Ash Features

Tom O'Bryan

Student Focus: Promoting Democracy in the Congo

April 21, 2017

Over half a century after the assassination of Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba —  the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is still waiting for its first peaceful transition of political power. 

Though Congo’s constitution required the country’s current president Joseph Kabila to step down from office last December as his second five-year term as president ended, elections have again been postponed — and few observers have faith that voting will take place anytime soon. Among this group is Tom O’Bryan MPP ’17, former Advocacy and Communications Manager for the Eastern Congo Initiative, an advocacy organization founded by actor Ben Affleck focused on promoting economic and social development in the country’s wartorn eastern provinces. After spending two years in the country, O’Bryan was all too familiar with the behind the scenes political machinations keeping President Kabila in power in Kinshasa.


Democracy Fellows Spotlight: Q&A with LaGina Gause

April 21, 2017

We sat down with Democracy Fellow LaGina Gause to discuss her research on how legislatures respond to protests.

Q: What are the main questions your research addresses?

A: The biggest question is understanding how institutions and individuals interact with each other. There is this interplay where government does something and people react, and then people do something and government reacts. The question is how can government and institutions work together to create the best system that works for the most people. Particularly, I care about the people who aren't represented as often.

CAN Convening

Civic Analytics Network: Helping Cities Unlock the Power of Data

April 21, 2017

By now, most are familiar with the trope expounding on the transformative power of data in our society today. We see its manifestation in nearly every part of our lives, from how we shop for goods to the route we take on the commute to work or school. For cities, the impact of data has the potential to be no less transformational, and city halls around the country are grappling with how best to integrate this seemingly endless array of information into their decision-making processes. Increasingly, the job of making sense of and harnessing this data to improve governance is falling to a new category of city hall staffer: the chief data officer (CDO).


Closing the Wage Gap: Ash Alum Using Data to Make “Women’s Issue” Everyone’s Issue

April 21, 2017

In 2016, for every dollar earned by men, women in the Greater Boston Area earned 77 cents, according to a recent report from the Boston Women’s Workforce Council. The city could wait for the wage gap to close over time — estimates by the American Association of University Women say the US will reach equity around 2152, or do something about it. For MaryRose Mazzola MPP ’15, doing nothing has never been an option, and today she is actively involved in closing Boston’s wage gap as executive director of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council.


Amanda Sloat

Amanda Sloat on Turkey's Constitutional Referendum, Erdogan, and Democratic Backsliding

April 14, 2017

As Turkey prepares to head to the polls to vote on a package of amendments to the Turkish constitution, we sat down with Dr. Amanda Sloat, a fellow with the Ash Center's Democracy in Hard Places Initiative and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs at the State Department to discuss the referendum and its impact on the future of democracy in Turkey. 


Q: Why is Turkey going to the polls to vote on a new constitution?

Arne Westad

Arne Westad on Trump, Xi, and the Future of the Asia

April 3, 2017

In advance of Chinese President Xi  Jinping's first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, we sat down with Odd Arne Westad the S.T. Lee Professor of U.S.-Asia Relations at Harvard University to discuss China's growing role in the Asia-Pacific Region. 

Then-candidate and now President Trump has sent wildly contradictory messages about China’s role in the Asia-Pacific region and possible US responses to its growing military presence there. How is Beijing interpreting these mixed signals?

Tony Saich

Tony Saich on Xi, Trump, and the future of U.S.-China Relations

April 3, 2017

In advance of Chinese President Xi  Jinping's first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, we sat down with Tony Saich, the director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at HKS to discuss the state of U.S.-China relations. 

Heading into this meeting, the first between Presidents Trump and Xi, how would you describe the current state of Sino-American relations?

Maya Sen

The Political Science Perspective: Judge Neil Gorsuch & the Supreme Court of the United States

March 20, 2017

A Q&A with Maya Sen

With Congress set to kick off confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Ash Center sat down with Maya Sen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Sen’s research interests include the American legal system and politics. She is the author of several recent papers on political ideology and politicization in the judiciary.

Teresa Acuna

From Sacramento to DC, For Teresa Acuña, Roy and Lila Ash Fellow, Community Always on Her Mind

March 20, 2017

President Obama’s unprecedented decision to commute the sentences of nearly 1,500 federal inmates incarcerated on low-level drug offenses has given a second chance to those on the receiving end of disproportionate sentences handed down at the height of the war on drugs and allowed them and their families to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. For Teresa Acuñamid-career MPA 2017 and the Roy and Lila Ash Fellow at the Ash Center, her experience as a legislative aide and advocate would intersect in an intensely personal manner with President Obama’s efforts to undo some of the social damage wrought by this decades-long war on drugs.