09 December 2022

Over six decades many public service leaders have been given the opportunity to further their leadership development through a Harkness Fellowship.  Aimed at emerging senior public servants, the Fellowship is intended to provide a travel and research experience in the USA that develops emerging NZ leaders to form lasting relationships with the United States of America and to bring fresh thinking and energy back to have a lasting impact for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Aphra Green was awarded the Fellowship and travelled to the United States in 2016 when she was a senior leader at the Ministry of Justice. Based at the National Institute of Corrections in Washington DC (part of the Federal Department of Justice), she visited agencies across the country to look at evidence-based approaches to criminal justice reform, with a particular focus on bail decision-making.

Since then, Aphra has become a member of the Harkness Trust Board and we caught up with her to find out more about what the Fellowship meant for her and why others should consider this opportunity.

 “I went to spend time with the Evidence-Based Decision-Making team, a Federal programme supporting criminal justice systems across the USA to take a collaborative and evidence-based approach to reform. I was interested in their work and the tools they were putting in place for daily use in the justice system.  I was lucky to be able to see what was happening at a Federal level to encourage and support reform, while also being able to meet with criminal justice practitioners across the country to see how reforms and the tools being developed were actually being used and making a difference in people’s lives.”  

It's not surprising then that Aphra cites some of her highlights as sitting in on probation service interviews in California, speaking to women prisoners in a county jail in Virginia, and touring a Pre-Trial Service in Brooklyn, New York. 

When we asked if Aphra had any advice for those interested in considering applying for a Harkness Fellowship she had no hesitation.  “Just do it. You’ll need an American agency to open their doors and offer you a desk and chair.  That takes a clear plan on what you want to research and a genuine interest in forging connections with people to understand their work.  Ideally, you’ll also be in a position to bring back what you’ve learnt and share it widely across government to influence change.”

COVID has obviously been a disrupter to the Harkness Fellowships in recent years as international travel has been limited, but with borders open and travel getting back to normal the Harkness Trust Board is looking forward to opening up Fellowship applications early 2023.

“The Board, with the generous support of Te Kawa Mataaho and the Leadership Development Centre, will be re-launching the Harkness Fellowship before Christmas. I’m looking forward to seeing which of our fantastic public service leaders put up their hand for this opportunity and take their part in the long history of connection between the United Stated and New Zealand and ultimately come back with what they’ve learnt to improve the lives of New Zealanders.”

Further information about the Harkness Fellowship application process is available at www.harkness.org.nz.  or on the Leadership Development Centre’s website. Applications open early in the New Year and close in March.

Pictured above: Aphra Green