When I applied for the Harvard Kennedy School IPP training in May 2020, I was looking to build up my capacity in public policy implementation, especially since I was mandated by the Head of Government of Morocco to develop the national business climate policy for Morocco for the next five years. It was the first time I had been invited to carry out such a strategic exercise for my country. The complexity of the exercise lies in the fact that it involves a variety of stakeholders and that it was necessary to determine the priorities for Morocco in the medium term in order to develop the private sector and improve the attractiveness of investment. This exercise was supported by a steering committee that I established and that includes the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Internal affairs.
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.
1. What were your expectations of IPP Online when you signed up?
I have been working in the private sector as well as the public sector back and forth for quite some time. In 2015, I was recruited by one of the Korean government agencies for the innovation and startups support. At the end of December 2017, I resigned from the agency although I was fully employed until I would retire at 60. In 2018, I joined one startup as COO and successfully led the investment raising, $21M, for the startup from Japan and Hong Kong. In 2019, I was recruited by the current organization with 21 member countries again. And I have seen so many great policies and masterplans to be formulated, and yet, when it came to implementing them, it did not seem to move forward at all.
Being an Egyptian Woman, a holder of a master degree of the Public Policy and Public Administration from the American University in Cairo (AUC, 2007), member of the AUC Public Policy Hub (2018) and working for the International Labor Organization (UN Specialized agency) encouraged me to think about enrolling in a public policy course at Harvard’s premises.
Applying to “Implementing Public Policy”, blended course, at Harvard Kennedy School was a very interesting challenge from March to December 2020 until the moment the course turned to be an online course then the challenge started to grow bigger in me. I had an initial expectation to learn from the Harvard premises experience and from the interaction with professors and mates especially that I considered the online part as an introduction and conclusion while the body of the course is mainly the in presence-week.
My key learning from the Leading Economic Growth course is how to effectively define a challenge / problem using the 5-whys technique and not use the solution to define the problem. For instance, the definition of my first economic problem was lack of transportation infrastructure in Nigeria, however, I discovered that that definition was narrow and did not identify the main problem of why transportation infrastructure was lacking. Using the 5-whys technique, I was able to redirect my challenge to tackling high rates of poverty and low growth rate among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the binding constraint, concentrating on transportation infrastructure. If poverty and growth rate are addressed, transportation facilities will improve.
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the level of poverty in Nigeria is currently about 40% of the total population, 83 million people, with MSMEs contributing a large portion of that figure. MSMEs are a primary source of jobs, accounting for about 96% of businesses and 84% employment (PWC, June 2020). However, the economic climate faces challenges of poor infrastructure, unfriendly business environment, high incidence of informal sector, etc., which adversely affects the MSME sector. More specifically, the current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on the sector, which has affected household livelihoods across the country.
When I registered for the course my conception of public policy was the public definition – a course of action developed by a government in response to public problems. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the course began. I realised that public policy is not only for government but for all citizens that want to make a positive impact in society.
I came into the course with a goal to developing a policy that will help to reduce the level of poverty in the Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the most resourced countries in the world, in terms of human and endowments, yet with a high poverty rate of over 40.1 percent of total population being classified as poor in 2019 (National Bureau of Statistics). This translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians estimated to live below the poverty line. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the figure is projected to have increased astronomically especially among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), due to production slowdown, movement restriction and lockdown which resulted in supply chain disruption.
To address this challenge I knew I wanted to focus on infrastructure however, I was not sure of where to begin. I avoided focusing on capacity building and access to finance as they have been done numerous times and failed to reduce the level of poverty. The government, corporate institutions and individuals have spent resources training entrepreneurs and linking them to funds to start or expand their businesses. However, the cost of doing business has consumed a large portion of the funds. The Nigerian society is plagued with poor infrastructure such as erratic power and water supply and poor transportation facilities which affects the productivity and profits of MSMEs. As a result, I identified the need to address infrastructure.
During one of our first sessions, I remember Professor Andrews speaking about complex problems and the need to address these issues with a new approach typically not used by public policy professionals and government agencies. As he described the problems he has witnessed with the traditional “plan and control” implementation method, I thought, “Oh no. If there is anything I’m good at, it’s planning. And I’m a control freak.” [Insert wide-eyed emoji and head-exploding emoji here].
Professor Andrews and the team invited us into the PDIA world and encouraged us to give it a try with open minds. Boy, am I glad I did.
As the course started, I was working with an internal team to implement a financial assistance program for small businesses that had been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the many uncertainties involved with the virus and the response to the public health emergency, I decided to use this situation as my implementation challenge.
By attending the IPP course with Harvard Kennedy School, my main objective was to learn how to improve our approach in designing, developing, and implementing a public policy efficiently, using high standards, the best practices, and innovations.
Attending this course with peers from all over the world was also for me a great opportunity to learn from them about their experiences, challenges, success stories and failures in implementing public policy. Learning from participants was an interesting part of this journey.
As the general coordinator of the national Committee for business environment in Morocco, and given my role and functions within this Committee, it is important for me to continuously develop my skills and knowledge; to be up to date on how to motivate and keep on board authorizers and stakeholders, to identify pain points and most importantly issues to address. It is also equally important for me to continuously learn how to effectively lead multidisciplinary teams, oversee the implementation of reforms, and ensure proper monitoring and performance evaluation. In this regard, the IPP course has been very useful for me and has enabled me to develop astute skills in addressing more effectively the design and implementation of public policies.
Our national Committee, chaired by the Head of Government, has ten years of experience in public-private dialogue to identify, on a regular basis, the main constraints faced by entrepreneurs and foreign investors in the country. The Committee is also seen as a delivery unit for the implementation of cross-department’s reforms.
Due to the successful implementation of multiple reforms, Morocco has improved its ranking in the Doing Business report published by the World Bank Group, moving from the 128th position in 2010 to the 53rd position in 2020.
But beyond this international ranking, the Kingdom needs to create a more conducive environment with less constraints and difficulties for firms to enter markets, create wealth, grow and export.
I was confident that this course would provide me with more skills, tools, and tactics to successfully contribute to one of the most important projects we are currently working on in our country, namely the design and implementation of the national strategy to improve the business environment.
Coming into this course, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was excited about attending classes at Harvard Kennedy School, but did not realise the tremendous learning opportunity that was awaiting me.
I’ve been working in the private sector my entire career (over twenty years) across many different industries, different countries, and multiple continents, and always for the best companies within their respective industries. Along the way, I have encountered various methods of problem-solving, challenge-resolution, and workflow-mapping. You could say that I thought I’d seen every leadership and management approach there was.
Yet, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover how useful this course would be to my development as a leader. While conceding that some aspects of the course were not entirely unfamiliar, the way they were brought together and packaged in such a powerful problem-solving approach that could be applied to any type of complex situation came as a great surprise and as a learning opportunity – a fresh way of looking at the tools in my cupboard.
Although the initial aim of this course was to teach us how to raise awareness of social problems and implement public policies that would ensure a sustainable long-term response, in my opinion, this course has taught us much more practical, hands-on skills. In this course we have learned a problem-solving methodology that can be applied in various fields, industries, or even our personal lives, whenever and wherever we face complex situations.
I have learned how powerful and engaging we can become by knowing how to appropriately construct a problem and present it in a way that engages multiple stakeholders, how to create powerful teams without formal authority over the members of the team, how to acquire authority from authorisers, how to progress in solving a complex problem in a non-linear way, and how to overcome roadblocks such as bureaucratic organisational structures that can affect your efficiency and ability to engage stakeholders.
Case Study: How I applied My HKS skills to a Banking Industry problem: