The California College of Arts (CCA) recently launched an MBA in Public Policy Design1. This program builds on the curriculum of an existing MBA program in Design Strategy at CCA and was launched in 2008, focusing on “design methods, sustainability, systems thinking, finance, entrepreneurship, and generative leadership”. The Associate Chair of the MBA Program Will Semmes shares that the Program “offers a project-based curriculum that provides future leaders with the skills, knowledge, and techniques they’ll need to make positive, constructive changes happen.” The Program faculty considers that being in San Francisco Bay Area they are well situated in the midst of a culture strongly supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, multi-stakeholder partnerships and strong local initiatives and leadership. The curriculum of the MBA in Public Policy Design emphasizes team-based solutions that coalesces specific aspects of business management, sustainability, systems thinking, and design-thinking (see Figure). The curriculum is designed to help students grasp different tools and gain exposure to diverse perspectives related to markets, governments, organizations, and individuals.
Figure: Curriculum of MBA in Public Policy Design at CCA2
Design thinking is prevalent in courses being offered by engineering, management and business Schools. Policy design in various forms has also been a part of the curriculum of public policy courses but this is the first time a full-fledged course on policy design itself has been launched at the school.
The launch of this MBA Program at CCA makes one wonder regarding an ‘ideal’ structure and format of a course on policy design? Some relevant questions pertain to the following three aspects. Firstly how would the contents of a course on policy design differ depending on the level at which these are offered (undergraduate, graduate, research, executive-training etc.) and consequently the time-frame over which these courses are offered? How are the design theory and practice or application aspects to be balanced? And should the course content differ depending on whether it is being offered by a school of Sciences or Arts or Business? In case of the MBA degree on Public Policy Design by CCA the inclination of its curriculum towards business-oriented modules is expected. And what would be the target mix of students for such a course- practitioners and/or scholars and what would be their expected level of training and experience. And not lastly, what would be the mode of teaching? This includes aspects such as deciding on the balance between seminar-style teaching, classroom training, hands-on problem solving, case-oriented teaching etc. Additionally, as policy design forms a part of the larger public policy field, the question is, if policy design is the central subject of study, what is the scope of designing a program around this topic independently and how much will it still relate overlap with current public policy course curricula?