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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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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First Chapter: National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama by Hilary Silver

urban policyBelow is an excerpt from a new edited volume Urban Policy in the Time of Obama. With President Obama’s term coming to an end Friday, we take a look back at the legacy he will leave behind. Hilary Silver, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center and Professor Emerita of Sociology and Urban Studies at Brown University, shares her chapter “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama.”

Many supporters expressed disappointment that the first African-American community organizer to be elected US President did not do more to help cities. Although Barack Obama began to embrace the subject of race relations late in his second term, his urban policy seemed to disappear as his Administration endured. Signature initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Zones were anemic in comparison to his predecessors’ programs, adding to the impression that the days of national urban policy were over. Yet, this chapter argues, President Obama did have an effective urban policy that worked by stealth, one embedded in the Recovery Act, foreclosure policies, and other stimulus programs. He also made headway against homelessness. Obama’s urban policy was pursued through new forms of governance as well, promoting interagency cooperation and leveraging resources. Thus, his legacy is not as modest as some have suggested.

This post is part of an occasional series highlighting chapters of recent books by those affiliated with the Ash Center. “National Urban Policy in the Age of Obama” by Hilary Silver appears here by permission of the University of Minnesota Press from Urban Policy in the Time of Obama edited by James DeFilippis, copyright 2016 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. Readers can purchase the book here.

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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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PBNYC: The Challenges and Opportunities of Scale

ribbleLong hours, careful relationship-building, and hands-on community outreach have made New York City’s Participatory Budgeting process a successful experiment in civic engagement. In this post, Betsy Ribble (MPP ’17) explores what it will take to scale PBNYC without losing the qualities that made it work so well.

Read more posts on participatory budgeting here.

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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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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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Teachers or Facilitators?: How T4D Facilitators Shape Our Intervention

T4DThis blog post is the fourth 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.

This post is written by ethnographer Megan Cogburn with support from fellow ethnographer Mohamed Yunus Rafiq, focusing on one of the factors that she observed during her time living in and researching villages in which the intervention took place in Tanzania. 

It is an example of the insights that can emerge from the ethnographic approach that is a core component of our research—insights that can reveal potentially key factors that neither the practitioners nor the researchers on the team would have thought in advance to explore.  These kinds of insights will be incorporated into our later research, forming the basis for hypotheses that we can explore more widely and systematically to understand why the intervention played out differently across communities.

Read other posts from the T4D project here

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One Village’s Journey to Better Maternal and Newborn Health

T4DThis blog post is the third 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. 

The previous two posts explored problem-driven design and the importance of people in the T4D intervention. In this post, Lindsey Roots takes us inside a Community Scorecard Meeting in one Tanzanian village. She observes how meetings are facilitated to prompt community members to reflect on their own experiences with Maternal and Newborn Health (MNH), and to empower them to identify barriers and solutions to better MNH.

Read other posts from the T4D project here.
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Power from the People: Who Matters in a Social Accountability Intervention?

T4DThis blog post is the second 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 this post, Courtney Tolmie shares take aways from observing the intervention in five villages in Indonesia earlier this year, focusing on the importance of intentionally designing the roles of the civil society organization, the facilitator, the community representatives, and the government in a social accountability intervention. 

Read other posts from the T4D project here.

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Problem-driven Design: Zooming in for a Ten Millimeter View

T4DThis blog post is the first in a new 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 the first post from this series, Courtney Tolmie shares take aways from observing the intervention in five villages in Indonesia earlier this year, focusing on problem-driven design and what this theoretical approach looks like on the ground for T4D.

Read other posts from the T4D project here.

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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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Protest and Legislative Responsiveness: Q&A with LaGina Gause

gause_lagina_headshotThis post is the first in a series of Q&As introducing our new cohort of Democracy Fellows. LaGina Gause, the Ash Center’s new Democracy Postdoctoral Fellow, joins us from the University of Michigan where she received her PhD in Public Policy and Political Science. Gause’s research focuses on legislative response. Her dissertation book project specifically explores legislative behavior in response to protesters in their congressional districts. 

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Filed under Democracy Fellows Spotlight, Democracy Program, Representation

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

Talking Politics Online: Why Not Everything Should Be Connected

Moore_AlfredIn advance of his talk on online deliberation this afternoon, former Ash Center Democracy Fellow Alfred Moore shares some preliminary results from a project on online commenting that he conducted with his colleagues John Naughton and Rolf Fredheim. Using data from Huffington Post comment sections over time, Moore and his colleagues uncover interesting trends that debunk the assumption that civility necessarily increases with the decline of anonymity in online commenting spaces.

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Technologists Working to Improve American Democracy

26577780260_6a7c24a233_mThe Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School is pleased to announce its new cohort of Technology and Democracy Fellows—technologists committed to improving the health of American Democracy.

This year’s Fellows are especially passionate about building the capacity and new tools needed by civic activists, community organizers, local government officials, and journalists who are so critical to making democracy work.

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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