Have you ever heard of conversational receptiveness? This is a tactical approach that seeks to improve engagement with opposing views. It enables amicable conflict resolution which ensures that when people disagree, they do so in a non-violent manner. Such a skill is particularly important currently here in Kenya as we approach one of the most competitive presidential elections in our history and more so the overwhelming effects of climate change.
Conversational receptiveness is undergoing further research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The research encompasses other skills that include decision-making, negotiations, conflict, teams, advice-taking, consumer behaviour, and the psychology of language.
The Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s mission is to ‘improve public policy and leadership so people can live in societies that are safer, free, just, and sustainably prosperous.’ The school executes this mission through ‘cutting-edge research, the teaching of outstanding students, and direct interaction with practitioners.’ By doing this, the Harvard Kennedy School is playing a critical role in providing public sector solutions to pressing societal challenges.
Unknown to many people, there is a similar knowledge-centred school here in Kenya. In 2012 during the final year of our most cherished departed former President Mwai Kibaki’s leadership, a historic law was passed. Entitled, the Kenya School of Government Act, 2012, this law led to the establishment of the Kenya School of Government. This school exists to promote continuous learning for public service excellence.
Knowledge keeps evolving. Unfortunately, many of us don’t follow suit. We assume that the knowledge we have already acquired doesn’t need replenishment. This is a fatal assumption that can greatly disempower us. Indeed, our public sector needs to consistently unearth knowledge that will inform policy formulation and executions.
There is a wide array of critical questions whose answers require deep digging. They include: Why is voter apathy rampant amongst the millions of Kenyans who are part of Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012)? Why does tribalism remain a pressing challenge? How can we sustainably develop with the ensuing Climate Change challenges? What policy solutions can realistically drive industrialisation and increase jobs? How can healthcare for all be financed sustainably? How can rural-urban migration be fully reversed within ten years?
This is a sampling of some difficult questions whose answers or lack thereof are affecting our population. The Government already has highly qualified professionals who possess answers to these questions. Unfortunately, there is a lingering gap between professionals in government and the politicians who make laws. As those professionals would attest, it takes a lot of time, research and resources to unearth answers that can inform effective policy solutions.
The Kenya School of Government is well poised and positioned to ensure government runs on the fuel of knowledge. According to the Kenya School of Government Act, 2012, the school shall provide learning and development programmes to build capacity for the Public Service. Further to this, it shall provide training, consultancy and research services designed to inform public policy, promote national development and standards of competence, and integrity in the Public Service.
These critical mandates can only be fulfilled if the school is sustainably funded and sufficiently marketed. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the school’s founding. We should celebrate that milestone by revamping the school and elevating research and knowledge to central roles in the public sector. With political goodwill, the institution shall turn into a Think Tank of global renown.
We cannot make giant development strides if we do not walk into knowledge and deploy that knowledge to all sectors of our society. One of the most widely known quotes is Francis Bacon’s quote that ‘knowledge is power.’ I could add that knowledge is only as powerful as its execution. Think green, act green!