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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Reflections on the Importance of Community: A Message from our IPP Moderators

Guest blog written by Doran Moreland

We live in complicated times occupied with strident partisanship, disinformation, social division, endless cyber distractions, and work and family interactions that are consigned to computer screens. Taking all these factors into account, the idea of forming and maintaining a community is in itself a radical act.  Nearly two years ago, I enrolled in the HKS Implementing Public Policy Program to learn new skills to advance my career.  Always eager to learn, my expectations were centered on professional development.  This was to be an academic pursuit, not a social one.  Although the course delivered academically, what I did not consider were the gifts of friendship, mentorship and candor I would receive from the 2019 IPP cohort.

With thousands of miles separating many of us, with myriad careers, roles and forms of government represented within our group, the word community seems an unlikely fit.  But that is precisely what I’ve found.  Connection, support, reinforcement, empowerment, these are the qualities of healthy communities that completely reflect the spirit of the hardworking and endlessly optimistic cohort that I am a part of.  Within my cohort in the past two years, I’ve witnessed job promotions, weddings, the loss of loved ones and needed voices of support during uncertain periods.

I too have experienced many changes by starting a new career and job during the global pandemic. I have yet to meet my co-workers in person, or see the office that I’ll work from someday.  Needless to say, the IPP community has been a constant for me, providing professional insights, laughs, and a sounding-board for wild ideas that turn out to be quite doable with the appropriate tools, attitude and support.  If I have learned anything over the past two years, it is that anything long-lasting should never be done alone.  Although each week presents new challenges, they are not insurmountable when you remember you are supported by many who are rooting for your success.