IPPA Summer School 2024 – Berkeley Edition

Jasleen Kaur

June 17, 2024

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the IPPA Summer School 2024, a prestigious program organized by the International Public Policy Association (IPPA) and the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley. The summer school took place in the vibrant city of Berkeley, California, and brought together a diverse cohort of Ph.D. students from around the world to explore various facets of public policy. The program provided an immersive and engaging learning environment, fostering intellectual growth, collaboration, and lifelong connections.

The Course:

The school curriculum had two courses that we could choose from. The first was – “Studying Policy Process with Constructivist, Pragmatic and Qualitative Approaches” and was taught by Philippe Zittoun.

The course I attended, titled "The Politics and Policy of Crisis and Risk," was masterfully taught by Dr. Christopher Ansell, a renowned professor from the University of California, Berkeley. The course explored the complex interplay between crises, risks, and public policy, examining how they shape and influence each other. We delved into different types and definitions of crises, risks, and disasters - such as creeping, transboundary, compound, systemic, and catastrophic.

Throughout the week-long course, we covered a wide range of topics, including the politics of crisis and risk, the relationship between crisis, risk, and policy failure, and the strategic and institutional challenges in preparing for, responding to, and managing crises and risks. Dr. Ansell adopted a comparative and multilevel perspective, drawing on examples and research from various policy sectors to enrich our understanding.

Course Readings and Discussions:

The assigned readings for the course were thought-provoking and diverse, covering a range of case studies and theoretical frameworks. We examined national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing insights from the book "Coronavirus Politics: The Comparative Politics and Policy of COVID-19" by Greer et al. (2021). We also explored the concepts of disaster research, community vulnerability, and resilience through the works of Kelman (2020) and Keating et al. (2017).

One of the most engaging discussions revolved around the concept of the "Protective State" and how it deals with crises, disasters, and risks, as presented in the reading by Ansell (2019). We analyzed the tension between reactive and preventive approaches to risk and the political and policy debates surrounding state intervention and paternalism.

In the latter part of the course, we focused on risk regulation and the challenges of regulating emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). We explored the pros and cons of AI, drawing from the reading by Araz Taeihagh and the insightful discussions that followed. The ethical considerations, potential biases, and the need for effective governance frameworks for AI were key takeaways from these sessions.

Parallels with My Research:

As a Ph.D. candidate researching gender, project management, and performance in international aid organizations, I found significant parallels between the course content and my own work. One of the things that stuck with me was the idea of how transaction leads to transformation – how a transaction can change one’s self-identify causing one to change their actions Thos actions themselves are an interesting way to learn about the policy process – but at the same time the consequences of those actions may have a significant impact on the policy outcomes. This sparked a new research idea – how women interact with patriarchy in their societies to self-identify their understanding of themselves, their role in the household, and society to take actions that they might not have if the “transaction” did not happen!

Research Discussions and Feedback:

One of the most rewarding aspects of the summer school was the dedicated time for discussing our individual research projects. In a supportive and non-judgmental environment, I had the opportunity to present my research on the impact of women's representation on gender mainstreaming and project performance at the Asian Development Bank. The feedback and insights provided by my peers and Dr. Ansell were invaluable in refining my research questions, methodological approach, and overall dissertation trajectory.

Moreover, engaging with other participants' research papers exposed me to a diverse range of topics, methodologies, and disciplinary perspectives. From discussions on environmental policy and social welfare to explorations of governance challenges in developing countries, the intellectual exchange was truly enriching. I left the summer school with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a strengthened commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration.

Personal Experiences and Connections:

Beyond the academic content, the Berkeley Summer School 2024 provided an unforgettable personal experience. The small group setting fostered a sense of camaraderie and allowed for meaningful interactions with fellow Ph.D. students from around the world. Learning about their research interests, policy experiences, and cultural backgrounds broadened my horizons and challenged my assumptions.

The summer school also created a space for informal discussions and social activities, enabling us to forge lasting friendships. Whether it was engaging in lively debates over coffee breaks or sharing a meal together, these moments of connection and laughter made the experience truly special.

 As I reflect on my time at the Berkeley Summer School 2024, I am filled with gratitude, inspiration, and a renewed sense of purpose. The knowledge gained, the relationships formed, and the memories created will undoubtedly shape my future endeavors in research, policy, and beyond. I look forward to applying the insights from this transformative experience to my work and continuing to collaborate with the incredible individuals I met along the way.

 The Berkeley Summer School 2024 on Public Policy has been a true highlight of my academic journey, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to any Ph.D. student seeking to expand their knowledge, skills, and network in the field of public policy. It is an experience that will leave a lasting impact on both your professional and personal growth.