This 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
This 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.
This post by Emily Shaw, originally published by Data-Smart City Solutions, is based on her recent paper in an ongoing series published by Data-Smart City Solutions exploring data-related facets of civic engagement in today’s cities. Shaw first defines “open data” and then describes some of the different ways that local, state, and federal governments have been opening their data, starting with early efforts by the U.S. Census and sites such as THOMAS from the U.S. Congress. Shaw also examines the political and other motivations behind opendata initiatives, including the mandate to do more with less, improving internal data use, and improving communication between governments and the public. Finally, she offers useful suggestions for governments looking to begin the process of opening up their data. Download a PDF version of Emily’s full paper here.
Below 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
In 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
Harvard 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
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
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
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 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
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
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