Dr. Francis Xavier Tuokuu
Dr. Francis Xavier Tuokuu

A recent alum of both Leading Smart Policy Design: A Multisectoral Approach to Economic Decisions and Climate Change Policy: Economics and Politics, Dr. Francis Xavier Tuokuu currently works with Mercy Corps as Senior Advisor – Environmental Sustainability and Safeguards within the Technical Support Unit in Washington, D.C. He recently led the publication of the agency’s first-ever sustainability report, which is also the first time an international non-governmental organization (INGO) has monitored, tracked, and measured its global carbon footprint. In addition, he led the agency to develop environmental compliance and safeguard tools to guide its programmatic work in 40+ countries. He has field experience in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya. At Mercy Corps, he provides technical leadership on environmental compliance to support USAID, European Union (ECHO), Global Affairs Canada & FCDO-funded projects in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Read on to learn about his HKS Executive Education experience, and how he plans to implement his learnings.

What challenges were you looking to overcome by attending a Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education program?

My experience providing technical support to projects in developing countries, particularly the global south, has taught me that many countries grapple with critical policy-making and implementation challenges. Generally, the problem is not the lack of policies but the inability or lack of capacity to implement the existing ones. Therefore, I enrolled in Harvard’s Executive Education program to deepen my knowledge, sharpen my skills, and position myself to help with effective policy formulation and implementation within the international development sector.

How are you hoping to/how did you implement lessons from your program in your organization?

The lessons learned from the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Executive Education program have been invaluable in my professional work. During Leading Smart Policy Design, I learned different policy problem-solving frameworks. For instance, policy is not a one size fit for all, but depends on the circumstance and context. Usually, there is a tendency for policymakers to focus on solutions without diagnosing the real problems. However, insights and lessons from the Smart Policy Design (SPDi) framework show that policymaking is a continuous process and that there are no magic bullets. Rather, there is the need to localize contextual solutions that are rigorously tested, monitored, refined, and based on feedback.

Also, designing evidence in an agile manner is vital throughout all phases of a project. Therefore, for effective policy design and implementation within my organization, I will need to collect evidence consistently and continuously.

How would you describe the value of Executive Education to someone who is considering it?

Harvard Kennedy School has equipped me with the skills necessary for effective policy analysis and dialogue. I learned firsthand knowledge from renowned professors and faculty whose work I had previously only read in books and peer-reviewed journals. It was a surreal feeling chatting with them daily. Some of them have become my friends. 

The networking opportunities created during the program were great. For instance, in Climate Change Policy, we were about 50 students from 26 countries. In Leading Smart Policy Design, we were 49 students from 28 countries. Most of the students work as executives and leaders in governments, non-profits, and multinational institutions, and thus, bring a diversity of knowledge and real-life experiences to the program. I will forever cherish my Harvard experience. 

What do you hope to accomplish in your future career or what is the next challenge you hope to address using skills/knowledge acquired in your executive education experience?

With the knowledge acquired at Harvard Kennedy School, I will return to my role with better approaches and ideas to lead my organization’s greening and sustainability efforts.

Beyond my organization, I hope to use my skills to influence national and international policies that emphasize environmental protection and sustainable development. My overarching goal is to contribute positively to society and shape public policies, particularly in developing countries. 

Read more stories of our alumni and their accomplishments  here