These are exciting times.
I recently started work in a prominent Government-linked company as a fresh graduate. Bright-eyed, eager, and keen to learn, I cut short my promised post-finals break to take up employment in a position that I thought would give me a chance to finally get engaged in the heart of things I believed most strongly in: making a change in Malaysian public policy.
In all honesty, it was a little less impactful than I had expected the first few months to be. There was still so much to learn, and so much experience to build up before I could be in a position to be able to engineer and push for immediate change and action.
It was thus with pleasant surprise that I found myself recently in the midst of 64 driven young Malaysians who were all bursting with original ideas on how to improve transparency in the country’s multi-layered bureaucratic (and thus sometimes hazy) system. As one of the semi-finalists in the Malaysian Public Policy Competition, we were challenged over the weekend to come up with an original policy proposal on reforming an area in the public sphere that we felt was ‘less than transparent’ which involved an analysis of the problem we chose, a strategy for resolving it, and (most crucially) a concrete plan for implementation; all this in less than 12 hours.
What struck me however was that had the same concept been held amongst corporate figures and not undergraduates, there was a distinct possibility that the scope for identifying a ‘less than transparent’ area may have been significantly reduced – not an unlikely prediction given the affiliations and comfort zones that would have been built up by then.
Hypothetically, would a civil servant choose to highlight the less-than-transparent practices of his or her own department or affiliates in detail? A lot can and will be at stake.
Even within the realm of public policy formulation, there has to be prior independence and non-partisanship for some issues to not be (intentionally or otherwise) overlooked. Key to this is also the ability to not just look outside the box, but to scramble beyond it – beyond the constraints of ‘standard operating procedures’ or ‘business as usual’ processes. Yet, the obvious irony is that this may not readily exist in the realm where most or all of the actual action takes place.
If so, what then?
The experiences of MPPC suggest that there is a lot to be had from engaging with youths, beyond fresh enthusiasm and/or an idealism age may eventually erode. In particular, a case should be made for moving from engagement to involvement; where suggestions are made, let there also be scope for practical implementation, and who better to manage the latter than the youth themselves?
Put it simply: it is time we step up to the platform – but to do that, we first have to create one, won’t we?
Michelle is a graduate of the University of Oxford and part of the team that placed third at the recently concluded MPPC finals in September. She is excited that their policy proposal publication is in the pipeline, but thinks that so much more can be done. (For the record, she is yet to watch a full episode of Hamtaro.)
Image taken from here