Publications

    New York Acquisition Fund: New York, NY – 2008 Innovations Winner

    This three-part case study presents the initial problem, the thinking, the politics, and the design negotiations that produced New York City’s “NYC Acquisition Fund” in August 2006. The case concludes with a brief round-up of performance data and commentary from the Fund’s first two and a half years of operation.

    The NYC Acquisition Fund was created to deliver loans to small and nonprofit affordable housing developers, allowing them to compete with market-rate developers to buy property in New York City on the open market at a time of rampant speculation, rapidly rising prices, and fierce competition. It represented a groundbreaking effort to use public sector funds and authority, together with foundation capital, to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in loan capital from private lenders. In September 2008, the Fund was named a winner of the annual Innovations in American Government competition, sponsored by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, which declared it a “national model.”

    The case is divided in three parts in the interest of maximum teaching flexibility. Teachers may want to assign their students to read one, two, or all three parts, depending on the nature of the class. Although the case includes finance concepts and terms, they are presented clearly and simply for the benefit of lay readers. Part One: Birth & Launch of an Idea, pp. 1-16, describes the intellectual and political history of the Fund – how City Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan came up with the idea, and how he and his allies made it a reality. Part Two: Portrait of the New York City Acquisition Fund LLC, pp. 17-26, describes the structure and principles of the Fund and details the six toughest design questions, negotiated among the Fund’s partners over a 14-month period: what kinds of projects would be eligible? how firm a commitment would the City make to funding each project upfront? when and how would loan underwriting be delegated? how, exactly, would risk be allocated among the lenders, foundations, and City? and what loan terms would be available to borrowers? Part Three: Fund Performance, August 2006 to March 2009, pp. 27-29, briefly sketches the Fund’s performance in its first two-and-a-half years. The case includes 11 exhibits, pp. 30-58.

    In 2005, the Parliament of India enacted the Right to Information Act, giving citizens of India a right to access the records of official acts by any public authority. Many individuals and organizations were involved in the lengthy and difficult struggle to get this legislation enacted. This case focuses on one of these individuals, Aruna Roy, regarded by many observers as a key player in empowering citizens to exercise the democratic right to make their government transparent and accountable. It traces the trajectory of her career as she searched for an effective platform for political and social change, to improve the lives of the poor and socially marginalized while adhering firmly to her commitment to lead an ethical life.

    Kentucky Video Courts: Kentucky – 1988 Innovations Winner

    When a shortage of court reporters threatens to delay trials and back up the appeals process, Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts considers new technology as a solution to its problem. Video ”transcripts” of court proceedings hold the potential to sidestep the labor problem plaguing the courts. The use of video cameras to record court proceedings raises questions, however. Would a video record truly provide as useful a product as a written transcript? Would judges – and the courts themselves – accept video as a legal record? Director Don Cetrulo of the Administrative Office of the Courts, intrigued by the promise of video, must ponder both its implications – and the fact that no proven automatic camera technology existed in the mid-1980s that could adapt to the multiplicity of speakers and locations. Before he can reach the point of considering the legal impact of video court reporting, Cetrulo must decide whether to go so far as to award state funds to a local manufacturer who believes he can devise such a system.

    Racial Integration Incentives: Cleveland, OH – 1998 Innovations Winner

    Should an Ohio state agency provide low-interest loans to home buyers moving into areas in which they are ”racially under-represented” – even if they are whites in affluent suburbs moving into neighborhoods which might otherwise ”tip” to become all-black? The Ohio Housing Finance Agency confronts the questions of whether racial underrepresentation should be defined in percentage terms – and whether racial integration per se represents progress for black homebuyers. The case explores the history of efforts to manage racial integration in suburban Cleveland and highlights competing philosophies regarding the role of government in influencing residential racial patterns. It allows for discussion of ways in which public values evolve through the policymaking process.

    CompStat: New York, NY – 1996 Innovations Winner

    This abridgement is based on the case ”Assertive Policing, Plummeting Crime: The NYPD Takes on Crime in New York City” (1530.0). The abridgement 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.

    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.”

    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.”

    Competition and Costing: Indianapolis, IN – 1995 Innovations Winner

    During his successful 1991 bid for the indianapolis mayoralty, Stephen Goldsmith is clear about his preference for privatizing city services. Once in office, however, Goldsmith decides on a different, more complex approach. The inefficiency of publicly-provided services, he reflects, may not be the result of their being public but rather a reflection of the lack of competition over who will provide them. In that light, Goldsmith undertakes a bold experiment: to force city departments to bid against private providers. This case focuses on the first stages of the Goldsmith experiment, a time in which city public works crews must, for the first time, compete against private firms for a pothole repair contract. The case raises core questions as to how to structure public-private competitions to ensure that valid comparison will be possible, as well as how to determine the exact nature of public costs. In addition, it allows for discussion of more theoretical questions as to whether some functions must always be public, while others should be private and still others privately-provided but publicly-financed.

    Info/California: California – 1993 Innovations Winner

    The growth of the kind of new interactive technologies promise to make it more convenient and less expensive for government, like private providers of consumer goods and services, to serve its customers – whether they seek a driver’s license or unemployment compensation. Incorporating such technologies implies change, however, and, as this case makes clear, requires decisions about when and how automated transactions should be the norm. The story of the Info/California decision focuses on competing visions of a new, interactive system which promises to allow Californians to obtain records, licenses and program information of all sorts. For its champion within state government, it makes most sense for a scarce number of interactive terminals to be placed in public areas – supermarkets, malls and the like. He must, however, face a demand by a state agency that a terminal be used to make up for laid-off employees in a place where the public has been accustomed to going for records and licenses. Developed for the Kennedy School’s Program on Strategic Computing, this case allows for discussion of the relationship between mission and technology.

    Environmental Cleanup Program: Wichita, KS – 1992 Innovations Winner

    Long-undetected groundwater contamination, discovered in 1990, by the Kansas Department of Health and Environmental Protection, has a potentially catastrophic economic impact on downtown Wichita, Kansas. The four-mile long, one-and-a-half-mile wide site centered at the corners of Gilbert and Mosley Streets lies in the heart of Wichita’s central business district. Although it did not provoke health concerns, the newly discovered contamination prompted lenders to cease making any financial commitments in the district. This case focuses on the strategic approach to this crisis taken by Wichita's city manager. Initially faced with two bad alternatives – forcing hundreds of businesses to share in the clean-up cost, or face designation of the area as a federal Superfund site, portending perhaps a decade of legal wrangling – Wichita creates a more palatable way out of the crisis. The case can be useful both for discussions of constituency-building and political strategy, and for discussions of U.S. federalism.

    Washington State Workers’ Compensation: Washington – 1992 Innovations Winner

    Like many such systems, the Washington State Workers’ Compensation Administration was, in the mid 1980s, in deep financial distress. Worse still, its fiscal problems were matched by deep problems of efficiency and morale, particularly in its crucial Claims Administration Unit, which called into question the agency’s ability to put its house in order. Under intense public and political pressure, a new team of administrators buys time through stopgap financial steps, before turning to the daunting task of internal structural reform, focused on the claims unit. The case provides rich detail of both the political and production operation issues which administrators confronted, including its strategy of breaking a claims log-jam by terminating a long-established ”assembly-line” claims process. Adopted in its place is a new structure which encouraged employees to take holistic responsibility for compensation claims and worker rehabilitation. The case raises the complications of worker morale, union relations and political and business pressures with which administrators coped, knowing that the possibility of privatization was a real alternative. They struggled both to put the department on its feet and to demonstrate a raison d’etre for a public system. Ultimately, their efforts were recognized by an Innovations in American Government program award.

    Friends of the Family, Inc.: Maryland – 1991 Innovations Winner

    It has become standard practice for major social service agencies to contract with non-profit organizations to deliver tax-supported services. In Maryland, however, the state Department of Human Resources went a step further. It believed in the need for a program, statewide, to provide support for low-income parents with children under three. To get such programs going, however, the Department turned to a non-profit group both to establish ”family support centers” and administer grants directed to them. This case allows for discussion of the appropriate role of government and the non-profit sector in administering and delivering human service programs.

    Electronic Benefit System: Ramsey County, MN – 1990 Innovations Winner

    When banks in Ramsey County (Saint Paul), Minnesota decide to stop cashing welfare checks, the county faces a crisis. It must continue to provide a way for welfare recipients to receive their benefits. Yet it has exhausted the standard means of doing so. This Innovations in State and Local Government case follows the course of Ramsey County’s decision to adopt a radically different benefits delivery system – the use of an ATM (automatic teller machine) card which will allow welfare recipients to draw down their account at a variety of locations, at their own convenience. Officials in the Community Human Services Department gain acceptance of this idea, however, not because of its innovative quality but because they convince county officials it will provide the service at no increase in cost. This case provides a vehicle for discussion of the nature of public sector innovation and the forces that drive or constrain it. It raises the following question, as well: At a time when information technologies are making everything from mail orders to credit card replacement ”user friendly,” will government find ways to adapt these technologies to aid in delivering its services?

    Xport, The Port Authority Trading Company: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – 1990 Innovations Winner

    This case takes its place in the ongoing debate over privatization: which functions are best performed by the public sector, which should be reserved to private enterprise? In this instance, a newly-appointed executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must decide whether or not to continue a fledgling ”public sector trading company” – a program designed to nurture small business exports by identifying overseas customers and acting as middleman in the transaction – all for a fee. Early sales figures are disappointing; organized private opposition has surfaced in the state legislature. But a strong-willed program director is convinced that small exporters are not served by private trading firms and that increasing the volume of small exports will help keep the Port Authority’s facilities busy.

    Family Learning Center: Ingham County, MI – 1988 Innovations Winner

    During the 1978-79 school year, the state of Michigan turned down Jean Ekins’ application for model-site designation of her Leslie, Michigan Family Learning Center. Ekins had started the program four years earlier within the Leslie public school system to provide an appropriate high school setting for teen-aged parents. Designation carried a $60,000 grant, about twice the center's current annual budget. Ekins believed the money as well as the designation would have lent legitimacy to the center's existence, which the conservative community of Leslie frequently questioned on practical and moral grounds. At the time of Ekins’ application, the center provided services to about 20 students, but many more young parents were on the waiting list, denied services because of a lack of funds. It had become clear to Ekins that, without more money, the center would remain a small, relatively ineffective weapon in the fight to provide educational services to Leslie-area school-aged parents. The case describes Ekins’ efforts to establish the program and focuses on the issues confronting the administrator of a small, financially strapped program on the frontiers of service delivery. The case also addresses the question of how best to expand a successful but limited program: how to gauge degrees of support and opposition; how to balance demands for resources; and where and how to look for potential allies.

    William H. Overholt, December 2019

    This is an extensively edited, updated and expanded text of a lecture given for the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School on October 31, 2019. From the origination of “one country, two systems” in 1979 to today, this paper analyzes the history of the unique relationship between Hong Kong, Beijing, and the world.

    Richard Pope, November 2019

    Looking around the world, we can see a different approach to digital government. One of cross-government platforms that are beginning to break down organizational silos, save money and change the types of services that can be delivered to the public. This playbook is written for practitioners, from public sector product managers to chief digital officers, looking for approaches to implementing platforms in government. 

    Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World
    Applbaum, Arthur Isak. 2019. Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World. Harvard University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

    Arthur Applbaum, Harvard University Press, November 2019 

    What makes a government legitimate? The dominant view is that public officials have the right to rule us, even if they are unfair or unfit, as long as they gain power through procedures traceable to the consent of the governed. In this rigorous and timely study, Arthur Isak Applbaum argues that adherence to procedure is not enough: even a properly chosen government does not rule legitimately if it fails to protect basic rights, to treat its citizens as political equals, or to act coherently.

    Edited by David Eaves, October 2019

    In this report, experts analyze the Council of Arab Economic Unity's comprehensive digital strategy for the Arab region. While some countries have individually launched digital economy roadmaps in recent years, the Arab Digital Economy Strategy offers a new opportunity to consider the benefits and challenges of digital cooperation across countries. Specifically, this report details areas of concern and explores some potential resolutions to these challenges.

    Mathis, Colleen, Daniel Moskowitz, and Benjamin Schneer. 2019. “The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission: One State's Model for Reform”. Read full paper Abstract

    Colleen Mathis, Daniel Moskowitz, and Benjamin Schneer; September 2019 

    In most states, redistricting, the process by which electoral district boundaries are drawn, is an overtly partisan exercise controlled by state legislatures. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2019 decision Rucho v. Common Cause held that federal courts cannot review allegations of partisan gerrymandering. Independent redistricting in practice has proven remarkably successful along several dimensions. This policy brief outlines key lessons learned from redistricting in Arizona, a state with a five-person independent redistricting commission.

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