In June the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program marked the tenth anniversary of its series of Harvard Ministerial Forums. Over the past ten years the Program has organized and hosted 19 Ministerial Forums bringing to Harvard a total of 228 serving government Ministers from 65 countries. Initially conceived as a special opportunity for health Ministers, the Ministerial Forums were soon expanded to include finance Ministers, and in more recent years economic planning Ministers, as well as education and other social sector Ministers have been incorporated into the Program.
The principal goal of the Harvard Ministerial Forums is to enhance leadership effectiveness and promote closer collaboration among a pivotal cohort of government Ministers with core human development-related responsibilities. The Forums are a unique opportunity for government Ministers to step back from their day-to-day duties to reflect on their purpose in office and to map a transformative legacy that positively impacts the lives of citizens, and contributes to their country’s economic prospects. Ministers leave Harvard with a high-level plan, as well as the tools for how to organize to implement their goals. The Ministerial Program provides Ministers a menu of post-Harvard technical support, including working with Ministers’ senior leadership teams to develop more detailed implementation plans, as well as Harvard student-led policy research as requested.
Although it is difficult to directly attribute policy change to the Harvard Ministerial Program, in repeated surveys of participating Ministers over the years the strongest out-take has been that the Ministerial Forums provide Ministers with a clearer sense of mission and perspective on how to optimize their time in office to make an enduring beneficial impact. After his recent participation in the Ministerial Forum, Sierra Leone Health Minister, the Hon. Austin Demby, called it “one of the most amazing experiences in my professional life.” Noting that “the knowledge and experience shared by veterans, peers and faculty in an open and deliberative forum got the innovation and creative juices flowing, helping put one’s legacy in clear focus even as one deals with competing priorities.”
Ethiopian Planning Minister, the Hon. Fitsum Assefa called her time during the Forum a “wonderful learning experience.” Further stating that, “I have gained a lot of practical experience which is already impacting my leadership in office.” While Former Finance Minister of Burkina Faso, Rosine Coulibaly, highlighted that “due to my participation in the Forum in Harvard, I began to engage in very interactive and productive dialogues with my colleagues in the Ministry of Health. It also gave me the opportunities to see that we can invest more strategically in the health sector.”