Part I: Lawrence Summers on the importance of cross-sector collaboration

blog_image_LarrySummersIn a recent talk at the Harvard Kennedy School’s IDEASpHERE Conference Larry Summers sat down with The Economist‘s Zanny Minton Beddoes for a discussion on “the power of ideas to improve the world”. The IDEASpHERE conference highlights the research and application of the work being done by HKS professors, lecturers, and students. With a total of 48 sessions, the program covered a range of topics from challenges to US Global Leadership, health care reform, closing the gender gap in business, and the role of the private sector in globalization. Summers, who currently serves as Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard, focused on growth and prosperity, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing the US.

Summers’ talk was introduced as a discussion of the power of ideas, yet it was much less about abstract theories than it was about understanding the challenges facing the economy and developing practical solutions. Drawing on his experience in both the private and public sector, including a post as the Treasury Secretary under Clinton, and Chief Economist at the World Bank, Summers emphasized the point that the complexity of the problems facing society required solutions across sectors.

Although there has been progress on the sectoral level – energy, healthcare, and financial regulation as a few examples – Summers explained that there was still significant progress to be made. In particular, Summers identified three macroeconomic issues – effective governance, inclusive prosperity, and a satisfactory rate of growth – that will take up a larger part of challenges facing the US. These are interconnected, complex problems to which “the solution does not lie in any single sphere,” and which will require even more attention in the future.

In our next post, we will explore some of the cross-sector collaborations and solutions addressed by Professor Summers in his discussion.