Category Archives: All Checks, No Balance

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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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

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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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, Expansion of Presidential Power, Future of Social Movements, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation

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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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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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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Congressional Gridlock and the Salience of Public Opinion

congress and prez cartoon largeLast fall, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation hosted a discussion exploring the (then) recent federal government shutdown and the ever-souring relationship between the President and Congress. The talk, part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, featured two renowned Harvard Kennedy School professors Thomas Patterson and David King. Patterson’s research explores the interaction between government and the media. King is a senior lecturer in Public Policy and chair of Harvard’s Bi-Partisan Program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress. Continue reading

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Expansion of Presidential Power, In the News, Media and Journalism, Political Polarization, Representation

Tech Experts from the Right and Left Agree: Digital Allows for Real Engagement, But is Anyone Listening Yet?

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

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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Expansion of Presidential Power, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

Frontiers of Democracy Research: American Political Science Association Weighs in on Congressional Gridlock

This post highlights a recent report from the American Political Science Association, Negotiating Agreement in Politics: Report of the Task Force on Negotiating Agreement in Politics, edited by Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin. Mansbridge is recent president of APSA and an affiliated faculty member of the Ash Center. The post is part of an occasional series exploring the frontiers of research on democratic governance. The series highlights the work of the Ash Center’s faculty and Democracy Fellows whose research illuminates aspects of democratic governance, with a focus on innovations in public participation and on urgent substantive policy or social problems related to democratic governance. Continue reading

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Video: Watch November 6 Discussion on the Sources of Congressional Gridlock

Coming close on the heels of the recent federal government shutdown and narrowly avoided default, on November 6 the Ash Center welcomed Harvard Kennedy School professors Thomas Patterson and David King in a discussion on partisanship and gridlock in Congress. Continue reading

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In the News: Harvard’s Thomas Patterson Takes The Media To Task

Carol Iaciofano reviews Tom Patterson’s latest book Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism for WBUR’s The Artery:

It’s no accident that “Informing the News” is framed around a set of problems; it sets forth a convincing case that Americans are currently “ill-served by the intermediaries — the journalists, …talk show hosts, pundits, and bloggers — that claim to be their trusted guides.” In short, “Information corruption is deeply rooted in contemporary America.” Continue reading

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In the News: California Sees Gridlock Ease in Governing

The New York Times reported recently on new redistricting and primary election rules that might be making democracy work better in California…

 

Before Washington, California was the national symbol of partisan paralysis and government dysfunction.

This was the place where voter initiatives slashed the power of state lawmakers, runaway deficits and gridlocked budgets were the rule of the day, and a circus of a recall election forced a governor out of office 10 months into his second term. Continue reading

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