Course Guide

This guide identifies Harvard Kennedy School courses relevant to the study of the Ash Center's three pillars: democratic governance, innovation in government, and Asia public policy. We hope that interested students will find this guide useful to familiarize themselves with the opportunities most of interest to them. 

Course Guide 2019-20

Courses related to Democratic Governance (Fall)

DPI 227

Religion, Values, and the Future of Democracy


E.J. Dionne

G. K. Chesterton described the United States as “a nation with the soul of a church,” but America’s religious institutions have increasingly taken on the souls of political parties. The engagement of churches, synagogues and mosques in politics is not new, and in our history, religious voices have often been lifted on behalf of progressive causes: the abolition of slavery, social reform during the Progressive Era, labor organizing during the Great Depression, and civil rights from the 1960s forward. But since the 1980s, the dominant religious key – and certainly the aspect of religious engagement highlighted most in the media – has been conservative. And the polarization of politics has divided religious traditions to the point where partisanship may now be more salient than faith itself, and loyalty to party and ideology often trumps religious commitments. This course will explore the transformation of American religious witness in politics. It will examine the contribution of particular religious traditions to movements for social change and also the influence of conservative theological ideas on the broader conservative movement. There will be a particular emphasis on contemporary movements and issues including the role of white evangelical Christians in the Trump coalition; the ongoing importance of the African-American Church in movements for social change; the relative strength of the religious right and religious left and the differences between them; the role of religious prejudice in politics; our ongoing argument over what the “separation of church and state” should mean and whether it is the proper standard for understanding the First Amendment; and the sharp rise of religious disengagement among young Americans. Also offered by the Divinity School as 2042.

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DPI 308

How Decision Makers Translate Public Opinion into Policy Actions


Benjamin Schneer


Government officials both shape and respond to the policy preferences of the electorate. Understanding this dynamic process is critical for policymakers as well as for informed observers of politics, and it illuminates a number of questions with practical applications: How would public policies change if everyone voted? What mechanisms might compel government officials to be more responsive to the wishes of their constituents? How representative is representative democracy anyway? In answering questions such as these, this course covers topics including how citizens form opinions, the role of traditional and social media as a source of information (and misinformation), the place of elections and electoral institutions in a representative democracy, and how alternative forms of political action such as the petition and the initiative process may influence policymaking. This course offers students interested in a career in politics or policymaking an opportunity to examine what matters when decision makers are translating public opinion into public policy.


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DPI 391

Race, Inequality, and American Democracy


Megan Francis


The United States’ global dominance has long been the envy of the world. But the role of race to native born and newcomer alike has been treated often as aberrational, an unfortunate artifact of the nation’s past. This course examines the nature of race at the heart of the American project through the lens of wealth creation, labor markets, political culture, social institutions, immigration and civic life. Although race often attaches to people of color, racial identity and ideology have been inescapable constructs for all who reside in this country. Drawing on critical race theory, whiteness studies and African American history, students will gain historical knowledge required for leadership in a 21st century, multi-racial democracy. Students who plan to work in non-profits, government agencies and policy circles will also gain new analytical tools to help lead and transform institutions for a browner America and world.


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DPI 415

Comparative Politics and Policy


Pippa Norris


This course provides the analytical knowledge and practical skills to understand comparative politics and policy worldwide. It addresses a range of foundational topics: (i) Concepts, theories, evidence, and methods in comparative politics; (ii) Classifying varieties of democratic and autocratic regimes, and processes of regime transition and consolidation; (iii) Institutional designs, including electoral systems, party systems, types of executives, and federalism; (iv) Channels of mass mobilization including through voting, protest activism, civil society organizations, media, civil disobedience, terrorism, and revolutionary upheavals; and (v) The performance of governance and public policies. The course covers these issues by utilizing the methods and techniques of comparative politics. You will learn about polities worldwide – as well as thereby enriching and deepening your understanding of your own nation. The orientation is problem and reform focused. Evaluation involves one workgroup class project as well as two individual papers. An understanding of comparative politics is invaluable for a wide range of potential careers, whether working for international agencies, multilateral organizations, non-profit NGOs, international corporations, national governments, or NGOs.


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DPI 418

The Rise of Authoritarian Populism


Pippa Norris


The rise of authoritarian populist forces in recent years has generated new challenges in many affluent societies and long-established democracies, such as the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Greece, and France, as well as destabilizing states worldwide, such as in Venezuela, Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, the Philippines, Thailand, and India. What explains the rise of these forces? What are the consequences? And what can be done to mitigate the risks? This course analyzes these issues from a comparative perspective, to understand America in a broader context. The course covers: (i) the core concepts and meanings of populism and the classification of authoritarian and libertarian forms of populist parties and leaders; (ii) explanations focused on cultural value change, economic grievances, patterns of immigration, electoral rules, and party competition; (iii) the impact on the civic culture and the policy agenda; and (iv) alternative strategic policy responses. The course is assessed through one group exercise and two papers.


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IGA 103  

Global Governance

Kathryn Sikkink

This course focuses on the interplay among states, international organizations, multinational corporations, civil society organizations, and activist networks in global governance. Cases are drawn from a broad range of issue areas, including economic relations, human rights, peace and security, and the environment. The objective is to better understand the dynamics and evolution of formal and informal global governance arrangements and what difference they make, in light of globalization and emerging geopolitical changes. Also offered by the Law School as HLS 2100.



MLD 355M  

Public Narrative: Self, Us, Now

Marshall Ganz

Questions of what I am called to do, what is my community called to do, and what we are called to do now are at least as old as the three questions posed by the first century Jerusalem sage, Rabbi Hillel:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

When I am for myself alone, what am I?

If not now, when?

This course offers students an opportunity to develop their capacity to lead by asking themselves these questions at a time in their lives when it really matters. . . and learning how to ask them of others. Public narrative is the leadership practice of translating values into action. To lead is to accept responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty. Public narrative is a discursive process through which individuals, communities, and nations learn to make choices, construct identity, and inspire action. Responding to challenges with agency requires courage that is grounded in our capacity to access hope over fear; empathy over alienation; and self-worth over self-doubt. We can use public narrative to link our own calling to that of our community to a call to action. It is learning how to tell a story of self, a story of us, and a story of now. Because it engages the "head" and the "heart" narrative can instruct and inspire - teaching us not only why we should act, but moving us to act. Based on a pedagogy of reflective practice, this course offers students the opportunity to work in groups to learn to tell their own public narrative. Also offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-111P.



MLD 356M  

Public Narrative: Loss, Difference, Power, and Change

Marshall Ganz
This module builds on its prerequisite MLD-355M, “Public Narrative: Self, Us, Now.” In this module we go deeper. We explore how we can use public narrative to acquire agency in the face of critical leadership challenges: those of loss, domination, difference, and change. Most of us have experienced these leadership challenges in our families, work lives, or communities. We can learn to draw on the narrative content of these experiences to enable ourselves to deal with them in public life. We can respond to domination, for example, with a narrative of resistance or of compliance; to difference with narratives of inclusion or exclusion; to loss with narratives of redemption or contamination; and to change with narratives of rejection, conservation, reform or revolution. The question is how we can respond and enable others to respond with “agency” by accessing hope over fear, empathy over alienation, and self-worth over self-doubt. Prerequisite: MLD-355M. Course Notes: Also offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-111Q.



MLD 375  

Creating Justice in Real Time: Vision, Strategies and Campaigns


Cornell Brooks

Frederick Douglass, the advocate and abolitionist of the century before last whose words yet resound in this century observed, “Power concedes nothing without demand.” Amidst generationally unprecedented activism, advocates around the world make demands for social justice through visions, strategies and campaigns—with varying degrees of success. Working with the William Monroe Collaborative for Social Justice and national advocacy organizations, a select cohort of students will work to address current injustices in real time—with a focus on what is demonstrably effective. Specifically, students develop visions, strategies and campaigns as well as legislative, policy, best practice, organizing, communication and moral framing strategies to address injustices identified by national organizations. Students will employ principles such as moral ambition, perfect/imperfect victims, concentric/consecutive coalitions, and scholarship as an organizing tool. The course size is limited to 15-20 students, with a few slots reserved for non-HKS students. Interested students are asked to provide a one-page statement of interest and resume, as well as registering for the course.



Courses related to Democratic Governance (January, Spring)

DEV 501M 

Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation Building I

Joseph Kalt
This course examines the challenges that contemporary Native American tribes and nations face as they endeavor to rebuild their communities, strengthen their cultures, and support their citizens. The range of issues that Native leaders and policymakers confront is wide and encompass political sovereignty, economic development, constitutional reform, cultural promotion, land and water rights, religious freedom, health and social welfare, and education. Because the challenges are broad and comprehensive, the course emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of current Native nation building. Research finds that effective nation building must be compatible with individual societies' cultures. Yet, American Indian tribes are culturally heterogeneous. Hence, there is not "one size" that fits all. Case studies and simulations derived from field research and experience are utilized to engage students in the multidimensional settings that confront Native societies. Scholars and leaders from the Harvard University Native America Program provide selected presentations. Prominent North American Native leaders address the class, giving their perspectives on the choices and constraints they confront in their nation building efforts. On-HKS students (graduate and undergraduate) from all schools and departments in the university are welcome by cross-registration. Grades will be based on: issues briefs, 20%; and a take-home final exam, 80%. Jointly offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-101.

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DEV 502

Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation Building II

Eric Henson

This field-based research course focuses on some of the major issues Native American Indian tribes and nations face in the 21st century. It provides in-depth, hands-on exposure to native development issues, including: sovereignty, economic development, constitutional reform, leadership, health and social welfare, land and water rights, culture and language, religious freedom, and education. In particular, the course emphasizes problem definition, client relationships, and designing and completing a research project for a tribe, tribal department, or those active in Indian Country. The course is devoted primarily to preparation and presentation of a comprehensive research paper based on a field investigation. In addition to interdisciplinary faculty presentations on topics such as field research methods and problem definition, students will make presentations on their work in progress and findings. Also offered by the Graduate School of Education as A-102 and the Faculty of Arts and Science as EMR-121.

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DPI 202  

Ethics in Public Life

Christopher Robichaud
DPI-202 takes a cross-cultural approach to professional ethics. A close analysis of cases from around the world is the foundation upon which we will build an account of the competencies needed to be a virtuous public servant. Insights from the ever-growing field of moral psychology will be put into conversation with classic and contemporary ethical theory from both Western and non-Western traditions. Special emphasis will be placed on how to think and act strategically when balancing professional obligations with personal morality in the pursuit of creating public value. Unique to DPI-202 will be an opportunity for students to workshop their own cases with their peers in an effort to scrutinize, evaluate, and learn from the ethical issues that have already arisen in their professional lives.

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DPI 218  

Dissent and Disobedience in Democracies

Arthur Applbaum
Recent political upheavals in several of the world’s established democracies have sparked discussions about dissent and disobedience not seen since the 1960s. When, if ever, are citizens in a democracy justified in breaking the law to protest or resist what they believe to be bad, unjust, or illegitimate laws or policies? When, if ever, are public officials in a democracy justified in undermining or refusing to enforce such laws or policies? This course will study important examples of principled disobedience in democracies and explore normative arguments for and against various strategies of unlawful dissent through the close reading of texts in political and legal philosophy. In the major written assignment of the course, students will argue for or against a proposed, ongoing, or recent case of principled disobedience by public officials or citizens in a democratic state. Also offered by the Government Department as Gov 1038.

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DPI 242  

Ignorance, Lies, Hogwash, and Humbug: The Value of Truth and Knowledge in Democracies

Christopher Robichaud
We demand that our politicians tell us the truth and that our government be transparent. We expect policymakers to be knowledgeable and the public to be educated. We anticipate disagreements and depend on experts to inform our decisions. But are these demands, expectations, anticipations, and dependencies reasonable? What is the value of truth and knowledge in democracies? Some of the questions this course will explore are i) what is the moral standing of various "pathologies" of public speech, such as lying, truthiness, spin, and humbug; ii) does free speech in the public sphere promote the acquisition of the truth; iii) what intellectual and moral duties do we have when engaging in public disagreement; iv) what is a transparent government, and do we have a right to it; v) what role should expert testimony, especially testimony from the hard and soft sciences, play when informing policy decisions; vi) what are the differences between group knowledge and individual knowledge, and what is the importance of the difference; vii) what is willful ignorance, especially as it relates to racism and sexism, and what is the remedy? Also offered by FAS General Education Department as Ethical Reasoning 43.

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DPI 367  

Philanthropy and Social Movements: Will The Revolution Be Funded?

Megan Francis
We are at a zenith of philanthropic giving. Foundation assets have grown to well over $800 billion today. As a result, there has been an explosion in private charitable foundations and innovative donor initiatives. For the most part, philanthropy is celebrated. Individuals give away their wealth to worthy causes and help to steward significant social change. But this grandiose narrative belies a much more complicated story—especially as it pertains to the funding of progressive and conservative social movements. What happens when the interests of funders and grantees clash? This course will examine the history and future of philanthropy’s relationship with social movements. Some questions this course will take up include: What is philanthropy’s responsibility to supporting radical social movements? What are useful strategies for funders to confront their privilege in grantmaking? What does movement co-optation look like? How can grantees guard against the deleterious influence of well-meaning funders? To what extent can philanthropic investments remedy entrenched structural inequality? And what is the impact of funders on democratic governance?

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DPI 535

Making Change When Change is Hard: the Law, Politics, and Policy of Social Change

Samantha Power
Cass Sunstein
This course will look at the role of mass movements, governmental leadership, and lawyers as we explore internal and external efforts to influence governmental, individual, and institutional policies and actions. We will examine diverse ideological goals, assess a range of political and legal approaches, and gauge outcomes. The course will explore several arguments around change: 1) big problems are rarely resolved with comparably big solutions, but instead are better met with small acts of reform; 2) coalition-building among strange bedfellows is usually indispensable; 3) agents of change fare best when they look to measure their impact and never lose sight of the real world results they seek, rather than the expressive highs along the way; 4) informational cascades are possible and critical; and 5) group polarization can be both desirable and dangerous.

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DPI 543  	

Corruption: Finding It and Fixing It

Jeeyang Rhee Baum
Despite the adoption of electoral democracy across all regions of the world, charges of corruption seem to be arising everywhere. But is corruption really on the rise? Which countries are the most corrupt? Do highly corrupt countries share any common characteristics that we can identify and perhaps mitigate? Corruption clearly has social costs ranging from diversion of funds for public programs to undermining of public trust in government. Yet, few recent attempts to fight corruption have succeeded. Challenges of bad governance, high levels of corruption and low levels of accountability persist. Moreover, it remains an open question whether all countries – particularly those with large informal economies – would be better off if all corruption were somehow eradicated.
This course explores these questions, as well as related policy issues, such as electoral fraud, turnout suppression, the role of information and transparency on improving governance and accountability, and anti-corruption strategies. We examine contemporary interventions such as E-governance and anti-corruption agencies. To help answer these questions, we will explore a range of country case studies, including Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, and the U.S.

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DPI 610 			

Data Science for Politics

Benjamin Schneer
Decision-making in politics is now more informed by data than ever before. Data analysis guides voter targeting by campaigns, predictions about election outcomes, and critical policy decisions made by government officials – to name just a few important areas touched by the revolution in the availability and use of data. This course covers key areas of politics transformed in recent years by data science, and it introduces fundamental tools of data science through applications to politics. Planned topics include campaigns and get out the vote, predicting election outcomes, redistricting and gerrymandering, and analyzing opinions expressed in social media and online discussion. The course takes a problem-driven approach, covering background and academic literature on each topic, learning a relevant data science tool or method, and then applying it to real-world data. A primary goal of the course is to give students an opportunity to develop data analysis skills relevant for working in politics, including writing and implementing code in statistical software packages; through applications students will gain experience with data wrangling/cleaning/formatting, record linkage, regression, prediction, visualization, unstructured data, and text analysis.

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DPI 710

History of the U.S. for Policymakers, Activists, and Citizens

Alex Keyssar
This is a course intended for policy students, both from the U.S. and from abroad, who would like to enlarge or shore up their knowledge of U.S. history and its bearing on current policy issues. The course will deal with the major themes, issues, and turning points in the evolution of the modern U.S. (largely post-1900) with an eye towards developments that are likely to be relevant to understanding current and future problems and policy issues. Among the topics to be considered historically are: the constitution and institutions of governance; parties and political institutions; the relationship between business and government; immigration; race; labor and social welfare provisions; regional differences; imperialism; and the Cold War. Some attention will also be devoted to the ways in which historical understanding can fruitfully serve policymakers.

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IGA 229

Violence, Gender, and Global Politics

Dara Cohen
In this course, we will consider the international dimensions of gender, sex and violence, largely within the context of war and conflict. Both academic scholarship and current policy debates are informed by powerful—and often unquestioned—assumptions about sex, gender and violence. Recent research has started to challenge some of these ideas, and policymakers are responding with calls for better data, increased attention to long-hidden problems, and new strategies to confront these difficult problems. In the course, we begin with a review of theoretical constructs, then turn to a series of policy relevant questions on the politics of sex, gender, and violence. Topics that we will cover include gendered causes and consequences of war (e.g., Does gender inequality cause conflict? Are women leaders more peaceful? What are the consequences of war for people of different genders?); gendered motivations for political violence; the regulation of sex and gender within armed groups, including the military, insurgencies and terrorist organizations; and wartime sexual violence. The course will include discussions of research design and implementation, as well as the implications of research on policy responses and interventions.



IGA 147
Civil Resistance: How It Works

Erica Chenoweth


Civil resistance is the application of unarmed civilian power using nonviolent methods such as protests, strikes, boycotts, demonstrations, without using or threatening physical harm against the opponent. The use of civil resistance has been increasing around the world in recent decades in places as diverse as Sudan, Algeria, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Egypt, Iran, Maldives, the Niger Delta, the West Bank, Thailand, Myanmar, and the United States, among others. Because civil resistance can have profound effects, it is essential to understand the causes, dynamics, outcomes, and consequences of civil resistance campaigns. Such questions also have clear practical implications for those seeking to use, support, or assist such movements – as well as those who would seek to undermine them.


This course serves as a primer on the topic of civil resistance, introducing students to the primary explanations for how and why civil resistance works, as well as the practical implications of empirical research on the topic for observers, activists, and policymakers alike. The five primary goals of the course are to: (1) present leading explanations, concepts, approaches, and discourses for understanding civil resistance; (2) explore and recover in-depth cases to better understand how civil resistance succeeds and fails; (3) apply empirical research to current questions and controversies that dominate activist and organizer circles; (4) provide students with opportunities to synthesize their knowledge; and (5) allow students to deepen their knowledge about several historical cases around the globe, particularly neglected cases that can offer up novel insights and perspectives.




SUP 601 

Urban Politics, Planning, and development

Quinton Mayne
In the face of failures and dysfunction at the national level, there is growing excitement about the welfare- and democracy-enhancing potential of cities. Yet, not all cities are able to realize their promise as engines of economic growth and human development. Why some fail, while others succeed depends crucially on the politics and governance practices that shape cities and metropolitan regions. Understanding the politics of urban planning and development is therefore fundamental to unlocking the potential of our cities to boost the wealth, health, and well-being of citizens and communities. This course focuses on urban politics in the United States and Europe. Key topics include U.S. and European urban politics viewed in the large, and more specifically the politics of land-use, economic development, housing, water, policing, and transit. Cross-cutting themes include: the role of business and non-profits in local governance; citizen participation and urban social movements; the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in shaping group conflict and co-operation at the local level; as well as the costs and benefits of local government fragmentation. The course involves in-class exercises, group work, and simulations, as well as guest lectures. Most class sessions build off single-city case studies, including written and multi-media cases on Stuttgart, New Orleans, Atlanta, Naples, Seattle, New York, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, London, Boston, and Copenhagen.

The course purposes are twofold: (1) to enhance your sophistication in thinking about and analyzing the factors and conditions that shape political and planning processes at the urban level and what their consequences are; and (2) to hone your skills in thinking strategically about how to exercise influence in and on these decision processes. Also offered by the Graduate School of Design as SES-05201.



SUP 715

Morals, Money and Movements: Criminal Justice Reform as a Case Study


Cornell Brooks

Students will explore the elements of successful and unsuccessful criminal justice campaigns as well as how to build coalitions, create compelling narratives, and create movement momentum with impact.

This is a moment of generationally unprecedented activism, a Twitter Age of social justice, represented by movements for immigration reform, gun reform, immigration rights, LGBQ rights, Black Lives, as well as voting rights and democracy. In terms of policy, the broad movement for criminal justice reform offers incisive and on occasion inspiring lessons as well as dire warnings about the possibilities for social justice.


Money and morality, economics and ethics, have served as powerful arguments for criminal justice reform including: elimination of money bail as a turn key for American debtors’ prisons; decreasing police-involved shootings; eliminating solitary confinement for children; deconstruction of a carceral state; breaking the nexus between predatory taxation and predatory policing, and reducing the social as well as financial costs of incarceration. Money and morality not only characterize arguments made for criminal justice reform but also describe the basis for community organizing, building coalitions, launching social justice campaigns, inspiring public support as well as opposition, creating narratives and setting the stage for effective negotiation.


Through Money, Morals and Movements, students will explore: 1) leadership lessons, arguments and strategies used in successful and unsuccessful criminal justice campaigns; 2) building coalitions based on economic interests and moral commitments; 3) creating compelling narratives with empirical research, moral traditions and community stories; 4) stacking litigation, legislation, advocacy and organizing to create movement momentum with impact, and 5) counting the costs without “selling out.”


Also offered by the Divinity School as 2046.



Courses related to Government Innovation (Fall)

API 205 

Politics and Policies: What Can Data Tell Us?


Deborah Hughes Hallett


Intended for decision leaders, this course introduces statistics, big data, and machine learning and asks how they may impact politics and policy, now and in the future. The course develops the ability to interpret reports and make informed decisions based on data. Topics includes experimental design, sampling, inference, multiple regression, and program evaluation. Using case studies, the course asks what insight data can provide -- and what it cannot -- and compares the perspectives of data and ethics.



API 222 B

Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics


Soroush Saghafian


In the last couple of decades, the amount of data available to organizations has significantly increased. Individuals who can use this data together with appropriate analytical techniques can discover new facts and provide new solutions to various existing problems. This course provides an introduction to the theory and applications of some of the most popular machine learning techniques. It is designed for students interested in using machine learning and related analytical techniques to make better decisions in order to solve policy and societal level problems.


We will cover various recent techniques and their applications from supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning. In addition, students will get the chance to work with some data sets using software and apply their knowledge to a variety of examples from a broad array of industries and policy domains. Some of the intended course topics (time permitting) include: K-Nearest Neighbors, Naive Bayes, Logistic Regression, Linear and Quadratic Discriminant Analysis, Model Selection (Cross Validation, Bootstrapping), Support Vector Machines, Smoothing Splines, Generalized Additive Models, Shrinkage Methods (Lasso, Ridge), Dimension Reduction Methods (Principal Component Regression, Partial Least Squares), Decision Trees, Bagging, Boosting, Random Forest, K-Means Clustering, Hierarchical Clustering, Neural Networks, Deep Learning, and Reinforcement Learning.




API 305 

Behavioral Economics, Law and Public Policy


Cass Sunstein


This seminar will explore a series of issues at the intersection of behavioral economics and public policy. Potential questions will involve climate change; energy efficiency; health care; and basic rights. There will be some discussion of paternalism and the implications of neuroscience as well.


Also offered by the Law School as 2589 and the Economics Department as Ec 2050. Instructor permission is required. Please send a statement of interest and your resume to Brenda Bee ( Deadline is rolling.


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BGP 235M 

Private Capital for Public Purpose: Impact Investing and Its Siblings


David Wood


This module will introduce and critically analyze efforts to direct private sector financial investments to public purpose. These efforts-falling under the headings of impact, responsible, mission, social, and sustainable investing-looks for ways to maximize the social utility of private investment. We will examine the:1) types of investors engaged in these efforts (e.g. individuals, pension funds, endowments, foundations); 2) social goals they hope to achieve through their investments; 3) investment strategies and vehicles through which they hope to achieve these goals; 4) intersections of impact investing and public policy; 5) ways that stakeholders assess the impact of these investments. The class will balance U.S. domestic and global examples of investment, policymaking, and advocacy.


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DPI 662 

Digital Government: Technology, Policy, and Public Service Innovation


David Eaves


Intended for those interested in public policy and service delivery, this course provides a broad overview of emerging opportunities, challenges and risks created by information technology in the public sector. The course will be particularly concerned with how information technology increases the feedback loop - and thus the speed - at which bureaucracies can learn and adapt. The course will provide an introduction to core concepts in the digital space and then explore the opportunities and challenges around the use of data analytics, security and privacy concerns, agile and iterative policy and program development, and design thinking. The course will also look how technology is already and could continue to shape the structure and functions of government.


For additional information about technology courses at HKS please visit


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IGA 538  

Technology, Privacy, and the Trans-National Nature of the Internet


James Waldo


Advances in technology have led to worries about “the reasonable expectation of privacy” since Warren and Brandeis wrote their seminal article on the subject at the end of the 19th century. These worries have continued and evolved as the technology of communication has been seen as a technology of surveillance. The modern world of computers, cell phones, CCTV-camera, and the emerging Internet of Things offer unprecedented opportunities for tracking everything everyone does. At the same time, policy around the right to privacy and indeed the definition of what privacy means have evolved in different ways in different countries. European laws attempt to protect the privacy of the individual from corporations, while U.S. law tries to protect the privacy of the individual from the government. Corporations doing business in multiple jurisdictions find themselves subject to conflicting and sometimes contradictory rules and regulations, while users find it difficult to know what rights they have with respect to their interactions. This course will look at the state of both policy and technology surrounding privacy. Is the technology capable of the kinds of panopticon-style surveillance that critics worry about? What laws cover the use and abuse of such technology, both in the United States and abroad? What is meant by privacy, and how can it be preserved in the face of ongoing technology? And how can nation-states regulate the gathering, access, and use of the information we generate with our technology to preserve some sense of privacy and autonomy? For additional information about technology courses at HKS please visit

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Leading Teams for Public Impact


Kimberlyn Leary


Scalable leadership requires working with and through others. Teams have become the preferred working unit for organizations and governance, addressing policy innovation and multi-sector problems. As community problems increase in scope and complexity, delivering change via teams is increasingly necessary.


Under the right conditions, a team’s capacity may exceed that of a similar number of individuals working autonomously – especially when the specialized knowledge of team members can be effectively coordinated and leveraged. Technology now enables individuals and groups to collaborate digitally, across a nation, continents, or time-zones. In some instances, a team may be emergent and temporary; at other times, a team may be only one component of an even larger, "team of teams.” While diverse teams may show particular promise sponsoring innovation, a team can just as easily go awry or under-perform: the team’s work may have been inexpertly designed, team members may have conflicting agendas, or the team’s culture may have turned toxic. Depending on the setting, team leadership effectively includes the skill of assembling a balanced collection of personalities and skills, and the ability to work creatively with a team you’ve inherited.


The purpose of this class is to increase the odds of your success in leading and managing teams in public and private settings. Students will work with a broad range of evidence-based frameworks, simulations and cases, which center on collaborative decision-making, negotiating differences, managing roles and responsibilities, and the skillful use of teams to produce affirmative impact on the issues that matter to organizations and communities. We’ll focus on the factors that foster team effectiveness as well as the forces that disrupt a team's performance. The course will sharpen your ability to diagnose team dynamics and take corrective action. Because leading teams requires both analytic capacity and interpersonal skills, students should expect a high degree of interaction with the instructor and among themselves. Your final paper will be an analysis of a problem and/or solution in the context of a specific group or team, which you will produce as part of a team (or small group).


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MLD 617M 

Effective Implementation: Learning from Effective Implementers


Francis Hartmann

Brittany Butler


Producing tangible and measureable results is an important part of work in the public sector. Yet there are many more good ideas about producing results than there are good ideas implemented. This happens for many reasons, among them that no one really stayed with the idea to "make it happen." This course consists of a case-informed conversation about traits of persons who have been demonstrably effective at translating ideas into action. The objective of the course is to have each of us become more effective in the public service and public policy arena. Each class will address at least one trait that seems to be related to effective implementation, for example: success (knowing what it is); relentlessness (sustained attention); collaboration and bringing out the best in others; setbacks, defeats, and failure; fear, courage, and confidence; help (when does one need it, and what does it look like?); and resilience.


Cross registration is by permission of the instructor only. You must email Prof. Hartmann at to request permission. In your email, please tell us something about your background, what you have done, and what you hope that the work of the course will do for you.


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SUP 600

Policymaking in Urban Settings

James Carras
An introduction to policymaking in American cities, focusing on economic, demographic, institutional, and political settings. It examines economic development and job growth in the context of metropolitan regions and the emerging "new economy" and addresses federal, state, and local government strategies for expanding community economic development and affordable housing opportunities. Of special concern is the continuing spatial and racial isolation of low-income populations, especially minority populations, in central-city neighborhoods and how suburbanization of employment, reduction in low-skilled jobs, and racial discrimination combine to limit housing and employment opportunities. During the semester, students will complete two brief policy memoranda and a take-home examination consisting of three short essays. Also offered by the Graduate School of Design as SES-05213.

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Courses Related to Government Innovation (January, Spring)

DPI 313M

Sparking Social Change: Design Lab


Mark Moore



Did you come to graduate school to learn how to make a valuable social change in the world? Have you had the chance at the HKS to focus on how you plan to achieve that goal, to reflect on how you can best use your Harvard experience to advance that goal, and to talk about these ideas with your peers? DPI-313M will give you the space and support you need to take even a vague “glimmer of an idea” about social change and fashion that idea into a “robust public value proposition” - a public/social value proposition that can command your commitment because it has been tested for its plausible value, as well as its practical feasibility. The course will be taught in the style of a charrette in which each individual will present their idea several times over the course of the module, and students and faculty will ask questions, make criticisms, and offer suggestions. Individual grades will depend on both the development of your idea from the beginning to the end of the course and the quality of contributions you make to your fellow students.


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DPI 670M 

Preventing Digital Disaster: Why Digital Implementations So Often Go Badly


David Eaves

Steve Kelman


  1. was a critical movement in digital government - it marked the first time both a government website became a national story and of when the future of a critical policy hung on the ability to deliver a digital service. The reality is, is not unique. Every year hundreds, if not thousands of government IT projects fail. The cost of these failures runs into the billions. These projects, however, remain hidden, quietly shelved by their governments. What makes unique is how it has become safe to talk about it. This course will look at a range of issues that led to fail. These include issues such as the drafting of the policy and the law itself, procurement rules, the project management and accountability among others. We live in a world where IT will form a critical part of almost every service and policy area. In this class students will gain important insights into why IT projects fail and how to prevent them from doing so in the first place.

For additional information about technology courses at HKS please visit


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DPI 671M 

Disrupting Bureaucracy: Understanding Recent Efforts in Digital Government


David Eaves


Over the past decade governments have pursued a number of strategies to modernize the public service particularly in light of the opportunities and challenges created by digital services. This course will explore some of the central reasons governments struggled to use information technology effectively and examine recent efforts to rethink how local, regional and national governments use technology and deliver services. Each week a different organization will looked at, examples will include the United States Digital Service, UK Government Digital Service, Office of New Urban Mechanics, Code for America and others. Students will assess what are these organizations goal, their theory of change, how effective have they been at achieving their broader transformative goals and what lessons can we take away about fostering digital government? The course will also look at the bureaucratic and political requirements, risks and challenges in launching and sustaining these types of efforts will be examined. At the end of this course students will have a strong understanding of why using innovation and digital government is difficult to execute, best practices for shifting an organization into using them effectively and an understanding of skills required to execute such a shift.


For additional information about technology courses at HKS please visit


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DPI 678M

Product Management and Society


Kathy Pham


No experience in software, product management, or design necessary. Intended for those interested in understanding the critical role of a product manager to build technology services in the public sector or in mission focused private sector.Delivering critical services to the public requires building technology that works for people. In environments like the public, non-profit, and mission-oriented private sectors, this is can be a challenge, but it is possible and necessary to build thriving societies. This course will focus on the role of the product manager in leading cross-functional teams across engineering, design, users, policy, marketing, analytics, vendors, and stakeholders when building technology products. Students will learn how to think like a product manager and how to partner with product managers. Students will learn how product managers set strategy, define products, advocate for the user, manage stakeholders, and understand market or policy factors in order to ship technology services and products that benefit people.This class complements other technology focused classes at HKS: Designing Government (Dana Chisnell); Tech and Innovation in Government (Nick Sinai); Cybersecurity: Technology, Policy, and Law (Bruce Schneier); Technology, Privacy, and the trans-national nature of the Internet (James Waldo); Digital Government: Technology, Policy, and Public Service Innovation (David Eaves); Preventing Digital Disaster: Why Digital Implementations So Often Go Badly (David Eaves, Steven Kelman); Disrupting Bureaucracy: Understanding Recent Efforts in Digital Government (David Eaves). It also complements the Product Managemnet 101 class at the Harvard Business School (Julia Austin).


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DPI 663 

Tech and Innovation in Government (Field Class)


Nick Sinai


DPI-663 is a field course with limited enrollment. Students must apply and be accepted by the instructor before their petition to enroll will be accepted. Accepted students will be notified by email and instructed to submit a Petition to Enroll. 2020 application link and deadline coming shortly.

In the last few years digital services units have emerged as key players in government reform in the U.S. and abroad. The scope and ambition of these efforts vary, but they all leverage methodologies common to private sector entrepreneurship -- an intense focus on understanding user needs, rapid prototyping and iteration, and the use of modern technologies.


Drawing on approaches pioneered by these units, this course seeks to equip students with a methodology and a mindset for driving change in 21st century government. Students will use lean startup principles and user-centered design methods to solve real problems for local and federal government clients.


These methods are best learned through practice. As such, this field class offers lectures on core concepts concurrently with client work. Students will be placed in teams of five and assigned a government client. Each team will scope their project; conduct user research in the field; rapidly design, build, and test lightweight prototypes; and, if relevant, create a plan to scale their product. Teams also offer policy, operations, and strategy recommendations at a final Demo Day, as well as in presentations at the client site.


For more information on the course, including past presentations, prototypes, and blog posts from student teams, please see


2019 Clients will be the City of Boston, U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


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DPI 676M 

Designing Government


Dana Chisnell


You’ve actually been making design decisions your entire life. In this course, you’ll gain skills and learn techniques for using design consciously to define problem spaces and to carry out your intent. This highly interactive course presents processes and practices for applying design to digital government. We will also discuss the obstacles government faces in delivering digital experiences to constituents that are efficient, effective, and pleasant, and we’ll look at some relatively successful examples from federal, state, and city government. The activities and assignments in this course will give you tools to understand the lived experience people have with government and how to deliver better outcomes for them.


This module is a deep dive on understanding user needs through the lens of government policymaking, using design thinking methods and techniques. The methods are best learned through practice. Lecture will be light. Class time will be workshops and activities. Homework will be substantial, with at least 2 hours of reading/videos plus 5-10 hours each week of working with your team to complete the course challenge. The goal of the course challenge is for your team to reach and communicate a deep understanding of a social problem to identify opportunities to improve government service.


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DPI 691M B

Programming and Data for Policymakers


Dhrumil Mehta


Data and code are no longer just for programmers. Policymakers in the 21st century, from members of Congress to analysts and executives need to be equipped with the necessary skills to navigate nuanced issues at the intersection of technology and governance. Those who have first-hand experience with programming, data, software development and management methods, open source collaboration, and technology innovation are better prepared to competently navigate these issues.


In the course of five six-hour classes, this module will provide an intensive hands-on curriculum that involves programming exercises in the context of government and politics to build essential core technology and data skills. The hands on exercises will familiarize students with technologies that are a part of the modern programmers toolkit including the command-line, github, the structure of a web application, the linux filesystem, data standards (json, XML, etc), cloud technologies, and databases.


This is not a data science course, nor is it a standard programming bootcamp. This course is designed to give students a deeper appreciation for the nuances of software and data through practical training. Though the course is rooted in practical applications, students will be prompted through assigned readings and discussion to think broadly about the implications of implementing the technologies introduced and their ramifications in the context of policy. Exercises will build on one another so that students will come away with a small software project of their own. The course is also designed to prepare students who wish to pursue further learning to overcome the initial barrier to learning programming and more efficiently direct future efforts.


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DPI 326M 

Personnel is Policy: Building Teams in American Government


Yohannes Abraham


Every policymaker hopes to see their work executed, and that execution depends on bringing together the right team. While teams matter in every industry, there are pressures and considerations that are unique to the political arena. This course is designed to give students a practical understanding of the mechanics and strategic choices behind selecting, attracting, retaining, and, when necessary, confirming a top notch political team.


We will start with developing a framework for understanding personnel decisions in politics: the principal’s personality, policy priorities, and political realities. Among other topics, we will then explore the mechanics of transitions of power and developing a staff structure; tradeoffs between longtime confidants, political professionals, and outside experts; the balance between attracting high profile "all-stars" and optimizing for team synergy; personnel decisions in the midst of crises; the role of Congress and the media in talent selection; and the practical realities of confirmation battles.


Presidential nominees manage some of the largest organizations in the world; presidential appointees execute a president's mission; judicial nominees help define a president's legacy. Talent management is at the heart of the American presidency. From pre-election transition teams to the team tasked with handing over the keys, we will also explore how an American president's personnel needs change over the lifecycle of a presidency.


While the course materials and discussions will primarily focus on personnel choices in the U.S. federal context, it will aim to arm students who aspire to work at all levels of government and politics with an understanding of the goals and tensions to consider when putting together or joining a team.


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MLD 203

Exercising Authority: Power, Strategy, and Voice


Kimberlyn Leary


This course builds upon the framework offered in MLD-201 but focuses on the important role of authority in leading change and maintaining the viability of organizational life. By exploring the value, uses, as well as the abuses of authority relationships, we aim to expand one’s capacity to claim authority, exercise authority, use power wisely, and work with authority figures. To do so, we explore the valid and reasonable distrust in authority that exists among us and through history, and we investigate new ways of thinking and new modes of authoritative behavior that can repair, restore, and renew trust within organizations and communities. On one hand, the course provides new options for taking and exercising effective and trustworthy authority. On the other hand, we explore practices, strategies, and ways of operating from “below,” “behind,” or “outside” with the intent of expanding options for relating influentially and effectively with and against the grain of authorities. In addition to lectures and discussions, the course is designed to enable students to learn from small study groups, weekly reflection papers, and case-in-point teaching – using the classroom process to understand the dynamics of authority relationships and the processes of conflict and change in social systems.


To learn more about co-instructor Kimberlyn Leary, please visit


Please note, while this course allows cross-registration, there will be minimal openings for non-HKS students.


MLD-201 is strongly recommended in preparation for this course.


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MLD 412 

Greater Boston Applied Field Lab: Advanced Budgeting, Financial Management and Operations


Linda Bilmes


This course is an experiential-learning lab that will enable students to work on financial and operational challenges with real-world clients. Projects typically include the cities of Boston, Somerville and Cambridge; departments of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the MBTA; local infrastructure projects; local congressional offices; and budgetary/operational challenges. There will also be projects associated with the Bloomberg Field Lab Program, which include cities outside of Massachusetts. Additional course work includes training in advanced relevant analytical skills, such as GIS mapping and financial spreadsheet modelling. Extensive field work is required, including multiple visit to client sites. Students who complete the course may be eligible for paid summer follow-on work in the field, or conducting research on the relevant datasets.


Prerequisite: Basic analytical skills in budget/finance/accounting (demonstrated through course work such as MLD-411, MLD-601, API-141, or similar) or MBA program; and permission of the instructor. Applicants will be required to submit a short statement of interest.

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MLD 602 

Performance Leadership: Producing Results in Public and Nonprofit Agencies


Robert Behn


You are the leader of a public or nonprofit organization. Your job is to produce results. But what results? And how? How can you improve significantly your organization's performance? This course examines the five challenges of performance leadership: (1) Choosing and producing results: How can public executives determine the results they will produce next and develop effective strategies for delivering them? (2) Seizing and creating opportunities: How can public executives recognize or shape events and attitudes to foster the desire and capability to improve performance? (3) Measuring performance: How can public executives measure their agency's progress and results and use such measures to learn how to improve performance? (4) Motivating individuals and energizing teams: How can public executives inspire people in a variety of organizational arrangements, from bureaucracies to collaboratives, to pursue public purposes creatively? (5) Creating targets: How can public executives use specific results to be achieved by specific dates to mobilize people and resources to ratchet up performance?


To see a short VIDEO describing this course, please follow this link:​

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MLD 635  

Creating Public Value: The Theory and Practice of Strategic Management in Government


Mark Moore


This course will develop and teach the core concepts of strategic public management as they have been developed and taught at the Kennedy School over three decades. The key ideas include the concept of public value, the strategic triangle, methods of political engagement that can build legitimacy and support for a public value proposition, the design of operational methods for deploying the collectively owned assets of the state to achieve desired results, and the creation and deployment of networks of capacity to deal with problems that cut across organizational and sector lines. The distinctive contribution of this course is to provide an integrative framework that can combine different pieces of management into a coherent whole designed especially for government managers who face turbulent, and problematic economic, social, and political conditions that will require them to innovate in large and small ways.


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Courses related to Asia (Spring)


The Political Economy of Transition in China


Anthony Saich


China's incremental reforms have been compared favorably as a transition strategy with the "shock therapy" attempted in Eastern Europe and Russia. Reality is more complex, progress is mixed, and the country is now facing major challenges from delayed reforms, especially in the industrial and financial sectors. How are the state's priorities set? Relevant theories on socioeconomic development and transitions will be analyzed through a detailed study of the policymaking process in China. China provides an interesting empirical testing ground for comparative theory, as it has moved from a statist model of development to one that makes greater use of market forces within an authoritarian political structure. The course first evaluates China's evolving development strategies. Second, it analyzes the politics of the current transition, with detailed discussion of economic and social policy formulation and implementation.


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Convergence and Divergence After World War II: The Economic Performance of Developing Countries


Arvind Subramanian


This course will study the broader development performance of developing countries after World War II, essentially trying to understand why some countries became rich and others not. It will present the broad trends on growth, poverty, inequality, and social development. It will examine cross-country patterns as well as the proximate and deeper causes of economic growth, including the role of macro-economic policies, globalization, institutions, conflict, foreign aid, natural resources, and climate change. There will be a module to understand the performance of China and India, the world's two largest countries with unusual development trajectories.


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Great Power Competition in the International System


Nicholas Burns


The global balance of power is changing dramatically. This course focuses on the compelling transformation we are witnessing: the rise of China to great power status; the changing nature of European and Russian power; the new roles that India, Brazil, South Africa and others are exercising in global politics; and, most importantly, the change in U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump’s America First agenda. Our major objective will be to discuss and debate whether nations can find ways to cooperate in addressing the most consequential challenges ahead in this still new century—climate change and changing energy dynamics; nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, the scourge of pandemics, the refugee crisis, and other issues. We will also examine competition among the great powers in the North Korea nuclear crisis, the South and East China Seas, the Middle East wars, and renewed divisions in Europe. We will conclude the course by investigating what the world power balance might look like in 2050 and by examining the more positive economic, technological and social trends that should give us some hope as we think about the global future.


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The War in Vietnam


Fredrik Logevall


The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the 20th century. How did it happen? Why did first France and then the United States wage large-scale war there, and why did both powers fail in their effort to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces? And what is the legacy of the struggle for our world and for U.S. foreign policy today? This course examines these and related questions, with particular attention to the long period of direct American involvement. The events will be considered in their relationship to Vietnam's history, to American politics and society, and to the concurrent Cold War.

Also offered by the History Department as HIST 1001.


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Negotiating U.S. Interests in an Evolving Asia Pacific


John Park


This course is designed to introduce students to complex security, political, and economic issues in the Asia Pacific region. The United States has traditionally been the true north to which allies and partners have calibrated their respective policies. With the re-emergence of China, countries in the region are now affected by the fact that there are two true norths -- an incumbent one and a re-emergent one. Utilizing in-class simulations, the course will analyze how the U.S. employs its core policy tools -- diplomatic, political, economic, and military -- to negotiate its interests in the evolving Asia Pacific region. Key simulations will focus on efforts to peacefully denuclearize North Korea, promote regional free trade, and prevent an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. A key goal is to provide students with the opportunity to hone a set of analytical tools that they can apply to tasks in the course and beyond. 

Also offered by the History Department as HIST 1001.


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