This post was originally published by the Leading Change Network. Author Kanoko Kamata is a recent Ash Fellow and Harvard Kennedy School graduate who returned to Japan build a culture and capacity for organizing and civic engagement in a country where little has traditionally existed. In the article below and elsewhere, Kamata has been recording and sharing her own work and the efforts of others along the way. Read for example her account of a local consensus-building effort on Yakushima Island and a commentary in the Japan Business Press in December 2012.
In this post, Richa Mishra explores Maggie McKinley’s work on The Madison Project, an online legislative crowd-sourcing platform, and its implications for the practice, function, and constitutional contours of federal lobbying. McKinley is a Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School and recent Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. She researches and writes on legislation, theories of interpretation, minority rights and representation, and the architecture of lawmaking institutions. McKinley hopes to move the current rhetoric around reform away from a focus on majority control and a demonization of lobbyists toward a more productive discussion of procedural injustice and political access. Continue reading
This post by Seth Flaxman was originally published by The Democracy Fund. Flaxman is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Democracy Works, a nonprofit dedicated to the idea that voting should fit the way we live. Flaxman launched Democracy Works’ first major project, TurboVote, with fellow Harvard Kennedy School alumni Kathryn Peters in 2010. This spring, Flaxman participated in our #Tech4Democracy panel discussion with Harvard students and alumni who are launching promising tech start-ups that find creative ways to strengthen democracy.
In this post, recent Ash Center Democracy Fellow Didier Caluwaerts reflects on the dynamic nature of public problems and political power and the challenges this “migration” creates in democratic societies. He also proposes possible solutions, including deliberative democracy models like the G1000 Citizens’ Summit Caluwaerts organized in a divided Belgium in 2011. Continue reading
On April 22, 2014, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Archon Fung moderated a discussion between Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, and Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. The event was sponsored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy, Jr. Forum. The conversation between Blades and Meckler, two groundbreaking and imaginative innovators who happen to fall on opposite ends of the political spectrum, was an extension of LivingRoomConversations.org, an effort started by Blades to promote respectful, open, and meaningful political conversations among people and across ideological divisions. The following blog post recounts the evening’s highlights. You can watch the entire conversation by clicking on the YouTube link below. Continue reading
Below is a first-hand account and reflection on the impact of social media on governance and participation in China from Li Gan, a recent graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and Ford Foundation Mason Fellow with the Ash Center. Prior to attending Harvard, Gan was chief editor of science and information technology for the popular online media platform Sina.com. Gan has also helped local governments in China to leverage social media to interact with local residents. Continue reading
Asked to diagnose the health of American democracy, Raisa Carrasco Velez highlights the connection between inequality, education, opportunity and engagement in under-represented communities. Continue reading
This post by Hollie Russon Gilman was originally published by Next City. We have been following the City of Boston’s first-in-the-nation youth participatory budgeting initiative all year. Read earlier posts from Russon Gilman and others here. Continue reading
This post from Harvard Kennedy School student Isaac Lara recounts a recent panel discussion hosted by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation exploring local innovations in immigrant integration and how they might be expanding our notions of American democracy. Continue reading
Asked to diagnose the health of American democracy, Gar Alperovitz calls for more debate about our economic and political systems—one that links real-world experience and activism to a theory of politics in historical change. Continue reading
By Richa Mishra
In December 2013, the White House included Participatory Budgeting as a key initiative in its Second Open Government National Action Plan. As a follow-up, in May 2014, the Office of Science and Technology hosted a day-long discussion on Participatory Budgeting among practitioners, academics and researchers, government staffers and funders. Around the same time, the Africa Research Institute published a report on a PB initiative in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The contextual details of these two events could not be more disparate and yet the key objectives and concerns revealed a striking similarity. Continue reading
Ash Center faculty members Tony Saich, Tarek Masoud, and Archon Fung recently discussed the rise of social media and its impact on government and social movements with students, alumni, and supporters of Harvard Kennedy School. This post was originally published on the Harvard Kennedy School website.
By Maisie O’Brien
From tweeting a positive comment about a presidential candidate to liking the Facebook page of a local nonprofit, citizens are constantly using social media in civic-minded ways. But can this new form of communication substantively improve government or transform it entirely? Continue reading
This spring, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation co-hosted a town hall discussion on integrating immigrant communities in Lawrence, Massachusetts as part of its Challenges to Democracy Series. The series is exploring the challenges posed by immigration and how communities are working to find solutions to such. Part of this broader discussion about immigration and democracy comes from the perspective of social scientists, while some of it comes from having conversations similar to the Lawrence meeting to learn about the challenges and opportunities posed by changing populations.
Below is an account of the key themes and ideas from the discussion, which was moderated by WBUR journalist Asma Khalid and featured four Lawrence residents active on the issue. Long-time advocate for Lawrence and community development Bill Traynor and Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera welcomed the audience of almost 200 people, with Professor Archon Fung providing concluding remarks. Continue reading
This post by Harvard Kennedy School student Sudeep Doshi recounts the fourth session of a Cities, Technology and Democracy Study Group at Harvard Kennedy School hosted by student groups Tech4Change and the Regional, State, Local, and Tribal (RSLT) Governance Professional Interest Council, along with the Ash Center. The session featured Jorrit de Jong, Lecturer in Public Policy and Management, and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Massachusetts. The group discussed how measuring citizen wellbeing, scaling technology-based innovations and increasing tech equity could enhance public engagement in the city of Somerville. Continue reading
The Ash Center recently hosted a panel discussion with Matt Lira, Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Macon Phillips, Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State. Moderated by Archon Fung, the discussion provided unique perspectives from both the Right and Left of the US political spectrum on how digital technology is affecting the political landscape. Lira and Phillips agreed upon the transformative role that digital platforms can play in both electoral politics and in more responsive governance, but we still have some time before digital technology reaches its potential as a tool to encourage public participation. Continue reading
By Christina Marchand
The Innovations in American Government Awards program is currently accepting applications and nominations for the next round of competition (Deadline: June 20, 2014).
This year we are very pleased to offer a special $100,000 award for programs and initiatives that focus on public engagement and participation, in conjunction with our Challenges to Democracy series. Continue reading
This post was originally published by the Brookings Institution blog TechTank as a series from Hollie Russon Gilman (read part one and part two). A Civic Innovation Fellow at the New America Foundation, Russon Gilman is tracking and studying tech innovations in democratic participation across the country. In this post she observes a set of key principles held by successful government innovators and then explores the modernization of elections as an example of how one might apply those principles. Russon Gilman is a regular contributor to the Challenges to Democracy blog, including pieces on New York’s Talking Transition and Boston’s youth participatory budgeting (updated here). Continue reading
This post by Harvard Kennedy School student Neil Dandavati recounts the third session of a Cities, Technology and Democracy Study Group at Harvard Kennedy School hosted by student groups Tech4Change and the Regional, State, Local, and Tribal (RSLT) Governance Professional Interest Council, along with the Ash Center. The session featured Quinton Mayne, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, and Tom Cosgrove, co-founder and current board member of New Voice Strategies. Mayne and Cosgrove discussed the promise and pitfalls of using digital technology to increase civic engagement in public decision making. The author also based this post on a follow-up conversation he had with Cosgrove in April 2014. Continue reading
In response to a recent Knight News Challenge titled How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?, Bradley Holt profiles a new effort in Burlington, VT funded by the Knight Foundation that leverages the city’s fiber-optic gigabit network to build a new virtual public space for “innovative community organizers, nonprofits and civic hackers.” Continue reading
By Richa Mishra
Justice Louis Brandeis once stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” More recently, humorist Fran Lebowitz noted, “In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.” A new study shows that both, perhaps, were right: the wealthiest Americans “generally get their way” on issues that the average citizen disagrees with, from tax reform and corporate regulation to abortion. Continue reading