Knowledge Builders

Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government is empowering future government leaders and creating a knowledge platform for the governments of the Arab region.

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Knowledge Builders HE Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government.
By  Mark Sutton Published  June 4, 2017

The governments of the GCC have undergone a huge transformation in recent years, with increased levels of professionalism and sophistication becoming the norm as countries have developed into modern economies. Alongside the increased complexity of government, many countries in the region have also embraced change and innovation, creating demand for a professional cadre of government leaders who can meet future challenges.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG) was established to address this demand, and to develop high standards and professional development and certification among the government personnel of the region. Since the formation of the school in 2005, more than 3,000 people from over 40 government organisations have completed courses at MBRSG, and the school continues to add new offerings to support evolving government requirements.

“The role of MBRSG is to support government in the UAE and the Arab regions, to support good governance in public administration, and to develop leadership in public administration,” said HE Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President of MBRSG. “For the future, skills and needs are changing rapidly, and the UAE government is leading that change in the environment, with new initiatives and directions for the government. We need to train people in the government with new skills for the new directions and initiatives — that is our role, to support the government in these new initiatives.”

From inception, MBRSG took two approaches to this training for government personnel, with the creation of academic programs to create professional qualifications for government staff, and shorter training courses for more focused requirements. The initial offerings were developed in partnership with two leading schools of government, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Harvard John F Kennedy School of Government in the US, to create world-class academic programs.

Today, MBRSG has four academic programs, the Masters of Public Policy, Masters of Public Administration and Executive Masters of Public Administration and Masters in Innovation Management. Over 100 students from the UAE and GCC have graduated from these courses, to prepare them for leadership roles in government.

The Masters courses were created to reflect global standards and best practice in leadership and governance, addressing a long-standing need for a specialist school for the region, Al Marri said. As government requirements have changed and grown, so MBRSG has expanded and shifted focus, he added to include practical training courses, to cover new areas such as smart cities and smart services, innovation and data analytics.

The strong relationships with government entities have been key to this evolution, he added: “We have really great relations with all government entities. We understand their needs, document and disseminate best practices, host expert government speakers at our events and so on. We work as a platform for the government, not just to establish the knowledge but to develop the platforms to exchange the knowledge.”

A good example of how MBRSG has been able to adapt to changing government priorities is the Masters in Innovation Management (MIM). Created to accommodate the Dubai government’s innovation initiative, which was launched in 2015, MBRSG was able to get the course, the first of its kind, accredited in 2016, and up and running by the start of this year. Despite being a new discipline, MBRSG was able to recruit faculty, and link up with innovation practitioners and universities around the world, to create a visiting speaker program and a curriculum to help bring innovation to the public sector.

The school’s program of training courses has also reflected the changing requirements of government. These short courses allow MBRSG to create education and certification in emerging areas, and to support government requirements, Al Marri explained. Course topics have included research, leadership, government excellence, future foresight, innovation, data, smart government and smart services among others, with courses delivered by faculty, government trainers and other experts.

One of the aims of MBRSG is to extend its teaching and knowledge exchange to the rest of the GCC and the wider Arab world, Al Marri said. Many of the short training courses are open enrolment, so that students can sign up through the website, and some of the programs have been specifically focused on the regional requirements such as the Arab leadership and excellence program, which is intended to encourage knowledge exchange and best practice with other Arab countries, he explained.

The Executive Masters in Public Administration has also been customised to be a more affordable and accessible program for students from around the region, with courses held during weekends. The approach has already attracted students from around the region, and MBRSG intends to increase regional participation in the master degree and other courses in the future.

MBRSG’s contributions to government are not just confined to its training courses. The school carries out research and publishes papers in a range of areas. Some of the research carried out by faculty includes the Governance and Innovation Program (GIP), which has focused on programs for government innovation and development in the Arab world, through ICT. The program includes policy and scholarly research; policy advisory for policy makers; and regional development activities, all of which are intended to support government policy making and create a culture of innovation.

The Gender and Public Policy Program has focused on the challenges of research and policy around gender in the Arab world. MBRSG has issued reports and working papers on a range of issues related to gender and social issues in the public sphere, and it has launched a number of multi-year research initiatives.

MBRSG also works in collaboration with public and private sector in a number of areas. The school hosts a policy council, which holds discussions four times a year, to act as a platform for discussion between government and private sector. MBRSG also runs a number of events in collaboration with the private sector, in areas such as innovation, smart cities and blockchain, to create a forum for knowledge sharing. With the academic sector, MBRSG works in collaboration with universities in the UAE on new teaching methods.

As part of its ongoing evolution, MBRSG launched a new strategic direction, the Emirates Centre for Government Knowledge, in May last year. This new initiative has added another core business to MBRSG, Al Marri said, to develop specific consultancy services to enable government entities to harness the knowledge of MBRSG and other sources, and to get direct input into how they can use this knowledge to enhance their own processes.

MBRSG has signed an initial contract with the government of Dubai, Al Marri said, to provide support in six key areas: strategy and performance management, governance and organisational development, institutional excellence, knowledge management, human resources management and innovation. ECGK has developed offerings for each of the six areas, including training programs, knowledge sharing and services, with the aim of promoting government excellence.

“It is like business consulting, but the concept is slightly different to classic business institutes. The concept is to merge consultants, and the academic knowledge,” Al Marri explained.

The ECGK consulting is on offer to both public and private sector, and engagements have already begun with Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Women Establishment.

The Center has a number of services which differentiate it from standard consulting offerings, including knowledge-based field trips to see government institutes and best practice in action in the UAE and other countries.

Another differentiator is the use of non-resident consultants, who are normally government staff who have retired but still want to share the benefit of their experience to help other government organisations. Currently 27 non-resident consultants have been trained and certified for consulting roles.

“The aim is to better use the government knowledge. We want to use the experience of these experts who have worked in the government, we don’t want to lose their knowledge, we want to utilise their knowledge,” Al Marri noted. “It is a form of knowledge transfer - the idea is to merge the government experience within the framework of consulting, to reuse government knowledge and develop the government in the Arab world.

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