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There are plenty of well-intentioned, intelligent people—including public functionaries—working on solutions to the global development challenges. I believe that even when our heart is in the right place, we could be a lot smarter about our work – smarter in analyzing development issues, smarter in comprehending the multiple dimensions of governance failures, and smarter in the conceptual design and implementation of policies. In four months, I am convinced that there is no better place to acquire these skills than the MPA/ID Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
As most public officials involved in policy making and implementation would know, we often tend to merely follow precedents or get boxed into bureaucratic and ideological straitjackets. There are no coaches or feedback channels that can help overcome this. For people like these people, and that includes me, this experience could make the difference.
Truth to tell, I had my concerns about the mathematical rigor associated with the Program. My last serious foray to math, as part of a curriculum, was sixteen years back! Yet the concise three-week Math Camp in August put a lot of worries to rest—it was relevant, precise and immensely helpful to tackling the coursework.
The micro- and macroeconomics courses have given me the conceptual foundations to help analyze developmental issues, a major part of my work requirement. Despite never having taken an econometrics course, Professor Dan Levy in his eloquent and completely unique way, made me totally at ease with advanced quantitative techniques. The policy design and case study courses, taught by some of the world’s leading development experts, have offered an excellent exposure to the diversity and complexity of development challenges and the latest research on them.
I believe that the MPA/ID Program offers an unbeatable combination of exposure to policy and practice, which coupled with Harvard’s remarkable off-classroom learning environment, makes it, in my opinion, the best platform to learn to smarter make development happen.
Gulzar Natarajan is an award winning manager in the Indian Administrative Service with a dozen years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology.