Learning About Careers in Public Policy

Session Report
Reetwika Mallick

The Gender Impact Studies Center, at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted a Two-Month Online National Winter School Program on ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’ from January 6th, 2024 to March 8th 2024.

The course, spread over two months, provided a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insight into public policy. The course led by esteemed experts, empowered young women to be effective leaders. Through a combination of engaging lectures, interactive workshops, networking, guidance by thematic experts and practical exercises.

On day 7 of the ‘Young Women Leaders in Public Policy Fellowship’, Mr Yash Agarwal​​​, Founder​, ​Public Policy India illustrated a picture of public policy formulation, explaining ways in which policy is structured in order to carve out a career in public policy.

Explaining Public Policy-

Mr. Agarwal commenced the session by explaining public policy as the art and science of a public agency to solve public problems using public money. Mr. Agarwal using various examples explained diverse problems at the national, state and local levels that the public agencies deal with. Mr. Agarwal elucidated that working in the policy sector requires involvement at any of the stages of policy.

As an esteemed expert in the field of policy, Mr. Agarwal delineated, everything under the sun has a public policy element attached to it- from healthcare to education to environment. Despite diverse fields being attached to public policy, Mr. Agrawal outlined five universal pillars of policy that can be identified to assist in deciding career paths in policy.

The first pillar, ideation, involves the identification of the underlying problem. Mr. Agarwal explained the various sources available like media reports, reports by think tanks, citizens themselves expressing concerns to the government, etc. through which the problem is put forth to be solved by policy measures.

After the stage of ideation, the second pillar, Mr. Agarwal mentioned as design. At this pillar, the methods to be adopted for resolving the problem is considered by the public agency. Mr. Agarwal using examples discussed some of the possible designs that the public agencies adopt.

The third pillar is implementation in policy. The aim of this pillar is to resolve the policy problem in the most competitive way possible. The fourth pillar of monitoring applies to examine the implementation of the maintenance clause in the contracts. Evaluation, as specified by Mr. Agarwal is the fifth pillar of public policy. At this pillar, examination is conducted and conclusions are drawn on the success of resolving the problem. The sixth and the last pillar of public policy involves small nuances like- legislative approvals.

Mr. Agarwal elucidated the need for understanding the different pillars of policy making, since every pillar requires different organisational structures to be involved into. In policy design, the government approaches think tanks, academia, universities and other experts to create a roadmap for resolving the underlying problem. The insights from the experts aid in designing the policy. The Non-Government Organisations work at the implementation level, i.e. they bring the policies closer to the people at the grassroots.

Mr. Agarwal enumerated the diverse skill sets required for different pillars of policy making. He shared examples, at the ideation stage, the skills of surveying and researching become primary; while the at evaluation stage, the skill of data analysis remains central.

Public Policy Work in India from a Career Perspective-

Discussing public policy as a career possibility, Mr. Agarwal shared three important points to reckon with. First, Mr. Agarwal discussed about spaces of policy. Spaces involved organisations that are part of the eco-system of public policy- think-tanks, academia, private sector, etc. Vertical within which one would work is the second crucial decision in carving a public policy career. The Functions in the vertical one is expected to perform constitute the third important career decision, Mr Agarwal emphasized.

Concluding the session, Mr. Agarwal reiterated the importance of identifying either the skill sets one possesses to build a public policy career in the respective pillar or acquiring the required skills of the policy making stage.

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