Publications

    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.

    Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes’ Recovery from the COVID‐19 Pandemic

    The COVID‐19 pandemic has wrought havoc in Indian Country. While the American people as a whole have borne extreme pain and suffering, and the transition back to “normal” will be drawn out and difficult, the First Peoples of America arguably have suffered the most severe and most negative consequences of all. The highest rates of positive COVID‐19 cases have been found among American Indian tribes, but that is only part of the story.

    Even before the pandemic, the average household income for Native Americans living on Indian reservations was barely half the U.S. average. Then the pandemic effectively shut down the economies of many tribal nations. In the process, tribal governments’ primary sources of the funding – which are needed to fight the pandemic and to meet citizens’ needs – have been decimated.

    As with the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act and other federal measures have helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. Yet this assistance has come to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes with litigation‐driven delay and counterproductive strings attached, and against a pre‐ pandemic background characterized by federal government underfunding and neglect – especially as compared to the funding provided and attention paid to state and local governments.

    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.

    Dapice, David, and Thomas Vallely. 2013. “Against the Odds: Building a Coalition”. Read the full report Abstract

    Using a New Federalism for Unity and Progress in Myanmar
    David Dapice and Thomas Vallely, March 2013

    When in 2010, the President of the Union of Myanmar, the Speaker of the Lower House and several ministers decided to push for a rapid political opening, they engineered what could be called a critical juncture. This critical juncture now provides the country with an opportunity to move forward, not only with faster economic growth, but also with better quality growth and political change that will unify the nation and create broad progress. In exploring a possible approach toward unity and progress, this paper uses the framework developed in Why Nations Fail, a recent book on economic and political development and also refers to the idea of “illiberal democracy“ articulated by Fareed Zakaria. The basic idea is that a broad coalition of the incumbent party, the democratic opposition, ethnic groups and the military is needed to fundamentally change Myanmar’s past failed orientation. This broad coalition should work for a new federalism in which states (at a minimum) have fairly elected governors and meaningful revenue sources so they can run many of their own affairs. Recognizing that central to real progress is a transition from a repressive, extractive and exclusive political system with crony businesses to a broadly inclusive political system that spreads economic opportunity, the paper argues that broad political and economic change need to go hand in hand.

    David Dapice, May 2012 

    There is an immense challenge facing the leadership in Myanmar. They have to negotiate a nation and to reform the basic assumptions and processes that have ruled for the past decades. They need to make the new system more representative, more inclusive, less favorable to a narrow group of businessmen and government or army officials, and more broadly successful. The new system has to give minority groups a reason to want to be part of the new nation. That means not only creating new sources of growth and wealth, but also making rules that ensure the benefits go to many more than the relatively narrow groups who have largely benefitted in the past. The technical adjustments needed in the exchange rate, the financial system, taxing and spending, infrastructure investments, and competition policy will all ultimately be judged on the ability of the policy package to create the conditions for national unity and progress. The government needs to have a vision of this goal and how the pieces fit together. Getting it to work in a shaky world economy with new and still evolving institutions is a huge challenge. But for those who have seen the past clearly for what it was, there can be no doubt that moving forward together is better than going back or staying put.