Category Archives: Frontiers of Research

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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Filed under Frontiers of Research, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Representation, Technology

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

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

The Future of Democracy in the Arab World: Reform Versus Revolution

tarekThis post was originally published by the Harvard Kennedy School on June 2, 2015. Doug Gavel interviews the Ash Center’s Tarek Masoud, Sultan of Oman Associate Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. Professor Masoud’s research focuses on the role of religion in the Muslim world’s political development. He is the author of Counting Islam: Religion, Class, and Elections in Egypt (Cambridge University Press, 2014), the co-author of The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford University Press, 2015), as well as of several articles and book chapters. “I think that you should never bet against the prospects for evolution towards something better in the Middle East,” Masoud says. “In fact, I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t think there was not potential within the Arab region for more accountable government that was more responsive to its citizens.”
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Filed under Arab Spring, Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Inequality vs Democracy

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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Top Stories of 2014 on the Challenges to Democracy Blog

By Archon Fung and Tim Glynn-Burke

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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, Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Gettysburg Project, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Representation, Technology

Frontiers of Democracy Research: Is Today’s Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Always Racially Motivated?

jason aIn his paper (When) Race Matters: The Effect of Immigrant Race and Place on Support for Immigration Restriction, Ash Center Post-Doctoral Democracy Fellow Jason Anastasopoulos explores triggers of “racial threat.” He posits that several factors, including skin color and geographic proximity, induce racial threat and suggests the long-term implications of these factors on support for anti-immigration laws. The paper is part of a series of Ash Center Workshops on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity (WIRE), a bi-monthly seminar style forum for Harvard and Boston area researchers and students working on topics of immigration, race and ethnicity from a diverse variety of perspectives. This semester’s workshop themes include Experiments on Race, Immigration, and Public Policy; Economic Impacts of Immigration and Immigration Policy; and Ethics of Immigration and Immigration Policy. Continue reading

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Filed under Expansion of Presidential Power, Frontiers of Research, Immigration & Citizenship, Representation

Frontiers of Democracy Research: The Co-existence of Censorship and Responsiveness in Chinese Government

J PanHarvard Academy Graduate Fellow and recent Ash Center Democracy Fellow Jennifer Pan studies the intersection of politics, citizen interaction, and service delivery in Chinese cities. In this post, Richa Mishra captures Pan’s latest work on the nature of the interactions between government officials and citizens—from censorship to organizing to political responsiveness—in a regime without electoral competition. To whom are local Chinese government officials responsive? While we might assume that top down influences dominate, it appears that bottom-up pressure from citizens plays a role as well. Continue reading

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Frontiers of Democracy Research: A Fresh Perspective on Lobbying and Political Access

mckinley_HLSIn 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

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Frontiers of Democracy Research: How Public Deliberation Helps Democracies Adapt Over Time

didierIn 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

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A Revolution in Politics? Social Media in China, Egypt, and the U.S.

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

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Filed under Frontiers of Research, In the News, Media and Journalism, Participation, Technology

Frontiers of Democracy Research: The Gettysburg Project

This post highlights a new initiative exploring the decline of public engagement and ways that we might improve the scope, diversity and impact of organizing and mobilization of the public. Lead faculty Marshall Ganz and Archon Fung first introduced students to their new initiative, The Gettysburg Project, in 2013. This post captures that introductory discussion for an occasional series on the blog 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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Filed under Frontiers of Research, Future of Social Movements, Gettysburg Project, Inequality vs Democracy, Participation, Representation

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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Filed under All Checks, No Balance, Frontiers of Research, Political Polarization

Innovations in Participation, 2013: Participedia’s Year in Review

This column profiles six new entries from 2013 in Participedia, an open global knowledge community for researchers and practitioners in the field of democratic innovation and public engagement. Visit Participedia to join the conversation and explore nearly 400 experiments in new forms of participatory politics and governance.

 

By Michael MacKenzie, Tim Glynn-Burke and Archon Fung

It has been another great year for Participedia. We hope to become a key resource for scholars, activists, policy makers and citizens who are interested in new democratic practices and institutions. Our team has made big strides towards reaching that goal. This year, 445 new members joined the website and 152 new cases were added to our collection. Continue reading

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Frontiers of Democracy Research: A Game Stacked Against Them

Below is an article originally published by the Ash Center about former Democracy Fellow Shauna Shames’ research on why women and minorities don’t run for political office. It is the first post in an occasional series exploring the frontiers of research on democratic governance. The series will highlight the work of the Ash Center’s Democracy Fellows: pre- and post-doctoral scholars 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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