Statement on Education for Public Problem Solving


For democracy to thrive, democratic governance has to work.  There are a lot of problems; the 21st century is surfacing a new set.  The public capability to solve them is eroding. 

In the United States, and other consolidated democracies, the system of educating and training people to solve public problems is radically insufficient.  Often such education and training, especially for professionals, simply does not exist.

We are educators, including current and former deans of schools of public policy and graduate schools.  Many of us have also served as public officials.  We have been on both sides of this fence.  We think it is time to sound the alarm. 

In the United States, during the 1960s and 1970s, new schools in public policy were devised and a model was widely adopted based on social science methods dominated by economics, statistics, and game theory.  This kind of evidence-based policy analysis is critical for modern policy-making, particularly in an age when leading politicians disdain facts and rely on anecdotes to make their case. 

While we believe that the ability to understand and use traditional social scientific tools is an important foundation for public policy education, it is not enough.  Students need to develop expertise in the craft or practice of solving public problems, focusing on the ability to formulate tractable problems, understand the interests of key stakeholders, organize coalitions for change, communicate objectives, and implement policies in a world full of competing actors and binding constraints.  

To fill the void, ad hoc programs of many kinds are springing up that experiment with possible answers.  In some of these initiatives, we notice that new methods for public problem solving tend to concentrate on three basic tasks: 

(1) assessment or identification of problems – in ways that draw heavily on local history and context, on fieldwork with and listening to how the people who are most affected see the problem, informed by an educated ethics and civic sensibility;

(2) development of possible answers with a method for policy design, a method that includes arguments about operational objectives, theories about what to do, and a choreography of actions that comprehend the relevant institutions and stakeholders; and

(3) an approach to implementation that is grounded in the field, learning from the experiences of the users, the participants, and other stakeholders, expecting constant adaptation amid experiments and constant evaluation of evidence about what is going on.

We do not yet have a common program for how to teach all this – how to find the right balance of historical understanding, social science tools and insights, moral reasoning, design methods, fieldwork, and various practical skills. 

Nor are we sure that a new program must be a new kind of standalone public policy credential.  Perhaps it should be a more flexible supplement to a variety of existing educational programs or professional training needs.  We are forming a network to pool ideas, learn from one another, and foster prototypes.

What we are sure of is that current educational preparation for public problem solving is insufficient.  Educators who care about the future of democratic governance should demand better.  We do.



Each signer represents his or her individual capacity. Institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only.

Original Working Group Members

Matt Andrews, Building State Capability, Harvard Kennedy School

Francis Fukuyama, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University

Frank Gavin, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Tom Kalil, Schmidt Futures

Susan Marquis, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Enrique Martinez, Center for Leadership Development, US Office of Personnel Management

Michael McFaul, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University

Tara McGuinness, New America and McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

Beth Simone Noveck, GovLab, New York University

Angela O'Mahony, Pardee RAND Graduate School

Anne-Marie Slaughter, New America

James Steinberg, Maxwell School, Syracuse University

Kathryn Stoner, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University

Thomas Ross, The Volcker Alliance

Kent Weaver, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

Jeremy Weinstein, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University

Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia

Additional Signers

Ricardo Hausmann, The Growth Lab, Harvard Kennedy School (9/8/19)

Salimah Samji, Building State Capability, Harvard Kennedy School (9/11/19)

Rosemary O'Leary, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas (9/17/19)

Paul Volcker, The Volcker Alliance (9/23/19)

Jon Buckland, Unleashing Potential (9/30/19)

Ali A. Zaidi, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University (9/30/19)

Roozbeh Yousefzadeh, Yale University (9/30/19)

Eduardo Villarreal, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) (9/30/19)

Robert Klitgaard, Claremont Graduate University (9/30/19)

Brian Levy, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (9/30/19)

Alejandra Nunez Aguilar, Laboratorio Nacional de Políticas Públicas (LNPP) (9/30/19)

Roger Pielke, Jr., University of Colorado, Boulder (9/30/19)

Dmitri A. Gusev, Purdue University (9/30/19)

Macario Schettino, Tec de Monterrey (9/30/19)

Charles S. White, Social Science Education Consortium (9/30/19)

Elena Gadjanova, University of Exeter (9/30/19)

Alfred Malmros, Early Studies (9/30/19)

Chris Seiple, University of Washington (9/30/19)

Virginia Hutcheon (9/30/19)

Linda Shoemaker, University of Colorado (9/30/19)

Kyle Matthews, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University (9/30/19)

Celine Cooper, School of Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University (9/30/19)

Víctor S. Peña, El Colegio de Sonora (9/30/19)

Kathleen Yang-Clayton, University of Illinois at Chicago (9/30/19)

Brett McGurk, Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University (9/30/19)

Anar Mammadli, Syracuse University  (9/30/19)

Juan P. Acevedo, Icesi University (9/30/19)

Lucas Jolias, Universidad Nacional del Quilmes (9/30/19)

Hans Michielsen (9/30/19)

Tina Walha, City of Seattle (9/30/19)

Fabiola Perales Fernández, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) (9/30/19)

Dan Honig, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (9/30/19)

Arjen Boin, Leiden University (9/30/19)

Sergio A. Campos, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) (9/30/19)

Fernando Burgos, Fundação Getúlio Vargas School of Business Administration of São Paulo (FGV - EAESP) (9/30/19)

Rushabh Soni, Tata Institute Of Social Science (9/30/19)

Hilary Cottam, Centre for the 5th Social Revolution (10/1/19)

Michael Cabrera, Apple (10/1/19)

Thomas Taylor, King's College London (10/1/19)

Elsa Kivinen, University of St. Andrews (10/1/19)

Eoin O’Malley, Dublin City University, School of Law and Government (10/1/19)

Charlie Mealings, King's College London (10/1/19)

Adi Staempfli, Goldsmiths, University of London (10/1/19)

Babs Williams, Hertie School of Governance (10/1/19)

Benjamín Acosta Díaz, Comités Interinstitucionales para la Evaluación de la Educación Superior (CIEES) (10/1/19)

Gonzalo Leon Oliva, Junta Nacional de Jardines Infantiles, Gobierno de Chile (10/1/19)

Gustavo Valdivieso, Universidad Externado de Colombia (10/1/19)

Patrick Pelletier, Commission Scolaire de Montréal (10/1/19)

Joice Toyota, Vetor Brasil (10/1/19)

Robyn Scott, Apolitical (10/1/19)

Gregory Michener, Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) (10/1/19)

Sean Redmond, University of Limerick (10/1/19)

Erin Park Cohn, Smith College (10/1/19)

L. David Smith, Smith College (10/1/19)

Ibrahim Abdullah, Green Fund, Trinidad (10/1/19)

Rahul Tongia, Brookings India (10/1/19)

Katherine Bersch, Davidson College (10/1/19)

Erik Berglof, Institute of Global Affairs, LSE School of Public Policy (10/1/19)

Michael Howlett, Simon Fraser University (10/1/19)

Marcelo de Oliveira Andrade Silva, Vetor Brasil (10/1/19)

Keith D. Brownsey, Mount Royal University (10/1/19)

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University (10/1/19)

Patrick Diamond, Queen Mary, University of London (10/1/19)

Brenton Caffin, States of Change (10/1/19)

Emily Robbins, Boston University Initiative on Cities (10/1/19)

Nixon M. Camilien, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago (10/1/19)

Emily Tavoulareas, Columbia University (10/1/19)

Ujwal Thapa, BibekSheel Nepali (10/1/19)

Elizabeth Grant, The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development (10/1/19)

Mark Benton, University of Missouri (10/1/19)

David Van Slyke, Maxwell School, Syracuse University (10/1/19)

Clarissa Noble, Virginia Department of Health (10/1/19)

Pablo Sanabria, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia (10/1/19)

M. Kerem Coban, Glodem, Koc University (10/1/19)

Bernhard Ebbinghaus, University of Oxford (10/1/19)

Shubham Jain, University of Cambridge (10/1/19)

Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Harvard Kennedy School (10/1/19)

Morgan Bazilian, Payne Institute for Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines (10/1/19)

Pete Peterson, Davenport Institute, Pepperdine School of Public Policy (10/1/19)

Nitin Pai, The Takshashila Institution (10/1/19)

Rocío Huerta Cuervo, Instituto Politécnico Nacional (10/1/19)

Lokpriy Shrma, University of Saskatchewan (10/1/19)

Nancy Birdsall, Center for Global Development (10/1/19)

Carlos Ricardo Aguilar Astorga, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (10/1/19)

Jaime Sainz Santamaria, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) (10/1/19)

Stefan Morales, Working Together (10/1/19)

Czarina Medina-Guce, Ateneo de Manila University (10/1/19)

Alison Bloomgarden, Stanford University (10/1/19)

Justin Longo, University of Regina (10/1/19)

Bonaventure Nkup Haruna, University of Jos (10/1/19)

Graice Njeri, Technical University of Kenya (10/2/19)

Verena Ringler, European Commons (10/2/19)

Sam Spencer, London Borough of Merton (10/2/19)

Steve Sinha, Empowered To Run (10/2/19)

Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia (Emeritus) (10/2/19)

Malcolm Sparrow, Harvard Kennedy School (10/2/19)

Emmanuel Aiyede, University of Ibadan (10/2/19)

Stephan Köppe, University College Dublin (10/2/19)

Mentor Beqa, Aleksandër Moisiu University of Durrës (10/2/19)

Mahmud Farooque, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University (10/2/19)

William Hogan, Harvard Kennedy School (10/2/19)

Andrea Barenque, Twitter (10/2/19)

Umit Sahutoglu (10/3/19)

Cristian Irarrazaval, Nortes Consultores (10/3/19)

Eduardo Staszowski, The New School (10/4/19)

Michael Schulze, German Federal Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs (10/5/19)

Jaromír Mazák, Charles University, Prague (10/5/19)

Ignacio Sanchez Urdaneta, Columbia University (10/7/19)

Jason Camacho, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (10/8/19)

Adedotun Seyingbo, Georgia State University (10/10/19)

Barbara Bodine, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University (10/13/19)

Jackie Speedy, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (10/13/19)

Kelly Main, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (10/15/19)

Thomas Goiser, FH Campus Wien, University of Applied Sciences Vienna (10/16/19)

Quinton Mayne, Harvard Kennedy School (10/16/19)

Chris Goranson, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (10/17/19)

Kartik Akileswaran, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (10/18/19)

William N. Dunn, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh (10/22/19)

Ana Povoas, Université Libre de Bruxelles (10/27/19)

Beatriz Belmonte, IE PublicTech Lab (10/28/19)

Borja Santos Porras, IE School of Global and Public Affairs (10/28/19)

Alan Hirsch, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance (10/28/19)

Idoia Ortiz de Artiñano, IE School of Global and Public Affairs (10/28/19)

Vasileios Tsianos, StrategyCorp (10/28/19)

Jose Luis Rodriguez, Social Dinapp (10/28/19)

Marta Núñez M.Corbalán, Public Consultance (10/28/19)

Joumana Mattar Moukarzel, 4AM by EY (10/29/19)

Borja Monreal Gainza, SIC4Change (10/30/19)

Maximo Plo Seco, Cultural Infusion (10/30/19)

Frank Hoeft, Fundament Asociación (10/31/19)

Mark H. Moore, Harvard Kennedy School (11/9/19)

J. Nicholas Ziegler, Brown University (11/23/19)

Philip S. Mirci, School of Education, University of Redlands (11/30/19)

Mark Ritchie, Global Minnesota (1/8/20)

Abdulrauf Aliyu, Sokoto State Government, Nigeria (1/17/20)

Kristen Hill Maher, San Diego State University (2/10/20)

Khush Vachhrajani, Brown University (2/26/20)

Abigail Linnington, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (3/4/20)

Scott M. Young, U.S. Army (4/5/20)

Zach Huitink, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (4/6/20)

Pablo Boullosa, Educación Imaginativa (5/20/20)

Sofia Silva Carballido, IE PublicTech Lab (5/25/20)

Sushanta Subedi, London School of Economics (6/15/20)