Using a problem-driven approach in Ethiopia

Guest blog by Abdu Nuru

It was my director in my department who sent the email to us briefing us about the program. It specifically addressed those who were in a more senior leadership level as it would be more important. I read the whole email and I knew it wasn’t meant for me because it said case team leaders and blah blah blah. And I thought who said that? The last thing I could get is rejection and if I am accepted, it would be a great experience. I applied and I was admitted.

That was my journey to the first formal online program, and it ended up being a very important course especially to people who work in a similar sector to me. From defining a regional or national growth problem to devising a high level and inclusive strategy, Leading Economic Growth offered miraculous insights and approaches on how to solve complex problems.

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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.

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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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Leading Economic Growth: Adapting the Wyoming Energy Industry

Guest blog by Kaeci Daniels

What are some key ideas/learnings that you will take away from this course?

  • 1804 as a communication tool – The 1804 example was a good analogy to get people to understand that the problem is hard to understand. Using this example as a communication tool may be a great way to get buy-in and resources for the growth strategy team.
  • Fishbone Diagram – The fishbone diagram to is a great tool to find entry points on complex problems. Crafting the right team to develop the fishbone diagram is essential for fully grasping the growth problem and its sub-problems.
  • PDIA and SLDC – PDIA is nimble for finding and testing solutions when the problem is not well understood. SLDC can be beneficial when a problem is well defined, as shown in the Singapore example.
  • Inclusion over redistribution – This was significant. Redistribution of resources does not necessarily enable growth and it may even create disincentives for production. If government is to use public funds to promote growth, it should be done in a way that captures people outside of accessible markets and creates opportunity for new markets to emerge or be engaged. A focus on inclusion can mean the difference in a long-term widespread growth policy versus short-term accommodations.
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Supporting women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Guest blog by Renata Rubian

  1. What are some key ideas/learnings that you will take away from this course?

I have truly enjoyed my experience with the Harvard Leading Economic Growth course. It is a pleasure to experience the dynamics between the brilliant duo – Prof. Ricardo Hausmann and Prof. Matt Andrews – given their approaches and explanations are complementary. Some of my key take away include:

(i) Understanding inequality as a significant cost and impediment to sustainable economic growth, which elevates the need to think about how to generate shared prosperity and growth that is inclusive by looking at multidimensional aspects of inequality. These include disparity on income, inequalities because of gender, geography (spatiality), digital divide, inequalities of capabilities (capacities differ among individuals, institutions, societies), etc.

(ii) The need to understand a problem before attempting to think of a solution. Understanding that a complex problem can be broken in bite sizes, but the nature of the problem also evolves, and it is important that understanding a problem is an iterative process (that also adapts and evolves). The dynamic nature of a development problem is important to highlight. Once a constraint/bottleneck is removed, another constraint starts to become more binding and so forth. By identifying the binding constraints, prioritizing and sequencing them – this process makes it more feasible for countries to tackle complex situations.

(iii) The role of public investments to facilitate transformational shifts, including the need for a high bandwidth organization that is capable to facilitate connections and information across sectors/knowledge areas etc.  

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Breaking down an insurmountable challenge

Guest blog by Gonzalo Pizarro

I joined the Leading Economic Growth (LEG) executive education course along with two colleagues from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a growth challenge which seemed clear yet insurmountable: Providing the city of Kabul, in Afghanistan with an economic growth strategy after the government collapse, deterioration of security, massive exodus of people, and freezing of international aid, which represented 43% of GDP in 2019.

“Lack of political will across the board to negotiate a solution” – and – “nothing can be done until the security situation improves” were the two tenets that were a given entering the course.

During the 10 weeks of the LEG course, my approach to solving the problem radically changed. First, I was asked to define the problem. My first definition was objected to, as it contained a solution in it. I had to keep iterating the definition of the problem for several weeks, up until the growth problem was exactly that, a growth problem.

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Addressing economic growth in the Middle East

Guest blog by Anton Osin

The course has been a journey, and it has exceeded my expectations as it provided me with deeper understanding of several economic concepts and gave me exposure to HKS faculty and peers students from across the globe. The intensity of this course and the volume of information gradually transformed into quality and deeper understand of economic concepts and case studies.

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Improving economic complexity and diversity in Afghanistan

Guest blog by Rishi Chakraborty

There are several key learnings that I will take away from this course. The first key learning for me was the novel way of thinking about development from the perspective of economic complexity and diversity, especially in terms of production/exports through the analogy of the forest with “branches”, “peripheries”, and “central clusters” of the Product Space. In all of my years of having studied economics at the BA and MA levels, this analogy of a forest and “monkeys” in the Product Space has been the most intuitive that I have encountered to date to describe a country’s economic growth challenges, and its simplicity and ingenuity will ensure that I will remember this concept for the rest of my life. Indeed, I am incredibly grateful that Professor Hausmann, Professor Matt Andrews, and the entire team at HKS LEG has shared this concept with us! 

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The Brilliant Citizen and the Economist: Learnings from Leading Economic Growth

Guest blog by Esther Adegunle

Brilliant Citizen: My dear Economist, I have not seen you in a very long time. What is going on?

Economist: I had a baby about 3 months ago. Also, I was engaged in a program at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

Brilliant Citizen: Wow, congratulations to you and the family. You mean you were attending a training after giving birth?

Economist: Thank you. It was quite an intensive one. I am thankful for my support system, they made it possible for me to attend. Also, the training was online, so I did not need to travel.

Brilliant Citizen: Oh, that is good. Did you say Harvard, the one and only Harvard?

Economist: It was facilitated by Harvard Kennedy School. It was a 10-week course on Leading Economic Growth.

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Health system transformation in Poland

Guest blog by Robert Moldach

I am fortunate to live in times when Europe and Poland in particular have undergone an incredible transformation. As a child, I remember the street protests my parents took part in, their talks about the Warsaw Pact troops invading Czechoslovakia, and the anti-Semitic campaign of the late 1960s. My student years coincided with the Solidarity uprising and the martial law that followed. The beginning of my academic career fell during a time of darkness and total economic collapse of the system. Then, in 1989, came the country’s revival, changes in the political system, and economic revolution. We joined the OECD, NATO, and eventually became a member of the European Union recording an extraordinary rate of economic growth. And while this is an undeniable success, along the way we made countless mistakes, some of cardinal importance. We could have approached challenges better such as social inclusion, coherent territorial development, utilization of existing economic potential, foreign direct investment, and finally understanding the sense of us.

The lesson on the “Sense of Us” is in fact the single most important thing I take away from the HKS Leading Economic Growth program. Are we Poles or Europeans, resettled from the eastern borderlands or residents of this land for centuries, Catholics or communists disguised as democrats? And while we intuitively feel how it is, or rather how it should be, we are divided and polarized as a nation in probably every possible direction. The thing that economically we continue to grow at an above-average rate does not change the fact that our economic vehicle is experiencing cracks, fractures and tears that are increasingly difficult to mitigate.

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