On-line Technical Support Helps Build Professional Capacity in Government Ministries

The Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program’s Virtual Implementation Platform (VIP) is a unique component of the Program’s follow-up support to Ministers after they participate in the Ministerial Leadership Forums at Harvard. The VIP is an online program of technical assistance and capacity development designed to support implementation by senior ministry leadership of the Minister’s primary policy goals.  Over the past two years, over 250 senior ministry officials from 26 ministries and 13 countries across Africa have enrolled in the VIP.

Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth, and Gender Affairs, Margaret Kobia, is one of the 26 Ministers who enlisted a team of senior ministry officials, known as ‘Enablers’ to participate in the VIP. Her Enablers have been tasked with planning, implementing, and monitoring progress towards her goal “to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the Ministry by implementing a performance evaluation for each department to support a targeted two million youth and three million women to start and grow small businesses for job and employment creation with respect to youth and gender in the next four years.” One year after initiating the VIP, the Enablers report that the VIP’s technical guidance on indicators, strategies, and priorities has helped to “crystallize the Performance Contracts and expectations.” They also report that the cascading structure of the VIP (i.e. guidance on how senior officials can delegate responsibility and track progress effectively) allowed for more inclusion at all levels of the Ministry, as well as enhanced ownership and accountability at the individual and team level. Enablers also realized that they had previously been tracking activities rather than outcomes (e.g. disbursement of funds rather than impact of disbursed funds) and are now trying to shift to “measure the right things.” Overall, they have found that the VIP has led to a more “systems thinking” approach around all activities and how they contribute towards the Cabinet Secretary’s legacy goal.

Many of the reported gains by the Ministry personnel build on their professional skills and capacity within the Ministry generally and will likely impact their effectiveness beyond their immediate current tasks. That being said, Enablers did report that lack of capacity, particularly at lower levels of government, was a barrier that made monitoring at the levels recommended by the VIP challenging. They also found data collection to inform decisionmaking and to monitor progress to be another systems-level challenge that needs to be improved for effective policy implementation and monitoring in the future.