IPP Program Journey: Congo Calling Rebooted

Guest blog written by Bandi Mbubi

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.

With President Felix Tshisekedi at the School of Oriental and African Studies – University of London – December 2017

At the beginning of 2019, Harvard Kennedy School invited me to apply for its executive program in Implementing Public Policy. The letter was timely as it arrived when I was reflecting on my life and considering my next moves. The more I read about the course, the more I was convinced that it was meant for me. It promised to teach effective techniques of policy analysis and implementation, with a particular emphasis on policy solutions to wicked problems, which greatly appealed to me. I faced a dilemma though: which of the two projects, I am involved in, should I focus on, as part of my learning experience? From the outset, I was required to choose one policy challenge to work on for the whole duration of the course. 

Initially, I intended to work on policy solutions which would help reduce the rapidly increasing homelessness in the United Kingdom. This fitted well with my role as Director of the Manna Society, which runs a day centre for homeless people, in London Bridge, catering for 150 people, seven days a week, with approximately 1200 people, per year, receiving welfare and housing advice.

But then I changed my mind and chose to focus on another policy problem: conflict-minerals fueling armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my home country. Although the DRC has enormous natural resources, with 1,100 minerals and precious metals and over 80 million hectares of arable land, it ranks among the poorest in the world at 176 out of 187 countries. And since 1996, a series of armed conflicts have resulted in over 6 million people dead and 4.5 million internally displaced.

In eastern DRC, where armed conflicts are prevalent, rebel groups and rogue elements of the national army use the illicit trade in minerals for personal gain and to finance their armed activities. These minerals are usually extracted artisanally and are referred to as conflict-minerals because of their use by armed groups. They consist of Tungsten, Coltan (from which Tantalum is extracted), Tin and Gold and are all important to the manufacturing of modern-day electronics.

‘Conflict-minerals’ was not a new policy challenge to me, at all, as I have worked on it since I launched Congo Calling, a UK-based NGO, in 2012 at TEDxExeter Congo Calling has three aims: (1) to stop mineral wealth from fuelling conflict, (2) to encourage responsible and environmentally sustainable exploitation of Congo’s natural resources, and (3) to use Congo’s vast natural resources to promote economic development for Congo’s people. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to work with fifteen universities across the UK to advocate that they adopt conflict-free technologies.  And five of these universities credit Congo Calling as the reason why they changed the way they procure their technology.  In addition, Congo Calling persuaded the City of Hull in the UK to change the way that they buy their technology. In 2016, the BBC interviewed me and named me as one of its Top 50 Outlook Inspirations.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Congo Calling Rebooted

IPP Program Journey: Finding Leadership Confidence

Guest blog written by Crystal Nowlan

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.

When I was first invited by my municipality’s Mayor and CAO to register for the ‘Implementing Public Policy’ (IPP) course, I was incredibly honoured for the learning opportunity.  I also felt the responsibility to ensure the learning would have a return on investment for our organization and taxpayers. But my next though was, how would this course assist me? I am an accountant by trade, and I am not trained in policy like most of my course peers. I only switched from private industry to the public sector a short seven years ago. Since 2016 I have been leading a product management team in our municipality’s transformation into asset management practices: The practice of managing assets to minimize the total cost of owning and operating them while delivering the desired service levels.

The asset management program (EAM) team had completed implementing five technology applications and rolled out the overall EAM business system with significant changes which require new competencies and frankly, a new culture overall.  A corporate Asset Management Policy remains to be approved by senior leadership, the Chief Administrative Officer, and Regional Council to reinforce and provide the agreement between these parties on how infrastructure-related decisions will be made consistently and aligned to agreed-upon strategies.  The policy will then provide the authority to activate the remaining roadmap plans over the next ten-plus years.

My hope was that the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course would provide me with insight and new skills on how to navigate the political forum and how to be held in esteem with senior leaders to advance my initiative among the over one hundred other corporate priorities currently in-flight.

When I arrived in Cambridge, I knew the planets had aligned to bring me this opportunity when I saw the front cover of the notebook we were given. It couldn’t be any closer to the leader’s stake (how am I motivated as a leader?) I had formulated in an in-depth peer leadership course I just finished in 2018.

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What an overwhelming amount of learning came from that week on campus!  I have never in my life been so captivated without getting distracted or weary from listening to a speaker. I was surprised to see a few key PDIA elements similar to training I have received from other courses in my career. In particular, the cause and effect, or fishbone diagram approach to brainstorming true root causes of an issue, which I had learned almost 20 years ago in my Six Sigma Green Belt training.

With a primarily private sector career background, I finally learned from Matt Andrews the true nuances of why one couldn’t expect to apply the same approaches in the public sector with the same results. I have struggled with this concept since 2012 when I joined municipal government and thought that the elected officials’ aspect was the main difference in governance. Thanks to Matt’s teaching I now recognize that I have been wrong to criticize some previous methodologies or perceived inactivity throughout the organization. Both empathy and humility are key in government leadership, as Matt taught us; I must remember the humility. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Finding Leadership Confidence

IPP Program Journey: Early Childhood Education in Brazil

Guest blog written by Beatriz Abuchaim

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.

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A big headache. It was what I felt in the introductory class at Kennedy School. It was not my first experience at Harvard. I had taken a course in 2018 at Center on the Developing Child, but it didn’t have the same pressure I was feeling as a Public Policy Implementation student. My company was paying for me to be there and Harvard gave me a partial scholarship. While I was listening to Matt introduce the course to us, my painful head did not stop with mixed thoughts: “I should give my best to show I deserve all this investment. I feel so special to represent my country in such a selected group of people. I am worried if I will be able to implement my project”.

When I am overwhelmed with so many feelings my body complains with a migraine. Then I have to stop. It is a way to tell myself: take it easy. Breathe. Calm down. After the first night in pain in Cambridge, I could slow things down. During the week, I felt motivated by the professors and engaged with colleagues. Always feeling exhausted with so many assignments and tasks, but fulfilled. I came back home feeling empowered and secure. And missing my PDIA folks already.

My problem in a few words

Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Brazil currently covers 34% of 0 to 3-year-old population and 93% of 4 to 6-year-old population. These percentages represent eight million children enrolled in ECE.  The public sector is responsible for 70% of enrollments. In the past 10 years,  we have had a significant increase in the number of enrollments, but with budget limitations, so the quality of services may vary quite substantially nationwide. The municipalities, which are responsible for implementing  ECE, are struggling to improve service quality.

Although Early Childhood Education in Brazil has many problems regarding the quality of services, we still do not have a national assessment that could provide data about children’s development and learning environment. Without data, policy managers struggle to plan, improve and make decisions about ECE.

My problem is “lack of systematized information about ECE quality”. Working with PDIA and presenting my fishbone to as many people as I possibly could ended up with 12 causes and 16 subcauses for the problem.

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Here I will present three that were my entry points during this year, in other words, the causes I selected to try to address first:

  1.  The education area has criticisms and resistances about ECE assessment, mainly because the teachers are afraid that the results are used in a negative way: to punish them or stigmatize the children with low results.
  2. Municipal ECE managers are not used to working with data. They do not have access to systematized data, so they did not develop the skills to analyze results and use those to inform policies.
  3. There are no instruments adapted for the Brazilian context. Until now the assessments implemented in the country used translated instruments, which were not totally suitable for ECE in Brazil.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Early Childhood Education in Brazil

IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

Guest blog written by Fatima Kakuri

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.

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Coming to Harvard to do this course, my goal was to gain advanced thought and greater insight into public policy concepts, theories, elements, types and stages of policy making, I was caught up in a subliminal whirlwind of nervousness and feeling out of place before starting the course, as I felt I may be out of my wit coming from the context of a developing country. My experience however was completely unexpected. The course has allowed me to see beyond my initial belief that it there has to be a theory that guides all our policy actions. The course has given me the opportunity to discover my own policy and political beliefs and to see in much greater detail the benefits and disadvantages of the vast array of policy ideologies that are present in the world today. Being able to interact with my colleagues with similar challenges was a separate lesson entirely. I also found that the style of teaching in this course helped me express my views accurately and concisely which turned out extremely useful!

My journey on this course had an unexpected impact on my views and perspectives to governance and life in general.

Key Findings:

I, like presumably 60% of the population in Nigeria, viewed policy from a solution based perspective, typically from the lens that we cannot develop a project proposal unless we had the idea of the end result, the plan would follow the idea of the proposal and after consultation with authorisers or budget funders that plan is collectively adopted for further planning to develop the implementation plan which most likely comes from logical frameworks to guide the timelines for implementation of that project.

The greatest assumption for me was that we had identified the problem, and that we had devised the right solution that will fix it; without any evidence as there was rarely ever any proper research done to support these assumptions and that we are superior to the people whom we create these projects or policies for so we rarely require their input, needless to say, that was a flawed mindset.

I learnt through this course and found that most commonly the people who develop/draft policies are rarely involved in the implementation and control process which becomes a fundamentally flawed process from the outset with the policy makers not being part of execution of the plan. So, my biggest discovery is finding that the most popular theory of developing a public policy plan which is widely practiced especially in my part of the world is not the most effective system. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Highlighting Experience and Learning

Practice Makes Purpose

Guest blog written by Eleanor Sarpong, Maggie Jones, Marco Mastellari, Mohamed Hejres

This blog is written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Alumni of this program become part of HKS’s Implementing Public Policy Community of Practice. These are the first set of Moderators of this Community. This is a reflection of their learning journey. 

When we graduated from IPP in December 2019 and began our journey together as a Community of Practice, 2020 was only a few weeks away. A new voyage. A fresh start. However, none of us could have predicted what the first six months of 2020 would bring. The world seemed to be on fire – and in some places, it was.

Wildfires.

Violence.

Pandemic.

Racism.

Protests.

It quickly became clear that our prospect for 2020 might be different than what we originally envisioned on our fresh, clean page of a new year. Our original challenges became more complex and in some cases they changed altogether. However, this is where the lessons of PDIA enter perfectly into play. PDIA is no stranger to the unknown and well-equipped our Community not only to enter the next phase of IPP, but to face new quandaries of an undecided future.

As we reflect over our time together, it is important to tie all these learnings back to the PDIA process. We hope we will be able to provide valuable insights by reflecting on four key check-in questions that continue to guide our work.

What did you do?

Over the past six months as moderators, we posted weekly announcements, shared blogs and videos, told personal stories, and hosted several Zoom calls. We were able to help each other better understand our environments and constraints we were working in. Occasionally, we would nudge discussions in WhatsApp or send reminders in hopes of engaging the group. Thanks to several active members in our Community, these discussions were always welcome, often sparking new ideas and resources. These conversations continue to connect us, even though we are thousands of miles apart.

It is important to note that absolutely none of this would have been possible without the help of Anisha and Salimah. Under their leadership and guidance we never had to worry about what blogs or links to share, questions going unanswered, or whether or not an idea was a good one. The constant feedback and support we received – and continue to receive – is remarkable and we are so grateful for the opportunity to work with them. Continue reading Practice Makes Purpose

IPP Program Journey: IT Project for a Pay Transparency Initiative

Guest blog written by Judith Buchanan

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.

My Implementing Public Policy (IPP) journey began with enthusiasm (and was mostly sustained throughout). Having previously attended a Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education course – Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies – I was keen to attend the course. I knew that, not only would the course be enriching, the learning from other participants would be a big part of the experience and I was so right! IPP also appealed to me due to the extended virtual learning and the opportunity to apply the material to a work-related initiative. What I didn’t know when I applied is that my job would soon change and that as the course began I also started a parallel learning journey in a new role with new problems to address.

I chose to advance the IT project for a legislative pay transparency initiative and to get the building of the new capabilities started (Building on an existing system.) Of course, there were numerous governance protocols to address and in September we were delayed from getting our Gate 3 approval by two weeks. Luckily there was confidence in the work my team had done that we were able to get unofficial approval to advance. At the time, this was especially concerning given our planned implementation timelines (mid-2020) and knowing that we would likely face project difficulties along the way. Now as we await decisions on timing due to having a new Minister (see below), we continue to advance the development work as far as we can with the resources on hand. Were there to be a later implementation date, adjustments would be needed and we have made contingencies that allow for this. (Hoping it is enough but not too worried. Once we will be in our later stages there will be good momentum to obtain authority to complete the work.)

At the same time, over the journey we advanced on regulatory work and received input from stakeholders after the public comment period on draft regulations. Some stakeholders are of the view that the changes are premature and that a broader examination of the legislative framework is required. The enabling legislation, The Employment Equity Act, is 30 years old and could use a bit of “sprucing up” through a Parliamentary review. Were this to occur, my team would support the policy review and any subsequent legislative initiative. In the meantime, the team has been working on analyzing the stakeholder feedback to assess whether adjustments to the regulations are needed.

In Canada, the election for the federal government was held in October and a new Cabinet announced in late November. As of this date, we have yet to fully brief the new Minister on the pay transparency initiative and expect to do this shortly. Key decisions on timing are needed and this will set the path forward for the completion of the regulations and development of various program elements (guidance and tools for users). If and when we get to a legislative review, I certainly intend to construct my problem and create a fishbone (probably be a whalebone or a school of fish) to map all the elements at play. Continue reading IPP Program Journey: IT Project for a Pay Transparency Initiative

IPP Program Journey: Creating a Workplace Culture of Continuous Learners and Self-Starters

Guest blog written by Theresa Burnett

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.

I came to the program thinking I had a good idea about how to make things happen in the workplace. I had some idea of policy implementation and the challenges of government organizations. All that said, I learned that I did NOT have an organized, step-by-step approach to address the myriad of challenges of this work. From what I have learned from others in the program, the situation we face in a U.S. District Court of New Jersey is not unique. I thought I was probably going to embark on some major training program that could be imposed from on high to the masses.

Wow, was I wrong.

There are so many things I learned in the last six months that it is difficult to name them all. I had become frustrated in my position as it seemed as though I had a small sphere of influence to make changes in a workplace that I value so highly. I came to realize that I had more influence than I thought because of the success of a Succession Development Program implemented three years ago. My authorizers perceived it a success because we completed this two year program, not necessarily for any objective reason. I consider it a success because out of the last eight supervisors promoted, seven successfully competed that Program. We were on to something but we weren’t exactly sure what. I chose the IPP team from that group, asking them: what do we need to do to plan for the workforce of the future District Court? How do we create jobs that millennials want? How do we get employees to be proactive on the job, solving problems, suggesting improvements, taking work off of their supervisors, not merely doing what they are told? How do we support managers/ supervisors so we can stem the tide of early retirements, resignations and burn out without implementing a program every two years in a panic?

I began what the team jokingly refers to as “Theresa’s listening tour.” I finally stopped reading the literature (OK, not entirely) and started asking questions. I had the team work on the first fishbone exercise with me. I had them ask their staff: what is needed for employees to do their best work for the Court? I asked the same of the other supervisors who aren’t on the Team. And I was surprised at how they really opened up. They appreciated that I asked and listened. Then I implemented what I could quickly, and again, they showed an increased connection to the work and to what I was asking.

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Oh boy, maybe some of the problems related to how managers/supervisors feel about the work is in part my fault (and other senior managers’) who think because we have been around a long time, we have heard/seen it all. We assume that everyone understands the importance of the work. We assume that we know best since we have been caring about the Court for decades. No wonder millennials say “OK Boomer.” So, I would say a key learning has been to more freely admit that I don’t have the answers but show that I care enough to keep asking (why, why, why, why, why) and listening. I have seen a change in supervisors who see that we are trying some of their ideas, ie, quarterly video conference meetings for all staff at once in the different offices, training and individual coaching sessions for supervisors, more training opportunities for entry level staff, more communication about the budget situation (even when all I can tell them is that we won’t know until December 21st). The Team members reported some of the same: that just starting the conversation with staff has made a difference, and they in turn have become more aware of what staff need. It seems that just the act of asking and listening and trying is changing the workplace. 

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Creating a Workplace Culture of Continuous Learners and Self-Starters

Register for our Implementing Public Policy (online) Program

Are you a public policymaker frustrated with the limited impact of your government’s policies? Do you see many policy ideas starting out with promise but ending up incomplete or ineffectively implemented? Are you trying to improve implementation? If so, you are not alone.

There is no more important time than now to convene policymakers and practitioners around the critical implementation challenges all cities, regions, and countries are facing. Join with peers from around the globe for a dynamic, highly engaging online-only version of Implementing Public Policy.

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Led by faculty chair Matt Andrews, participants will learn the skills to analyze policies as well as the field-tested tools and tactics to successfully implement them. In an action-learning environment, including robust peer engagement and application to your work with the support of faculty, participants will have time to work on their implementation challenge, apply their learning to their own context, reflect on their experiences, share and learn, and become part of a global community of practice. Continue reading Register for our Implementing Public Policy (online) Program

IPP Program Journey: Lost in Authorization

Guest blog written by Marcello Milanello

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.

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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.

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

 

IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing

Guest blog written by Rachel Cychosz

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.

Sharing. It’s the concept of “using, occupying, or enjoying something jointly with others” or “giving a portion of something to others”. It’s a concept that I’m confident most people learned as young children. It’s a simple concept, that’s why we learn it as children, because it’s something that can be understood without substantial explanation or justification, and as children it just makes sense. Why then, does sharing seem to be such a complex challenge for adults?

Working in government is a unique and interesting journey, always navigating to find a balance between meeting the demands of a political machine that yearns for immediate change to prove the success of their regime (often without understanding, advocating for, or appropriating the resources necessary to adequately address the request) and being able to spend sufficient time thinking through a given problem to find the best solution. Over the past seven years, I’ve worked in both policy development and more direct program management. I’ve struggled with different challenges, but ultimately found that much of it comes down to the same issues – how we choose to approach a problem.  Too often, the programs and policies that I’ve worked with approach problems with a direct to solution approach. More often than not, without much if any, consideration for the root cause of the problem, a “solution” is identified and pursued. There are any number of shortfalls that come out of this approach, but the most obvious is that it often only scratches the surface of the problem, resulting in (often another) failed attempt at a novel idea, which discourages program staff and disincentivizes innovation.

Going into this course, I was seeking a fresh perspective and a different way to think about and approach the problems I was facing in my program. Thinking back over the time since starting the course, PDIA was so appealing to me because it offered a mechanism to address exactly what I had been so frustrated about, but hadn’t been able to articulate a solution to addressing. The concept of not looking at something as one single problem, but diving into it more deeply to get to the root cause, find entry points, and apply an iterative approach to problem solving, was enlightening. It offered a different way of thinking, that so effectively changed the way we could approach new projects and program development.

Continue reading IPP Program Journey: Changing the Way we do Business, through Data Sharing