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
In two recently released papers, a pair of scholars affiliated with Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation take a close look at how urban leaders are grappling with the quick pace of technological and regulatory change in America’s cities today. In Reforming Mobility Management: Rethinking the Regulatory Framework, Stephen Goldsmith, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government at Harvard Kennedy School, lays out a new model for how...
As much of official Washington gathered in the cavernous nave of the Washington National Cathedral earlier this month to pay their final respects to the late Senator John McCain, Harvard’s Thomas Vallely MC/MPA 1983 stood among former presidents, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, and military service members to say goodbye to a friend of 30 years with whom he had worked to reshape U.S. policy in Southeast Asia... Read more about Remembering Senator John McCain and his efforts to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War
Kelly Lugbill Clark MPP 2018 was driving along the streets of Kinshasa in April 2015 when the news came over the radio that the death of a young African American man in police custody named Freddie Gray had touched off days of rioting in Baltimore. Clark, winner of the Ash Center’s 2018 Martha H. Mauzy Award for the Advancement of Democratic Governance, was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo helping to oversee human rights and democracy programming for the Carter Center of Atlanta. She was pressed by her Congolese colleagues on why she had traveled thousands of miles to work when America was plainly grappling with human rights issues of its own.... Read more about From Kinshasa to Richmond, Kelly Clark Works to Empower Community
A small, intensely blue, frozen pool sits isolated in a sparsely populated area of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai, China. It is hard to imagine, but this bit of ice, the Lasagongma Spring, is the start of a river that serves as the lifeblood to 60 million people.
With spring’s arrival, the ice melts and the pool is awash as mountain snows turn to water and flood the valley. Ultimately, the water will flow through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, entering Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and then emptying into the South China Sea (or the East Sea to the Vietnamese). In total, the waters of the Greater Mekong Basin help feed an estimated 300 million people... Read more about Ensuring the Future of the Lower Mekong Basin
In Boston for a performance with Arcade Fire, the Montréal-based rock band he helped found, the Ash Center sat down Will Butler, a 2017 graduate of Harvard Kennedy School’s mid-career MPA program for a conversation on the intersection of public policy, the arts, and his efforts to strengthen a culture of public engagement and participation in government and elections... Read more about Arcade Fire's Will Bulter on Voting & Civic Participation
Nisreen Haj Ahmad MC/MPA ’08, a former visiting research fellow at the Ash Center, spent the first seven years of her professional career enmeshed in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as a legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team. By the end of her tenure as a Palestinian negotiator, “I was depressed,” she recalls. “I studied law to defend the rights of oppressed people.” However, the minutiae and grinding pace of negotiations led Haj Ahmad to question whether the power of law was sufficient to impact the lives of ordinary Palestinians.
Born and raised in a rural village in central China’s Henan Province, Yuheng Wen MPA ’19, dropped out of middle school at age 13. Now, two decades later, he is at Harvard exploring ways to promote education equality in China in part with the support of the Ash Center’s Dalio Scholars program, which provides scholarships to graduate students from China who are proven leaders in philanthropy or who demonstrate clear philanthropy sector leadership potential... Read more about Fellows Focus: Dalio Scholar’s Campaign for Education Equality in China
The Ash Center sat down with Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, the first academic unit of Fulbright University of Vietnam. Dr. Tu Anh, also a non-resident fellow at the Ash Center, was in Cambridge for the 10th anniversary of the Vietnam Executive Leadership Program (VELP), an executive education program run by the Ash Center, which provides public policy training to senior Vietnamese government officials.... Read more about Vietnam Executive Leadership Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the country’s top court Wednesday (June 27). Kennedy has long been a crucial swing vote on key Supreme Court decisions, and his replacement has the opportunity to significantly change the ideological makeup of the court. Maya Sen, associate professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, has researched the political leaning of courts and is an expert Supreme Court watcher. We asked her about the impact Kennedy’s retirement will have on the court and the country... Read more about Maya Sen on Anthony Kennedy's Retirement
A diverse group of Harvard students and alumni buzzed with excitment as they prepared to premiere their short films to a crowd at the Ash Center on Wednesday, May 9. Three months earlier this group, the videos’ creators, had little to no filmmaking skills.... Read more about Community Engagement through Filmmaking
“Our democracy depends on voting,” said Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government and director of the Ash Center’s Democratic Governance Program, at the opening of an all-day symposium on increasing voter participation sponsored by the Ash Center; the Institute of Politics; and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The event, “Getting to 80%: A Symposium Advancing Voter Participation,” convened on May 3 at Harvard Kennedy School and brought together journalists, technologists, business leaders, elected officials, scholars...
For former US Attorney General Eric Holder, gerrymandering is at the root of many of the most prominent political debates unfolding across the country today. A fairer voting system, Holder believes, wouldn’t tilt the balance towards one political party, but would level the playing field for both voters and political parties.
Written by Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School and Wendy Fields, Executive Director, Democracy Initiative
For the last forty years, a determined attack on our democracy has been funded by a small cadre of right-wing billionaires. The leaders of this effort are determined to ensure that the decisions of government benefit the corporations and the wealthy, and they have recognized that in order to win on the substance — taxation, deregulation, shrinking government, preventing redistribution — they have to undercut the very structures of our democracy.