Having been both a witness to and a participant in policy initiatives, I would like to share my observations as to what it will take to assure sound and transnational public policy. Whether it was working as an economist overseeing investments in regional economic development, running a just-in-time product delivery system, or leading a learner-centered campus, I have seen how economic, social and technological changes have radically reshaped all institutions, communities, organizations and environments. And at the end of the day changing lives of individuals! As a public policy student and expert, I believe that the future depends and belongs to those who can effectuate transformations based on sound Public policy!
Understanding Public Policy provides a powerful and flexible toolkit for identifying and assessing challenges, proposing alternative solutions, making decisions and evaluating (i.e. impacting positive outcomes in complex environments). In other words, effectuate transformations.
Public policy makers and experts are explorers and leaders. They are the essential agents in discovering and realizing the ever-unfolding potentialities of our institutions and communities.
Exploring and Leading Public Policy – Transformation
At its heart, all professional capacities have expertise at the core: we trust medical doctors to know the human body and its maladies, lawyers to thoroughly understand the law, and history professors to recount Napoleon’s battles accurately.
Understanding Public Policy allows you to lead and to explore. Why both an explorer and a leader? All the great explorers – from Pytheas in Ancient Greek times, to Magellan and Columbus, and to Ernest Shackleton and Neil Armstrong in the last century – carried with them a combination of resources (ships, people, materials), expert skills, and a clear objective in mind on their voyages. Yet, their travels also opened up new, exciting, and unexpected challenges, forced them to rethink their initial plans, and required that they bring all their expertise to bear. Explorers not only chart out new terrain but they take the lead in adapting their institutions
Understanding public policy provides capacity to build a toolkit to explore and lead. Formulating and implementing policy usually takes place in environments where there are multiple competing actors and interests, intense pressure for results (for improved outcomes, for better profits, etc.), structural constraints (lack of resources, rigid hierarchies) and unknown variables that shape what experts and leaders can do. there is both the challenge, and the necessity, of reconciling the development of clear policy responses to the imperative of remaining flexible and intentional in any given situation or with every series of challenges. Future leaders, policy experts have an obligation to propose relevant solutions to institutional and community problems and to insure an effective implementation across the organization, and that can only take place when you have developed and mastered your toolkit.
Policy experts are no longer “mere” functionaries; they are at the front line of helping their organizations and communities to adapt to an ever-increasingly complex and unfamiliar world. They are, in other words, transformation facilitators. Good policy experts identify their organization’s and communities’ strengths and weaknesses, they develop and propose solutions, they reconcile competing interests, and they achieve considerable buy-in throughout their institutions.
The toolkit we provide in public policy encompasses a series of interrelated skills that are designed to assist master a complex environment in a relatively short time; and this involves intensive study in mathematics and statistics, sociology, economics, political theory, leadership theory as well as the literature in policy analysis.
Current and future challenges requires learning how to synthesize insights among these fields in order to think creatively – flexibility is the key to any successful leadership strategy. There is no one single answer to any given situation or series of challenges. Policy is, on one level, the art of making choices among many different potential responses, and having the knowledge and confidence to fashion the best possible course of action.
Policy experts are not only explorers and leaders but also transformation facilitators
They address the crises and challenges that organizations and communities find themselves in and act to creatively propel positive and proactive change. Even if you are not directly responsible for making the tough call, you will participate in the analysis and developing alternative action paths.
As Robert Browning wrote: “for sudden the worst turns to the best for the brave.” One of my heroes, Shackleton, relied on this philosophy to lead one of the most daring and creative journeys in history while saving his men who were stranded in Antarctica. Your solutions must be no less bold, forward-looking, or far-seeing: whether directly as leaders or indirectly as experts and advisers, successful policy experts play the pivotal role as to whether their organizations and communities thrive or succumb in a constantly fluctuating and unfamiliar world.
Successful and transformative policy leadership demands a creative, innovative mindset.
Policy experts and leaders are going to be more in demand as the twenty-first century progresses. Our increasingly complex world is beset with major challenges – the aforementioned restructuring of the economy, an increasingly fragmented geopolitical world, water scarcity, increasing demands of technologies on the workforce, and so on. States, regions, communities and organizations will only succeed in navigating these unknown and potentially treacherous waters if they have well-trained explorers and leaders to guide them. Its a time and a world in which decisive impact within extremely complex situations will generate positive change. It is the policy maker’ role as a policy expert to effectuate these transformations as an educated explorer and a leader. And At the end of the day ask; what difference did you make in the lives of your fellow human beings through public policy?
* Based on – Public Policy: A Meaningful, Innovative Mindset. Public Policy and Administration for the Curious: Why Study Public Policy and Administration? edited by K. Vaidya, University of Canberra, Australia. (ISBN 978-1-925128-63-5). Wth Kenneth Garner