Emerging Sri Lankan public policy leaders have come together to form the country’s first platform for professional development and networking towards advancing better public policy capabilities. The Young Professionals in Public Policy (YPPP) was launched recently, with Professor Matt Andrews of Harvard University speaking at the inauguration. The YPPP is an initiative of the Centre for a Smart Future, an Asia-focussed interdisciplinary think tank based in Colombo. Speaking virtually from the Harvard campus in Cambridge, USA, Matt Andrews (Edward S Mason Senior Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government) congratulated the initiative and said, “These kind of initiatives – which we call communities of practice – are well recognized for their potential to build new capabilities and play a role in pushing forward new ideas. It is the ideal time for this in Sri Lanka, as new stakeholders must come together to build a new future”. Professor Andrews delivered a presentation on the approach of problem-driven iterative adaptation to solve public policy challenges, and gave the participants practical insights that they can use in their own organizations and roles. He also reflected on his time working on Sri Lanka’s economic transformation agenda with the participants, and how smarter problem identification helped get to better solutions.
Co-convenor of the YPPP, Anisha Gooneratne (Researcher at CSF and Colombo Urban Lab) noted that Matt’s session was a timely reminder to shift away from an approach that pre-determines solutions, to one that focuses more on better problem identification, especially when dealing with crises.
The YPPP will function as an invitee-based learning and networking platform anchored by the CSF. Members will meet once in two months to hear from globally-leading public policy experts, to get new insights and inspiration. YPPP members will also engage in peer-learning, with each session featuring the work of a different member, and opportunities for knowledge sharing.
CSF Co-founder/Director and initiator of the YPPP, Anushka Wijesinha, said that the YPPP has a unique composition. “The YPPP is much more reflective of the contemporary public policy space in Sri Lanka. For the first time we have brought together young people in public policy and related roles in different types of organizations – in tech companies, in government, in academia, in the private sector, in research institutions, in foreign embassies, and in CSOs and NGOs. This makes the group unique, and enriches the dialogue and knowledge sharing”.
YPPP Co-convenor Kithmina Hewage (Senior Policy Advisor at CAPS Hong Kong) remarked that, “A key purpose of YPPP will also be to provide a connectivity platform for Sri Lankans based in public policy roles and related academic fields based in organizations overseas with their peers based in Sri Lanka”.
The next session of the YPPP will feature American public policy leader of Sri Lankan origin, Penny Abeywardena. Penny was former New York City Commissioner for International Affairs (2014-2022), and previously served as director of the women’s program at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). She recently launched a thought-leadership series on leadership through soft-power in Forbes magazine.