Ash Features

Our Top Research in 2020

Our Top Research in 2020

December 10, 2020

Each year, the Ash Center works with experts from around the world to publish research and writing on some of the most salient topics relevant to democratic governance, government innovation, and Asia public policy. Touching on issues as varied as Chinese public opinion, to voter engagement, and COVID-19 relief, the work of our scholars has had an important impact in the field of public policy.   

Professor Stephen Goldsmith

Reforming the Curb: Using Technology to Create a More Equitable Streetscape

November 23, 2020

When Stephen Goldsmith, the Derek Bok Professor of Urban Policy and Director of the Ash Center’s Government Innovations Program, served as mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana, “I thought I was the mayor of parking. I don’t think anything mattered except parking in downtown Indianapolis.” Since Goldsmith last held the reins at city hall, the debate over how cities should best put to use curb space and sidewalks has only grown more intense as online delivery companies, ride sharing services, and commercial businesses all vie for...

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Advice to the New Administration on China

Advice to the New Administration on China

November 20, 2020

There's a general consensus in Washington that China presents the most significant geopolitical and strategic challenge to any administration moving forward. However, there are considerable differences in how to deal with that challenge. Should it be through competition? Should it be through confrontation? Or should it be with containment? Or should it be a mixture of any one of those three?

Finding Allies and Making Revolution

Finding Allies and Making Revolution

October 19, 2020

In 1976, foreigners were a rarity in much of China. Even rarer still were foreigners from non-socialist countries studying in Chinese universities, especially given the recent social and educational upheavals of the Cultural Revolution, which was winding down. As a British-born graduate student at the University of Nanjing, Tony Saich—director of the Ash Center and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs—wasn’t exactly an inconspicuous presence around campus.

Is Mandatory Voting the Answer to Our Voting Wars?

Is Mandatory Voting the Answer to Our Voting Wars?

October 19, 2020

Political and legal fights over voter registration deadlines and polling locations are only intensifying as the United States lurches towards one of the most consequential and unprecedented elections in generations, leading many observers to ask, “Does it have to be this way?” Chief among the critics of this unfolding drama of voter suppression, voter disinformation, and an election system nearly brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic is Miles Rapoport, Ash Center senior practice fellow in American democracy. As a former Connecticut secretary of the state, he should know—Rapoport was responsible for running the state’s elections. “What we’ve seen over the last few weeks, with uncertainty over voting rules, lawsuits filed by the dozens, and general confusion about what Election Day should look like, isn’t a flaw in the system. It’s just a further illustration of how our decentralized, often politically driven and in some cases poorly administered election system was designed to function,” he says.

Lawrence stands with her foot and a baseball bat on top of an old typewriter

Moving Municipal Tech Out of the Typewriter Era

October 19, 2020

Boston likes to fashion itself as a global tech hub, proud of the legions of start-ups and tech workers who have made its economy the envy of cities around the country. Yet vestiges of Boston’s analog past can still be found, if you know where to look—such as in the long, brick-fronted building that sprawls over much of a block along Massachusetts Avenue in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood. From the building, which houses the city’s Inspectional Services Division (ISD), the sounds of aging IBM Wheelwriter 1500 electric typewriters, which until recently filled the ISD offices. used to be heard as permit-seekers hunched over its well-worn keys typing out applications for zoning variances.  

Johnson poses in advance of graduation wearing an HKS and HLS graduation stole

A Win for Democracy

October 16, 2020

Demarquin Johnson HLS/HKS 2020 stepped up to a podium for the first time as a freshman in high school in Missouri City, Texas, as a member of his school’s debate team. After several weeks spent doing research, he was prepared to defend the right to vote for citizens convicted of a felony. Fueled by a deep belief that felony disenfranchisement is unjust and a legacy of Jim Crow-era attempts to strip voting rights from Black people, he hammered home how prohibiting people from voting because they were formerly incarcerated runs contrary to the American belief in democracy.

Jorrit de Jong looks at a wall of screens, each screen with an image of a mayor participating in a session

Crisis Leadership Essentials for Mayors

October 16, 2020

The Ash Center sat down with HKS Senior Lecturer Jorrit de Jong, an Ash Center resident faculty member and the faculty director of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The Initiative has been at the forefront of training mayors in management and leadership techniques since its establishment four years ago. de Jong has led numerous seminars for mayors with leading public health and crisis response experts from Harvard and around the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year and recently. de Jong recently published a compendium on COVID-19 Crisis Leadership Essentials for Mayors

Q+A with Kimberlyn Leary

Q+A with Kimberlyn Leary

October 15, 2020

The Ash Center sat down with Kimberlyn Leary, an Ash Center faculty affiliate and key member of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s leadership team, to discuss how she is leveraging her background in public health and negotiation to help equip mayors and senior city leaders from around the world to lead high-performing, innovative cities. Leary, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a senior vice president of the Urban Institute, joined the Ash Center in fall 2019. 

Black Lives, Protest, and Democracy

Black Lives, Protest, and Democracy

October 14, 2020

The following remarks were excepted from A Discussion on Black Lives, Protest, and Democracy, a virtual conversation hosted by the Ash Center with leading scholars and practitioners about the protests, their place in the long fight for social justice, and what they tell us about the state of democracy in America today.  

Uche Pedro smiling as she presents her work at the Ash Center

A New Story for Nigeria

October 13, 2020
In June 2006, a few days after Uche Pedro MC/MPA 2020 graduated from Western University, Ontario with a degree in business she started an anonymous blog about Nigerian pop culture. Going to a university in Canada had opened Pedro’s eyes to how little people knew of her native country’s burgeoning entertainment scene. Posting clips from magazines and stories about music and fashion in her free time, she hoped BellaNaija, her site, could help introduce the world to a new narrative about Nigeria.
Roll of 'I Voted' stickers

Valerie Jarrett on the value of a vote and reaching Gen-Z

September 23, 2020

Following the 2016 presidential election, senior advisor to then President Barack Obama Valerie Jarret and First Lady Michelle Obama poured over election return data. “Michelle Obama and I did a lot of soul searching trying to figure out what happened,” said Jarrett during a virtual discussion moderated by Harvard Law School Lester Kissel Professor of Law David Wilkins, hosted by Harvard Votes Challenge, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and Institute of Politics, this Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day. “I think the number that really jumped out at us was that nearly 100 million eligible Americans did not vote. That’s a big number in a country that depends on democracy, which requires civic engagement and participation at the most fundamental level.” 

The view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California, United States

For a moment, partisanship takes a backseat to conservation in the nation’s capital

July 28, 2020

As election season descends across the country and the political rhetoric emanating out of Washington only becomes more bitter, something rare happened last week on Capitol Hill—large bipartisan majorities passed one of the most far-reaching pieces of conservation legislation in a generation. The bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will pump billions of dollars into overdue repairs and maintenance of the country’s national parks and permanently fund a slew of other federal conservation programs. President Trump tweeted his support ahead of its passage before the House and is expected to sign the bill later this month.

China's Great Hall of the People

An Uncertain Future for Hong Kong

May 28, 2020

As the National Party Congress, China’s annual legislative session, concludes, the Ash Center sat down with Director Anthony Saich, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs to discuss a new security law previewed during the convening that could define the future of Beijing’s relationship to Hong Kong.

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.