Examining the secondary education system in Georgia

Guest blog by Levan Karalashvili

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.

That was a great course. A lot of countries are facing major policy challenges due to COVID19 and there is especially high uncertainty on post-covid era. The world simply will be different and any policy-maker needs to be equipped with the best possible tools and be able to efficiently analyze complex problems, which will require unorthodox strategies to develop and implement, with goal to accelerate process of recovery.

I found the provided materials and course dynamics very interesting, widening the understanding of complex problem handling, learning the PDIA approach in action, and sharpening problem understanding and solution development strategies.

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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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Public Policy Problems are both Inevitable and Approachable

Guest blog written by Doran Moreland

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 7-month blended learning course in December 2019. These are their learning journey stories.

I was extremely excited to begin the course, mainly because I was looking forward to the opportunity to approach my problem in new ways. I was also looking for new tools to help measure my progress and present my problem to others to gain outside buy-in. The course certainly provided each of these. However, I was most blown away by the incredibly diverse and deeply inspiring individuals in my IPP cohort. The value of their stories- small and big victories and set-backs, and the passion with which they approach their work is immeasurable. After going through the course, I now know that public policy problems are both inevitable and approachable. Before IPP, I was attempting to know the solutions to any problem presented. Today, I no longer aspire to achieve a state of all-knowingness, because it does not exist. Instead, I now have the confidence to state what I don’t know with practical ideas on getting started, with opportunities for continual learning to address the challenge at hand.

The sections on Psychological safety Comfort level speaking up, asking for help, admitting mistakes (Edmondson, 1999) and Felt Accountability Extent feel accountable, responsible (Abelson et al., 1999) led by Prof. Monica Higgins were particularly helpful for me. Both helped me to understand the multidimensional aspects of leadership. I’ve learned that leaders do not simply find and promote talented individuals. They must create and maintain an environment where individuals can thrive. Additionally, I took many key points from the section on fragmented and dysfunctional bureaucracy, led by Prof. Matt Andrews. This section helped me gain perspective about the environment in which I work, and to ask myself why information flows and decisions are made the way that they do. The internal challenge I’ve faced during this introspection is the need to balance the practical concessions needed to advance my work within my current environment, which often conflict with my desire to try to change the environment altogether.

My level of access was very high coming into the program. But I found that my access increased as I progressed in addressing my progress. I attribute two main factors to this development: 1) the clarity with which I’ve been able to explain the core problem, as well as the nuances around the problem. This increased clarity has come over time as I’ve continued PDIA and speaking with new stakeholders. 2) My association with Harvard Kennedy School has enhanced my credibility with my internal authorizers. Going through this process I have gained more practical expectations around working with problems. I’m no longer looking to hit home runs every time; I’m now happy with consistent doubles and triples.

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The Mozambique School Lunch Initiative

Guest blog written by Cara Myers

Cara Myers is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative (MSLI).  She learned about the PDIA approach by taking two courses at the Harvard Kennedy School as part of her Master’s in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) program. She then began applying more of the concepts directly with the MSLI team. This is her PDIA story.

It was March of 2016 and the rains had completely failed for a second year in southern Mozambique. Farming families had no crops. Children were missing school to dig up river roots to eat. Teachers were sending students home because they were “too hungry to learn anything.” Even in normal years, child malnutrition and poor school participation are major issues in Mozambique. This is one of those big, complex problems that is caused by a myriad of interrelated causes and sub-causes that are difficult to disentangle and prioritize.

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So there we were, myself, Talvina Ualane and Roberto Mutisse, all of us former colleagues who had worked together for a disaster relief nongovernmental organization in Mozambique in the past and felt deeply motivated to do something to help people affected by this crisis. But, where did we even begin?

We started with what we could do. This is one of the key aspects of the triple-A framework used in PDIA, which stresses that the space for change must include three key factors: authority, acceptance, and ability. PDIA also emphasizes moving to action quickly rather than taking a long time to try and plan everything out before starting to work. By deconstructing the problem into small, manageable bits, it creates points of entry whereby you can start addressing one of the causes or sub-causes of the problem and build the capacity to do more from there.

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