Category Archives: Future of Social Movements

The Elephant in Activism: An Open Letter

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This post, written in the form of an open letter to civic activists, is by Ali Imad Fadlallah, Doctor of Education Leadership Candidate at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Fadlallah offers commentary on the contemporary landscape of activism and protest such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement, through the lens of the book The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution by Micah White, through the work of Marshall Ganz, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, and through his own personal experience and commitment to racial justice and equality. Read more posts and see upcoming events in our Race and American Politics Seminar Series.
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Filed under Future of Social Movements, Participation, Policing, Race and American Politics

Organizing and Elections in a Post-Brexit, Post-Sanders World

tom traillIn April of 2016, the Ash Center hosted a discussion about the future of social democracy. Moderated by HKS Senior Lecturer Marshall Ganz, the panel included Ash Center Fellow Kathryn Perera, HKS Associate Professor Quinton Mayne, and HKS Adjunct Lecturer Jesse Littlewood. Central to the discussion were the movements and the popular support garnered for the more left-wing candidates in recent progressive elections for the Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn and for the Democratic Party with Bernie Sanders.

These issues are becoming only more crucial following the increasing disjunct between the outcomes of popular elections and the interests of the elites that organize them. From Brexit to the Republican nomination of Trump to Clinton’s struggles against Bernie Sanders, outcomes are consistently going against the groups that have held power over the last decades. Below, HKS student Tom Traill recaps and extends our recent panel discussion by interviewing Ganz and Perera on the role of popular support and community organizing on electoral and other political processes. Continue reading

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Filed under Elections, Future of Social Movements, Participation

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

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

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: The Role of Film in Fighting Displacement

This post is the eighth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

andrew headshotIn this post, we invite documentary filmmaker Andrew J. Padilla to share the issues that motivate his filmmaking and what his films El Barrio Tours: Gentrification in East Harlem and El Barrio Tours: Gentrification USA, can tell us about the health of American democracy. In his piece Padilla describes his efforts as a filmmaker to give voice to communities who very often are the voiceless objects of urban policy decisions. He also reflects on how he and fellow filmmakers can engage communities in political awakening, coalition building, and mobilizing action toward positive change. Continue reading

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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Future of Social Movements, Housing, Inequality vs Democracy, Participation, Representation

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

Democracy and the Challenge of Affordability: Organizing Citizen Demand for Affordable Housing

This post is the sixth in a month-long series of blog postings on affordable housing as a challenge to the health of American democracy, and in particular local democracy in the United States. The series, edited by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Quinton Mayne, is part of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy series, a two-year public dialogue inviting leaders in thought and practice to name our greatest challenges and explore promising solutions.

adam headshotThe lack of affordable housing in urban and suburban America suggests a failure on the part of elected officials to respond to citizen need. One way to make politicians more responsive is for citizens to become more demanding. To make their demands known, however, citizens need to organize and mobilize. In cities across the nation, intermediary organizations like community development corporations (CDCs) and neighborhood or community-based organizations (CBOs) are providing the infrastructure of support necessary for citizens to come together to make their voices heard and address the issue of affordable housing.  In addition, CDCs and CBOs have long played a crucial role in everyday democratic life through a “self help” approach that enables citizens to work collectively to meet the challenge of affordable housing  in partnership with the public sector.

To get a better sense of how CDCs and CBOs are tackling the issue of affordable housing in Boston and beyond, for this post we invited Harvard Graduate School of Design doctoral candidate Adam Tanaka to speak with Katie Provencher of Urban Edge. His interview reveals that Urban Edge, like many CDCs across the country, plays a crucial political and policy role. We also learn that The Great Recession—in addition to drawing public attention to affordability issues—encouraged more collaborative and creative thinking on the part of CDCs and CBOs like Urban Edge.
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Filed under Challenge of Affordability, Cities, Future of Social Movements, Housing, Innovation, Representation

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

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

Exploring and Expanding Public Engagement through the Gettysburg Project

Angarita headshotThis post from HKS student Jennifer Angarita shares updates and reflections on the Gettysburg Project, a unique initiative of practitioners and scholars committed to revitalizing civic engagement. Professors Marshall Ganz and Archon Fung introduced the Gettysburg Project to students in the fall of 2013 in a session you can read about and view here, and we recently shared the first chapter of Gettysburg steering committee member Hahrie Han’s new book How Organizations Develop Activists. We will continue to update Challenges to Democracy readers as the Gettysburg Project progresses!

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

First Chapter: How Organizations Develop Activists by Hahrie Han

Hahrie Han_GroundbreakersBelow is an excerpt from the first chapter of Hahrie Han’s 2014 book, How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century. An Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, Han studies civic associations and engagement, organizing, political activism, and health and environmental politics. Han is on the steering committee of The Gettysburg Project, a new initiative co-organized by the Ash Center that explores ways to improve the scope, diversity and impact of organizing and mobilizing the public. On September 24, 2014, Han will speak about How Organizations Develop Activists at the Ash Center along side Sarah Hodgdon of the Sierra Club and HKS professors Archon Fung and Jane Mansbridge as the kick-off to the second year of our Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. Continue reading

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Filed under First Chapter, Future of Social Movements, Gettysburg Project, Participation, Representation, Technology

NCDD’s ‘Democracy for the Next Generation’ Conference Coming in October

ncdd conf 2.jpgHappy to share the following announcement from the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation with Challenges to Democracy readers. We have shared a number of valuable ideas from NCDD on this blog, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Community Forum, an annual review illustrating the robustness of the dialogue and deliberation community, and building the infrastructure to support public engagement and participation. Read more about their October conference and register here.
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Filed under Future of Social Movements, Participation, Representation, Technology

Building a Tradition of Organizing and Engagement Where None Exists: Stories from Japan

Lecture-by-MarshallThis 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.

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Filed under Future of Social Movements, Innovation, Participation

Can Local Innovations in Immigrant Integration Expand Our Notions of Democracy?

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

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Filed under Cities, Future of Social Movements, Immigration & Citizenship, Innovation, Participation, Representation

My Challenges: Gar Alperovitz, Author of ‘What Then Must We Do,’ Wants Us to Get Serious about System Change

garAsked 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

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Filed under Future of Social Movements, Inequality vs Democracy, Innovation, My Challenges, Participation, Workplace Democracy

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

In the News: What’s Gone Wrong with Democracy?

Check out this in-depth essay from The Economist on democracy across the globe. “Democracy was the most successful political idea of the 20th century,” they write. “Why has it run into trouble, and what can be done to revive it?” Below are a few excerpts. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities, Corruption, Future of Social Movements, In the News, Inequality vs Democracy, Media and Journalism, Participation, Political Polarization, Representation, Technology

In the News: Rethinking Social Media’s Role in Protests and Elections

Much has been said about the key role social media has played in the Arab Spring and other people led protests around the world. Two recent pieces from Olga Onuch of The Washington Post and Alex Hanna and Kevin Harris of Foreign Policy take another look at whether or not social media is instrumental in igniting and sustaining popular public protests in Ukraine and as an accurate predictor of electoral outcomes in the Middle East. Continue reading

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Filed under Future of Social Movements, In the News, Participation, Technology