Each year, November 19 marks the date of an important revolution in China—World Toilet and China Toilet Revolution Awareness Day. Though washroom puns often accompany headlines about China’s effort to improve the state of its public restrooms, the issue is no laughing matter in the eyes of the country’s leaders. President Xi’s “Toilet Revolution” announcement in 2015 was front-page news in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and a useful cipher for understanding Beijing’s policy priorities. At the time of Xi’s announcement,China’s public bathrooms were described as unhygienic, filthy, crude, anxiety-inducing, and often in short supply. The condition of the country’s bathrooms was both a mounting issue for China’s growing tourism industry as well as an ongoing public health crisis.... Read more about China’s Toilet Revolution
Elizabeth Plantan, a China postdoctoral fellow with the Ash Center, spent her 21st birthday in Irkutsk, Siberia, near Lake Baikal. With windchill, the temperature was minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit. “It's the sort of cold where your eyelashes freeze, but everyone still walks everywhere in the snow,” she recalled.
Plantan, then an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, made the long trek to Irkutsk because she hoped to completely embed herself into Russian culture and community. “I wanted there to be very few foreigners so I wouldn't have any temptation to speak English,” she said of her decision to swap the mild climate of Middletown, Connecticut, for the subarctic Siberian environment.... Read more about A Tale of Two Countries
Jaws drop the first time most students enter Christopher Robichaud’s office. The animated response is fitting for the senior lecturer in public policy’s workspace. On top of, between, and leaning against the books that line nearly every inch of the walls—save the window looking out over John F. Kennedy Memorial Park—are memorabilia ranging from collector-edition action figures to a vintage-inspired Star Wars turntable.
The Ash Center sat down with Jane Mansbridge, Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, to discuss her work developing a package of case studies, simulations, and exercises for teaching effective legislative negotiation aimed at state and federal legislators in the United States... Read more about Jane Mansbridge on Legislative Negotiation
With clipboard often in hand, Ryan Pierannunzi MPP 2019 became something of a noodge around campus. A friendly noodge to be sure. Pierannunzi, who was honored by the Ash Center with the 2019 Martha H. Mauzy Award for the Advancement of Democratic Governance, was a lead student organizer of the Harvard Votes Challenge and worked through much of the 2018 fall semester to help register as many of his eligible HKS classmates to vote as he could. Pierannunzi and his fellow organizers, it turns out, were pretty successful at noodging, as over 90 percent of eligible HKS students ultimately participated in the challenge in the runup to the midterm elections.... Read more about Mauzy Award Winner Ryan Pierannunzi Takes Democracy Reform from the Classroom to the Campaign Trail
If voter participation is the cornerstone of democracy, American democracy is in poor shape, according to Harvard Kennedy School’s Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government. “American democracy would be a lot stronger if all Americans voted. Imagine a future, maybe five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, in which 80 or even 90 percent of Americans voted,” said Fung at the start of a panel discussion on June 27th organized by the Ash Center. “How can we get there?”
Six years after emerging from the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, construction cranes once again dot Detroit’s skyline and large-scale investment is flowing into scores of high-end commercial and residential developments throughout the city. Ford is in the midst of remaking Detroit’s once grand but long since decrepit Michigan Central Station into a hub for tech-savvy workers and engineers working on autonomous vehicle projects.... Read more about Ensuring All Detroiters Benefit from the Motor City’s Revival
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is the unlikely protagonist in one of the boldest policy gambits aimed at tackling the housing affordability crisis currently gripping many of America’s cities. Since being sworn into office in January 2018, the 37-year-old mayor of Minnesota’s largest city has helped shepherd through a radical rezoning of the city's 83 neighborhoods, which is intended to ease the creation of and access to affordable housing across the city.... Read more about Minneapolis Is Using Zoning to Tackle Housing Affordability and Inequality
Having just returned from observing India’s national elections, Ashutosh Varshney, the Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences and professor of political science at Brown University and a resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, sat down with the Gazette for a conversation about how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won such a convincing victory and what is at stake for the world’s largest democracy.... Read more about The Modi Mandate
Interdisciplinary collaboration across Harvard usually takes the form of co-authored papers or perhaps jointly chaired conferences. Tarek Masoud’s latest collaboration found him not in a classroom around campus but working with writers and directors of “We Live in Cairo,” a musical set during protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the tumultuous years that followed in Egypt. The show made its world premiere last spring at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University in Cambridge.... Read more about Scholarship on Stage
For most Americans, Huawei is hardly a household name. The Chinese telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer has had only a limited consumer footprint in the United States. That began to change, though, last year when the daughter of the company’s founder and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, stepped off a plane in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was immediately taken into custody by Canadian authorities at the behest of the United States. Her arrest for allegedly helping Huawei evade US sanctions on Iran, and the tit-for-tat detention of a number of Canadian citizens in China, has brought renewed attention on the company, its relationship with China’s military and intelligence agencies, and its ambitious goals to be a dominant player in the race to deploy 5G wireless technology around the world.
With national elections under way in India, hundreds of millions of voters are casting ballots at nearly a million polling locations. For the world’s most populous democracy, it is a herculean feat of electoral administration. But beyond the heavy logistical lift, this election has the potential to shape the very future of the country’s pluralistic political system, according to noted India expert Ashutosh Varney.
Just days after Ryan Swann MC/MPA 2019 and his identical twin brother, Bryan MC/MPA 2019, walked across the stage to accept their diplomas at Prince George’s County Largo High School in Maryland, the brothers enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and were en route to basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I come from a large family of veterans and public servants,” says Ryan Swann, recipient of the Ash Center's 2018–19 Roy and Lila Ash Fellowship in Democracy, a scholarship that is awarded to a meritorious mid-career student with a proven dedication to democratic governance and public-sector innovation. “I really felt the need to serve.”... Read more about Roy and Lila Ash Fellow Ryan Swann: A Story of Service
In the United States, nearly 23,000 young people age out of the foster care system every year without having been reunited with their families or placed in permanent homes. Approximately 20 percent of those who leave foster care without a permanent home after turning 18 join the growing ranks of the homeless in cities and towns large and small across the country, according to the National Foster Youth Initiative. Only half will find gainful employment by the time they turn 24.... Read more about Working Wonders for Foster Youth
With camera equipment often in tow, Cecily Tyler MC/MPA 2016 has been a familiar face at the Ash Center since graduating from the Kennedy School three years ago. Tyler, a documentary filmmaker, has worked with scores of students at the Center since starting to teach videographic essay-making skills as part of Ash Center resident faculty affiliate Jorrit de Jong’s Innovation Field Lab course.... Read more about Behind the Lens: Cecily Tyler Is Building a New Generation of Citizen Storytellers
Getting eligible Harvard students to vote in US elections shouldn’t be hard, should it? After all, the University prides itself on being a training ground for emerging leaders, inculcating into successive generations of students the values and importance of civic engagement and democratic governance. But it turns out that many of these same students don’t exercise what is arguably democracy's core right and responsibility while at Harvard: showing up at the polls.... Read more about Harvard Votes
The Ash Center sat down for a conversation with Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at HKS and one of Ash’s newest faculty affiliates.
You are known for your work on international human rights issues, but you also helped co-chair the School's participation in the Harvard Votes Challenge with Archon Fung. How did you go from the world of human rights, and the responsibility to protect, to voting?
Like most city leaders, Jennifer Musisi, the former municipal head of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, came into office with plans to shake up how local government did business. She wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers in order to improve how Uganda’s largest metro area, long plagued by corruption and poor administration, provided services to its one and a half million residents. What she didn’t expect was that her pursuit of greater government efficiency and transparency would result in threats on her life.... Read more about From Kampala to Cambridge: Jennifer Musisi knows what it takes to lead high-stakes change in city government
March 1–3, the Ash Center cohosted the Democracy Entrepreneurship Conference, which brought together democracy advocates, policymakers, philanthropists, academics, and journalists at HKS. The unique event helped attendees build connections, learn about innovative organizing strategies, and understand how best to tap into newfound energy directed toward strengthening US democratic institutions.
In 2016, Maine voters became the first to approve statewide ranked choice voting, but like many democracy reform battles, it was no easy task convincing the state’s political leadership and courts to support this new ballot-casting innovation. As part of the Ash Center's spring semester 2019 study group on democracy reform, led by Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy Miles Rapoport, HKS students had the opportunity to hear firsthand from reformers who helped make ranked choice voting a reality in Maine, as well as... Read more about Study Group Explores Maine’s Experiment with Ranked Choice Voting