Category Archives: Participation

Uruguay Leads Its Neighbors in Open Government

This post examining the development of open government and open data in Uruguay comes from Daniel Carranza, co-founder of DATA Uruguay and consultant in OpenGov and eGov. Last August, Daniel joined a delegation from AGESIC (the Uruguayan agency for government innovation), organized by the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management, that traveled to the United States to learn more about open government data (OGD) and municipal governance, and open data for smart cities. During the trip, the delegation met with faculty and staff at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and with government officials at the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology

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Filed under Innovation, Participation, Technology, Transparency

Bright Ideas Initiative Recognizes over 60 Government Programs

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation recognized last week more than 60 innovative government programs as part of the 2017 Bright Ideas initiative. This post highlights some of the Bright Ideas focused on increasing citizen participation, making government more transparent and responsive, and using technology to improve governance.

Please visit the Government Innovators Network for the full list of Bright Ideas and Semifinalist programs, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

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Minibonds: Putting the Public Back in Public Finance

In this post, recent HKS grads and Ash Center research fellows Sarah Tesar and Pitichoke Chulapamornsri write about a democratic (and financial) innovation called minibonds in Vancouver Washington and Denver, Colorado. Struck by the exclusive nature of the municipal bond market, the authors explore minibonds as a means of making public finance more inclusive.

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Action, Persistence, Sustainability: One T4D Community’s Effort to Improve MNH

T4DThis blog post is the fifth in the Transparency for Development series “T4D: Views from the Field,” written to highlight what members of the T4D team have observed in launching a co-designed intervention in Tanzania and Indonesia that seeks to empower citizens to improve maternal and newborn health in their communities.

In an earlier post in the series, Lindsey Roots took us inside a Community Scorecard Meeting in one Tanzanian village. In this post, Jessica Creighton depicts a Follow-up Meeting, this time in a village in Indonesia. 

Read other posts from the T4D project here

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Filed under Participation, Transparency for Development

Rebuilding our Civic Muscles

hollierussongilmanThis piece by Hollie Russon Gilman, reposted from New America Weekly, calls on the American people to respond to the recent election by reengaging in civic life. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.

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Filed under Making Democracy Work, Participation, Participatory Budgeting

Who Deserves the Latino Vote? Immigration and the 2016 Presidential Election

HugginsOn May 4, 2016, Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy, hosted a conversation with Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress; Josiane Martinez, Founder, Archipelago Strategies Group; and Sophia Jordán Wallace, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. The Ash Center sponsored the event as part of the Race and American Politics seminar series. In this post, HKS student Michael Huggins recaps the panel discussion and explores why the Republican Party has resisted comprehensive immigration reform in light of the increased role that Latino voters are playing in the 2016 presidential election.

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Marijuana Legalization: Gateway Vote to More Informed Democracy?

headshotThis post continues our occasional series on Massachusetts Citizens Initiative Review. CIR allows a microcosm of the broader public to dive deeply into a ballot question and fully explore the issue before creating a summary of information for their fellow voters. The account below is based on Babović’s experience working on CIR as an Ash Center Summer Fellow in July and August 2016, as well as her first-hand observations of the multi-day panel event in August. Participants committed to four days of a unique deliberative process in which they heard hard evidence from multiple experts on both sides of the debate on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is up for referendum vote on November 7. Continue reading

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The Elephant in Activism: An Open Letter

ali-pic

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

Join Us in Shaping a New Field of Constructive Democracy Studies!

group photo dec 2012Applications are now open for the AY2017-18 Democracy Fellowship Program. Since 2008, the Ash Center has been building a community of scholars and promoting research that is not only normatively and empirically sophisticated but also problem-driven and actionable. The Democracy Fellowship Program welcomes postdoctoral scholars, doctoral candidates, and other visiting scholars from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. Read on for more information and links to apply. This re-post shares highlights from our recently published Five-Year Retrospective of the Democracy Fellowship Program. Check out a multimedia version of the report here, and read the full report here.

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First Chapter: Democracy Reinvented by Hollie Russon Gilman

Gilman book coverBelow is an excerpt from Hollie Russon Gilman’s 2016 book, Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.

Democracy Reinvented assesses the opportunities and obstacles of participatory budgeting (PB) and civic engagement using hundreds of interviews, survey research, process tracing, and field observations. Based on Russon Gliman’s PhD dissertation, the book is one of the first academic works to extensively analyze participatory budgeting in the United States and its efforts to mend our democratic state. Continue reading

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Filed under Boston Participatory Budgeting, Cities, First Chapter, Innovation, Participation, Participatory Budgeting, Youth

Spotlight on Organizing and Immigration at Democratic National Convention

brownIn light of this week’s Democratic National Convention, Heath Brown, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at City University of New York, shares research findings from his forthcoming book Immigrants and Electoral Politics: Nonprofit Organizing in a Time of Demographic Change which explores the role of nonprofits that represent immigrant communities in U.S. politics. Below, Brown presents some highlights of what he has learned about the work of Dreamer and DNC speaker Astrid Silva, and the work of leaders at similar organizations, which often reflects “a vision for democracy that is consistent with full and active participation of all Americans, citizens and non-citizens, those in the country with documentation and those without.”

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Filed under Elections, Immigration & Citizenship, Participation, Representation, Voting Rights

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

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

Digitizing Congress: Q&A with Kirsten Gullickson

Kirsten 4 Kirsten Gullickson, Special Guest to the Ash Center Technology and Democracy Fellowship, discusses how specific file formats of legislative documents and online repositories can make Congress more transparent and accountable to the public with Francesca Schembri. As a senior systems analyst for the Office of the Clerk in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kirsten spearheads the effort to convert the paper and parchment of legislative documents and federal law into digital formats including text, XML, and PDF. Read more about the Technology and Democracy Fellowship.

Check out interviews with other Technology and Democracy Fellows here. Continue reading

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Filed under #Hack4Congress, Participation, Technology, Technology and Democracy

First Chapter: Why Elections Fail by Pippa Norris

9781107679023Below is an excerpt from Pippa Norris’s book, Why Elections Fail. Paul. F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at HKS, Pippa Norris is a long-time friend and Faculty Affiliate of the Ash Center, where she gave a book-talk last fall.

Electoral integrity, the set of international norms governing the appropriate conduct of elections, is more complex than the popular focus on ballot stuffing and vote buying. In Why Elections Fail, Norris argues that the rules preventing political actors from manipulating electoral governance are needed to secure integrity, although at the same time, officials need sufficient resources and capacities to manage elections effectively.

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Filed under Democracy in Hard Places, Elections, First Chapter, Participation, Voting Rights

Is Showing Up Enough? Lessons from Mobilizing for Participatory Budgeting in Rural Kenya

KeeleyIn this post, Juliette Keeley, MPP ‘17, explores the issue of elite capture in participatory budgeting processes. She highlights HKS Associate Professor of Public Policy Ryan Sheely’s randomized experiment in rural Kenya, which seeks to understand the links between mobilization, participatory budgeting, and elite capture. The study finds that mobilization is important in increasing participation, but may not prevent government officials, the wealthy, or other elites from co-opting the participatory budgeting processes in ways that serve their interests. More research and innovative solutions are necessary to ensure participatory budgeting enables everyday citizens, not elites, to decide how local funds are allocated. Follow our past coverage of participatory budgeting click here.

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Filed under Democracy in Hard Places, Participation, Participatory Budgeting

Every Voice Matters: A Guiding Principle for One Municipal Department’s Innovation and Research Unit

D.LevineIn this post, Dr. Darren Levine, Manager of the Innovation and Research Unit within the Office of the Commissioner of Social Services for the Regional Municipality of Durham, Ontario, shares his unit’s initiative to foster an office climate of staff-driven innovation. This three-pronged approach to unlock staff creativity and to encourage innovation in all areas of the workplace makes use of innovation labs, an annual innovation and research forum, and Agora Town Hall, a platform developed by Harvard Kennedy School alumna Elsa Sze, winner of the Ash Center’s recent #Tech4Democracy Showcase and Challenge.

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The Surprising Power of Stories for Accountability: From Testable Theories to Motivating Tales

22737545512_d985f95933_q (1)Today’s post from Courtney Tolmie is the fourth in an occasional series, cross-posted on the Results for Development blog, that shares insights from the Transparency for Development (T4D) Initiative. The T4D Initiative—a joint effort of the Ash Center and Results for Development—is about empowering people, improving maternal and newborn health, and learning. It was developed to answer questions about what determines whether an intervention can increase citizen empowerment while improving health outcomes at the same time. Although the project is ongoing and final results are a long way off, T4D is excited to share initial take-aways about the importance of local context, community involvement, mixed methods evaluations, co-design, and piloting.

Courtney Tolmie is Program Director at Results for Development, a non-profit organization whose mission is to unlock solutions to tough development challenges that prevent people in low- and middle-income countries from realizing their full potential. She is a principal investigator on the T4D Initiative alongside Archon Fung, who serves as Chief of Party. In this post, Tolmie shares T4D’s experience using Social Action Stories to empower people to improve their community health service delivery by determining and undertaking collaborative actions.

Read the other posts in this series here.

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Filed under Democracy in Hard Places, Innovation, Participation, Transparency for Development

Leveraging Technology to Improve Participation: Textizen and Oregon’s Kitchen Table

chanteToday’s post from Chante Lantos-Swett is the first in an occasional series that explores the top 25 ideas from the last round of the Roy and Lila Ash Innovations Award for Public Engagement in Government. Now in its second year, this special Innovations Award is designed specifically to recognize government-led innovations that demonstrate enhanced public engagement and participation in the governance of towns, cities, states, and the nation. The deadline to submit an application for this year’s award is April 15, 2016.

In this post, Chante Lantos-Swett, MPP’17 candidate, examines two cutting edge technologies striving to bring policy discussions into the public space. Textizen and Oregon’s Kitchen Table are two new initiatives that engage communities in innovative ways through text messaging and online crowdfunding. Lantos-Swett explores the potential of online tools to increase civic participation across a more diverse population and at a sustainable cost.

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Filed under Cities, Innovation, Participation, Technology