Ash Center News | Fall 2021

The latest from the Ash Center, introducing new community members and initiatives

Published on December 8, 2021 

New Faculty Affiliates Join the Ash Center

This fall, the Ash Center’s ranks of affiliated Harvard Kennedy School faculty continued to grow with the arrival of:

  • Arthur Brooks, William Henry Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership, whose research portfolio includes work on poverty, happiness, and human potential.
  • James Carras, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, whose experience spans designing, implementing, and researching local economic development programs.
  • Bruce Schneier, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, a “security guru” whose work at the Kennedy School focuses on cybersecurity policy.

Jane Mansbridge Honored with Karl Deutsch Award

Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values Emerita and a long-time Ash Center faculty affiliate, was honored with the 2021 Karl Deutsch Award by the International Political Science Association. The award is given to a prominent scholar engaged in cross-disciplinary research, with a focus on outstanding scholarship in the field of global politics. In her award lecture, Mansbridge argued that “right- and left-wing varieties of populism, with their often-accompanying new nationalisms, rest in part on a desire to be heard. We must redesign our democracies so that those not now heard can speak, be heard, and find at least a partially satisfactory response.”

Pippa Norris Given APSA Lifetime Achievement Award 

Pippa Norris, the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics and an Ash Center faculty affiliate, received the 2021 Murray Edelman Lifetime Distinguished Career Award from the Political Communication Research Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA)/International Communication Association for her lifetime contribution to the study of political communication. A comparative political scientist, Norris’ work focuses on democracy, public opinion and elections, political communications, and gender politics around the world. Her forthcoming book, “In Praise of Skepticism: Trust but Verify” (Oxford University Press, 2022), develops a general theory of “skeptical trust,” reflecting rational judgments driven by a process of informed evidence and logical reasoning.

New Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative Launched This Fall 

The Ash Center has launched an ambitious new project to rescue and document untold and unfiltered histories from the front lines of Vietnam’s wars. The Global Vietnam Wars Studies Initiative, co-founded earlier this year by Dr. Hai Nguyen and Ash Center Director Tony Saich, is working to conduct hundreds of interviews with combatants and civilians on all sides of the conflict. The Initiative plans to build a groundbreaking digital collection, housed within the Harvard Library system, to preserve these oral histories as well as other unpublished materials. The collection will be made widely available to scholars and the public. Ultimately, the Center will use the Initiative’s collections to stimulate new research and teaching materials by convening from around the globe.

Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project to Evaluate Interventions in Healthcare and Examine Global Mechanisms of Racial Justice, Truth Telling and Healing 

Current research on systemic racism in healthcare is dominated by data on ways racism impacts the social determinants of health in communities of color. A new effort from the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project, supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, seeks to expand this body of evidence by evaluating organizational approaches and policies that work to address systemic racism.

Through this project, IARA Faculty Director Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, an Ash Center faculty affiliate, will assess, analyze, and document effective measures of healthcare organizations engaging in internally-focused antiracist change. Angel Rodriguez, research fellow lead on this project, will work closely with Professor Muhammad to produce a series of open-source case studies along with a framing document to elevate and promote the findings.

This project joins IARA’s portfolio of research, which works at the intersection of community, academia, and policy to address intellectual and practical questions as they relate to antiracist institutional change. The portfolio includes a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to assess the field of global racial justice practices. The Kellogg research, already underway, is launching into Phase II this January to conduct field-based visits with leaders, practitioners, and architects of truth commissions around the world.

Harvard Project Helps Tribes Navigate COVID-19 Rescue Funding 

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) delivered the single largest infusion of federal funding to American Indian and Alaska Natives in U.S. history. The funds — $32 billion in total — were welcome and long-overdue aid in Indian Country, which has historically suffered from underfunding. Yet tribes have still struggled to determine how to best manage and deploy the money.

In May of 2021, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) began hosting “Navigating the American Rescue Plan Act,” a series of seven virtual events to answer tribal governments' most pressing questions about how to use ARPA funds for both immediate and sustained recovery and relief. Hundreds tuned in to each session to hear tribal leaders and experts share key learnings and answer questions in real-time. Topics ranged from investing in infrastructure to finding additional sources of funding. Recordings of each session, alongside other resources for tribes, can be found in the Harvard Project’s Covid-19 Resources Toolbox.

Eaves Convenes Government Digital Services Leaders 

David Eaves, an Ash Center faculty affiliate, hosted his fourth annual digital services convening this summer. The series of virtual discussions centered on how the pandemic was maturing the role of digital technology for many governments. It was attended by over 100 participants from 47 digital services teams from around the world. Conversations focused on how COVID-19 become a catalyst for change, sweeping away much of the institutional inertia that has prevented many countries from pursuing digital strategies more aggressively. But, as conference goers also noted, COVID-19 simultaneously made many gaps and challenges starker, highlighting inequalities in accessing digital public services.

Ash Center Launches New American Politics Speaker Series 

This semester, Ash Center faculty affiliates Maya Sen, Benjamin Schneer, and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner launched a seminar series, in conjunction with Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies, featuring scholars at the cutting edge of research on American democracy. The American Politics Speaker Series examines a range of issues as varied as public antipathy to the rise of presidential power, enfranchisement and incarceration after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and perceived belonging and Latino political participation. The series chairs are planning regular programming for the spring semester.

Event Series Delves into What Justice Could Look Like in Boston 

Launched in 2020, the “What Justice Looks Like” event series, led by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Yanilda María González, an Ash Center faculty affiliate, centers voices that are traditionally excluded from the halls of power. This fall, as the City of Boston prepared to welcome a new mayor, Professor González and HKS student David Corbie co-hosted two timely discussions on how local government should be thinking about justice for Boston’s Black and Brown communities. Featuring activists focused on a range of issues, from economic development to criminal justice, each discussion elucidated what meaningful social change would look like in the city. Recordings of both sessions are available.

Rapoport Testifies on Universal Voting 

Miles Rapoport, Ash Center Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Election Laws in support of legislation to make voting mandatory in general elections in the Commonwealth. Rapoport previously co-chaired a joint Ash Center/Brookings Institution working group, composed of scholars, advocates, and practitioners, that explored introducing universal civic duty voting in the United States as a means of increasing the number of Americans who participate in the electoral process. This February, Rapoport, along with Washington Post Columnist and Harvard Divinity School Visiting Professor EJ Dionne, will publish “100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting.”

Ash Experts Join Commission to Reimagine America’s Political Economy 

Megan Hill, Program Director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, and Cornell William Brooks, Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations and Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice, and Ash Center faculty affiliate, were selected to join a highly esteemed group of scholars, business leaders, journalists, community and faith leaders, and artists on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on Reimagining Our Economy. With nearly one in seven American children living in poverty and 66 percent of Americans desiring major economic reforms, the Commission, an interdisciplinary and nonpartisan multi-year effort, is set to develop recommendations that would drive the creation of an economy that helps all Americans thrive.

Center Gathers Government Innovation Scholars and Practitioners from the US and China 

On October 21-22, the Ash Center convened government innovation experts from both the US and China to discuss how novel public policies are developed and put into practice. Titled, Colloquium on the Science and Practice of Innovation, the event was a collaboration between the Ash Center’s Innovations in Government and China Programs and colleagues at Peking University. During the two days of discussion, faculty and practitioners from both countries looked at comparative lessons on innovation in governance in the United States and China with sessions ranging from “The Mechanism Innovation of China’s Poverty Governance” to “Driving Community Change and Transforming Government through Data.”

Masterclass on Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age 

As part of his work with a consortium of faculty from around the world that creates free teaching materials to build skills for government in the digital age, David Eaves helped host a three-day masterclass for educators to share strategies and other resources for implementing these curricular materials in their courses. The Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age project has developed a package of syllabi to train emerging public sector leaders in the basic digital competencies to run a 21st-century government. The masterclass featured 24 educators from 16 different countries, who shared personal lesson plans they developed on how they would teach individual units from the syllabus developed by the Project.

Ash Scholars Present Latest Research and Study on China’s Development and Governance 

Long after they depart Cambridge, a community of Ash Center fellows and Harvard scholars continue to share their work and collaborate through the China Development and Governance Workshop, a day-long event founded by Ash Center Asia Fellows Baozhong Su, Fan Li, Zhanjun Gao, and Jianwu He. This year, on July 31st, Asia Fellows Chunying Yue and Dapeng Wang chaired the fourth meeting of the Workshop, which was centered around new trends in Chinese development and government in the post-COVID era. Thirteen participants from across the globe joined the virtual discussion to present their latest research and catch up on their peers’ scholarship. Topics included climate change, the Belt and Road Initiative, public services, capacity-based national development planning, and budget change in China.