Publications

    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.

    Steve Kelman, Spring 1998

    The effort to reinvent the federal procurement system is widely regarded by outside observers as having undergone significant reform. The paper presents an account of successful innovation in government procurement (the way the federal government buys goods and services from the private sector for government use) initiated and pursued by the White House during the Clinton Administration. Steven Kelman is a Professor of Public Management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. From 1993 to 1997, he was administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. One of the more promising trends in government reform, which we have seen in applications to the Innovations in American Government program, and which is occurring across all levels of government, has to do with new practices in procurement. In his position, Professor Kelman played key roles in federal reforms that have occurred in the past five years.

    CompStat: New York, NY – 1996 Innovations Winner

    The dramatic reduction in crime in New York City during the 1990s grabbed the attention of the U.S. and the world, seeming to provide evidence that new policy and management approaches could make an enormous difference for the better. This case tells the story of key management decisions that the New York Police Department itself credits with the successful attack on the city's crime rate. Specifically, it describes the approach of Police Chief William Bratton in assembling a core, reform-oriented management team and the development of a computerized crime tracking system used as the foundation for the targeting of police manpower. The epilogue raises the dramatic question of whether the goal of minimizing the misuse of force by police officers is also amenable to the measurement techniques successfully employed to the activity of criminals. This case, in addition to the questions it raises, provides a powerful telling of one of the most successful public sector management initiatives of recent times.

    Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government

    Mark H. Moore, Harvard University Press, 1997

    A seminal figure in the field of public management, Mark Moore presents his summation of 15 years of research, observation, and teaching about what public sector executives should do to improve the performance of public enterprises. Useful for both practicing public executives and those who teach them, this book explicates some of the richest of several hundred cases used at Harvard Kennedy School and illuminates their broader lessons for government managers. Moore addresses four questions that have long bedeviled public administration: What should citizens and their representatives expect and demand from public executives? What sources can public managers consult to learn what is valuable for them to produce? How should public managers cope with inconsistent and fickle political mandates? How can public managers find room to innovate? Moore's answers respond to the well-understood difficulties of managing public enterprises in modern society by recommending specific, concrete changes in the practices of individual public managers: how they envision what is valuable to produce, how they engage their political overseers, and how they deliver services and fulfill obligations to clients.

    CompStat: New York, NY – 1996 Innovations Winner

    This abridgment is based on the case ”Assertive Policing, Plummeting Crime: The NYPD Takes on Crime in New York City” (1530.0). The abridgment of the case divides the story of the change in the New York Police Department into three, roughly chronological parts – the diagnosis of the crime and organizational problems, the development of a new system of practices and incentives and a description of the variety of impacts which the new ”assertive policing” regime appeared to have. The three parts (1557.3, 1558.3, 1559.3) and Epilogue (1557.1) can be used individually or together. They should not be used along with the full case and sequel (1530.0, 1530.1) but should, instead, be considered a substitute approach.

    Alan A. Altshuler, Fall 1997 

    This is the first paper in a series dedicated to understanding innovation in public problem solving. American policy elites and the general public are deeply ambivalent about the desirability of bureaucratic innovation in the public sector. Yet there is broad agreement on the need to improve government performance. It is hard to imagine how that can be achieved without both encouraging public servants at all levels to take responsibility for performance and giving them some leeway to pursue it. In turn, it is difficult to imagine how incentives can be altered to encourage such innovation unless elected officials first become convinced that it is compatible with their own political interests.

    Maine Top 200 Experimental Targeting Program: U.S. Department of Labor – 1995 Innovations Winner

    The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, created by Congress in 1970 to curtail what was viewed as a still-alarming level of industrial accidents, had, 20 years later, become a lightning rod for controversy. Its advocates viewed it as a bulwark of the defense of sale working conditions but opponents portrayed it as abusively intrusive, creating bureaucratic nightmares for employers. With that backdrop – and with dwindling manpower and other resources – OSHA officials in Maine, in 1991, try a radically different approach to their task, targeting 200 businesses which data has told them are the state’s most important to bring into compliance. OSHA hopes both to avoid diluting the inspection capacity it has – and to find ways to persuade, rather than to coerce through the law, business to make improvements. The apparent success of the Maine 200 program comes at a time when the new Clinton Administration is eager to find such government ”reinvention” programs it can widely replicate. This case allows, first, for analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Maine 200 effort as an example of gaining compliance through a new form of enforcement, and, second, for discussion of the complications, and advisability, of taking a small program ”to scale.”

    CityWork: Louisville, KY – 1995 Innovations Winner

    The belief of Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Jerry Abramson in improved service to citizen ”customers” leads to the 1989 establishment of a centralized complaint/information system – a single phone number to which complaints or inquiries about any of the city’s 25 departments can be made. But despite apparent success and a high public profile, managers of the ”CityCALL” system become frustrated with what they view as inefficiencies in their relationships with other city agencies. Some are linked to CityCALL by computer; others show little apparent inclination to cooperate. The case calls for consideration of how CityCALL could be improved through the vehicle of Louisville's ”CityWork” system, in which public employees, in a retreat-style setting, are called upon to offer specific suggestions for change. The case explores the evolution of an innovative program – its unexpected side effects and the sorts of resistance it encounters. It highlights, as well, Mayor Abramson's contention that a system of cooperative program evaluation – CityWork – can lead to efficiencies which rival public/private competitive bidding and other ”privatization”-style strategies.

    CityWork: Louisville, KY – 1995 Innovations Winner

    The belief of Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Jerry Abramson in improved service to citizen ”customers” leads to the 1989 establishment of a centralized complaint/information system – a single phone number to which complaints or inquiries about any of the city’s 25 departments can be made. But despite apparent success and a high public profile, managers of the ”CityCALL” system become frustrated with what they view as inefficiencies in their relationships with other city agencies. Some are linked to CityCALL by computer; others show little apparent inclination to cooperate. The case calls for consideration of how CityCALL could be improved through the vehicle of Louisville's ”CityWork” system, in which public employees, in a retreat-style setting, are called upon to offer specific suggestions for change. The case explores the evolution of an innovative program – its unexpected side effects and the sorts of resistance it encounters. It highlights, as well, Mayor Abramson’s contention that a system of cooperative program evaluation – CityWork – can lead to efficiencies which rival public/private competitive bidding and other ”privatization”-style strategies.

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