Saturday, January 22, 2011

Introduction to Public Administration and Governance, PA 201

Start with policy and build

After reading and reflecting on Mark Turners book “Government, administration and development: making the state work” chapter 3 on the policy process: Politics and techniques I have an enhanced belief that solid policy is a universally vital component of growth. Turner writes that policy is power. As a student and future practitioner of policy it will be critical for me to understand national or community strategy as a policy. Policy in its purest sense is a tool to bridge the conflicts between social classes. I must remember that policy includes as well as excludes certain groups; examples would be that in Latin America the military traditionally receives greater benefit and control of policies than other groups. In most of the world masculine characteristics are believed necessary for politics, a system that will exclude women from involvement in politics as well as benefit from policy creation. This situation will begin to be recertified only when policies change, giving more female or gender neutral characteristics as necessary for politics.  Policies that are inclusive instead of exclusive foster greater stability and peace in an area by giving rise to greater access to official channels of participation reducing the desire to participate in a non democratic method.

Mark Turner in his book “Government, administration and development: making the state work” presents “the notorious nine implementation problems” faced by USAID. Mr. Turner poses the question to his readers of what solutions they could suggest. I would like to offer my thoughts on them. I suggest that each of these problems could be reduced or eliminated utilizing policy as a tool.

1.      Political, economic and environmental constraints- the policies governing and directing these three areas of a system are critical to understand and work within when engaging in a project in the community. Dedicating time and resources to understanding the policies of these areas should be of primary importance and occur before or at the very least at the begging of project planning.

2.      Institutional realities - When primarily identifying your local institutional collaborators it is important to understand the policies that they are operating under. Each institution has individual contexts in which they operate within. If your project is working with an agency that has policies reflective of your project objectives it is than necessary to examine their capacities in regards to areas where you will be working together.

3.      Host country personnel limitations – Projects should be designed to equip and train local persons with the appropriate technical and administrative skills necessary for the project completion. Working with local policy makers to create a point of entry for these independently trained and funded personnel to support and strengthen the host countries personnel. Training new persons is preferable over continuing education of those currently engaged since those currently engaged are often overworked.

4.      Technical assistance shortcomings – Technical assistance should come in the form of education, any direct assistance will be un-sustainable and will create a system where the project has project only impact. Starting at the legal base, examining policy and revising when necessary is critical for the education to be of practical use.

5.      Decentralization and participation - Participation is of unquestionable importance. Without participation projects would have little real value. When developing policies to implement programs in developing areas it is useful to remember that in south and SE Asia women are accepted as behaving appropriately in politics when they are perceived as fulfilling a political void created by the death or imprisonment of male family member. One can further generalize that female politicians come from privileged social classes where domestic work is performed by servants and that their primary loyalty is to the class or family interests. As a policy developer creating an inclusive as possible system, will facilitate participation.

6.      Timing – Project policy can develop a time line that facilitates a continuous flow of activity. Improving the time between project identification and the actually start of the project can be perused through efficient and clear role definition as well as adequately trained staff.

7.      Information systems - Information suffers from a dramatic disconnect. Project designers, researchers, and implementers are all participants in producing, gathering, introducing and collecting information.  Each type of activity (producing, gathering, introducing and collecting) suffers from its own failures resulting in an ineffective information system delivery. Understanding each actor and activity prior to creating a framework and directives is a good policy decision, creating opportunity for effective use of information systems.

8.      Differing agendas – Projects should be developed to reflect the agenda of the community they are designed to serve. A large number of communities have a policy based agenda, either national, sub national or local. Examining these policies and discovering where donor projects coincide with community policies will alleviate this situation, while allowing the host community to examine, understand and perhaps even further define what their strategy actually is, a key component of effective public policy.

9.      The bottom line: sustain the projects – Many of the aspects for sustain a project are outside of the control of the implementing organization. Even the best made policies can falter if dramatic changes occur in the host countries political, environmental or economic arenas. Projects can have a higher rate of sustainability if local persons are trained to fulfill all aspects of the project. Another key element is to create a policy that will allow the project to adapt over time, including the possibility to create funds when necessary.

In these nine problems each of them can be improved utilizing policy. As discussed in the beginning, policy includes and excludes different members of a community. Remembering the impact that policy has both beneficial and detrimental will allow policy makers to create policies that support their end objectives.

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