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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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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Marijuana Legalization: Gateway Vote to More Informed Democracy?

headshotThis post continues our occasional series on Massachusetts Citizens Initiative Review. CIR allows a microcosm of the broader public to dive deeply into a ballot question and fully explore the issue before creating a summary of information for their fellow voters. The account below is based on Babović’s experience working on CIR as an Ash Center Summer Fellow in July and August 2016, as well as her first-hand observations of the multi-day panel event in August. Participants committed to four days of a unique deliberative process in which they heard hard evidence from multiple experts on both sides of the debate on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is up for referendum vote on November 7. Continue reading

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Protest and Legislative Responsiveness: Q&A with LaGina Gause

gause_lagina_headshotThis post is the first in a series of Q&As introducing our new cohort of Democracy Fellows. LaGina Gause, the Ash Center’s new Democracy Postdoctoral Fellow, joins us from the University of Michigan where she received her PhD in Public Policy and Political Science. Gause’s research focuses on legislative response. Her dissertation book project specifically explores legislative behavior in response to protesters in their congressional districts. 

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The Elephant in Activism: An Open Letter

ali-pic

This post, written in the form of an open letter to civic activists, is by Ali Imad Fadlallah, Doctor of Education Leadership Candidate at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Fadlallah offers commentary on the contemporary landscape of activism and protest such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, through the lens of the book The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution by Micah White, through the work of Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, and through his own personal experience and commitment to racial justice and equality. Read more posts and see upcoming events in our Race and American Politics Seminar Series.
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Filed under Future of Social Movements, Participation, Policing, Race and American Politics

Talking Politics Online: Why Not Everything Should Be Connected

Moore_AlfredIn advance of his talk on online deliberation this afternoon, former Ash Center Democracy Fellow Alfred Moore shares some preliminary results from a project on online commenting that he conducted with his colleagues John Naughton and Rolf Fredheim. Using data from Huffington Post comment sections over time, Moore and his colleagues uncover interesting trends that debunk the assumption that civility necessarily increases with the decline of anonymity in online commenting spaces.

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Technologists Working to Improve American Democracy

26577780260_6a7c24a233_mThe Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School is pleased to announce its new cohort of Technology and Democracy Fellows—technologists committed to improving the health of American Democracy.

This year’s Fellows are especially passionate about building the capacity and new tools needed by civic activists, community organizers, local government officials, and journalists who are so critical to making democracy work.

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Join Us in Shaping a New Field of Constructive Democracy Studies!

group photo dec 2012Applications are now open for the AY2017-18 Democracy Fellowship Program. Since 2008, the Ash Center has been building a community of scholars and promoting research that is not only normatively and empirically sophisticated but also problem-driven and actionable. The Democracy Fellowship Program welcomes postdoctoral scholars, doctoral candidates, and other visiting scholars from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. Read on for more information and links to apply. This re-post shares highlights from our recently published Five-Year Retrospective of the Democracy Fellowship Program. Check out a multimedia version of the report here, and read the full report here.

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First Chapter: Democracy Reinvented by Hollie Russon Gilman

Gilman book coverBelow is an excerpt from Hollie Russon Gilman’s 2016 book, Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America. 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.

Democracy Reinvented assesses the opportunities and obstacles of participatory budgeting (PB) and civic engagement using hundreds of interviews, survey research, process tracing, and field observations. Based on Russon Gliman’s PhD dissertation, the book is one of the first academic works to extensively analyze participatory budgeting in the United States and its efforts to mend our democratic state. Continue reading

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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, First Chapter, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Youth

Spotlight on Organizing and Immigration at Democratic National Convention

brownIn light of this week’s Democratic National Convention, Heath Brown, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at City University of New York, shares research findings from his forthcoming book Immigrants and Electoral Politics: Nonprofit Organizing in a Time of Demographic Change which explores the role of nonprofits that represent immigrant communities in U.S. politics. Below, Brown presents some highlights of what he has learned about the work of Dreamer and DNC speaker Astrid Silva, and the work of leaders at similar organizations, which often reflects “a vision for democracy that is consistent with full and active participation of all Americans, citizens and non-citizens, those in the country with documentation and those without.”

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Filed under Elections, Immigration & Citizenship, Participation, Representation, Voting Rights

Can Transparency Solve America’s Eating Problem? A Fresh Look at Menu Labeling

ruiThis post is from HKS student Rui Zhang, who is working as a research assistant for the Ash Center’s Transparency Policy Project. At a time when “families are regularly eating out more,” Zhang notes, “even trained dietitians underestimate the calorie and fat content of restaurant meals.” But is it safe to assume that more information is better in the search for answers to diet-related health problems? Learn more about transparency policy and information disclosure at transparencypolicy.net and @SunshinePolicy.
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Why Mass Incarceration May Have Destroyed Our Communities

10525869_10101202330137563_2072457776631529863_nOn March 9, 2016, Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy, hosted a conversation with Heather Ann Thompson, Professor of Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan. They were joined by Elizabeth Hinton, Assistant Professor of History and of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, and Phillip Goff, Visiting Scholar with the Malcolm Weiner Center for Social Policy. 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 Thompson’s research on why mass incarceration matters to our cities, economy, and democracy. The panel considered why politicians and policy makers have started to rethink the American carceral state and addressed the barriers that prevent individuals from reentering society and deteriorating police-community relations that further degrade public trust in the government and local institutions. Continue reading

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John Gastil on Building an Integrated and Empowered Form of Civic Engagement

gastil headshotThis post excerpts from Building a Democracy Machine: Toward an Integrated and Empowered Form of Civic Engagement by Pennsylvania State University Professor John Gastil, the latest contribution to the Ash Center’s working paper series. Gastil is a leading scholar on deliberative democracy who headlined a spring 2015 panel discussion at the Ash Center on Citizens Initiative Review.

In Building a Democracy Machine, Gastil proposes a way to connect and unleash the latent potential of the dozens—and possibly hundreds—of available online platforms all aiming to facilitate civic engagement. With the intent of attracting feedback and collaborators, Gastil lays out both a vision and a practical plan for building a civic web portal that could generate the empowered deliberation and public legitimacy that healthy democratic governance needs. In the excerpt below, Gastil begins his paper by making the case for rethinking our current models of public consultation and engagement, mining the literature for what we have learned about designing effective deliberation and participation mechanisms, and highlighting some of the notable digital tools that would comprise the foundation of a new ‘Democracy Machine’. Continue reading

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