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.
Join with peers from around the globe for a dynamic, highly engaging online-only version of Implementing Public Policy (IPP). 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 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.
In 2020, we pivoted IPP to 25-weeks online. 140 participants from 45 countries successfully completed this program.
“The IPP course was one of the best educational experiences I have ever had in my over 25 years of local government and non-profit work!”
“The study material in both audio-visual and text format were excellent. The combination of live sessions, peer group sessions, and the assignments, ensured that while one learnt, one also got to share experiences and learning.”
The participants wrote blogs about their learning journey which you can find here.
Solving public problems is a hard and thankless job. One that is undertaken with a shortage of time as well as resources, and often under pressure to deliver results. A common approach used to solve public problems is to develop a plan, sometimes with experts, and then to assume that implementation will happen on autopilot. To quote Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” The question is, what do you do after you get punched? Continue with your existing plan? Or do you learn from the punch?
In the face of complex and interconnected public problems, approaches like plan and control often fail to provide results. We believe that flexible approaches which focus on problems, follow an iterative process, and allow for learning and adaptation are better suited. While public problem solvers agree, they often lack the know-how and tools to use alternative methods to plan and control. In addition to these capabilities, public problem solvers also find themselves feeling lonely and isolated. As Kirsten Wyatt, co-founder of Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) said in a recent podcast, “everyone is not lucky enough to be married to a bureaucrat.”
Our experience in training development practitioners and working directly with governments around the world, has taught us that action learning is crucial for building the muscle memory of solving complex problems: the only way to learn is by doing. We have learned that you cannot solve these problems alone – you need a team. However, working collaboratively is neither obvious nor innate. It is yet another muscle that needs to be built. You also need to engage with diverse stakeholders and constantly navigate difficult conversations which requires particular skills.
Putting our learning into practice
Drawing from our experience, BSC designed Harvard Kennedy School’s first blended learning Executive Education Program Implementing Public Policy (IPP),in 2019. The objective of this 7-month program was to equip public problem solvers around the world, with the skills, tools, and strategies needed to successfully implement policies and programs. Participants were required to identify an implementation problem that they could work on resolving over the period of the program. The program was divided into four phases:
Phase 1:Online preparatory work. (May 2019). In this phase, participants completed two online modules that helped them reflect on their problem and to think about public policy success and failure.
Phase 2:Learning the theory in the classroom. (June 2019). In this phase, participants explored the conditions under which different implementation methods like plan and control, adaptive management or agile, and facilitated emergence or PDIA, should be used. They also learned how to work collaboratively in teams, how to engage in difficult conversations, as well as, leadership, and management skills. The faculty included: Matt Andrews, David Eaves, Monica Higgins, Salimah Samji and Rob Wilkinson. We also invited Ganga Palakatiya and Alieu Nyei, whom we had worked with in Sri Lanka and Liberia, to share their experience trying to operationalize PDIA in their governments. Anisha Poobalan, who had worked with us in Sri Lanka as a PDIA coach, and had led our efforts to help build a community with the alumni of our PDIA online course, joined us to support the program participants in the action learning phase.
Phase 3: Action learning in practice. (July – November 2019). In this phase, participants returned to their countries to apply the new tools and strategies they had learned to their implementation problems. They built teams, worked on self-study online modules, completed assignments and attended virtual peer learning group meetings every month.
2020 was a challenging year. The Covid-19 pandemic and other crises highlighted the failures of governance and the large economic disparities that exist around the globe. The need to build public sector capability to meet these increasingly complex challenges has never been greater.
Our response to these challenges included convening and training policymakers, as well as practitioners, around critical issues of leading through crises, implementing public policies, inclusive growth, and budgeting in times of uncertainty. Drawing on BSC’s past experience running both online programs and blended learning programs, we put our knowhow into action and pivoted two executive education programs to online. We also provided our students opportunities to work on real-world problems as a way to help them build the muscle memory of solving complex problems.
Some highlights of 2020 include:
Trained and engaged with 875 practitioners around the globe (incl. degree programs, online executive education, and direct policy engagements with governments);
BSC collaborated with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative on their Cross-Boundary Collaboration Program, by developing three problem exploratory online modules as part of the pre-work to be completed by participants in advance of their training in New York City. 72 participants across 9 City teams completed these exercises.
Matt Andrews and Salimah Samji, co-taught the class entitled, PDIA in Action: Development through Facilitated Emergence at the Harvard Kennedy School. This year we invited alumni of our IPP Executive Education program to nominate real-world problems that the students could work on. You can read more about what student’s learned about dealing with uncertainty, the bias towards finding solutions, the importance of different perspectives, iteration, and team-work.
The process of implementing public policies and solving complex development problems requires working in teams. We released a podcast on building effective teams recorded by BSC Faculty Associate, Professor Monica Higgins, Kathleen McCartney Professor of Education Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.