Publications

    Best Practices for the Governance of Digital Public Goods
    Eaves, David, Leonie Bolte, Omayra Chuquihuara, and Surabhi Hodigere. 2022. “Best Practices for the Governance of Digital Public Goods”. Read Full Text Abstract

    David Eaves, Leonie Bolte, Omayra Chuquihuara, and Surabhi Hodigere, April 2022

    “Digital government” is becoming simply “government.” As a result, an ever-increasing number of systems and processes critical to the operation of government—the core infrastructure of a state—are being digitized. This necessity creates enormous opportunities—to enhance, scale, and even standardize government services—and challenges—including a risk that building out this new infrastructure will impose costs that will reinforce global inequities.

    In this light, it is no surprise that Digital Public Goods (DPGs)—an institutionalized sharing of “open-source software, open data, open AI models, open standards, and open content” between government and other actors—are an increasingly discussed model. This presents an opportunity to share the burden of modernizing the core infrastructure of a state.

    Inspired by the open-source movement, not only are DPGs non-rivalrous, but sharing them across jurisdictions could lower costs, speed adoption, and create standards to facilitate cooperation and trade. However, the joint management of any resource by sovereign entities—particularly of key infrastructure for the maintenance of public goods and services offered by the state—carries with it significant questions of governance.

    The 2021 Digital Services Convening
    Eaves, David, and Sechi Kailasa. 2022. “The 2021 Digital Services Convening”. Read full text Abstract

    David Eaves and Sechi Kailasa, March 2022

    This year’s convening marked the fourth Digital Services Convening jointly organized by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Public Digital, a disruptive digital trans- formation consultancy. The event has been described by a Cambridge University study as one of six seminal digital government conferences across the globe. The importance of having a space where digital government practitioners can learn, share, and discuss their experiences is only growing, as more and more governments are grappling with transformation efforts and the subsequent issues that such efforts give rise to.

    Many digital service teams had made significant gains during the pandemic and were awarded more authority, remit, and funding. COVID-19 had also affected governments’ risk appetites across the world, leading to more experimentation and iteration. This has not always led to successful outcomes; in some cases, it might not be appropriate to bypass processes or use a magic wand as a lever. However, this general shift has meant that the entrenched ways of working and the prevailing speed of bureaucracy were challenged. It remains an open question as to whether all the gains made during the pandemic can or should be retained.

    Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development
    Goldsmith, Stephen, and Kate Markin Coleman. 2022. Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development. Brookings Institution Press. Learn more on the publisher's site Abstract

    Stephen Goldsmith and Kate Markin Coleman, February 2022  

    The labor market in the United States faces seemingly contradictory challenges: Many employers have trouble finding qualified applicants for current and future jobs, while millions of Americans are out of work or are underemployed—their paths to living-wage jobs blocked by systemic barriers or lack of adequate skills.

    Growing Fairly offers workforce development reforms that meet the needs of both workers and employers. Based on the experiences of hundreds of leaders and workers, the authors set out ten principles for designing a more effective and equitable system that helps workers obtain the skills necessary for economic mobility.

    The principles outlined in the book argue for a more comprehensive view of the skilling needs of current and prospective workers. They spell out the attributes of effective programs and make the case for skill-based hiring, widely distributed performance data, and collaboration. The book emphasizes the importance of local action to overcome the structural barriers that challenge even the most determined would-be learners. Growing Fairly shows cross sector leaders how to work across organizational boundaries to change the trajectory of individuals struggling to make a living wage.

    This is not a book of untested theories. Instead, it is written by practitioners for practitioners. Much of it is told through the voices of those who run programs and people who have taken advantage of them. While the issues the book addresses are profound, its take on the subject is optimistic.

    Between them, the authors have spent decades searching out and supporting effective practices. Even more critically, they have learned how to knit competing agencies and organizations into cohesive systems with coordinated missions. Their practical ideas will benefit a wide range of readers, from practitioners in the field to students and scholars of the American labor system.

    Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, State of Ohio: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Colleen Crispino, January 2022 

    Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), Ohio’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency, is responsible for providing employment-related services to eligible individuals in Ohio to help them achieve their employment goals. Their program model, designed to improve employment outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities, addresses some of the barriers that exist for these populations. Since 2013, their Business Relations team has partnered with more than 500 employers statewide to match skilled candidates to available jobs. As part of this service, OOD provides no-cost solutions for employers, including improved worksite accessibility and accommodations and training on disability etiquette and awareness. These strategies have resulted in increased hiring of VR participants by employer partners.3

    As part of their innovative service system, OOD partners with large employers in the Columbus area to embed Ohio State VR staff in each employer’s human resources department to quickly match qualified candidates with disabilities to open positions. OOD first tested this approach with one major employer in 2017, leading to the hiring of 60 individuals with disabilities in the first three years. They later expanded the program to include an additional major employer, in a different industry, with similarly positive results.

    BenePhilly, City of Philadelphia: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Betsy Gardner, January 2022 

    The American social safety net exists to meet needs for: unemployment assistance, supplemental money for food, help with health care costs and medical expenses, and more. However, the process of signing up for these services is often time-consuming, confusing, repetitive, and frustrating.

    To address these challenges, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Benefits Data Trust (BDT) developed BenePhilly, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Departments of Aging and Human Services, to inform people of their eligibility for benefits and assist them in quickly and efficiently enrolling. This paper is a case study of the BenePhilly program and will serve as a guide to replicate its success. By using proven, data-driven methods, the program connects high-need, eligible individuals with up to 19 different benefits, all while reducing overall poverty, providing a better application experience, and increasing trust in local government.

    BenePhilly is a network of government agencies, nonprofits, and community-based organizations connecting Philadelphians to benefits through targeted, data-driven outreach, referrals from a network of organizations, and in-person and telephone application assistance. The trained staff at both BDT and the nonprofit organizations embedded in the communities they serve help individuals easily find and enroll in benefits. According to BDT’s Chief Strategy Officer Pauline Abernathy, BenePhilly has helped more than 125,000 Philadelphia residents secure over $1.6 billion in benefits as of January 2021.

    Pathways to Economic Advancement, Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Jeanne Batalova, January 2022 

    Adult English learners (ELs) are as likely to find jobs in the U.S. labor market as those who speak English fluently. There are significant differences, however, when it comes to salary, job quality, and professional opportunities. Today, more than 240,000 working-age adults are in need of English-language services in Greater Boston, with most seeking to improve their English fluency to find a job or get pro- moted. Despite this need, only 11,600 adults receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services each year. As a result, adult ELs are often limited in their ability to contribute to local and state economies in terms of taxes and consumer spending.

    Developed by Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) in Boston, the Massachusetts Pathways to Economic Advancement (Pathways) program started with a fundamental question: Given the high unmet demand for vocational and workplace English, how do we effectively scale up a proven workforce-oriented model of teaching adults English for employment. Through its four program tracks and an innovating fund- ing model (Pay for Success), Pathways offers a continuum of work-related ESOL services coupled with individualized job coaching and job placement.

    Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, City University of New York: Innovations in American Government Award Case Study

    Philip Jordan, January 2022 

    Social and economic mobility are at historic lows in America, while entrenched racial inequality cotinues to erect barriers. Research suggests that education is critically important to enable economic mobility, particularly for the lowest-income populations, which are most frequently served by the patch- work of community colleges across the US.

    While progress in expanding access and enrollment at community colleges over the past 20 years is significant, the rate of degree completion has generally not improved. Systemic barriers, including financial, social, and academic, persist. Three-year completion rates for associate degrees are very low, and there is a significant achievement gap for racial and ethnic minorities. Eliminating barriers to success is not easy and the community colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY) have not been immune to these challenges. However, while many programs attempt to overcome these obstacles, few have demonstrated verifiable success and none more so than CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP).

    Toward a Smarter Future: Building Back Better with Intelligent Civil Infrastructure -- Smart Sensors and Self-Monitoring Civil Works

    Stephen Goldsmith, Betsy Gardner, and Jill Jamieson; September 2021 

     

    The United States needs to build better infrastructure. The current repairs and replacements are disorganized and patchwork, resulting in unsafe, costly, and inequitable roads, bridges, dams, sidewalks, and water systems. A strategic, smart infrastructure plan that integrates digital technology, sensors, and data not only addresses these issues but can mitigate risks and even improve the conditions and structures that shape our daily lives.

     

    By applying data analysis to intelligent infrastructure, which integrates digital technology and smart sensors, we can identify issues with the country’s roadways, buildings, and bridges before they become acute dangers. First, by identifying infrastructure weaknesses, smart infrastructure systems can address decades of deferred maintenance, a practice that has left many structures in perilous conditions. Sensors in pavement, bridges, vehicles, and sewer systems can target where these problems exist, allowing governments to allocate funding toward the neediest projects.

    From there, these sensors and other smart technologies will alert leaders to changes or issues before they pose a danger—and often before a human inspector can even see them. The many infrastructure emergencies in the U.S. cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year, so identifying and fixing these issues is a pressing security issue. Further, as the changing climate leads to more extreme weather and natural disasters, the safety and resiliency of the country’s infrastructure is an immediate concern. Sensor systems and other intelligent infrastructure technology can identify and mitigate these problems, saving money and lives.

    In addition, intelligent infrastructure can be layered onto existing infrastructure to address public health concerns, like monitoring sewer water for COVID-19 and other pathogens or installing smart sensors along dangerous interstates to automatically lower speed limits and reduce accidents. It can also be used to improve materials, like concrete, to reduce the carbon footprint of a project, ultimately contributing to better health and environmental outcomes.

    Finally, addressing inequities is a major reason to utilize intelligent infrastructure. Research shows that people of color in the U.S. are exposed to more pollutants, toxic chemicals, and physical danger through excess car emissions, aging water pipes, and poor road conditions. The implementation and funding of these intelligent infrastructure projects must consider where—and to whom—harm has traditionally been done and how building back better can measurably improve the quality of life in marginalized and vulnerable communities.

    While there are challenges to implementing a sweeping intelligent infrastructure plan, including upfront costs and security concerns, all levels of government play a role in achieving a safer society. At the federal level, with infrastructure funding bills being debated at this moment, the government must look beyond roads and bridges and consider that intelligent infrastructure is a system: upheld, connected, and integrated by data. Through grants, incentives, and authorized funding, the federal government can effect monumental change that will improve how all residents experience their daily lives. At the state level, budgeting with intelligent infrastructure in mind will encourage innovative approaches to local infrastructure. And on a municipal level, cities and towns can invest in comprehensive asset management systems and training for local workers to best utilize the intelligent infrastructure data.

    2020 State of Digital Transformation
    Eaves, David, and Lauren Lombardo. 2020. “2020 State of Digital Transformation”. Read the full report Abstract

    David Eaves, Lauren Lombardo, February 2021 

    Starting in 2018, every year, the State of Digital Transformation report documents the main lessons from a Digital Services Convening hosted at Harvard Kennedy School. In 2020, Harvard Kennedy School and Public Digital hosted a series of discussions on the coronavirus digital response. These gatherings, which included a wide range of digital service groups, highlighted success stories, lessons learned, and tools that digital teams could leverage or repurpose. 

    This year's report highlights some of the new possibilities discussed at the convening and provides further reflections on crisis response. 

    Deploying the Once-Only Policy: A Privacy-Enhancing Guide for Policymakers and Civil Society Actors

    Naeha Rashid, November 2020 

    The once-only policy (OOP) is increasingly seen by some digital government experts as central to establishing a national digital government strategy and as a gateway to next-generation government services. Once-only is so called because users (citizens, residents, and businesses) have to provide diverse data only one time when in contact with public administrations; after the initial data transfer, different parts of government can internally share and reuse this data to create public value and better service for users. 

    Members of the digital government community are excited by the potential of OOPs to create public value and reduce the cost of government, and I want to help governments harness this potential. I am also deeply concerned by the potential for OOPs to concentrate and increase state power and the negative impact this could have on individuals’ privacy, freedoms, and capacity to dissent. 

    The goal is to harness the benefits of OOP while minimizing the risks, to create a world in which the power of the state is counterbalanced by the power of its citizenry. This document outlines the key policy questions and concerns that must be addressed by governments intending to implement an OOP. It is designed to help stakeholders—including policymakers in government and interested parties in civil society—ask key questions during the development of OOP-facilitating infrastructure, specifically identity- and data-sharing mechanisms, and the development of OOP strategy. 

    This document is not to intended to encourage or prescribe a specific pathway of development, but to consolidate and present a compendium of the key considerations at each stage. This work is based on an extensive literature review across the areas of privacy, identification, data sharing, and OOP; interviews with experts in the field; and mini case studies highlighting different lessons of implementation from five countries—the Netherlands, Estonia, the UK, Canada, and Australia—with diverse approaches and at very different stages of OOP maturity. 

    Read the full report

    Read the Deploying the Once-Only Policy Supplement

    Getting Value from Workforce Stimulus Investments: What Works in Youth Workforce Programs and How to Grow the Evidence Base

    Jane Wiseman, November 2020 

    The current economic crisis will likely inspire federal investment in training for unemployed and underemployed Americans. When funds are made available for youth workforce development, transparent reporting and publication of results data should be required. User-friendly reports should be created that enable unemployed and underemployed Americans to see which training providers achieve the best results, much as the current College Scorecard helps youth and their families evaluate colleges. This will benefit program recipients, the taxpayer, and society at large. Evidence about what works for youth workforce development is still in an early stage of maturity, so upcoming investments present an opportunity to advance the state of knowledge. With this data and insight, future investments can continue to fund effective programs and ineffective ones can be discontinued.

    The 2020 Election Season and Aftermath: Preparation in Higher Education Communities
    Leonard, Herman B. "Dutch", Arnold M. Howitt, and Judith B. McLaughlin. 2020. “The 2020 Election Season and Aftermath: Preparation in Higher Education Communities”. Read the full report Abstract

    Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt, and Judith B. McLaughlin; October 2020 

    There is widespread uncertainty and heightened anxiety on higher education campuses and elsewhere about what might happen during the 2020 election season in the United States. At every turn, we see elevated emotions and anxieties generated by the election process and related events, together with the potential for disruption of various kinds in the election process itself – before, during, and/or after the end of voting on November 3. This is compounded by the possibility of uncertainty, perhaps over many days or even weeks, about who has won various contests and about who will take office.

    A wide range of scenarios related to the election process and possible election outcomes have been described in mainstream media, in social media, and in other forums. Given the considerable (and, generally speaking, desirable) involvement and energy invested in these events within higher education communities among faculty, staff, students, and alumni, a number of these scenarios might well result in situations on campuses, in higher education communities, or in the surrounding communities where they reside that would call for institutional response. Many campus leaders and management groups are now thinking through what might be necessary or desirable and figuring out what they might usefully do in advance to prepare to provide the best response possible. Obviously, the difficulties of planning for the many possible circumstances that might confront us are compounded by the fact that all of this is taking place during an ongoing (and, indeed, now intensifying) pandemic accompanied by calls for racial justice and police reform. In this brief note, we suggest some ideas that might be helpful for higher education communities organizing themselves in the face of these uncertainties.

    The Analytics Playbook for Cities: A Navigational Tool for Understanding Data Analytics in Local Government, Confronting Trade-Offs, and Implementing Effectively

    Amen Ra Mashariki and Nicolas Diaz, August 2020 

    Properly used data can help city government improve the efficiency of its operations, save money, and provide better services. Used haphazardly, however, the use of analytics in cities may increase risks to citizens’ privacy, heighten cybersecurity threats, and even perpetuate inequities.

    Given these complexities and potentials, many cities have begun to install analytics and data units, often head by a chief data officer, a new title for data-driven leaders in government. This report is aimed at practitioners who are thinking about making the choice to name their first CDO, start their first analytics team, or empower an existing group of individuals.

    Elizabeth Patton, Gaylen Moore, and Jorrit de Jong; August 2020 

    Throughout the spring of 2020, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, held eleven sessions on crisis leadership for city leaders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Over those harrowing weeks, as city leaders scrambled to protect their community members from the disease and provide services to the ill, the bereaved, and the vulnerable, these sessions offered a space for them to share their stories, concerns, hopes, and plans—and to get answers to their most pressing questions about the pandemic and how to mitigate not just the spread of the virus but also the economic and social fallout of measures taken to contain it.

    Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, August 2020 

    Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President of Prevent Epidemics at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, provided a briefing of critical public health information on COVID-19 in Latin America and Africa. Rawi Abdelal, Harvard Business School Professor and faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Jennifer Musisi, the former executive director of Kampala, Uganda, and City Leader in Residence at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, facilitated a discussion between Mayors Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Sierra Leone; Claudio Castro of Renca, Chile; and Bettina Romero of Salta, Argentina, on lessons learned while leading their cities through the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

    Henson, Eric, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph Kalt, and Megan Hill. 2020. “Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act”. Read the full report Abstract

    Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen & Joseph P. Kalt; July 2020 

    The federal response to the COVID‐19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months.  For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year.

    This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socio‐economic starting points for their community members as compared to non‐Indians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservation‐resident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or non‐existent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and non‐gaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

    Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, July 2020 

    Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, Director of the Prevent Epidemics Team at Resolve to Save Lives, provided a briefing of critical public health information on COVID-19 in Latin America and Africa. Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, the George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Management at the Kennedy School and Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration and Cochair of the Social Enterprise Initiative at Harvard Business School, facilitated a discussion on crisis leadership. The session was moderated by Rawi Abdelal, Harvard Business School Professor and faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Jennifer Musisi, the former executive director of Kampala, Uganda, and City Leader in Residence at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

    Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, July 2020 

    Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided a briefing of critical public health information on COVID-19 within the United States and guidance on how to safely reopen schools. Juliette Kayyem, the Senior Belfer Lecturer in International Security at the Kennedy School, addressed mayors on strategies for effective communication in the midst of a complex and evolving crisis, contradictory or unreliable information, and a constantly shifting operational environment. The session was moderated by Harvard Business School Professor Rawi Abdelal, the faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

    Husock, Howard, Inessa Lurye, Gaylen Moore, Archon Fung, and Jorrit de Jong. 2020. “Leading Civic Engagement: Three Cases”. Read the full case study Abstract

    Howard Husock, Inessa Lurye, Gaylen Moore, Archon Fung, and Jorrit de Jong; July 2020 

    These three short cases are stories of city officials leading civic engagement and public participation in pursuit of public goals. From a variety of different positions in city government, the protagonists in each case departed from typical bureaucratic processes to reach out directly to the public, using unexpected methods to solicit input, raise awareness, and effect behavioral change in their communities. In the first case, the new director of the Seattle Solid Waste Utility, Diana Gale, implemented sweeping changes to the City’s solid waste collection practices. To secure compliance with new rules and regulations and tolerance for inevitable stumbles along the way, she developed a public relations capacity, became the public face of her agency, and embraced an ethos of humility and accountability. In the second case, Antanas Mockus, the eccentric mayor of Bogotá, sought to improve public safety—focusing particularly on the unregulated and lethal use of fireworks around the Christmas holiday. He tried at first to effect change through persuasion, offering citizens alternatives to fireworks and engaging vendors in the effort to reduce fireworks-related injuries and deaths. When a child suffered severe burns, however, Mockus followed through on a threat to ban firework sales and use in the City. In the third case, David Boesch, city manager of Menlo Park, California, decided to engage residents in setting priorities around cost reduction as a major budget shortfall loomed for the coming fiscal year. He hired a local firm to plan and execute a comprehensive participatory budgeting process. In a city with a sharp divide between haves and have-nots, Boesch and his partners had to take special care to ensure that everyone’s interests were heard and represented in budgetary decision-making.

    Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case(s).

    Sanderijn Cels, Jorrit de Jong, Marijn Groenleer, and Erica Weinberger; July 2020 

    In June 2015, a task force convened in the Netherlands to consider cross-sectoral approaches to fighting organized crime in the south of the country, particularly in the homegrown marijuana industry. From that larger group, five professional managers and officials were tasked with devising an approach to target and break up criminal drug gangs that paid or coerced residents in beleaguered neighborhoods to grow pot in back rooms or attics; activities which put a huge strain on the power supply and greatly increased the risk of fire.

    The five men did not know each other and came from different organizations or professional backgrounds with their own training and ideas: the police, the regional utility company, the national tax bureau, the mayor’s office in nearby Breda, and the public prosecutor’s office. A policeman would not see the problem, or the solution, in the same way as a utility company manager. How would the five manage to work together—not just devise an approach, but return to their organizations and convince their bosses and colleagues this could work? Not all of the team were based in the City of Breda, but Breda, under the auspices of Mayor Paul Depla, would serve as the first trial ground to identify a neighborhood and carry out an operation to see if the new cross-sectoral approach could work.

    Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

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