Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy (SPP) is one of few public policy schools worldwide that is operating wholly within the framework of the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This Agenda, based on a ‘leave nobody behind’ principle, holistically includes seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) addressing everything from poverty, health, education, gender and sanitation, to energy, livelihood, infrastructure and climate action. While all public policy schools selectively focus on SDGs, all of SPP’s research work and training is concentrated on peace, justice, and strong institutions. We are producing and promoting justice-based initiatives that build effective and accountable organizations supporting of cities and communities that are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
SPP is particularly mindful of policies coherence, how one strategy impacts aspects of others. We therefore enact a multi-sector collaborative approach to formulating ‘sound,’ versus ‘best,’ public policies. ‘Best’ are based in belief that a policy action applied toward a public problem is transferrable to another socio-context that is experiencing a similar issue. This approach is generally conducted in top-down fashion and works only if a problem is simple and the policy practices are duplicable. In most cases, this is neither effectual nor possible. ‘Sound’ public policies, rather, are contextually specific and accentuate that public problems are dynamically ever-changing and therefore require up-to-date and multi-level governance based solutions involving the government, the market, and civil society.
Transforming circumstances require adaptive innovations. Likewise, emerging technologies such as the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and social media are reshuffling our world. It is therefore imperative that public sector people adapt to waves of transformation.
Capacity for analyzing and engaging complex public issues from a birds-eye view, while harnessing understanding of community-level dynamics, is a necessary component of smart and sustainable governance. This is possible if modern-day leaders can refrain from being dictated by old, perhaps irrelevant, policy-generating structures and methods that are hard-wired with overly logical reasoning, rigid analysis of hard facts, and evidence-driven policymaking. Policy creators must, and can, formulate new socio-political landscapes comprising a futures-thinking approach. This new paradigm requires soft skills such as intuition, emotional intelligence, empathy, and the mastery of deliberative mechanisms.
We at SPP, versed in the interdependencies among the United Nations’ SDGs, are utilizing multi-disciplinary platforms for researching the dynamic dimensions and effects of public policies. This opens possibilities for new narratives and updated definitions of problems and their solutions. We ask questions about whether newly implemented technologies will alter a community’s socio-dynamics. Are these technologies even sustainable for people, such as for their livelihoods and environment overall?
What actually needs doing so that inclusive, innovative, progressive, and sound policies are holistically implemented for public good?