Ash Features

Georges poses on the steps of a New York City apartment building on

#CancelRent One Letter at a Time

May 26, 2020

In March, as the spread of COVID-19 across large swaths of the US effectively shuttered much of the country’s economy, millions of newly unemployed were left wondering how they would be able to pay rent. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, where nearly 60 percent of residents are renters, imposed COVID-related prohibitions on evictions. LA’s eviction moratorium required that renters who had lost jobs due to the pandemic notify their landlords in writing that they would be unable to pay rent.

Laura Miller smiles, holding a blue megaphone

Mobilizing Voters On and Off-Line

May 13, 2020
On January 1, 2017, Michelle Obama moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and became former first lady of the United States. "I think our democracy has it exactly right: two terms, eight years. It's enough," she told Vogue magazine.  
Boarded up door set within a worn brick wall

The Voices of Vacant Homes

May 8, 2020

For two months during the fall of 2016, the darkest corners and forgotten spaces in Albany, New York, were brought shining back to life. Thousands of abandoned buildings can be found in New York’s capital city, emptied in the wake of a manufacturing exodus from the region. But, for a short period, hundreds of buildings were transformed at night as gentle pulsing lights, mimicking the soft rhythm of human breath, shone through the windows. 

A sign that reads "dangerous building" hangs outside a home in Chelsea Massachusetts

At the Center of the Outbreak

May 7, 2020

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation sat down with Katharine Robb, a postdoctoral research fellow at the center’s Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative where she has been conducting research on housing and health in Chelsea, Mass. This densely populated city adjacent to Boston has seen some of the worst COVID-19 infection rates in the state. Robb completed her doctorate in public health degree at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2019.

Request for absentee ballot

Miles Rapoport on the Challenges Coronavirus Poses to Election Day

March 16, 2020

As the presidential primary season unfolds, the Ash Center sat down with Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy at the Ash Center and former Secretary of the State for Connecticut, for a conversation about the steps that election officials can take to lessen the risks posed by coronavirus on election day.... Read more about Miles Rapoport on the Challenges Coronavirus Poses to Election Day

Capitol hill

Convincing Congress to Remove its Tech Policy Blinders

February 11, 2020

The Ash Center sat down with Zach Graves, a 2019 Technology and Democracy Fellow, head of policy at the Lincoln Network, and author of “Science, Technology, and Democracy: Building a Modern Congressional Technology Assessment Office,” a new paper offering recommendations and a road map for resurrecting a technology assessment capability in Congress.

Students and staff work together to register new voters on the Kennedy School campus

Harvard Voter Turnout Doubles in 2018 Election

October 10, 2019

A detailed analysis of midterm voter turnout figures from the 2018 elections shows that the percentage of eligible Harvard students who turned up at the polls nearly doubled when compared to the last midterm elections in 2014.

Students with Mayor Craig

A New Approach In City Hall

August 28, 2019

The red brick and weathered stone of city hall stretch three stories above Manchester, New Hampshire’s central business district, topped by an elaborate, Gothic Revival spire. Sunlight streams through the arched windows of the building into a winding stairwell lined with portraits of city leaders, from 1846 to the present—neat rows climb from black and white to color; all stern gazes, mustaches, and crisp shirt collars. The march of masculinity is broken by the very last portrait—a smiling blonde woman.... Read more about A New Approach In City Hall

Lin Wei

China’s Toilet Revolution

August 8, 2019
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 Tale of Two Countries

July 29, 2019

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

Chris Robichaud poses with a Spiderman mug in his office

Office Hours: Christopher Robichaud

July 22, 2019

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.  

Robichaud, an Ash faculty affiliate, opened his door for a conversation with the Center about his unique decor... Read more about Office Hours: Christopher Robichaud

Ryan Pierannunzi poses in front of Harvard skyline

Mauzy Award Winner Ryan Pierannunzi Takes Democracy Reform from the Classroom to the Campaign Trail

July 3, 2019

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

Voter stickers

Calling on Companies

July 2, 2019

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?”

Around half of eligible voters in the U.S. cast a ballot during the 2018 midterm elections. In contrast, 80 percent of the approximately 3,500 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota employees voted that year. CitizenBlue, a 19-year-old civic-engagement initiative led by Blue Cross staff, is largely credited for the company employees' impressive turnout.... Read more about Calling on Companies

Kyle and Jana at HKS

Ensuring All Detroiters Benefit from the Motor City’s Revival

June 24, 2019

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 skyline

Minneapolis Is Using Zoning to Tackle Housing Affordability and Inequality

June 10, 2019
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
Ashu Varshney Speaking at the Ash Center

The Modi Mandate

May 31, 2019
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
This Week in Cairo Production

Scholarship on Stage

May 31, 2019
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