Publications

    Despite the Odds: The Contentious Politics of Education Reform

    Merilee S. Grindle, Princeton University Press, 2004

    Despite the Odds poses an important question: How can we account for successful policy reform initiatives when the political cards are stacked against change? Theories of politics usually predict that reform initiatives will be unsuccessful when powerful groups are opposed to change and institutions are biased against it. This book, however, shows how the strategic choices of reform proponents alter the destinies of policy reforms by reshaping power equations and undermining institutional biases that impede change. Despite the Odds opens the "black box" of decision making in five initiatives designed to enhance the quality of education services in Latin America. The book addresses the strategies used by reformers to manage the political process of change and those adopted by opposition groups and institutions resisting their efforts.

    Despite the Odds: The Contentious Politics of Education Reform

    Merilee S. Grindle, Princeton University Press, 2004

    Despite the Odds poses an important question: How can we account for successful policy reform initiatives when the political cards are stacked against change? Theories of politics usually predict that reform initiatives will be unsuccessful when powerful groups are opposed to change and institutions are biased against it. This book, however, shows how the strategic choices of reform proponents alter the destinies of policy reforms by reshaping power equations and undermining institutional biases that impede change. Despite the Odds opens the "black box" of decision making in five initiatives designed to enhance the quality of education services in Latin America. The book addresses the strategies used by reformers to manage the political process of change and those adopted by opposition groups and institutions resisting their efforts.

    Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector
    Goldsmith, Stephen, and William D. Eggers, ed. 2004. Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector. Ash Center and Brookings Institution Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

    Stephen Goldsmith and William D. Eggers editors, Ash Center and Brookings Institution Press, 2004

    A fundamental, but mostly hidden, transformation is happening in the way public services are being delivered, and in the way local and national governments fulfill their policy goals. Government executives are redefining their core responsibilities away from managing workers and providing services directly to orchestrating networks of public, private, and nonprofit organizations to deliver the services that government once did itself. Authors Stephen Goldsmith and William D. Eggers call this new model "governing by network" and maintain that the new approach is a dramatically different type of endeavor that simply managing divisions of employeesGoverning by Network examines for the first time how managers on both sides of the aisle, public and private, are coping with the changes. Here is a clear roadmap for actually governing the networked state for elected officials, business executives, and the broader public.

    View a presentation on the book

    Winthrop Carty, November 2003

    The Workshop on Innovation and Quality was led by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a center at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, in partnership with the Ford Foundation Innovations Liaison Group (of which Ash is a member), the Government of Mexico, and the American Society for Quality. It was held over two days, 5 and 6 November, as one of six workshops of the Fifth Global Forum on Reinventing Government under the auspices of the United Nations and the Government of Mexico. The workshop was attended by over 300 participants who engaged the presenters of 12 examples of government innovation from Brazil, Chile, China, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, and the United States. The audience was approximately 85% Mexican government officials and 15% other nationalities (diverse regional representation). They participated actitely and contributed valuable insight to discussions with presenters.

    Anil Gupta, October 2003

    This paper presents an analysis of small grassroots innovations in India including the Honey Bee Network, underlying how small innovations can make a big difference. When the Honey Bee Network was started about 14 years ago, most innovators in three fields of technology, primary education, and common property institutions were poorly networked among themselves, though they were networked reasonably well within their communities. High degrees of fortitude, stubbornness, and to an extent, tendency to go alone were quite common and pronounced traits among the innovators. They were difficult to influence and even more difficult to convince of the need to network with others of their kind. It is against this context that the evolution of the Honey Bee Network and its influence on public policy, institutions, and structures is evaluated.

    William Eggers, May 2003

    Through the example of the General Service Administration, Eggers presents an analysis of how technology-enabled transformation entails breaking old habits, learning to do business in new ways, and adopting a radically different approach to serving your customers. Since nearly all the incentives in government work against all of these things, strong leadership is indispensable to achieving fundamental change in government.

    Donahue, John D. 2003. “Jamming in the Symphony”. Read Full Paper Abstract

    John D. Donahue, April 2003

    In this document, the introductory chapter to Making Washington Work: Tales of Innovation in the Federal Government, John Donahue acknowledges that the culture of the federal government includes an institutionalized bias toward continuity at the expense of change. His paper offers insights that heighten awareness of, and appreciation for, successful federal innovations that confront this bias. It provides a framework for exploring the complexities of innovation within large and long-established bureaucracies, and addresses such issues as scale, accountability, competition, pressure, and leadership.

    Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance

    Archon Fung and Erik Olink Wright, Verso Press, 2003

    The institutional forms of liberal democracy developed in the 19th century seem increasingly ill-suited to the problems we face in the 21st. This dilemma has given rise in some places to a new, deliberative democracy, and this volume explores four contemporary empirical cases in which the principles of such a democracy have been at least partially instituted: the participatory budget in Porto Alegre; the school decentralization councils and community policing councils in Chicago; stakeholder councils in environmental protection and habitat management; and new decentralized governance structures in Kerala. In keeping with the other Real Utopias Project volumes, these case studies are framed by an editor’s introduction, a set of commentaries, and concluding notes.

    Fung, Archon, David Weil, Mary Graham, and Elena Fagotto. 2002. “The Political Economy of Transparency: What Makes Disclosure Policies Sustainable?”. Read Full Paper Abstract

    Archon Fung, David Weil, Mary Graham and Elena Fagotto, December 2002

    This paper explores the dynamics of transparency. It asks why some government-created systems improve over time while others stagnate or degenerate into costly paperwork exercises. As products of the political process, transparency policies inevitably begin as unlikely compromises. Though transparency is universally admired in principle, its particular applications frequently conflict with other societal values or powerful political interests. Disclosing information can clash with efforts to protect public safety and proprietary information, to guard personal privacy, or to limit regulatory burdens. It can also clash with the central economic and political objectives of target organizations that may view such disclosure as a threat to reputation, markets or political influence. At the same time, the benefits of disclosure are often diffuse. Beneficiaries may be consumers, investors, employees, and community residents. Such users are rarely organized to support and oversee transparency systems.

    Democracy by Disclosure

    Mary Graham, Brookings, August 2002 

    Drawing on detailed profiles of disclosure systems for toxic releases, nutritional labeling, and medical errors, Graham explains why the move toward greater transparency has flourished during a time of regulatory retrenchment and why corporations have often supported these massive raids on proprietary information. However, Democracy by Disclosure, sounds a cautionary note. Just as systems of financial disclosure have come under new scrutiny in the wake of Enron’s collapse, systems of social disclosure deserve careful examination. Behind the seemingly simple idea of transparency, political battles rage over protecting trade secrets, minimizing regulatory burdens, and guarding national security. Like other forms of regulation, disclosure systems can be distorted by narrow scope, flawed metrics, minimal enforcement, or failure to adapt to changing markets and public priorities. Graham urges designers of future systems to heed lessons from early experience to avoid misleading the public.

    Peter Frumkin and Mark T. Kim, October 2002

    This article draws on a large longitudinal data set of nonprofit organizations in order to shed light on the consequences of government funding on nonprofit administrative efficiency and gain a more grounded understanding of the link between public funding and nonprofit efficiency. The piece first surveys literature on the nature of public funding and its impact on the administrative efficiency of nonprofits. It then presents the data and analyzes the impact of public funding on a group of nonprofit organizations over an 11-year period. The piece concludes with an exploration of the implications of the findings for future research on public-nonprofit relations.

    Peter Frumkin, April 2002

    This paper explores the differences in operational and cultural characteristics of for-profit and nonprofit organizations, highlighting why many believe business firms have certain important advantages over nonprofits when it comes to competing for large human service contracts. The second section analyzes why public managers may need to structure service contracts in a way that not only maximizes short-term results, but that also affirms the importance of preserving a mixed organizational ecology. In a third and concluding section, some thoughts are offered on policy remedies that might supplement a more nuanced managerial approach to service contracting with nonprofit and for-profit providers.

    James N. Levitt, December 2002

    Observers throughout the course of U.S. history, including such prominent commentators as Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic volume Democracy in America, have dismissed Americans’ willingness to appreciate or conserve nature. In fact, Americans have a long and distinguished record of realizing landmark conservation innovations that are novel on a worldwide basis; politically significant; measurably effective; transferable to separate organizations, jurisdictions, and nations; and, particularly significant in the field of conservation, enduring. This paper reviews conservation innovations in the U.S., starting with the observation that among the many important conservation innovations that Americans have achieved, only a distinct subset of them has had an enduring impact and so can be considered landmark innovations.

    Jonathan Walters, December 2001

    Public sector innovation may be considered an oxymoron, but for 15 years the Ford Foundation and Harvard Kennedy School have been identifying innovative public sector programs at the state, local, federal, and tribal government levels through the Innovations in American Government Awards Program, funded by Ford and administered by the Kennedy School. What the initiatives identified through the program tell us is that despite government’s well-deserved reputation for being unfriendly to new ideas and change, government has actually proved to be remarkably – even resiliently – innovative. But where does innovation come from? What drives people to innovate? And in a political world where program survival is often a matter of having the right political patrons, what characteristics make for sustainable, replicable, results-based innovation?

    Mary Graham, May 2001

    Since the mid-1980s a wide variety of federal and state laws in the United States have employed structured disclosure of factual information as a means of reducing risks to public health, safety, or the environment. These disclosure systems aim to create new economic or political incentives for organizations to improve their products or practices. In effect, they harness the government's enduring authority to command the disclosure of previously private information to create a form of risk regulation. In the past, each of these disclosure systems has been viewed as unique. No central plan has informed their architecture or increasing popularity. Evidence from four such systems suggests, however, that they represent a cohesive innovation in public policy. This paper discusses the challenges faced by policymakers in using this promising tool of risk regulation effectively in the future.

    Oppositional Consciousness: The Subjective Roots of Social Protest

    Jane Mansbridge, University Of Chicago Press, 2001

    How can human beings be induced to sacrifice their lives – even one minute of their lives – for the sake of their group? This question, central to understanding the dynamics of social movements, is at the heart of this collection of original essays. The book is the first to conceptualize and illustrate the complex patterns of negotiation, struggle, borrowing, and crafting that characterize what the editors term "oppositional consciousness" – an empowering mental state that prepares members of an oppressed group to undermine, reform, or overthrow a dominant system. Each essay employs a recent historical case to demonstrate how oppositional consciousness actually worked in the experience of a subordinate group. Based on participant observation and interviews, chapters focus on the successful social movements of groups such as African Americans, people with disabilities, sexually harassed women, Chicano workers, and AIDS activists. Ultimately, Oppositional Consciousness sheds new light on the intricate mechanisms that drive the important social movements of our time.

    Beyond Backyard Environmentalism
    Fung, Archon, Bradley Karkkainen, and Charles Sabel. 2000. Beyond Backyard Environmentalism. Beacon Press. Abstract

    Archon Fung, Bradley Karkkainen, Charles Sabel; Beacon Press; July 2000

    When we think of environmental action, we draw upon images from the disaster of Love Canal or from A Civil Action-stories of lone activists fighting the government or some corporation against all odds. In their provocative essay, Sabel, Fung, and Karkkainen demonstrate that an effective alternative is emerging. Before environmental disasters occur, citizen groups are collaborating with experts, business leaders, and local and federal governments to figure out what is best for their own neighborhoods. These examples point to more than successful environmental action; they represent a model of grassroots democracy that can be applied to the needs of any community. 

    and Steiner, Bryan C. Hassel Lucy, and Lucy Steiner. 2000. “Strategies for Scale: Learning from Two Educational Innovations”. Read the full report Abstract

    Bryan C. Hassel and Lucy Steiner, June 2000

    The authors of the paper examine two intriguing programs: Success for All and the Accelerated Schools Program, each of which has been adopted by more than 1,000 schools nationwide. They argue that given the relative success of these programs at scaling up, focusing some attention on the strategies that their promoters have used in taking them to scale might prove informative and useful for subsequent efforts to scale up good practice.

    Making Government Work: Lessons from America's Mayors and Governors

    Stephen Goldsmith, Contributor, May 2000

    The role of government, particularly at the state and local levels, has evolved dramatically over recent years. In Making Government Work, a bipartisan collection of the nation's most innovative governors and big city mayors describe how they make government more efficient and effective. From welfare to clean water, these original essays discuss a wide variety of issues and propose progressive solutions that will influence the thinking of all Americans interested in politics.

    Read Goldsmith's Chapter 

    Move Information, Not Property: U.S. Department of Defense – 1999 Innovations Finalist

    This government re-engineering case focuses on the agency responsible for procuring goods and services (other than weapons) for the Department of Defense. New leadership at the DLA must deal with a sharply changed system. Rather than receiving an annual appropriation, the mammoth agency must bill its multitude of customers – the various military services – for performing procurement tasks. In trying to make itself a customer-focused operation, DLA considers changing both the management structure of its headquarters and the relationship between its headquarters and field offices.

Pages