The inaugural Public Policy in-house conference, 21 October 2016, was an opportunity for four members of the 2016/2017 MPP cohort to present their analyses of key policy issues from their home countries. The presenters were selected based not only on quality but also on diversity, region, and topic providing a unique learning opportunity for presenter and audience alike.
By Kevin Gomis, MPP 2016-2017
Just like the cohort, the day’s presentations were highly diverse – ranging greatly in country, topic and policy problem addressed – a true reflection on the breadth of backgrounds and experiences encapsulated by the 129 Master’s students.
In a whirlwind four hours we journeyed across the globe. First to Brazil to discuss the impact of vocational education programmes inextricably linked to a president later indicted on corruption charges, then the harrowing stories of Swiss-government sanctioned child abuse, victims later repatriated but abuses not yet formally recognised. We then moved onto a large-scale shift in Japan’s education system, with social ramifications as strong as its educational outcomes, and finally to how a small group of farmers in remote India were empowered by a political leader (or vice-versa?), leading to an upheaval of national policies associated with farmer-suicides.
Each of these presentations was equally outstanding, and those brave enough to grace the stage were more than impressive in their ability to transform 3,000-word essays into 20 minutes of engaging stories. In a succinct and confident manner, the knowledge and passion each individual displayed was exemplary.
What did we gain?
First, despite the distinct and unique nature of the policy problems, they were all relatable to what we had learnt over the course of four short, intense weeks. The presentations provided a fantastic opportunity to see new perspectives on the theories, outside the bounds of our own experiences and what we had based our assignments on. A fulfilling opportunity to extend our learning.
Second, and a testament to the quality of the presentations, was the discussion which was engendered – not only in the conference hall but spilling over to the post-event pizza session (another benefit of the conference).
It is here where the true value of the day was found. Rather than a quiet and disinterested audience eager to leave their seats or perhaps worse, superficial interactions to pass the time, the conversation between presenter and audience was deeply informative.
As the Q&A evolved, it was discernible that each topic resonated with the audience in terms of what they had spent countless hours learning in class — but then also how this might juxtapose or connect to real policy problems visible in their own country.
Complementary and competing analysis was debated, investigating underlying issues, challenging interpretations and approaches. Analogues to similar policy issues and problems were posited to try and understand alternatives which may be possible.
Personally, this was brought to the fore most starkly in regard to the Swiss case study, a similar issue to Australia’s ‘stolen generation’ but where the policy approach was almost a direct opposite. Not to say one is preferable, but having the opportunity to compare these was a unique learning experience made possible by the conference.
Last and perhaps most importantly was the optimism which was maintained throughout the day. Whilst the assignment topics certainly leant towards policy failures, there was always a spirit of resolve to challenge the outcome, how we may have acted differently, performed better and created a solution not apparent to those in control at the time. If history were to repeat itself in any way (as it so often does) it certainly felt that we are now well armed to influence the end result in a positive way.
- Vocational Education in Brazil: Challenges of a Policy tied to the President
Louisee Rodrigues da Cruz (Brazil)
- The “Children of the open road” Campaign and a Demand of Rehabilitation
Andrea Vogel (Switzerland)
- Pressure Free Education Policy in Japan: The Actors Who Guided the Policy
Takuma Imamura (Japan)
- Every 30 Minutes a Farmer Commits Suicide in India
Manpreet Batra (India)
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
Photo: Zachary Strain, MPP 2016-2017