Publications

    Designing for Community Engagement: Toward More Equitable Civic Participation in the Federal Regulatory Process

    To understand the advantages of and challenges to a reformed regulatory review process, New America’s Political Reform program and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government convened a group of local community engagement experts, public sector leaders, and on-the-ground organizers to share their expertise in designing processes that support more inclusive engagement, in particular working with historically underserved communities.

    During this discussion with local community engagement experts, we sought to identify the process designs and other innovations that would empower residents to exercise meaningful influence over decisions about the formation, review, and implementation of regulations. Our discussion focused on extending community engagement processes to give grassroots groups and affected parties a voice in the federal regulatory process.

    These experts agreed that when engagement is designed intentionally, policymakers can work with communities more effectively to garner information and insights, implement programs or provide services, and build trusting relationships. Furthermore, while participation in and of itself is important, designing more effective engagement can also ensure that participants identify and harness opportunities to protect their interests and influence decision-making. And, most importantly, transparent and inclusive engagement practices can improve policy outcomes and strengthen equity.

    Democratizing the Federal Regulatory Process: A Blueprint to Strengthen Equity, Dignity, and Civic Engagement through Executive Branch Action

    Archon Fung, Hollie Russon Gilman, and Mark Schmitt; September 2021 

    While legislation tends to get more attention, the regulatory process within the executive branch is at the core of day-to-day democratic governance. Federal regulation and rule-making engages dozens of agencies and affects every American. In writing the rules and regulations to implement laws, revise standards, and exercise the substantial authority granted to the presidency, the agencies of the federal government set directions, priorities, and boundaries for our collective life. At times, the regulatory process has moved the country in the direction of greater justice, equality, and security. At other times, it has pulled us in other directions, often with little public engagement or debate.

    The Biden-Harris administration acknowledged the centrality of the regulatory process with two actions on the President’s first day in office. The first called for modernizing the regulatory review process, particularly the central oversight role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The second was an executive order calling on the federal government to support underserved communities and advance racial equity. To understand the challenges to and advantages of a reformed regulatory review process, New America’s Political Reform Program and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government convened a group of academic experts from across the country to share their findings on the state of regulatory review and to identify alternative measures of not just the cost of regulations, but also the distributional impact of their costs and benefits. These experts specialize in administrative law, economic analysis, public participation, and regulatory review, and their work covers policy areas including patent law, healthcare, and environmental justice.

    2020 Public Narrative Impact Survey Overview Report

    Emilia Aiello and Marshall Ganz, July 2021

    This report describes the results of the 2020 Public Narrative Impact Survey administered to individuals who learned public narrative in classrooms and in workshops between 2006 and 2020. Individual responses to the survey items provide data that will inform efforts to learn how public narrative is being used in different domains of usage (workplace, constituency groups, and campaigns; and within the private sphere, in interpersonal relationships such as family and friends), areas of societal action (e.g., advocacy/organizing in education, health, politics), and cultural and geographical contexts as well.

    The 2020 Public Narrative Impact Survey is part of the research project Narratives4Change led by Dr. Emilia Aiello, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 841355. As part of this larger project, two research questions guided the survey. First, how is public narrative being used by individuals as a leadership practice within different domains of usage (e.g., workplace, constituency groups, campaigns, and within the private domain including family and friends)? Second, what impact does use public narrative have as reported by “users” at the individual, community, societal, and institutional level?

    Brokering Collaboration: Involving Officials in Community Scorecard Programs
    Kosack, Stephen, Jessica Creighton, Courtney Tolmie, Fatu Conteh, Eric Englin, Linda Gassama, Hannah Hilligoss, et al. 2021. “Brokering Collaboration: Involving Officials in Community Scorecard Programs”. Read the full report Abstract

    Transparency for Development Team, April 2021 

    Programs to improve the transparency and accountability of public services are an increasing focus of international commitments to sustainable development. We ask whether involving officials in one common approach—community scorecard programs—brokers state-society collaboration that improves public services. We compare two scorecard programs focused on improving maternal and newborn health care that were offered in 215 communities similarly stratified across five countries. The first program, offered in 200 communities in Indonesia and Tanzania, involved facilitated meetings among community members. A similar program in 15 communities in Ghana, Malawi, and Sierra Leone involved facilitated meetings among community participants as well as between community members and hereditary authorities (in Malawi) or district-level elected and appointed officials (in Ghana and Sierra Leone). Interviews, focus groups, and systematic observations consistently suggest that in the program in Malawi, participants took similar approaches to improving their health care to participants in Indonesia and Tanzania—focusing primarily on improving care themselves and with health-care providers and others in their communities—and that the results of their efforts were similar to the program in Indonesia and Tanzania, where a randomized controlled impact evaluation found that average community outcomes did not improve significantly faster than in a control group of communities. In both Ghana and Sierra Leone, participants collaborated more with officials and saw tangible changes to health care that they and others noticed and remembered in nearly twice the proportion of communities as in the program in Indonesia and Tanzania. We conclude that involving officials in these programs may increase their effectiveness.

    Legislative Negotiation Project, February 2019 

    This multimedia case, a product of the Legislative Negotion Project, focuses on the key decision points leading up to the unlikely passage in 2014 of the bipartisan Water for the World Act in the U.S. Congress. It features interviews with members of the House and the Senate, Congressional staffers, advocates and lobbyists. Through seven short videos to be played in class, faculty and students can explore the challenges of bipartisan negotiation in a highly polarized legislative environment, and of strategies to increase the chance for success when the only way to pass legislation is through bipartisanship.

    Legislative Negotiation Project, January 2019 

    This multimedia case, a product of the Legislative Negotiation Project, provides a lively portrait—from multiple points of view—of the creative bipartisan negotiations in both the Oregon House and Senate that ultimately led to passage of the 2017 Equal Pay Act. The case helps participants gain insights on the benefits and risks of bipartisanship, how a culture of bipartisanship is created, and strategies to resolve thorny issues and maintain support from political allies.

    Legislative Negotiation Project, May 2018 

    The case, a product of the Legislative Negotiation Project, describes how state legislators in Utah, a very conservative state, assembled a “Coalition of the Willing”— Republican and Democratic representatives alongside religious, civic and business leaders—to negotiate a bipartisan compromise to address the emotionally-charged issue of immigration reform in 2010-2011. The case illuminates issues such as: diagnosing the barriers to agreement; understanding the role of the Utah Compact in shaping the negotiation strategy and trajectory of the 2010-2011 legislation; showing how a focus on problem framing brings more people to the table and creates the conditions for buy-in of an acceptable compromise solution.

    Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale
    Parkinson, John, and Jane Mansbridge. 2012. Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale. Cambridge University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

    John Parkinson and Jane Mansbridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012 

    'Deliberative democracy' is often dismissed as a set of small-scale, academic experiments. This volume seeks to demonstrate how the deliberative ideal can work as a theory of democracy on a larger scale. It provides a new way of thinking about democratic engagement across the spectrum of political action, from towns and villages to nation states, and from local networks to transnational, even global, systems. Written by a team of the world's leading deliberative theorists, Deliberative Systems explains the principles of this new approach, which seeks ways of ensuring that a division of deliberative labor in a system nonetheless meets both deliberative and democratic norms.