New at the Ash Center

Introducing new Ash Center community members, initiatives, resources, commentary, and courses 

New Faculty Affiliates Join the Ash Center 

The Ash Center’s roster of affiliated faculty continues to grow with the appointment of six new faculty affiliates this year. Joining the Center include:


Jeeyang Rhee Baum, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, whose research focuses on how party competition shapes the different ways that politicians restructure the state in developing democracies, especially in Asia; Yanilda María González, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, whose research focuses on policing, state violence, and citizenship in democracy, examining how race, class, and other forms of inequality shape these processes; Gordon Hanson, Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy, who among other areas of work is using satellite imagery to assess the forces behind urban economic development at a global scale; Eric Henson is an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy and a research affiliate of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development; Diane Moore, Lecturer in Religion, Conflict, and Peace and faculty director of Harvard Divinity School’s Program on Religion and Public Life; Rob Wilkinson, Lecturer in Public Policy and Leadership, who teaches courses on negotiation and leadership.


New, Global Reach for Public Narrative Course 

Marshall Ganz’s celebrated teaching on public narrative now extends to students across the globe through a new, online Executive Education program. The 14-week program, Public Narrative: Leadership, Storytelling, and Action, ran for the first time in fall 2019, continued this fall and will run again in August 2021, featuring live online lectures and coaching. Public Narrative is recommended for everyone from elected public officials to teachers and nonprofit leaders, and trains participants to strengthen their capacity to lead people and inspire change by sharing and leveraging their personal values and lived experiences.


Students Tackle Leadership Challenges in Cities 

A handful of students in their second year of Harvard Kennedy School’s Master in Public Policy program are working to find solutions to cities’ most pressing challenges with support from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The Initiative—a management and leadership program for city leaders around the world, housed at the Ash Center—provides funding and guidance to the students as they work on their Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) with select cities that participate in the Initiative. The PAE is a capstone report created with the rigor of a professional policy analysis in which the student acts as the consultant for a real-world client. Students can leverage the Initiative’s team and resources to explore leadership and organizational challenges with their city clients. Last year’s projects included innovation team design, smart city procurement strategies, and workforce development partnerships.


Technology and Democracy Leaders Join Ash Community 

This fall, seven emerging leaders, committed to using technology and digital tools to help strengthen democratic institutions, joined the Ash Center as Technology and Democracy Fellows. Bringing a diverse set of experience, hailing from organizations including Postmates and the Republication National Committee, the 202021 fellows will tackle some of the biggest questions facing technology, policy, government, and society while engaging with the Harvard community. Specifically, each fellow will design and lead a workshop, helping students learn new digital skills and concepts, as well as spend the academic year incubating solutions that improve democratic governance through a substantive project.


 Ash Center COVID-19 Resource Site  

As COVID-19 began its deadly spread throughout the United States in late winter and early spring of this year, Ash Center faculty and programs sprang into action, turning out a variety of research and policy papers, convening practitioner seminars, and identifying and promoting best practices to government leaders and the public. To capture this wide array of teaching, policy, and research resources, the Ash Center launched its COVID-19 Public Sector Resources website. The site also collects best practices and other innovative COVID-19 responses, which staff and faculty then disseminate to its various local government communities of practice.


Powering the Polls 

Among the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to US elections, a shortage of poll workers is one of the most urgent as we near November 3. Harvard Votes Challenge, a campus-wide civic engagement initiative cofounded by the Ash Center, launched a poll worker recruitment campaign early this fall to encourage students, faculty, and staff to join the ranks of Election Day workers across the country.


“A majority of those staffing the polls are in an age demographic that makes them more vulnerable to the threats of the pandemic, with many likely to opt to stay home for safety’s sake,” said Melissa D’Anello, Ash Center assistant director of events and outreach and leader of the Harvard Votes Challenge campaign. “For community members passionate about making our democracy work better, becoming a poll worker is an excellent opportunity to engage.”


Harvard Votes Challenge collaborated with two organizations that connect Harvard community members directly with jurisdictions in need of poll workers. To date, the Challenge has recruited hundreds of people to power the polls.


Yanilda María González on “What Justice Looks Like” 

Ash Center faculty affiliate Yanilda González launched a new yearlong discussion series featuring the voices and experiences of activists and communities directly affected by state violence and mass incarceration in trauma-informed conversations about (in)justice; power; resistance; and pathways to racial justice, equity and meaningful change. Recent uprisings in cities throughout the US against racialized police violence, along with mass protest movements from Chile to Colombia to Haiti against long-running structural inequality and exclusion, have demonstrated that policymakers and political leaders routinely remain disconnected from, or actively ignore and silence, the experiences of communities directly harmed by their policies, explains González. The series takes the perspective of what González describes as “public policy from below” by centering on the voices of those on the ground level of struggles for justice but traditionally excluded from the halls of power.  


Saich Testimony Provides Recommendations for US-China Relations 

Tony Saich, director of the Ash Center and Daewoo Professor of International Affairs, assessed the evolving US-China relationship in testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. At a hearing on Enduring Problems and Emerging Challenges, Saich presented findings from the Ash Center’s surveys of Chinese public opinion, conducted between 2003 and 2016, on how citizen perceptions of government performance in China have responded to measurable changes in people’s material well-being. Saich spoke at length about the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to promote deeper forms of legitimacy for its rule and what that means for Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Asked for recommendations on how Congress could respond to the challenges presented by the increasingly fractious US-China relationship, Saich argued, Actions should be taken in concert with other nations as this is what China fears most. There may be more ability to impact China’s behavior globally, especially with respect to the management of new global public goods where the international architecture is not yet fixed.”