Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Daniel Schuman of the Congressional Data Coalition

schumanThis post by Daniel Schuman was originally published by the Congressional Data Coalition. It is the seventh in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a series of not-just-for-technologists hackathons organized by the Ash Center and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three “civic hacks” in Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox), and Washington, DC took place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon then traveled to Washington, DC on May 12 to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. Read more at hack4congress.org!

In this post Daniel Schuman, an experienced advocate for #opengov and #civictech, recaps the May 12, 2015 #Hack4Congress Briefing and Technology Demonstration on Capitol Hill. Schuman then identifies four insights that have emerged from the #Hack4Congress series: significant public enthusiasm exists for using technology to make Congress work better; the greatest improvements in public access to information arise from work done at the federal level; many people still do not know where to find federal legislative information; and civic technologists would benefit from additional guidance from those with experience at the intersection of Congress and technology. You can watch a recording of the entire May 12 briefing and demo in the video below. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Organizing Citizen Demand for Affordable Housing

This post is the sixth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

 

adam headshotThe lack of affordable housing in urban and suburban America suggests a failure on the part of elected officials to respond to citizen need. One way to make politicians more responsive is for citizens to become more demanding. To make their demands known, however, citizens need to organize and mobilize. In cities across the nation, intermediary organizations like community development corporations (CDCs) and neighborhood or community-based organizations (CBOs) are providing the infrastructure of support necessary for citizens to come together to make their voices heard and address the issue of affordable housing.  In addition, CDCs and CBOs have long played a crucial role in everyday democratic life through a “self help” approach that enables citizens to work collectively to meet the challenge of affordable housing  in partnership with the public sector.

To get a better sense of how CDCs and CBOs are tackling the issue of affordable housing in Boston and beyond, for this post we invited Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate Adam Tanaka to speak with Katie Provencher of Urban Edge. His interview reveals that Urban Edge, like many CDCs across the country, plays a crucial political and policy role. We also learn that The Great Recession—in addition to drawing public attention to affordability issues—encouraged more collaborative and creative thinking on the part of CDCs and CBOs like Urban Edge.

 

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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Decline of Popular Movements, Housing, Innovation, Representation

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: The Politics of New York City’s Grand Vision

This post is the fifth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

adam headshotIn this post, we invite Harvard Graduate School of Design Doctoral Candidate Adam Tanaka to comment on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious plan to build 80,000 new and preserve 120,000 existing affordable housing units in New York City by 2025. Tanaka looks back to large-scale development efforts from the post-war era as a model for the politics of coalition building necessary for the ambitious projects required to meet the Mayor’s goal, illuminating how public and private sectors might “divide and conquer” in their attempt to meet the housing needs of both low- and moderate-income groups. The principal lesson that emerges from this retrospective is on mayoral leadership bringing together a network of pro-development and progressive institutions including public and union pension funds, financial institutions, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood groups, non-profit and for-profit developers, and large employers like hospitals and universities. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: An Evolving and Expanding Definition of ‘Public’ Housing

This post is the fourth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

margaret headshotIn this post, we invite Harvard Graduate School of Design Master in Urban Planning candidate Margaret Scott to explore how the evolution of public housing as an institution might offer hopeful opportunities for a broader coalition of actors in the field of affordable housing. In particular, we explore the changing balance of power in the funding, production, and management of public housing between multiple scales of government and, increasingly, toward greater involvement of private actors in the delivery of public housing. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Housing Beyond the Center City

This post is the third in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

margaret headshotIn this post, we invite Harvard Graduate School of Design Master in Urban Planning candidate Margaret Scott to explore the very real financial pressures—from stagnating wages and increasing poverty rates to subsequent climbing housing cost burdens—facing communities across the U.S. As Scott highlights, these challenges are equally significant, and in some cases even greater, in suburban areas outside center cities—the traditional focus of affordable housing initiatives. Combined with a set of distinct political pressures, affordable housing in the suburbs—a blind spot in the affordability debate—is instructive to understanding its political dimensions. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: An ‘Innovation’ Approach to the Problem of Housing in Boston

This post is the second in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

adam headshotIn this post, we invite Harvard Graduate School of Design Doctoral Candidate Adam Tanaka to help us further understand affordable housing as an intractable political challenge. In his interview below, three leaders of the City of Boston’s new Housing Innovation Lab note that housing requires not only new resources and new policy solutions, but also a new framework for thinking about the problem that moves beyond the traditional technical, financial, regulatory, and design perspectives. Tanaka’s engaging interview covers a number of political dimensions to affordable housing in Boston, from influencing the public discourse to leveraging digital technology toward community engagement, and unearths valuable insights applicable to cities across the U.S. Continue reading

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Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: The Case of Housing

mayne headshotThis post kicks off a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions. Continue reading

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Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Lliam Morrison, The Democracy Fund

Lliam_1485_-_171_for_websiteThis post by Lliam Morrison was originally published by The Democracy Fund. It is the sixth in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a series of not-just-for-technologists hackathons organized by the Ash Center and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Two events in Cambridge, MA and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox), took place earlier in 2015. The third event, #Hack4Congress DC, takes place next week  (April 29 – May 1)! The winners from each hackathon will travel to Washington, DC in May to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. Read more and register (space is limited) at hack4congress.org!

In this post, Morrison offers helpful context to the role #Hack4Congress can play in fixing Congress, with an emphasis on the value of bringing together people from different and nontraditional disciplines. We are thrilled to have the participation of The Democracy Fund in #Hack4Congress DC!
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Revisiting the Global Prospects for Democracy and Democratization

RM1In this post, Ash Center Research Fellow Richa Mishra follows up on her February 2014 post, Reviewing the Global Prospects for Democracy and Democratization in 2014. In that widely-read review of recent articles and reports on democratic movements, public opinion and democracy promotion efforts, Mishra highlighted the importance of contextual nuance in understanding democratic twists and turns. Below, Mishra revisits her earlier post and offers a comprehensive update on the important themes of political freedom and civil liberties, electoral trends, government legitimacy, and citizen disenchantment. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Corruption, Decline of Popular Movements, Expansion of Presidential Power, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation

Looking for Inspiration? Five Noteworthy Innovations in Public Participation

participedia2This column profiles five recent entries in Participedia, an open global knowledge community for researchers and practitioners in the field of democratic innovation and public engagement. For more ideas, read our review of Participedia’s top innovations of 2013. Even better, visit Participedia to join the conversation and explore over 400 experiments in new forms of participatory politics and governance.
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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, Frontiers of Research, Innovation, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Thea Nilsson, ‘No Ordinary Hackathon’ in San Francisco

Thea-Nilsson-300x300This post by Thea Nilsson was originally published by Microsoft Bay Area. It is the fifth in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a series of not-just-for-technologists hackathons organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox), and Washington, DC are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in May to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The Cambridge event took place January 30-February 1 and #Hack4Congress San Francisco was held March 20-22. Read more and register for #Hack4Congress D.C. (April 29-May 1) at hack4congress.org. Continue reading

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Green (and Global) Citizenship: Essays in Ego Climate

murielThis post explores themes of global citizenship and Green politics. HKS Adjunct Professor of Public Policy Muriel Rouyer collected personal narratives from students in her course, “Green Politics and Public Policy in a Global Age,” which reflect the challenges of navigating personal, moral and political values in the increasingly global collective action problem of Green citizenship. These vignettes show a different kind of Challenge to Democracy, one which transcends national borders and defies unilateral action.

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Filed under Environment, Immigration & Citizenship, In the News, Participation

Harvard Kennedy School Students Tackle the Future of Policing

Policing photoThis post by HKS student Pamela Lachman recounts a recent series of events she and other students organized at Harvard Kennedy School. Experts came together with 100+ members of the HKS community in facilitated conversations with the aim of preparing recommendations for President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Discussions focused on examining the role of police in a democratic society and identifying tangible solutions to improving police/community relations.

On February 5, 2015, Chair of the President’s Task Force, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, met with student organizers before participating in a panel discussion that the Ash Center co-hosted with the JFK Jr. Forum, the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy, and the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. Embedded below is a video recording of the Forum event, featuring Ramsey as well as Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Professor Phillip Goff, and HKS Dean David Ellwood. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities, Inequality vs Democracy, Participation, Policing

First Chapter: The Loneliness of the Black Republican by Leah Wright Rigueur

leah coverBelow is an excerpt from Leah Wright Rigueur’s 2015 book The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power. An Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Wright Rigueur’s research interests include 20th century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with an emphasis on race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system, and the presidency. Hear more at our book talk with Wright Rigueur on April 1, 2015.

The book examines the “intersection of race, civil rights, conservatism, and party politics” and traces almost half a century between 1936 that marked the political realignment of the new deal and 1980 that heralded the beginning of the Reagan revolution. The author peels away the stereotypes and simplistic characterizations that deem to define African American Republicans. She studies the motivation, efforts and contributions of African American conservatives: activists, officials, middle class professionals and politicians at the local, state and national level who “attempted to influence the direction of conservatism—not to destroy it but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include black needs and interests.” Continue reading

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Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Derek Pham, ‘Relating, Connecting, and Inspiring’

druThis post by HKS student Derek Pham is the fourth in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Pham recounts the kick-off panel featuring both scholarly and practical perspectives on the challenges facing Congress. He also captures and highlights the insightful voices and ideas of some of the #Hack4Congress participants. Watch and hear more from participants in the video below! Continue reading

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Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Daniel E. Levenson, Crowdsourcing Cross-Partisan Dialogue

levenson headshotThis post was originally published by Daniel E. Levenson on 36voices. It is the third in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Levenson reflects on the purpose of the event and on his own participation, including his team’s focus on the critical absence of strong working relationships between members of different parties and its impact on cross-partisan dialogue. More information on their idea, #Match4Democracy, available here. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, Innovation, Political Polarization, Technology

Reflections on #Hack4Congress: Brandon Andrews, “The Dear Colleagues”

Brandon.Andrews (1)This post was originally published by Brandon Andrews on February 3, 2015. It is the second in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Andrews explains the logic behind and potential for his team’s idea to improve the lawmaking process by replacing the current E-Dear Colleague system used on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

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Reflections on #Hack4Congress: David Moore, Participatory Politics Foundation

dmooreThis post by David Moore was originally published on the Participatory Politics Foundation Blog. It is the first in a series of occasional posts highlighting #Hack4Congress, a not-just-for-technologists hackathon organized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The OpenGov Foundation to deliver crowd-sourced and innovative solutions to the impasse facing Congress and lawmaking. Three events in Cambridge, MA, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA (organized with PopVox) are taking place in early 2015. The winners from each hackathon will then be flown to Washington, DC in late spring to demonstrate their projects to members of Congress and senior staff. The first event took place January 30-February 1, 2015 at Harvard Kennedy School. Learn more about the events at hack4congress.org and keep checking the Challenges to Democracy blog for continuing coverage, individual reflections, and other highlights from #Hack4Congress.

In this post, Moore gives some history on previous efforts to engage the #civictech and #opengov communities in fixing Congress, including his work on OpenCongress which became one of the most-visited non-profit government transparency websites. Moore also lists the civic tech and congressional experts joining him on our esteemed panel of judges. 

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Cambridge is Next U.S. City Looking to Foster Engagement with Participatory Budgeting

shutterstock_99387902 (2)This post by Derek Pham begins our coverage of a new participatory budgeting initiative in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. PB, as it is commonly referred to, was piloted by the city of Boston last year and resulted in the funding of $1 million to capital projects. Across the country, much of the investment by cities in PB is driven by the belief that it can catalyze changes in the relationship between the government and the governed for the better. Through PB, Cambridge hopes to cultivate a more diverse and participatory culture in local politics. Continue reading

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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, Innovation, Participation, Representation, Technology

Top Stories of 2014 on the Challenges to Democracy Blog

By Archon Fung and Tim Glynn-Burke

morris3

Errol Morris and Archon Fung discussing Morris’ film “The Unknown Known,” February 2014

2014 was full of noteworthy events and research when it came to the health of American democracy. From the President’s recent executive action on immigration to Thomas Piketty’s much discussed book on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, there has been plenty to think about. Continue reading

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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Decline of Popular Movements, First Chapter, Frontiers of Research, Gettysburg Project, Innovation, Participation, Representation, Technology