New Faculty Feature: Adjunct Lecturer Sushma Raman

August 20, 2013

Several new faculty members across a wide range of policy areas are joining Harvard Kennedy School this fall. We take this opportunity to introduce them to the HKS community.

Sushma Raman MC/MPA 2013 is an adjunct lecturer in public policy. Raman has extensive experience in the global philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, including the Ford and Open Society Foundations, and has previously served as a part-time lecturer in public policy at USC and UCLA.

Q: What brought you to the Kennedy School?

Raman: I came to the Kennedy School last year as a mid-career student in order to build my knowledge, skills, and networks. I loved the experience on many levels — from the fast-paced, academic rigor of classes such as API 126 (American Economic Policy) and API 141 (Finance) to the opportunity to hear directly from world leaders in a classroom in IGA 116 (Great Powers). I was thrilled and honored when I was invited by the Kennedy School to teach.

Q: What are your primary areas of research?

Raman: One area of interest for me is the changing roles of and relationships between the three sectors – government, business, and civil society – and the implications for public policy. In the graduate course I taught on inter-sectoral leadership at USC, I focused on the competencies and tools that public servants need to navigate across the three sectors and effect change.

Another area of interest for me is the influence of philanthropy and civil society on public policy. The rise of foundations in the U.S. has had positive effects on public policy, from support for the civil rights movement to the immigrant rights movement today. Yet, many foundations remain wary of supporting public policy and advocacy. And philanthropic engagement with public policy is sometimes looked upon with caution by policy makers and grassroots activists, given the sector’s lack of accountability and transparency. An article I wrote for Stanford Social Innovation Review explores this issue in depth and provides recommendations for sector leaders to consider.

Similarly, the rise of global civil society has had a positive impact on the responsiveness and accountability of global institutions. Yet, civil society itself struggles with issues of legitimacy, representation and impact. The tools and techniques used by public leaders must not only focus on effective management, but also on addressing these broader questions. Case in point – I helped launch and scale two foundations focused on women’s rights and caste discrimination when I worked at the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi office.

Q: What courses will you be teaching?

Raman: I will be teaching DPI-820 Policy Writing for Decision Makers in the fall and spring.

This course is important for three reasons:

First, the changing role of the three sectors means there are many actors, voices, and perspectives in the public policy arena and there is an increased need for persuasive, clear communications in order to get your message across.

Second, despite the information overload facing decision makers, they also face an information dearth as they determine how to best sift through, prioritize, and trust these competing sources of information. Strong policy writing skills can help you reach and influence decision makers.

Finally, strong writing skills are critical during one’s job search, irrespective of the employer’s mission or one’s role in the organization.

Q: How can the work being done here at HKS help address some of the world’s most significant public policy challenges?

Raman: HKS trains current and future leaders who will change their societies and countries, whether by running for public office, serving as an appointed official, or launching a social enterprise or nonprofit. HKS also serves as a convener for thought leaders from around the world.

Q: What are you currently reading?

Raman: I am a bit behind on my fiction, so I just finished reading Amitava Ghosh’s "Sea of Poppies" and "River of Smoke," two fascinating books in a historical trilogy. The lush and textured narrative spans the poppy fields of colonial India to the city of Canton during the Opium Wars to the world of indentured laborers on the island of Mauritius.

I am reading Robert Kaplan’s "Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power," which actually ties in with some of the themes in Ghosh’s novels.

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Sushma Raman, adjunct lecturer in public policy

Sushma Raman, adjunct lecturer in public policy

"HKS trains current and future leaders who will change their societies and countries, whether by running for public office, serving as an appointed official, or launching a social enterprise or nonprofit," says Raman.