IPP: A master key to close problem doors and open solution doors for a better world

Guest blog written by Mamadou Mouctar Diallo

The thousands of miles that separate Guinea from the United States and COVID 19 were overcome by technology to enable us to attend this public policy implementation training at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. When the opening bell rang in June, I knew I was about to embark on a new adventure that would not only change my life, but also end the suffering of so many young people in my country, Guinea.

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An unexpected journey: ‘One fish in your hand is worth more than two in the river’

Guest blog by Raphaël Kenigsberg

Integrate the Millennial generation into strategic decision-making and implementation

During the Covid-19 crazy crisis, I had a dream, shared by many: what would the world look like after this unexpected pandemic? Our landmarks were missing, and adaptation became key. With the support of hundred engaged members of the think tank I am running, we designed a set of 32 ambitions imagining youth expectations for a better future. For two months, during the first general lockdown, daily and after work, we decided to gather and organize ideas with the hope of being heard by policymakers. We designed a 150-page report in French and in English. The main goal of this report was to convince policymakers that youth should be included into designing and implementing public policies. We organized an influence communication directed towards the French President, all members of government, National Assembly, Senate, embassies, European Commission and Parliament, international organizations, and media.

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Addressing Youth Unemployment in Ghana through PDIA

Guest blog by Afua Gyekyewaa

The Youth Employment Agency (YEA) of Ghana was created specifically to address the issue of youth unemployment. In 2006 when the Agency was created, the unemployment rate especially among the youth was very high. Facing this challenge, the government set up the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP), now YEA, to find a solution to the problem, albeit as a stop-gap measure. The jobs that were created had two- year duration and not permanent solutions. With a new government came a new management. This new management’s vision is to find permanent solutions to the youth unemployment problem in the country. The Agency wants to do this by creating more sustainable jobs for the youth and moving away from the two-year temporary jobs. Now the challenge is, creating sustainable jobs is alien to the Agency. There are no laid down structures and processes neither are there any concepts to follow.

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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.

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Addressing a remittance backlog in the U.S.

Guest blog by Loretta Minott

It has been almost twenty years since I graduated from college. At least fifteen years since I have been involved in an instructor-led collegiate level course. As a mother to a toddler, going “back to school” was not in my plan. But I had a superior who believed in my ability and thought this program would be a great opportunity for me to strengthen my resume and add upon my qualifications. Applying to the program was a breeze. I then anxiously waited to find out if I had been accepted. I was overjoyed when I was accepted. I mean, this is Harvard! That joy quickly turned to fear. As I read the professional profiles of those in my cohort, I remember saying out loud “What did I get myself in to?” I mean, who was I? I had a bachelor’s degree from Temple University, an unfinished graduate degree, and I was now in a course with folks who hold PhD’s from some of the most prestigious universities. How would I align with these people? I would shortly find out that everything was going to be just fine. I ended up in a breakout group with some of the most supportive and kind colleagues. We became fast friends and we pushed each other to complete the course in its entirety.

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Building resilience into U.S. government functions

Guest blog by Adam Harrison

Learning in the Age of Pandemic

In early 2020, I was lucky enough to be selected into the Harvard Kennedy School’s executive education class, “Implementing Public Policy (IPP).” I was thrilled that my supervisors at work had shown the confidence in me and interest in my development to make this opportunity available. Even more, I was excited to spend a week in Cambridge with a diverse group of professionals from across the country and the world. The experience would be enriching . . . and a few good meals in Boston’s North End would be pretty nice, too. 

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Examining options for food and drug supply safety in the U.S. in response to pandemic restrictions

Guest blog by Laura Draski

When I first applied to be part of the Implementing Public Policy cohort, I expected to learn much about various techniques, tools and theories used in implementing policy. About the nuts and bolts of how to design and create policy that can be implemented. About how to manage a process of complex and intersecting implementation. I would graduate with a toolkit to pull out of my belt and a formula complete with a calculator to plug in my variables and expected outcomes of measured success. Indeed, the Harvard Kennedy School Playbook for Implementing Policy.

And I did learn tangible tools and some phenomenal ideologies and guiding principles. Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) is now part of how I see and respond to the world. I talk about teaming, snowflake models and trust triangles as if they’re a normal part of dinner conversation. I pride myself in being able to construct a mean and comprehensive Fishbone Diagram. And, truly, these are all helpful skills and knowledge to draw upon when considering complex policy problems.

But what I didn’t expect to learn in this course was about leadership and how much your own leadership skills can influence not only a successful policy outcome, but the leadership ability and success of others. About the importance of building relationships (and it’s all about the relationships), and about learning from and influencing others. I was struck by the model of multi-agent leadership where risk is shared and where true leaders acknowledge that complex problems can only be solved when you mobilize and provide opportunity for others to exert their leadership.

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Building a coordinated service delivery model in the U.S. using PDIA

Guest blog by Debra Porchia-Usher

Initial Expectations

I entered IPP Online Course with excitement and with the expectation that guidance would be provided to simplify the proposed ‘public policy challenge’ facing myself and my colleagues. The timing was great, as my colleagues and I had recently committed to the design and execution of a coordinated service delivery model of human services. The authorizing team of 12-15 human service leaders, including myself, made a firm visionary statement (“if not now, when”), affirming the commitment to get this done. I was sure that a guidebook would assist the team to develop an outline that would lead to an immediate solution. Essentially, an opportunity made simple and I believed that we, as a diverse team of providers, had all the pieces in place were for immediate action: 1) strong partnerships, 2) a common vision and goal, 3) motivated supporters, 4) County Chief Executive Office support, 5) consultant resources, 6) diverse group of champions, 7) community commitment to pilot the model in four communities and 8) a project timeline. It became very clear in the first two week of lectures and the introduction of PDIA, that our team did not have a clear understanding of the complexity of our problem, nor did we have a concise problem statement reflective of the intended goal. Early on, it also became evident that PDIA offered the Fishbone Diagram as a tool to map out the known and unknown factors. The input of the technical support and from peers on the fishbone identified additional gaps in knowledge, potential missed entry point opportunities and critical stakeholders. In addition, the diagram generated input from the larger stakeholder group which subsequently led to further clarification on the resource gaps and small win opportunities. The use of the Fishbone Diagram promoted an expanded thought process, strategic thinking about the actual problem at hand and extensive consideration of cause and effect influence within both the planning and execution of response to a complex policy challenge. 

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A half-empty glass and the joy of “failing forward”

Guest blog by Silverio Zebral Filho

I’ve started my PDIA journey 6 months ago, interested in gaining a deeper learning about alternative approaches to tackle a wicked (ill-defined, multi-sourced, technically complex and politically sensitive) problem in the context of large institutional divergence (weak rules, strong social norms), lack of state capacity, declining interpersonal trust and confidence in government, gradually leading to social decohesion and violence – all boosted by the presence of transnational crime in several societal domains. 

Our challenge was to help The Office of the Presidency of Government of Honduras in improving transparency and accountability in country public sector, targeting a reduction of 20% on corruption victimization measured by the “control of corruption” indicator of MCC BSC Honduras FY2021. This reduction was instrumental to qualify Honduras to apply for a second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) award starting in 2021, estimated in USD 255 millions.

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Reassessing what it means to problem-solve in Laos

Guest blog by Samantha Blake Rudick

When I was in middle school, I was part of a program called “Problem Solving.” The concept was one big problem would be presented and then, in a group, students would break this problem down into twenty smaller problems. They would then select one of these smaller issues and come up with 20 solutions to this smaller problem. They would analyze their solutions, pick the best one and present it in a creative way to the larger group, with the winners getting a prize.

The Implementing Public Policy course and taking us through Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) was similar to this idea, in some senses, except that in working with adults they can break the news to us: we can’t just stop at addressing one small issue.

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