America’s Struggle for Voting Rights

Give us the ballotIn October 2015, the Ash Center hosted the inaugural session of its Race and American Politics Seminar Series featuring an author’s talk with The Nation’s Ari Berman. Berman discussed his new book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America with Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and chair of the Race and American Politics Seminar Series, and Alex Keyssar, Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

The Ash Center’s Race and American Politics is a multidisciplinary series of seminars and round-table conversations led by Leah Wright Rigueur. Co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, the series features academic, practitioner, and journalistic perspectives from across the nation on the most pressing political and social issues related to race in the United States. See other events and read more about the series here. Continue reading

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Ash Center’s 10th Anniversary Series Provides Direction for the Next Ten Years

200x200logoFBshareIn May, the Ash Center concluded its Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series with presentations by the 2015 Innovations in American Government Award finalists. Local government officials, students, and scholars gathered with the Innovation Award finalists for a nuts and bolts conversation on fostering innovation in government. This model of conversation—one that brings together people and ideas unlikely to otherwise connect, in an environment that encourages candid conversation on important yet difficult issues, with an emphasis on finding a way forward—was a true reflection of the Challenges to Democracy series. This post explores some of the series’ highlights and how it will carry forth in the Ash Center’s upcoming work. Read more about all events in the series including associated multimedia such as podcasts, media coverage, photos, and video recordings.
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Filed under #Hack4Congress, All Checks, No Balance, All the King's Men, All The Way, Cities, Dollarocracy, Expansion of Presidential Power, Future of Social Movements, Heart of Robin Hood, Immigration & Citizenship, Inequality vs Democracy, Innovation, Launch Event with On Point, Lawrence, Massachusetts, Nation of Devils, Participation, Technology, Voting Rights

Student Research Explores Open Government Reform in Tunisia

nada_7This post, originally published by the Ash Center, profiles recent Harvard Kennedy School grad Nada Zohdy, MPP ’15. As a student Zohdy studied the mechanics of new forms of citizen participation and engagement both close to home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in the Middle East/North Africa. Zohdy now manages the OpenGov Hub in Washington, D.C., a co-working community where she interacts daily with people from across the globe who are working on the frontiers of open government. Read more about the Ash Center’s Democracy in Hard Places initiative, which seeks to understand why democratic institutions thrive in some countries while failing in others.
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Filed under Arab Spring, Cambridge Participatory Budgeting, Democracy in Hard Places, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Students

Youth Violence Prevention and Technology in Philadelphia

courtneydsharpeIn this post, Harvard Graduate School of Design student Courtney D. Sharpe continues her coverage of efforts by My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia to engage youth in violence prevention and juvenile justice reform. Sharpe is a recent Ash Center Summer Fellow working with My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia to help design a comprehensive public database to promote City of Philadelphia opportunities open to youth. Here, Sharpe brings attention to the collaborative nature and emphasis on leveraging data of Philadelphia’s efforts to pursue timely interventions toward reducing the justice system-involvement of young people of color. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities, Policing, Students, Technology, Youth

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Preserving the Affordable Housing Stock in New York City

Edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, this is the third of three interviews extending a previous eight-part series focused on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of democracy in cities and major urban areas.

logo 2For these new posts, we asked Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate Adam Tanaka to explore the ways in which housing shortages in the expensive global cities of London, Paris, and New York are leading to a redefinition of affordability, both for low- and middle-income residents. All three cities are experiencing population and productivity growth, coupled with increasing income inequality, contributing to a pressure-cooker housing market in which supply is falling far short of demand. As a result, public authorities are finding new ways to partner with private developers to try and meet demand for below-market housing. To learn more about the political and policy implications of these new partnerships, Tanaka sat down with three private developers, each of which is playing an important and telling role in the delivery and management of affordable housing in London, Paris, and New York.

For his third interview, Tanaka traveled to New York City to interview Rick Gropper of L+M Development Partners, a private affordable housing development company with thirty years of experience in New York. Their conversation reveals some of the political challenges still facing developers operating in this field, as well as new opportunities for innovation across the public-private divide. Continue reading

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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Housing

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Bridging the Public and Private Sectors in Paris

Edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, this is the second of three interviews extending a previous eight-part series focused on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of democracy in cities and major urban areas.

logo 2For these new posts, we asked Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate Adam Tanaka to explore the ways in which housing shortages in the expensive global cities of London, Paris, and New York are leading to a redefinition of affordability, both for low- and middle-income residents. All three cities are experiencing population and productivity growth, coupled with increasing income inequality, contributing to a pressure-cooker housing market in which supply is falling far short of demand. As a result, public authorities are finding new ways to partner with private developers to try and meet demand for below-market housing. To learn more about the political and policy implications of these new partnerships, Tanaka sat down with three private developers, each of which is playing an important and telling role in the delivery and management of affordable housing in London, Paris, and New York.

For his second interview, Tanaka travelled to Paris to interview Julien Schmid of Habitat Social, a subsidiary of one of the largest construction companies in France. Their discussion addressed the politics of affordable housing production in Paris and the surrounding metropolitan region, the Ile-de-France. Continue reading

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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Housing

Participatory Budgeting in New York City Named Winner of the Roy and Lila Ash Innovation Award

IAG_BFCThis post was originally published on the Government Innovators Network Blog. The Government Innovators Network is a marketplace of ideas and examples of government innovation for policymakers, policy advisors, practitioners, and researchers. The blog highlights successful innovations, features lessons learned from prominent academics, innovators and innovation experts, and public policy students from across the globe, and translates current research on innovation in the public sector and the future of innovation. Read more here.

The Roy and Lila Ash Innovations Award in Public Engagement in Government was a key component of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. PBNYC was selected from among 100 submissions from government-led innovations that demonstrate enhanced public engagement and participation in the governance of towns, cities, states, and the nation.
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Filed under Cities, In the News, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: London’s ‘Squeezed Middle’

Edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, this is the first of three interviews extending a previous eight-part series focused on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of democracy in cities and major urban areas.

logo 2For these new posts, we asked Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate Adam Tanaka to explore the ways in which housing shortages in the expensive global cities of London, Paris, and New York are leading to a redefinition of affordability, both for low- and middle-income residents. All three cities are experiencing population and productivity growth, coupled with increasing income inequality, contributing to a pressure-cooker housing market in which supply is falling far short of demand. As a result, public authorities are finding new ways to partner with private developers to try and meet demand for below-market housing. To learn more about the political and policy implications of these new partnerships, Tanaka sat down with three private developers, each of which is playing an important and telling role in the delivery and management of affordable housing in London, Paris, and New York.

For his first interview, Tanaka travelled to London to learn more about the politics of delivering affordable housing. He met with Russ Edwards of Pocket, a development firm that is pioneering a new model of micro-unit, moderate-income housing. Their discussion ranged from the new architectural and financial approaches needed to drive innovation in affordable housing, to the complicated politics of who benefits—and who loses—from affordable housing policies.

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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Housing

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Transatlantic Trends in Housing

logo 2This post kicks off a second round of blog postings that explore affordable housing as a challenge to the health of democracy in cities and major urban areas. These new posts—three interviews exploring the political trajectories of affordable housing in London, Paris, and New York—are edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy Quinton Mayne, who also writes the introductory post below.
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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Frontiers of Research, Housing, Immigration & Citizenship, Innovation

HUBweek Event Shows Greater Boston is Ripe with Civic Tech

guests 2The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation is a leading research center at the Harvard Kennedy School focused on the intersection of government and technology. We are helping HKS students—our future public leaders—to learn crucial technology skills that they will take with them into their careers. The Center is also studying unanswered questions about the potential and the pitfalls of technology’s role in making government more modern, effective, and efficient as well as more responsive, transparent, and participatory. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Cities, Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Political Polarization, Representation, Students, Technology

Making Ballot Initiatives More Voter-Friendly and Deliberative


Sam 2In this post Sam Feigenbaum, Legislative Aide to Massachusetts State Representative Jonathan Hecht, offers a first-person account of local efforts to bring Citizens’ Initiative Review to Massachusetts. First developed in Oregon, Citizens’ Initiative Review combines the benefits of both democratic deliberation and direct democracy. “It is critical,” Feigenbaum notes, “that voters are able to access reliable and helpful information to help them understand ballot questions before they head to the polls.” In April 2015, the Ash Center hosted a workshop and panel discussion on Citizens’ Initiative Review as part of its Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. See photos and listen to an audio recording of Getting to Yes (or No): Making Ballot Initiatives More Voter-Friendly and Deliberative here. We look forward to following the development of Citizens’ Initiative Review in Massachusetts—check back here for updates! Continue reading

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Filed under Citizens Initiative Review, Innovation, Participation, Voting Rights

A Tepid International Response to the Rohingya Migrant Crisis

Derek-PhamIn this post, originally published by the Kennedy School Review, HKS student Derek Pham comments on the regional and international response to the persecution and emigration of Rohingya refugees, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. “The Myanmar Government refuses to recognize them as one of the country’s ethnic groups and instead views them as illegal migrant Bangladeshis,” Pham writes. “Bangladesh does not recognize them as well and has refused to accept the newest refugees. The Rohingya thus remain stateless.” Pham neatly ties together historical, political, and humanitarian perspectives and suggests promising solutions. To read more about Myanmar, visit the Ash Center’s Myanmar Program, which works to deepen our understanding of the development and democratic governance challenges facing Myanmar.
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Filed under Democracy in Hard Places, Immigration & Citizenship, Myanmar, Students

Philadelphia Engages Young People in Dialogue on Community-Police Relations

courtneydsharpeIn this post, originally published by MBK Philly, Harvard Graduate School of Design student Courtney D. Sharpe recaps the latest in a series of efforts by My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia and city agencies to engage youth in a dialogue on community-police relations. The one-day summit, attended by over 200 young people, and subsequent roundtable in City Hall were intended as platforms for youth, especially youth of color, to be able to share their stories and offer suggestions for ways that police and the community can adapt behaviors or policies to work better together. Sharpe is working with My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia this summer as an Ash Center Summer Fellow. Read more about My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia, the local affiliate of a national effort launched by President Obama to tackle the opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities, Immigration & Citizenship, Participation, Policing, Youth

Exploring the Relationship Between Resources and Power with The Gettysburg Project

shutterstock_179267012This post summarizes a recent convening of The Gettysburg Project, a unique initiative of practitioners and scholars committed to revitalizing civic engagement led by Ash Center faculty Marshall Ganz and Archon Fung and others. As part of our ongoing coverage of The Gettysburg Project, we shared a summary of their fall 2014 convening as well as the first chapter of steering committee member Hahrie Han’s 2014 book How Organizations Develop Activists. We will continue to update Challenges to Democracy readers as The Gettysburg Project progresses! Continue reading

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Filed under Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Gettysburg Project, Immigration & Citizenship, Participation

At the Intersection of Urban Politics and Innovation

normaThis post was originally published on the Harvard Kennedy School Admissions Blog. Norma Torres Mendoza, a Master in Public Policy candidate concentrating in Business and Government, reflects on her work this summer in the City of Houston as an Ash Center Summer Fellow in Innovation as well as a Harvard University Presidential Fellow for Public Service. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities, Immigration & Citizenship, Innovation, Students