Elections: State Progress, Federal Train Wreck

This is the first post in a new series in which we cross-post a biweekly column written by Ash Center Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy Miles Rapoport for The American Prospect on democracy issues. In this article, originally published here, Rapoport comments on election administration from the perspective of Secretaries of State after attending the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Conference in February. 

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Filed under American Prospect Series, Elections, Voting Rights

Turning Open Data into Open Government through Citizen Participation

In this post, originally published on the Government Innovators Network, MPP student Wen Hoe examines Irekia, an open government innovation in the Basque Country, as a tool to turn open data into open government through increased participation in policy-making. 

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Americas Watch as U.S. Democracy is Tested

On February 28th, 2017, Ash Center Non-resident Senior Fellow Peter Quilter testified before Congress on the state of the Western Hemisphere. Quilter warned that developments or attacks on U.S. democracy have a good chance of rippling through the Americas. This post is an excerpt from the testimony and shares Quilter’s thoughts on the state of Venezuela and what the U.S. should (or shouldn’t) do about it. Read the full testimony and watch the video online.

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HKS Alumni Use Technology to Improve Democracy

Last fall, the Ash Center convened a panel of four change-makers leveraging technology to improve Democracy titled “#Tech4Democracy: Meet the Change Makers.” This post expounds upon the issues discussed by Tiana Epps-Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Technology and Civic Life; Rey Faustino, CEO of One Degree; Seth Flaxman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Democracy Works; and Denise Linn, Program Analyst at Smart Chicago during the panel moderated by Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and Academic Dean, Archon Fung.
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Filed under Data-Smart City Solutions, Elections, Technology, Technology and Democracy

UK Discussion Group: Scotland after Brexit

On 25th October the British and Irish Caucus held its first discussion event of the year.  Joining the discussion was the prominent British Labour politician the Right Honourable Douglas Alexander, and the topic of the evening was the future of Scotland in the aftermath of the Brexit Referendum.  This blog post summarizes Douglas’ presentation, and the discussion about what lies ahead for Scotland in the wake of Brexit.

Read other posts in the UK discussion group series.

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Voter Fraud, Redux et Redux

In this post, the Ash Center’s Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy Miles Rapoport shares thoughts on how President Donald Trump is taking right wing voter fraud allegations to the next level. Laying out the recent attacks on voting rights and the response by advocates, Rapoport calls for a renewed intellectual and political effort to protect voting rights from the fraudulent fraud allegations.

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UK Discussion Group: Brexit and Trade

Alongside the US election results, there was another issue Kennedy school students were eager to understand more about at the end of last semester: Brexit. The UK caucus held a packed discussion group on November 23rd with special guests Robert Lawrence, Professor of International Trade and Investment at HKS, and Peter Sands, former CEO of Standard Chartered bank based in London and a visiting fellow at HKS, to discuss Brexit and its implications for trade.

Read other posts in the UK discussion group series.

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Commentary from Democracy Fellow Kai Thaler on Tillerson Confirmation as U.S. Secretary of State

In this op-ed, originally published by the Maine Beacon, Ash Center Democracy Doctoral Fellow Kai Thaler entreats his Maine Senator, Angus King, to rethink his backing of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Thaler argues that Tillerson’s actions as CEO of Exxon Mobil and his ties with Vladimir Putin and other autocratic leaders with questionable human rights records should preclude him from being confirmed.

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Uruguay Leads Its Neighbors in Open Government

This post examining the development of open government and open data in Uruguay comes from Daniel Carranza, co-founder of DATA Uruguay and consultant in OpenGov and eGov. Last August, Daniel joined a delegation from AGESIC (the Uruguayan agency for government innovation), organized by the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management, that traveled to the United States to learn more about open government data (OGD) and municipal governance, and open data for smart cities. During the trip, the delegation met with faculty and staff at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and with government officials at the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology

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Bright Ideas Initiative Recognizes over 60 Government Programs

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation recognized last week more than 60 innovative government programs as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas initiative. This post highlights some of the Bright Ideas focused on increasing citizen participation, making government more transparent and responsive, and using technology to improve governance.

Please visit the Government Innovators Network for the full list of Bright Ideas and Semifinalist programs, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

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First Chapter: National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama by Hilary Silver

urban policyBelow is an excerpt from a new edited volume Urban Policy in the Time of Obama. With President Obama’s term coming to an end Friday, we take a look back at the legacy he will leave behind. Hilary Silver, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center and Professor Emerita of Sociology and Urban Studies at Brown University, shares her chapter “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama.”

Many supporters expressed disappointment that the first African-American community organizer to be elected US President did not do more to help cities. Although Barack Obama began to embrace the subject of race relations late in his second term, his urban policy seemed to disappear as his Administration endured. Signature initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zones were anemic in comparison to his predecessors’ programs, adding to the impression that the days of national urban policy were over. Yet, this chapter argues, President Obama did have an effective urban policy that worked by stealth, one embedded in the Recovery Act, foreclosure policies, and other stimulus programs. He also made headway against homelessness. Obama’s urban policy was pursued through new forms of governance as well, promoting interagency cooperation and leveraging resources. Thus, his legacy is not as modest as some have suggested.

This post is part of an occasional series highlighting chapters of recent books by those affiliated with the Ash Center. “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama” by Hilary Silver appears here by permission of the University of Minnesota Press from Urban Policy in the Time of Obama edited by James DeFilippis, copyright 2016 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. Readers can purchase the book here.

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Minibonds: Putting the Public Back in Public Finance

In this post, recent HKS grads and Ash Center research fellows Sarah Tesar and Pitichoke Chulapamornsri write about a democratic (and financial) innovation called minibonds in Vancouver Washington and Denver, Colorado. Struck by the exclusive nature of the municipal bond market, the authors explore minibonds as a means of making public finance more inclusive.

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PBNYC: The Challenges and Opportunities of Scale

ribbleLong hours, careful relationship-building, and hands-on community outreach have made New York City’s Participatory Budgeting process a successful experiment in civic engagement. In this post, Betsy Ribble (MPP ’17) explores what it will take to scale PBNYC without losing the qualities that made it work so well.

Read more posts on participatory budgeting here.

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Action, Persistence, Sustainability: One T4D Community’s Effort to Improve MNH

T4DThis blog post is the fifth in the Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities.

In an earlier post in the series, Lindsey Roots took us inside a Community Scorecard Meeting in one Tanzanian village. In this post, Jessica Creighton depicts a Follow-up Meeting, this time in a village in Indonesia. 

Read other posts from the T4D project here

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Rebuilding our Civic Muscles

hollierussongilmanThis piece by Hollie Russon Gilman, reposted from New America Weekly, calls on the American people to respond to the recent election by reengaging in civic life. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.

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Filed under Making Democracy Work, Participation, Participatory Budgeting

Teachers or Facilitators?: How T4D Facilitators Shape Our Intervention

T4DThis blog post is the fourth in the Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities.

This post is written by ethnographer Megan Cogburn with support from fellow ethnographer Mohamed Yunus Rafiq, focusing on one of the factors that she observed during her time living in and researching villages in which the intervention took place in Tanzania. 

It is an example of the insights that can emerge from the ethnographic approach that is a core component of our research—insights that can reveal potentially key factors that neither the practitioners nor the researchers on the team would have thought in advance to explore.  These kinds of insights will be incorporated into our later research, forming the basis for hypotheses that we can explore more widely and systematically to understand why the intervention played out differently across communities.

Read other posts from the T4D project here

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One Village’s Journey to Better Maternal and Newborn Health

T4DThis blog post is the third in the Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities. 

The previous two posts explored problem-driven design and the importance of people in the T4D intervention. In this post, Lindsey Roots takes us inside a Community Scorecard Meeting in one Tanzanian village. She observes how meetings are facilitated to prompt community members to reflect on their own experiences with Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH), and to empower them to identify barriers and solutions to better MNH.

Read other posts from the T4D project here.
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Power from the People: Who Matters in a Social Accountability Intervention?

T4DThis blog post is the second in the Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities. 

In this post, Courtney Tolmie shares take aways from observing the intervention in five villages in Indonesia earlier this year, focusing on the importance of intentionally designing the roles of the civil society organization, the facilitator, the community representatives, and the government in a social accountability intervention. 

Read other posts from the T4D project here.

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Problem-driven Design: Zooming in for a Ten Millimeter View

T4DThis blog post is the first in a new Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities. 

In the first post from this series, Courtney Tolmie shares take aways from observing the intervention in five villages in Indonesia earlier this year, focusing on problem-driven design and what this theoretical approach looks like on the ground for T4D.

Read other posts from the T4D project here.

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Who Deserves the Latino Vote? Immigration and the 2016 Presidential Election

HugginsOn May 4, 2016, Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy, hosted a conversation with Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress; Josiane Martinez, Founder, Archipelago Strategies Group; and Sophia Jordán Wallace, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. The Ash Center sponsored the event as part of the Race and American Politics seminar series. In this post, HKS student Michael Huggins recaps the panel discussion and explores why the Republican Party has resisted comprehensive immigration reform in light of the increased role that Latino voters are playing in the 2016 presidential election.

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