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.

Continue reading Becoming an active participant in your learning journey

Diversifying the ICT market in Brazil

Guest blog by Marcia Matsubayashi

If I could summarize this course experience in one word it is “inspiring”. I am sure all my colleagues who attended this course were inspired by the faculty to mobilize for action, since we feel more empowered (and knowledgeable) to make the impact in our societies.

Continue reading Diversifying the ICT market in Brazil

Exploring electromobility in Latin America

Guest blog by Raúl Rodríguez Molina

I decided to enroll in the IPP program as a continuation of the Leading Economic Growth Program, which I found extremely interesting. LEG gave me the opportunity to engage in group work methodologies, like PDIA, which somehow I have seen being implemented but not formally, not following a rigorous process.

I am working as an infrastructure specialist for an international development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank. Supporting countries to design effective policies for which the Bank provides financial and technical resources is the core of my job. We (the IABD) are not policy makers, but we need to work on project derived from a sound public policy exercise. I hoped that coupling LEG and IPP in such short sequence of time would give me a conceptual refresh of the framework and basics of a good Public Policy, looking at different regions of the world and from different actor’s perspectives. One crystal clear message to me is that context matters a lot, so two similar problems cannot be tackled in the same way to get the same results. That is why it is so important to implement problem deconstruction methodologies. PDIA helps you exercise a constant evaluation and questioning process to ensure you are not just moving in the right direction, but also working with all the actors needed.

Continue reading Exploring electromobility in Latin America

Developing State Capacity in a Weak State

Guest blog written by Dr Himanshu Jha

Dr Himanshu Jha is a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University.

What engenders state capacity in a weak state?  How do weak states develop state capacity? And Under what conditions do policy paradigms succeed in historically weak states? In this blog I discuss a case of weak state developing state capacity – an aspect hitherto ignored in the mainstream literature. The state capacity lies in its ability to use its extractive potential to mobilize resources, formulate and implement policy, effectively distribute goods and services and establish control within its territory. States lacking in these capacities are considered weak with poor socio-economic development and service delivery. However, there are cases where even such weak states may selectively display remarkable state capacity albeit in pockets. Such a state poses a puzzle and becomes a tough case for explaining state capacity. 

The sub-national case of eastern Indian state of Bihar presents us with such a puzzle[1]. Bihar has historically been a weak state on all the above counts and yet the state has demonstrated a remarkable state capacity in selected policy domains. Oddly, in this case the state did not develop state capacity comprehensively, but selectively in pockets. Deeper analysis of these successful cases will enable us to isolate conditions under which a weak state develops state capacity in some areas.  

Here, I will discuss just one such case of infrastructure where striking improvements have taken place since 2005 coinciding with a new political party forming government in the state. However, the new political regime inherited a socially, economically and administratively weak state. Astoundingly, in a matter of few years the state witnessed a turnaround in some selected policy domains. Indeed, the state capacity could not have developed so swiftly. Therefore, the change in political regime alone cannot explain the improved state capacity (contrary to what some have argued).

Continue reading Developing State Capacity in a Weak State

Tackling high rates of poverty and low growth among MSMEs in Nigeria

Guest blog by Member Feese

My key learning from the Leading Economic Growth course is how to effectively define a challenge / problem using the 5-whys technique and not use the solution to define the problem. For instance, the definition of my first economic problem was lack of transportation infrastructure in Nigeria, however, I discovered that that definition was narrow and did not identify the main problem of why transportation infrastructure was lacking. Using the 5-whys technique, I was able to redirect my challenge to tackling high rates of poverty and low growth rate among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the binding constraint, concentrating on transportation infrastructure. If poverty and growth rate are addressed, transportation facilities will improve.

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the level of poverty in Nigeria is currently about 40% of the total population, 83 million people, with MSMEs contributing a large portion of that figure. MSMEs are a primary source of jobs, accounting for about 96% of businesses and 84% employment (PWC, June 2020). However, the economic climate faces challenges of poor infrastructure, unfriendly business environment, high incidence of informal sector, etc., which adversely affects the MSME sector. More specifically, the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the sector, which has affected household livelihoods across the country.

Continue reading Tackling high rates of poverty and low growth among MSMEs in Nigeria

Fast-tracking Nigeria’s economic recovery

Guest blog by Member Feese

When I registered for the course my conception of public policy was the public definition – a course of action developed by a government in response to public problems. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the course began. I realised that public policy is not only for government but for all citizens that want to make a positive impact in society.

I came into the course with a goal to developing a policy that will help to reduce the level of poverty in the Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the most resourced countries in the world, in terms of human and endowments, yet with a high poverty rate of over 40.1 percent of total population being classified as poor in 2019 (National Bureau of Statistics). This translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians estimated to live below the poverty line. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the figure is projected to have increased astronomically especially among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), due to production slowdown, movement restriction and lockdown which resulted in supply chain disruption.

To address this challenge I knew I wanted to focus on infrastructure however, I was not sure of where to begin. I avoided focusing on capacity building and access to finance as they have been done numerous times and failed to reduce the level of poverty. The government, corporate institutions and individuals have spent resources training entrepreneurs and linking them to funds to start or expand their businesses. However, the cost of doing business has consumed a large portion of the funds. The Nigerian society is plagued with poor infrastructure such as erratic power and water supply and poor transportation facilities which affects the productivity and profits of MSMEs. As a result, I identified the need to address infrastructure.

Continue reading Fast-tracking Nigeria’s economic recovery

Tackling workforce development in Tampa, FL using PDIA

Guest blog by Ocea Wynn

When enrolling in the IPP Online, my initial thoughts were that this would be a course extensively focused on theory with very little practical application. I anticipated that if practical examples were presented, they would be so-far removed from the realism of local government work that this course would be another ‘check the box’ example of fulfilling a request by providing an input (class attendance) with an expected output (course completion) with no anticipated outcome.

My perception soon changed when we started our discussion on classifying a policy as complex or complicated. As an engineer, my education, training, and all my work experience have been in a complicated environment, of plan and control. So, when Matt started the discussion on defining complicated work, I thought ‘this course will be a piece of cake’. However, all of that soon changed as we began to delve into complexity of policy implementation. This expanded my mindset to a new way of looking at all problems, both professional and personal ones.

Continue reading Tackling workforce development in Tampa, FL using PDIA

Implementing the Vision Zero plan in Lancaster, PA

Guest blog written by Cindy McCormick

Before this course, as an engineer that’s spent most of my career in the private sector, and four years working in municipal government, I never really thought much about ‘public policy’ and wasn’t even sure what it meant.  My new boss of six months thought it would be a good course for me to take so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.  I had recently started a Vision Zero plan and the idea of implementing what we were learning in a real project sounded interesting, as my old habits generally replace any new learning if it’s not practiced immediately. 

In this course I recognized immediately that I prefer the plan and control environment of policy. I want to be able execute a very specific solution, but I realized that problems are often more complex than originally thought and one specific solution is not going to solve the problem.  This leads me put on blinders to the criticisms and ways to make it better because once I’ve executed the plan, I’m ready to move on.  I also realized that this created a lack of ownership for developing a comprehensive solution for myself and others as the specific solution was often dictated by others.

Continue reading Implementing the Vision Zero plan in Lancaster, PA

From Struggle to Deep Learning, then Action!

Guest blog written by Kojun Nakashima

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?”

Continue reading From Struggle to Deep Learning, then Action!

A Problem-driven Approach to Complexity, Public Policy and Economic Growth

Guest blog written by  Claudio Roberto Amitrano 

What is development? How is it driven? How can we get there? Who is it for? What do countries have in common? What are their specific problems? How do we identify them? How do we find solutions? Who will lead, authorize, design and implement them? Who are ‘We’ and how do we build the ‘Sense of us’? What can we learn from the policymaking process, working in multi-agent teams and doing things together? 

These issues come to my mind when I think about the Leading Economic Growth (LEG) course from Harvard Kennedy School. However, those questions were presented not to show an absolute answer, but to teach us a way of thinking about them, a method to identify the important problems for our societies and to empower us to find and implement solutions that fix them. 

Despite not providing definitive answers, the course touched upon some clues. Firstly, it seems that economic development is related to technology, which can be divided in three parts: 1) embodied knowledge (machines); 2) codified knowledge (books and manuals); 3) tacit knowledge (knowhow in people’s brains). While the first two are relatively easy to diffuse and absorb, the latest is not. 

The way countries use technology to foster development is strongly related to complexity. The more diverse and less ubiquitous the set of goods and services a country produce and trade, the more complex and developed its economy is. In turn, diversity and ubiquity are conditioned by the amount of different knowhow a country can absorb and amass. Although each individual might know less, the society, as whole, knows more. The image of the scrabble game is quite interesting to exemplify this idea. A word to be written needs letters. The more letters one have, the more different and complex words one can write. 

In this sense, growth is associated with the country’s ability to ‘jump’ to nearby activities, whose knowhow is similar to the ones already developed. On the other hand, it might be related to its ability to ‘jump’ to faraway activities, whose knowhow is quite different from the ones already learnt, but through strategic policies can be acquired. Notwithstanding, the ‘growth problem’ is not only connected to these issues. It also depends on the removal of the binding constraints that hinder progress and the policies countries develop to deal with them. It leads us to another way of thinking complexity. 

Complexity can also be seen as problems with multiple moving parts and interdependent players, in which relationships, their properties of self-organisation and interconnections defines their trajectories. From the standpoint of public policy, identifying and finding solutions to complex problems requires a Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation’ (PDIA) approach, instead of a ‘Solution-and Leader-Driven Change’ (SLDC), in which one can construct and deconstruct problems. From the perspective of economics, it requires a Growth Diagnostic approach, whose main objective is to find the binding constraint to economic growth. Based on the idea of  complementarity between inputs, as well as between institutions, this methodology is able to avoid or at least minimize the second-best interactions problem. 

Continue reading A Problem-driven Approach to Complexity, Public Policy and Economic Growth