Rupert Simons

Country Head
Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative
Monrovia, Liberia

I am Country Head for the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) in Liberia. I spend about half my time advising the Government of Liberia on how to implement its priority projects, and the other half managing a team of advisers who build capacity for implementation across government.

I first worked for the Government of Liberia in the summer of 2007, inspired by a speech by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who visited the Kennedy School during my first year as an MPA/ID. She invited Kennedy School students to work for her government, and seven of us followed her call. Several fellow MPA/IDs were among them, and one of them, Emily Stanger (2008) has worked in Liberia ever since graduation. It took me a few years to find my way back here, but Liberia has a special place in my heart and I am very fortunate to find myself running a project at the heart of government.

My job is a mix of the exciting (advising the President) and the mundane (attending three-hour government communication meetings). The part I enjoy most is hiring people who are smarter and more experienced than me and letting them bring their talents to bear in government. The part I enjoy least is being far from friends and family, but the excitement of being part of Liberia's development story mostly compensates for that.

The part of the MPA/ID that I draw on most heavily is the management and leadership part of the curriculum. I don't do much work on the economy - the President has other people for that. However, I find that my MPA/ID training has helped me stay at the cutting edge of development thinking, and it's extraordinary how often we find ourselves applying or learning from ideas developed at the Kennedy School, like growth diagnostics, randomised controlled trials or problem-driven iterative adaptation.

My advice to anyone contemplating the MPA/ID program is jump in, work hard, learn everything you can and don't worry if some of it feels remote from the work you want to do. Thinking rigorously, drawing on the best evidence you can and the international networks you form at the Kennedy School will always be useful.

Rupert Simons is Country Head for the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) in Monrovia, Liberia. He spent 5 years with McKinsey before and after studying for the MPA/ID. Before joining AGI in Liberia, he helped set up the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) in Ethiopia. He grew up in Austria and the UK and holds an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Rupert Simons, MPA/ID 2008 (UK)

Rupert Simons, MPA/ID 2008 (UK)