Urban Development in Argentina: How IPP helped me achieve my goal

Guest blog by Catalina Palacio

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

This is the story of an inspiring journey.

Everybody is working hard around the world looking for increasing their wellbeing, which in turn affects the improvement of the quality of life of others. Everybody plays a determinant role to make lives better, even more, when people share the public policies sphere due to it is the core of the society’s balance. In this regard IPP journey has turned into the most significant experience which gives all the participants extraordinary tools to be better practitioners, better people and better leaders around the world.

My entire working experience has been with public sector in different countries where I have noticed such similar situations: unsolved problems, a lot of effort with unsatisfactory results from some practitioners, lack of ownership from some staff and so on, as a result, the social, economic, and environmental dimensions are increasingly unbalanced. In this context, I decided to course the IPP journey hoping to get meaningful technical tools to add value to my professional skills to make the difference when facing the less desirable public policy arena conditions. No matter how high my expectations were, definitely this course has exceeded them. Not only gave me valuable technical information regarding a better understand of the current situation and how to deal with to be more effective, but also taught me the importance of the human aspects, how to be aware of myself as a person facing complex problems and how to build teams, encourage and support its members as people as well as a practitioners.

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Honoring the memory of a lost child: A father’s inspirational pursuit of policy change

Guest blog by Anjan Chimaladinne

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

On August 13, 2016, my 16-year-old son passed away unexpectedly and suddenly. My wife and I have established scholarships in his name at his high school and the college he was planning on attending. For the 4 past years we rendered help to several other social causes. In the United States, suicide was the second leading cause of death for persons aged 10–24 from 2000-2017 and mental health is leading contributor for suicides. This issue has been bothering us for the past 4 years and we wanted to help and did not know how to. The Covid-19 and work from home situation opened time and helped me find and enroll in the Implementing Public Policy course. My initial expectation of this course was, it would certainly help me do something in honor of my son, Anshul, and save at least few lives.

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Pay attention to the problem!

Guest blog by Gabriel Aduda

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

My initial attempt at being part of the very first edition of the Implementing Public Policy Program in 2019 was fraught with challenges, due to my work schedule. At that time,  I was responsible for organizing national events in the Presidency, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and also saddled with organizing the Transition to second term of the Buhari Administration and the Democracy Day 2019 on 12th of June; an activity that was significant, as it was just a few days away from the second term swearing in of Mr. President. The thought of me heading to Boston to attend the physical kickstart of the program at the same period was clearly unthinkable and my boss simply said to me without looking up at me across his table “.I am sure you have deferred your course at Harvard” to which I replied without arguing “on it sir” and I went off to drop Amber a mail…. the rest is history.

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Combating climate change in Peru

Guest blog by Irving Ojeda Alvarez

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I started the Policy Leadership Credential program early this year when a friend of mine referred that there was a practical implementation public policy course to be delivered virtually and complement the PLC.

I have been working on the policy side for many years, too many I would say, and from my archaic perspective, the implementation of them was just a piece of cake. Just do it! Follow the manual or guidelines; nothing would require detailed planning or thinking; I could not be blinder, how wrong I was.

I am working in a control planned institution where everything has to be done in a timely manner following the work plan that has been created not to allow any deviation of subjective thinking, Outcomes have to be delivered, and expectations objectives reached. Of course, my work finished as soon as the implementation begins, and then I endeavor to follow up, report, report, and report.

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Time, Teams and Tenacity

Guest blog by Pamela Byrne

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

Reflecting back on my implementing public policy learning journey, three elements stand out. Implementing public policy takes time; it requires a highly functional team and; tenacity is essential for success. So let me explain these “T”s in some more detail.

Time….

When presented with a complex problem, your automatic reflex could be that you need to solve the problem quickly…. That was my tendency. But you need to resist that innate tendency to jump to the solution or to apply a solution that has worked in another place, for another purpose or under a different set of circumstances. Because to truly solve complex problems and achieve the right outcomes from public policy initiatives – outcomes that make a difference in people’s lives – you must take the time to construct and deconstruct the problem you are facing at the outset. So many times, policy initiatives have failed because we have not taken the time to really understand what the problem is or have not spent enough time gathering the information, the insight, the intelligence to bring us to a deep understanding of what the real issues are that need to be resolved.

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Agri inputs market reform in Liberia through the PDIA lens

Guest blog by Darkina Sie Cooper

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I was super excited signing up for the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Online Program, especially haven completed the Leading Economic Growth (LEG) program and being introduced to the PDIA concept and meeting already Prof. Matt Andrews and seeing how amazing he is; I was also eager to dive deeper into the PDIA concept and was looking forward to approaching my problem differently. Given that the IPP is 6 months long, I was particularly looking forward to additional tools and a more dynamic approach in solving my policy challenge. Looking to develop the tools to pitch my ideas and gain buy-in from authorizers were among my many expectations. I was also extremely excited looking forward to meeting more amazing professors and drinking from their fountain of knowledge. Certainly, the course didn’t disappoint, all these were provided for in the long but insightful journey of learning on the go. But above all these, and most importantly, I remain ever thankful to the Kistofes Fellowship of the HKS for allowing me to join not only an amazing program but meeting an amazing group of people from all over the world, from diverse background, sharing their stories; all these couldn’t have been possible and could have only been one of those many exciting dreams if not for you. A million thanks, I am humble!

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An insightful journey to self-discovery and public policy effectiveness

Guest blog by John Miller Beauvoir

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

As a field-tested international development professional who crisscrossed 15 countries in Africa and in the Americas to support policy implementation, I carry my fair share of disillusion, cynicism and frustration regarding the slow pace of change and the lack of effectiveness of foreign aid. This is a matter of significant concern that led me to pursue my master degree in international development, with an emphasis on the implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action.

From the hot and arid villages of Niger to the valleys and mountains of Haiti, I witnessed first-hand the shortcomings of conventional wisdom and orthodoxy when it comes to public policy formulation and implementation in complex settings fraught with unknowns and uncertainty. I was very eager to explore new ways of conceptualizing and implementing public policies beyond “plan and control” and the rigid approaches that are blatantly inappropriate for countries with ever-changing political and social contexts. Moreover, having read a great book entitled “Politics and Policy implementation in the Third World”, I was convinced that policy implementation professionals must take into account the political economy and the overall  ecosystem of intervention for context-specific, targeted approach to policy-making.

 I was ready for out-of-the box solutions. And this is exactly what the Harvard Kennedy School’s IPP program delivered.

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Navigating innovations in emergency services with PDIA

Guest blog by Ken Bailey

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

I have been privy to the legislative and public policy process for well over 10 years, mostly with an amateurish understanding and certainly lacking the tools to be consistently effective. Having muddled in this space for a number of years, I have been successful on many fronts, again more through tenacity than with clarity of purpose. I have authored and pushed through several pieces of legislation, most of which have become part law in my State. Additionally, I have played the politics at the regional level, attempting to shape policy positions, largely with mixed results. As to be expected, my overall results have more losses than wins. Though it was not this loss / win ratio that bothered me. What concerned me the most was the idea that there was a better way of doing things that I was not aware of, thus I looked in to the Implementing Public Policy course at the Kennedy School.

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How PDIA helped me build Nigeria’s poverty alleviation plan

Guest blog by Tayo Aduloju

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

The HKS Implementing Public Policy Executive Program appealed to me because I was looking for an alternative to planning and control styled approaches which I had learnt, known and practised for most of my career and considering the challenging problems I faced daily at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, I needed a capacity upgrade. The IPP has been a significant deviation from many the other Executive Programs at the HKS I have attended: it underpinned learning by doing; its iterative and group learning dynamics was useful in debating broad-based, cross-multidisciplinary applications and experiences that were very useful in exploring how I applied session insights to real-time problems. My most profound learnings were in the areas of understanding complexity and the importance of construction and deconstruction process. The Fishbone Diagram took on a whole new meaning!

My Implementation Challenge was to design, develop and gain consensus on National Poverty Eradication and Social Protection Plan. My problem was to tackle the complex challenge of lifting 100 Million multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians out of extreme poverty in a decade. My Core Team was a Federal Government inaugurated Poverty Eradication and Social Protection Technical Working Group.

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‘Don’t be so invested in the solution that you’re unwilling to change course’

Guest blog by Alexandra Bhatti

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 6-month online learning course in December 2020. These are their learning journey stories.

What an exciting, challenging, eye-opening learning and growing experience this has been for me. When I first explored the course, I was skeptical about the ratio of theoretical learning versus practice-based learning I would experience as I have spent many years studying “policy” and related fields. Listening to alumni feedback encouraged me to pursue the course, nevertheless.  Immediately I realized this was going to be a fantastic course and it began challenging my biases and the way I approached policy development and implementation – beginning with the “challenge” I identified.

Let’s start there.  My initial policy challenge was trying to operationalize non-traditional vaccine delivery sites and provider types. I soon realized that this was not the actual challenge I was trying to address and had to continue to diagnose the actual problem I was trying to solve for with vaccine delivery systems – and that was that adult vaccine uptake remains low in comparison to children and pediatrics, and further we see disparities in particular population types.

While I think the entire course has proven to be such an incredible learning and growing experience for me, there are few areas I wanted to highlight.

First understanding the pitfalls of problem and construction and deconstruction has stuck with me.  Not only am I more self-aware of those pitfalls, like solution bias, I am also listening for this with my colleagues. I think this is such a critical concept to understand and implement to optimize your chance of success in policy implementation.

Second, is understanding your stakeholders and the different roles needed in policy implementation (e.g. idea people, authorizers, etc.) This helps us not only better understand and profile our stakeholders but also helps us identify gaps. It also is a great first step in understanding the priorities of the stakeholders.

Third, is the supreme importance of a compelling and succinct problem narrative that resonates with the individuals you are trying to mobilize and gain buy-in from. As a scientist and attorney, I often want to create a memo supported by evidence describing how important this policy issue is – and because I am so invested in; however, the decision-makers, whom I am engaging with 1) are not as invested – yet; 2) I have a good 5 minutes max to make my pitch and have to maximize the time I have.

Lastly, being in public health, specifically in the vaccine space, during a global pandemic has been supremely challenging. I felt the sections around time management, organizational norms and burn out, and leadership were so timely and critical for me.  Not only was I trying to implement certain behavior changes (not always successfully), but I also have been sharing these concepts with my colleagues – particularly that of changing organizational norms.

Regarding progress toward my policy challenge, its been exciting that I have been able to rally leadership support around the entry points I am focusing on.  What I have realized is that these different entry points are so different and complex that perhaps in the future, I would narrow my scope further.  Regardless, I have a number of sub-projects underway, focused on addressing the blue boxes in the fishbone diagram here.

Already, I have integrated PDIA into my team’s workstream.  Below you will see a MURAL board that I supported my team in developed and brainstorming through. As I mentioned before, having a narrower scope was one of my lessons learned moving forward. I worked with my team on discussing a policy challenge a few of my colleagues were experiencing at the state level. 

We soon realized that there were two distinct challenges and each needed to have a separate root cause analyses completed. I encouraged the team to go through the 5-why, develop a fishbone, and use the triple A approach to begin to identify potential entry points. Because we went through this process, we realized there were many unknowns still and we were better positioned to identify what those were and begin to plan next steps for addressing the unknowns.

Above all, this course further underscored the importance of perseverance, grit, and flexibility when working to solve policy challenges. We are passionate about our work and often get deeply invested in it, as a result when we are faced with setbacks and delays, it can be disappointing and hard to rally, so to speak.  I did not have immediate success with address my policy challenge but iterating and adapting are the heart of PDIA. My advice is to not let your personal investment in the policy challenge cloud good judgment and inhibit pivoting and changing course as needed.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this course was the team work. Our Health Group was incredible and inspiring.  We supported and encouraged each other when challenges arose and celebrated each other’s successes as well.  Thank you, HKS, for this amazing and memorable experience.

Learn more about the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) Community of Practice and visit the course website to apply.