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.

    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. 

    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 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.

    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.

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

    In this policy brief, we offer guidelines for federal policy reform that can fulfill the United States’ trust responsibility to tribes, adhere to the deepest principles of self‐governance upon which the country is founded, respect and build the governing capacities of tribes, and in the process, enable tribal nations to emerge from this pandemic stronger than they were before. We believe that the most‐needed federal actions are an expansion of tribal control over tribal affairs and territories and increased funding for key investments in tribal communities. 

    Fiscal Strategies to Help Cities Recover—And Prosper
    Goldsmith, Stephen, and Charles “Skip” Stitt. 2020. “Fiscal Strategies to Help Cities Recover—And Prosper.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

    Stephen Goldsmith and Charles "Skip" Stitt, May 2020 

    Despite robust economies, many local officials entered 2020 already worried about budget balances that looked fragile in the short term and problematic in the long term due to enormous pension and health-care issues. Today, in the wake of COVID-19, clearly federal support is necessary, but it is also apparent that it cannot alleviate all the pressures on communities as responsibilities related to the pandemic skyrocket while revenues plummet.

    While many public managers will rightly deploy a host of tactical cost-cutting measures, the most creative among them will explore deeper and more strategic changes, such as those presented herein, which will help address the current crisis while preparing their cities for the future. This paper suggests a transition to a culture deeply focused on data, incentives for city workers to produce internal reforms, public-private partnerships that monetize operational excellence, and rapid adoption of both new technologies and good ideas borrowed from other jurisdictions. These more deliberate and strategic approaches may be harder to implement but those offered here need not harm incumbent public employees nor negatively impact cities’ efforts to ensure access and equity. Rather, the strategies we outline should strengthen the efficiency and mandates of existing government offices while helping make cities more resilient and better prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.

    Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape

    Stephen Goldsmith and Betsy Gardner, January 2020

    In this paper we will look at the values and goals cities affect with policies concerning connected mobility, and how to create a new framework that aligns with these objectives. First, we identify the transformative changes affecting cities and mobility. Second, we discuss in more detail the guiding values and goals that cities have around mobility with examples of these values in practice. Our next paper, Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces, discusses the different regulatory approaches that cities can leverage to achieve these goals.

    We recommend that cities identify various public values, such as Equity or Sustainability, and use these to shape their transit policy. Rather than segmenting the rapidly changing mobility space, cities should take advantage of the interconnectivity of issues like curb space management, air quality, and e-commerce delivery to guide public policy. Cities must establish a new system to meet the challenges and opportunities of this new landscape, one that is centered around common values, prioritizes resident needs, and is informed by community engagement.

    In conclusion, cities must use specific public values lenses when planning and evaluating all the different facets of mobility. Transportation has entered a new phase, and we believe that cities should move forward with values- and community-driven policies that frame changing mobility as an opportunity to amend and improve previous transportation policies.

    This paper is the first in the Mobility in the Connected City series.

    Read the second paper "Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces" 

    Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces

    Stephen Goldsmith and Matt Leger, February 2020

    As new innovations in mobility have entered the marketplace, local government leaders have struggled to adapt their regulatory framework to adequately address new challenges or the needs of the consumers of these new services. The good news is that the technology driving this rapid change also provides the means for regulating it: real-time data. It is the responsibility of cities to establish rules and incentives that ensure proper behavior on the part of mobility providers while steering service delivery towards creating better public outcomes. Cities must use the levers at their disposal to ensure an equitable mobility marketplace and utilize real-time data sharing to enforce compliance. These include investing in and leveraging physical and digital infrastructure, regulating and licensing business conducted in public space, establishing and enforcing rules around public safety, rethinking zoning and land use planning to be transit-oriented, and regulating the digital realm to protect data integrity.

    This paper is the second in the Mobility in the Connected City series. 

    Read the first paper  "Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape"

    Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt; May 2020 

    Title V of the CARES Act requires that the Act’s funds earmarked for tribal governments be released immediately and that they be used for actions taken to respond to the COVID‐19 pandemic. These may include costs incurred by tribal governments to respond directly to the crisis, such as medical or public health expenditures by tribal health departments. Eligible costs may also include burdens associated with what the U.S. Treasury Department calls “second‐order effects,” such as having to provide economic support to those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to pandemic‐driven business closures. Determining eligible costs is problematic.

    Title V of the CARES Act instructs that the costs to be covered are those incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. Not only does this create the need for some means of approximating expenditures that are not yet incurred or known, but the Act’s emphasis on the rapid release of funds to tribes also makes it imperative that a fair and feasible formula be devised to allocate the funds across 574 tribes without imposing undue delay and costs on either the federal government or the tribes.

    Recognizing the need for reasonable estimation of the burdens of the pandemic on tribes, the authors of this report propose an allocation formula that uses data‐ready drivers of those burdens.  Specifically, they propose a three‐part formula that puts 60% weight on each tribe’s population of enrolled citizens, 20% weight on each tribe’s total of tribal government and tribal enterprise employees, and 20% weight on each tribe’s background rate of coronavirus infections (as predicted by available, peer‐reviewed incidence models for Indian Country).

    Stephen Goldsmith, January 2019

    More people than ever live in cities, where the dominant mode of transportation continues to be single-occupant personal vehicles. This has created unprecedented burdens on city infrastructure and increased congestion on roads in urban centers. Increased congestion has resulted in greater greenhouse gas emissions, lower reliability of public transit systems, longer commutes, and an overall lower quality of living for citizens.

    These challenges have created fertile ground for private-sector innovation within the mobility ecosystem. Thus far, the most significant private sector innovation in urban mobility has been ridesharing. Conventional wisdom attributes the birth of rideshare to the proliferation of smartphones and improvements in wireless connectivity and location data in cities. However, the ridesharing industry also relies on dependability and reliability of free public roads, which were a critical component in the development of the modern car-friendly city. Unfortunately, these same public roads lack the infrastructure to coordinate and interact with digital-first services as effectively as they coordinate the physical movement of people and goods.
     

    Craig Campbell, January 2019

    At a 2016 meeting of leading municipal analytics practitioners and experts at the Harvard Kennedy School, Johns Hopkins GovEx’s then-director of advanced analytics, Carter Hewgley, assessed the opportunities for analytics replication: “The good news is that problems and opportunities in U.S. cities are similar, meaning there is unending replication potential,” he said. The bad news was that lack of good protocols for use case discovery, challenges accessing and standardizing data, and uneven investment in data-literate human capital make analytics use cases difficult to generalize and import into different cities. At a time when the value of predictive analytics is widely recognized as a tool for better decision making and “chief data officer” is an increas- ingly common title in municipal government, cities still face the same challenges adopting analytical models into routine operations they have faced for decades.

    Shabbir Cheema, November 2018

    This policy brief explores how democratic processes in local governance affect access to urban services in Asian cities, especially for marginalized groups. It is based on research conducted by a group of national research and training institutions in nine cities in five Asian countries as well as regional dialogue hosted and facilitated by East-West Center with the support of the Swedish International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD). Governance process variables investigated were local government resources and capacity; mechanisms for local participation, accountability, and coordination; use of information and communications technology (ICT); implementation and replication of good practices; and management of peri-urbanization. This brief outlines research findings that are applicable across countries at the city level.

    Scott Becker and Stephen Goldsmith, October 2018 

    Increasingly, governments across the country are turning to cooperative procurement for greater value. Joining with other entities can significantly reduce administrative costs and leverage the benefits of economies of scale. In recent years, cooperatives have evolved to provide a wider variety of benefits to procurement officials and vendors, offering increasingly complex services adaptable to a growing participant pool. Expansion of offerings and targeted attention to best-in-class contracts have furthered their value proposition. This paper intends to provide insight into today’s cooperative procurement market, evaluate value propositions and challenges, and present strategies for success. 

    Jessica A. Gover, July 2018 

    How the Civic Analytics Network Cities Are Using Data to Support Public Safety, Housing, Public Health, and Transportation 

    From remediating blight to optimizing restaurant inspections and pest control, cities across the country are using analytics to help improve municipal policy and performance. The continued adoption of analytics in city governments shows no sign of slowing, and as even more sophisticated tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are deployed, there is a critical need for research on how these practices are reshaping urban policy. By examining and capturing lessons learned from city-level analytics projects, practitioners and theorists alike can better understand how data- and tech-enabled innovations are affecting municipal governance. This report seeks to contribute to that developing field.

    Jane Wiseman, March 2017

    This paper describes findings and recommendations from 30 existing studies of government efficiency. The reports catalog a staggering number of recommendations, 2,021 in total, to improve the operations of government. Of the 30 studies, 23 include specific dollar-savings amounts that could be achieved as a result of implementing the recommendations. Annual dollar savings identified in the reports range from $18 million in Albany County, New York, to $7.3 billion in California. The total amount of savings identified in these 23 studies is nearly $17 billion in yearly value to the taxpayers of those cities and states. We estimate that if recommendations such as these were implemented across state and local government, a total of $30 billion in value could be returned to taxpayers each year.

    Jane Wiseman, February 2017 

    A Chief Data Officer (CDO) can lead a city or state toward greater data-driven government. Data-driven executive leadership in government is relatively new, with just over a dozen cities and a handful of states having named a CDO as of late 2016. Leveraging data enables more responsive and rational allocation of government resources to address priority public needs. There is growing momentum and increasingly frequent news of the next government CDO appointment. While there is a growing proliferation of CDOs in government, there are few resources that describe the landscape, either for the benefit of the chief executive appointing a CDO or the new CDO taking office. This paper intends to help new entrants by documenting selected current practices, including advice shared by existing government CDOs, observations by the author, and analysis from government technology and analytics experts.

    Sara Newland, July 2016 

    Often assumed to be an ethnically homogenous country, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in fact has a substantial minority population with 54 officially recognized ethnic groups that comprise close to 10 percent of the population. Integrating these diverse groups, many of which have a centuries-long history of conflict with the Han Chinese, into a unified Chinese nation-state has been a core policy challenge for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1949.1 At first, these challenges were largely political and ideological. The CCP struggled to integrate minority elites, many of whom did not share a common language or culture with the overwhelmingly Han leaders of the CCP, into the party. They also sought to create political institutions that both respected local cultural practices and combined these diverse regions under a single, unified state, a challenge that the Soviet Union also had to confront.

     

    Kyle A. Jaros, April 2016 

    Amid booming urban growth in China, leaders have weighed the goal of building globally competitive metropolises against concerns about sustainable and inclusive development. This brief looks at the experience of similar Chinese provinces that have pursued different spatial development models, highlighting the hard choices policymakers face and the political conflicts that unfold.

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