Building ownership for growth strategy in Mexico

Guest blog by Agustin Filippo

Economic development is predicated under the assumption that it is possible to lift people out of poverty, which is the reason that attracted so many people to the field (myself included). Countries that managed to succeed end up with a diversified and sophisticated product mix. More importantly, these economies are change-ready, and will constantly find new products and services to use themselves and exchange with the world. In the 10-week LEG program at Harvard, great care is paid to identify with precision the mechanics of economic growth and what can be done to ignite and accelerate growth in each locality. There’s a lot to be learned, although much in the form of open questions and try-it-yourself methods.

Continue reading Building ownership for growth strategy in Mexico

When well formulated policies meet implementation roadblocks in Bangladesh and Vietnam

Guest blog by Sehyeon Baek

1. What were your expectations of IPP Online when you signed up? 

I have been working in the private sector as well as the public sector back and forth for quite some time. In 2015, I was recruited by one of the Korean government agencies for the innovation and startups support. At the end of December 2017, I resigned from the agency although I was fully employed until I would retire at 60. In 2018, I joined one startup as COO and successfully led the investment raising, $21M, for the startup from Japan and Hong Kong. In 2019, I was recruited by the current organization with 21 member countries again. And I have seen so many great policies and masterplans to be formulated, and yet, when it came to implementing them, it did not seem to move forward at all.

Continue reading When well formulated policies meet implementation roadblocks in Bangladesh and Vietnam

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. 

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

LA FÁBRICA, a strategy for the economic transformation and social inclusion of Renca, a commune in Chile

Guest blog written by Gabriela Elgueta P 

Photograph: Cerro de Renca, Matias Peralta @matias.fpl

In the midst of the pandemic, I began this course when Chile had 300 deaths and 27,219 infections. Today, at the end of this process, I have to regret a total of 7,186 deaths and a total of 321,205 infections, mostly affecting the most vulnerable population, amplifying the effects of the social inequality in which most Chileans live. 

For 10 weeks I have been inserted in a process of combined learning between the conceptualization of economic growth and global trends with the contrasting reality of a vulnerable commune in the metropolitan area of Santiago that was experiencing a triple social crisis: health, social and economic. 

As a reflection of Chile, the metropolitan area of Santiago (RM) is a highly segregated city, both socially and economically, generating a deep inequality in access to public goods and services for the poorest segments of the population, compared to the higher income groups located in the East of the city. 

The commune of Renca, with 147,151 inhabitants, is located in the pericentral area of the city, with a multidimensional poverty of 28% widely exceeding the regional average (14.9%), has a population of low socio-economic level, is part of that city that experiences social exclusion and the consequences of the undesirable outcome, of fragmented planning and unequal public investment, carried out by the State itself, affecting the daily life of its neighbors, in the quality of its infrastructure and its equipment, both public and private. 

At the same time, at the beginning of the course, I was commissioned by the Mayor of Renca to develop a proposal for an economic development strategy for the commune that would consider a short-term reactivation plan and enabling actions for the medium term. In this way, one of the greatest lessons learned from the course has been the possibility of reflecting on and establishing a different way of developing this strategy. 

Often, political times and the daily contingency to which local governments are exposed, demand to be in “mode” of the solutions, however, it is fundamental to understand the complexity of the growth challenges, investing time in better understanding the problem, deconstructing it and identifying the binding constraints. Undoubtedly, the fishbone tool allowed me to visualize a broader framework of the problem and to open multiple conversations with key actors, and it also showed us the enormous gaps in information and robust data for the decision-making process. 

Continue reading LA FÁBRICA, a strategy for the economic transformation and social inclusion of Renca, a commune in Chile

Lost in Authorization in Japan

Guest blog written by Marcello Milanello

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“The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you”. Despite the advice from Bob Harris, a protagonist role played by a melancholic Bill Murray, in the movie ‘Lost in translation’, he remains pessimistic and bland for the entire journey of the movie. While in Japan, in a reality that seems so different, Bob is lost not because of language or time zone, but because of his meaningless life back in California.

My PDIA journey was mainly focused on key external actors – the Japanese piece of my job: technical partners, mayors, city office staffers, and co-investors. Since I had the backup of my organization – both in terms of legitimacy and resources – it was under my governance to establish a pathway to reach our intended goals.

Anticipating a bumpy road, as it is usually when dealing with complex problems and organizations such as city offices, I had to find support. That was the reason why I attended the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course and got acquainted with the PDIA methodology: it was a way to deal with the unknown, a common ground in the Japanese step of my mission.

Preparing myself to Japan

I knew I would face uncertainty along the process of establishing a new role for Arapyaú Foundation to support local governments. I was hired in early December of 2018 with the mission to drive the experimentation during 2019 in establishing partnerships with municipal governments to increase their capacity through innovation. I had a great direct authorizer, resources to hire a small team and freedom to establish the pathway. The perfect setting for this journey.

Despite great conditions, I was still looking for ways to increase the internal knowledge of my organization to deal with public policy implementation. By far, the most valuable resource I could find was the IPP Program. My first and somehow unambitious move was to send the program brochure to my boss, the foundation director. She was not only convinced to support me but, most importantly, she decided to participate in it. Another great step in this journey: she would support me even more after understanding the complexity of implementing public policies. We were ready to roll.

As for myself, I was worried about the challenges of how to deal with different settings of four cities that would-be partners in our journey to increase their capabilities to solve complex problems. I was about to begin partnering with mayors in June and the timing was perfect for the program.

First sparks were amazing:

  1. Diagnosing the failure of policies: having worked for almost ten years in different governmental agencies, I got used to policy failure. How often it happens and possible reasons for that were major questions I had. Matt Andrew’s paper on Public Policy Failure: ‘How often’ and ‘What is failure, anyway?’ provided a warm feeling of not being alone in this.
  2. The duality between a plan & control approach and something else, bringing the waterfall vs. agile debate over tech projects to the public arena.
  3. The graph where functionality and legitimacy are expanded in synchrony, moving as a staircase from left-bottom to top-right started to demonstrate how long and careful the mission is – and above all, how important it is to take care about the process.

The week-long module in Massachusetts helped me move from the diagnosis to possible paths to act. There, I learned that:

  1. It is all about implementation – I should strategize to a certain point, but mainly being very disciplined in learning and delivering, in a cyclic manner.
  2. Even though I had legitimacy from mayors and support from local government department’ heads, I should incrementally look for more room to deliver.
  3. Since I would be running the program in each city, having this authorization placed in my team instead of me would be even better – and I would have to work even harder for it to happen.
  4. Doing something is better than doing nothing – even if it seemed a short step or even a wrong one: you learn from it.

After the week in Boston, being energized and focused on my journey, I had only one way to go: forward!

The expected unknown in Japan

The week after I arrived from Boston the projects were kicked off in the first two cities we partnered: Aracaju and Caruaru.

After a few weeks of building up the team, refining the strategy and selecting the subjects we would for those two cities, we kicked off in the other two: Cachoeiro and Blumenau (see photo above).

Since the beginning of the four partnerships, my team constantly used the PDIA approach to deal with the uncertainty that we faced in four different settings. The major takeaways we found during the implementation of the program were:

  1. Understanding how to disarm those who believe they have the solution ahead of problems – asking the right questions, bringing data and analysis and building up arguments so we could dig deeper into the problem.
  2. To lower the expectations of achieving impactful results in a short period of time when dealing with complex problems: it is very rare to have simple solutions for complex problems and we should acknowledge it from the beginning.
  3. Making the decision to invest time and people in the problem definition phase is key to accrue better results along the way.
  4. Spending time to deal with people that are neutral or not-enthusiastic to the project will eventually remove barriers that could have become insurmountable.

Being in four different parts of Japan – still insisting on the parallelism with the movie mentioned in the first paragraph – started to feel comfortable. I had learned a method on how to deal with uncertainty and I am sure that learning will be on my side in many journeys of my professional life.

Somehow, I feel that it was already part of me, but now I have a method to analyze and iterate with multiple actors. I felt more empowered to do so and my team completely bought it. We were understanding how hard it was and we were able to start moving things forward – with some variance across the four cities, of course.

…and then it is all about California

Everything was going well in Japan until something shakes in California.

The seemly solid foundation of my authorizers fell apart. While having a map of external authorizers and partners that would lead to the higher impact of the intervention I was involved with, I had lost sight of the risk of not having my internal authorizers backing me up anymore.

My direct authorizer left the organization and I started from scratch with the chairman of the board, inquiring me about the road we have taken. I had no idea how or if he was being informed about our program, while quickly learning he had little or no knowledge about it. I felt I didn’t have the correct narrative or that I could not understand his viewpoints: he was a major authorizer and I had never reached out to him before!

As usual, I kept asking myself if I should have acted differently and how to learn from this experience. Eventually, I have reached a few conclusions:

  1. I have used PDIA properly in a great number of situations, but I should have kept alert for changes in my own organization.
  2. Despite having built a great coalition of actors – my teams, partners, investors – I had missed sincere critics of my work. It would have made my narrative stronger and I could have more tools to deal with distrust and more structural questions.
  3. I felt that I had the correct internal environment, but I knew I was under the board radar. I felt it was something good for a while, so it would give me time to achieve results and built a narrative. Should I have acted differently, stating more and communication up often from the beginning? Still looking for that answer.

I have gone full PDIA oriented for the challenges faced at each municipality. I have hired people and contracted partners that were willing to take this bumpy road with me. Overall, I had a great team and great partners to move forward.

I will have results and transform a huge amount of lives by the end of 2020 – but there is a high risk that the program will be faced as a “failure experience”. I am still moving on to build this internal environment and I am sure I will have to go even deeper into the PDIA approach, especially with the new COVID-19 crisis.

In the end, I feel very distant from the ‘Suntory Time!’, as the ad played by Bob Harris in Japan during the movie.

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

To learn more about Implementing Public Policy (IPP) watch the course and testimonial video, listen to the podcast, and visit the course website.

Strengthening Capabilities in City Government

We work alongside other exciting initiatives at Harvard that also support state capability. One of these is the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership initiative. The following is a description of their work.

Funded by a four-year $32 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is a collaboration between HKS, HBS, and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation team to advance leadership, management and innovation in cities. Now in its second full year, the initiative equips mayors and senior city officials with the skills, tools, and techniques to tackle the leadership and management challenges they face in their cities. The initiative also aims to identify and fill gaps in research on city leadership, and to generate new and customized curriculum. This approach is designed to help unlock the full potential of cities and optimize their performance. If mayors and their organizations thrive, cities can adapt, endure and thrive as well.

Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Theory of Change:

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Flagship Program. Each year, the initiative supports 40 cities around the world, anchored by the participation of a mayor and two senior officials crucial to affecting organizational change. Since its inception in 2017, 80 mayors and 160 senior officials have participated in the flagship program. Continue reading Strengthening Capabilities in City Government

BSC Video 15: PDIA – Moving from Mimicry to Results

It is important to understand why development interventions succeed and why they fail. In this video, Lant Pritchett uses a 2×2 matrix to illustrate that PDIA is an attempt to move from failed mimics to effective innovators. You can watch the video below or on YouTube.

If you are interested in learning more, watch Development as four fold transformation, and Capability trapped in a big stuck.