When Somali Public Agenda was established in early 2018, it had a unique methodology. The approach combined research, public service design, and training on governance and service delivery issues in Somalia.
The three portfolios are interconnected. As can be seen on the website, SPA research focuses on seven thematic areas namely decentralization, public bureaucracy, and local administration; democratization and elections; financial governance; security, justice, and rule of law; urban planning and land administration; employment; and, education system and health services.
Since 2018, Somali Public Agenda conducted a number of studies and published a good number of commentaries (25), governance briefs (8), and research reports. Almost all of these papers were disseminated in both the Somali and English languages.
Although SPA has been publishing research and analysis, its work on public service design and training has been dormant. To activate the two portfolios, SPA launched two centers – Center for Public Policy and Service Design and Center for Learning and Development in August 2020.
Launching these centers that would exclusively work on two important SPA portfolios was a great milestone. On its own, publishing evidence-based analysis with a range of policy considerations is not enough in Somalia. The Center for Public Policy and Service Design‘s aim is to help public institutions design human-centered public policies and services.
As someone who worked with a number of government organizations in designing public policies, I know how many policies, which were passed by the Council of Ministers, were designed. International consultants who have little or no experience in Somalia – and paid by international organizations – are hired to lead the design of government policies. With the exception of limited consultations at secure hotels and the airport, consultants use mainly comparative analysis and literature in designing these policies. Most of these policies do not reflect the experiences and challenges of Somali citizens. This often leads to a failure in implementation.
I hope the SPA Center for Public Policy and Service Design will fill this void and will help government institutions design policies and services that reflect the experiences and needs of the public. To do so, SPA design researchers envisage talking to the people directly affected by the policy and/or service, document their own experiences, and co-design with policymakers using primary data. This means translating primary data from citizens into a tangible government policy or service. I hope the SPA’s co-design work will soon help the government design and deliver citizen-centered public services.
The Center for Learning and Development, on the other hand, complements the design work. Good policies and projects are doomed to fail if there are no administrative cadres that can deliver them effectively. The center’s main mandate would be training public servants and equipping them with the skills necessary to implement public policies.
The center has already started preparing modules and syllabi for one of its courses. The primary training focus of the center would be training on Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability; Human Resources Management; Information Management and Data Science; Public Policy Planning; Public Budgeting; Public Finance Management; Planning and Programmes Management; Monitoring and Evaluations; Research Methodology and Methods; and Strategic communication and Public relations.
In August 2020, the foundations for operationalizing SPA’s design and training portfolios were laid. I am very proud of seeing the launch of these centers. I am looking forward to seeing how the new centers interact with public institutions and contribute to SPA’s mission, which is public service excellence in Somalia.
Mahad Wasuge is the Executive Director of Somali Public Agenda.