of an inspiring journey.

Everybody is working hard around the world looking for increasing their wellbeing, which in turn affects the improvement of the quality of life of others. Everybody plays a determinant role to make lives better, even more, when people share the public policies sphere due to it is the core of the society’s balance. In this regard IPP journey has turned into the most significant experience which gives all the participants extraordinary tools to be better practitioners, better people and better leaders around the world.

My entire working experience has been with public sector in different countries where I have noticed such similar situations: unsolved problems, a lot of effort with unsatisfactory results from some practitioners, lack of ownership from some staff and so on, as a result, the social, economic, and environmental dimensions are increasingly unbalanced. In this context, I decided to course the IPP journey hoping to get meaningful technical tools to add value to my professional skills to make the difference when facing the less desirable public policy arena conditions. No matter how high my expectations were, definitely this course has exceeded them. Not only gave me valuable technical information regarding a better understand of the current situation and how to deal with to be more effective, but also taught me the importance of the human aspects, how to be aware of myself as a person facing complex problems and how to build teams, encourage and support its members as people as well as a practitioners.

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Honoring the memory of a lost child: A father’s inspirational pursuit of policy change

Guest blog by Anjan Chimaladinne

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.

On August 13, 2016, my 16-year-old son passed away unexpectedly and suddenly. My wife and I have established scholarships in his name at his high school and the college he was planning on attending. For the 4 past years we rendered help to several other social causes. In the United States, suicide was the second leading cause of death for persons aged 10–24 from 2000-2017 and mental health is leading contributor for suicides. This issue has been bothering us for the past 4 years and we wanted to help and did not know how to. The Covid-19 and work from home situation opened time and helped me find and enroll in the Implementing Public Policy course. My initial expectation of this course was, it would certainly help me do something in honor of my son, Anshul, and save at least few lives.

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Friendship, Energy, Innovation and Community: The Heart of the IPP Community and Fuel for Good

Guest blog written by Isabel Fontoura, Nadia Islam, Bandi Mbubi, Doran Moreland

What makes people not run away from but run towards challenges to get things done when facing complex policy problems? Although any sole answer is unlikely to cover all of the nuances of the question we pose to you at the start of our final post as your IPP Community of Practice (CoP) moderators, we do have a hint that is at the core of our community: seeing others move in the same direction. As a group, we believe that failing is ok and failing forward is even better; that taking risks is scary but can be truly rewarding; and, most importantly, that having a trust circle to share the successes and navigate the bumps of policy implementation, is what will ultimately enable innovation. It is also what will offer the extra boost one needs to do great things.

Such drive to deliver great work is especially needed in our world right now, as countries and communities battle the health and economic challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. But, if we are to build back better effectively and not only in rhetoric, this will have to be done by people. By you. That’s why the chance to read the blog posts of community members that were published during the semester and share information about them in our weekly announcements was a high point of this role for the four of us. It confirms that the IPP cohorts of 2019 and 2020 have come together as one, with a strong, collective voice and ready to fuel change in complex environments, inspiring others all around the globe to do so as well. 

This brings us to an African proverb we find an excellent fit for who we are as an IPP community: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. As moderators, we found new friends in our personal development and continuous learning in the first semester of 2021, and we have had a chance to know more about colleagues that were new to us. We were also excited to facilitate monthly sessions in which our collective learning (about ourselves, others, and public policy tools) grew stronger, including sessions with Rob Wilkinson and Monica Higgins that allowed the community to be updated on their latest research in the field. Other sessions focused on the self-care of community members and discussions about the next steps in our PDIA journeys after the program.

In between moderator engagements to prepare these events and idea exchanges ahead of our announcements, we can assure you: being a CoP moderator was truly fun, and for that, we are also grateful. At the start, despite Salimah Samji and Anisha Poobalan´s kind words of wisdom, support, and superb planning skills, we were nowhere close to knowing exactly what we would do: we would brainstorm ideas about how to host events for days or have pretty herculean reflections on what size the announcements should be. But having a cultural and professional melting pot between us – nationals from the United States, Brazil, Congo, and Bangladesh with different career stories – confirmed that letting go of pre-ordered templates is a way to heaven and opens the door for authenticity and uniqueness. As moderators, we learned with each other and for each other. 

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Pay attention to the problem!

Guest blog by Gabriel Aduda

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 initial attempt at being part of the very first edition of the Implementing Public Policy Program in 2019 was fraught with challenges, due to my work schedule. At that time,  I was responsible for organizing national events in the Presidency, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and also saddled with organizing the Transition to second term of the Buhari Administration and the Democracy Day 2019 on 12th of June; an activity that was significant, as it was just a few days away from the second term swearing in of Mr. President. The thought of me heading to Boston to attend the physical kickstart of the program at the same period was clearly unthinkable and my boss simply said to me without looking up at me across his table “.I am sure you have deferred your course at Harvard” to which I replied without arguing “on it sir” and I went off to drop Amber a mail…. the rest is history.

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