News and Analysis

Read the latest news, commentary, and analysis from the Ash Center.

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Avoiding conflict over conflicts of interest

Developing and enforcing conflict of interest policies is no simple task for anti-corruption advocates and ethics officials alike. Archon Fung and Dennis Thompson help to better understand the problem and examine when risk is underestimated and when it is overestimated.

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Democracy Deep Dive: January 6th and the Threat to American Democracy

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Democracy Deep Dive: January 6th and the Threat to American Democracy

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee issued a major report in October 2021 claiming to show “the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis” during the events before and after the January 6 “capitol insurrection.” This crisis was prevented only by “a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice.” “Donald Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort,” the report goes on. But, the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee responded that Trump “did not weaponize DOJ for his personal or campaign purposes” in their own report. Join Harvard Kennedy School historian Alexander Keyssar and Harvard Law School law of democracy scholar Guy Uriel-Charles as they parsed the major revelations in these reports and helped us to understand how these events may foreshadow future crises in American Democracy. Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government at Harvard Kennedy School, moderated.

Rethinking the US Constitution through a Participatory Process

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Rethinking the US Constitution through a Participatory Process

What would it be like to really rethink our Constitution? In this webinar, we learned about participatory constitution building, a way of writing a new constitution with full public participation. Participatory constitution building is common around the world, but how it is designed and the process by which it is undertaken is critical to making it a success anywhere. We learned with experts on participatory constitution building globally, in Chile at this moment, and among tribal governments. What are the practices we might think about as we reconsider the strengths and weaknesses of our own constitution in this country?

Speakers included:

  • Erin Houlihan, Program Officer, International IDEA
  • Pamela Figueroa Rubio, Académica, Facultad de Humanidades – Universidad De Santiago
  • Joseph Kalt, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, HKS; Co-Director, The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
  • Co-moderated by Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Pedro Arcain Riccetto, Democracy Visiting Fellow, Ash Center

Towards Platform Democracy: Policymaking Beyond Corporate CEOs and Partisan Pressure

Towards Platform Democracy: Policymaking Beyond Corporate CEOs and Partisan Pressure

Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms make incredibly impactful decisions about the speech of billions. Right now, those decisions are primarily in the hands of corporate CEO’s—and heavily influenced by pressure from partisan and authoritarian governments aiming to entrench their own power.

Aviv Ovadya proposes an alternative: platform democracy.

Money Left on the Table: The Economic Argument for Diversity (Truth and Transformation 2021)

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Money Left on the Table: The Economic Argument for Diversity (Truth and Transformation 2021)

This video starts off with the introduction to the 2021 Truth and Transformation Conference. Then, we go into the first panel, “Money Left on the Table: The Economic Argument for Diversity.’ Does the economic argument for diversity make sense? Why hasn’t everyone already won? This panel engaged key leaders watching organizations grappling with moving toward antiracism the question: what does resistance to change look like and what drives it, from an economic, psychological, and historical perspective?

This panel discussion, which starts at minute 24:00, features:

  • Jarik Conrad, Equity at Work
  • Dana Peterson, The Conference Board
  • Lisa Cook, Michigan State University
  • Michael McAfee, PolicyLink
  • Levi Sumagaysay, MarketWatch

Learn more about the Truth and Transformation Conference and the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project online: https://ash.harvard.edu/iara

Preserving Seats at the Table: White-Dominated Boards (Truth and Transformation 2021)

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Preserving Seats at the Table: White-Dominated Boards (Truth and Transformation 2021)

This video starts with the second panel discussion from the 2021 Truth and Transformation conference, hosted by the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Then, at 59:27, starts the lunchtime musical performances by The Reminders and Brown Rice Family.

The panel discussion, titled, “Preserving Seats at the Table: White-Dominated Boards” features:

  • Trina Jackson (Speaker) Senior Solidarity Program Officer – US Internationalist Program, Grassroots International
  • Samantha Tweedy (Speaker) President, Black Economic Alliance Foundation
  • Rebecca Shuster (Speaker) Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Boston Public Schools
  • Cheryl Mills (Speaker) Founder & CEO, The BlackIvy Group
  • Jeffrey Ginsburg (Moderator) Executive Director, East Harlem Tutorial Program

Learn more about the Truth and Transformation Conference and the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project online: https://ash.harvard.edu/iara

Equity Takes Time, Commitment, & Disruption (Truth and Transformation 2021)

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Equity Takes Time, Commitment, & Disruption (Truth and Transformation 2021)

This video starts with the final panel discussion from the 2021 Truth and Transformation conference, hosted by the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Then at 1:03:00, remarks from Boston Mayor Kim Janey begin and are followed by a closing discussion between IARA Senior Fellow Erica Licht and Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad at 1:15:50.

The panel discussion, titled, “Equity Takes Time, Commitment, & Disruption” featured:

  • Carmen Rojas (Speaker) President & CEO, Marguerite Casey Foundation
  • John C. Yang (Speaker) President & Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
  • Halima Begum (Speaker) Chief Executive, Runnymede Trust
  • Eric Ward (Speaker) Executive Director, Western States Center
  • Mary McNeil (Moderator) Ph.D. Candidate, American Studies Program, Harvard University

Learn more about the Truth and Transformation Conference and the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project online: https://ash.harvard.edu/iara

Change Can’t Wait: A Justice and Equity Agenda For Boston’s Black and Brown Communities
Graphic of the event details

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Change Can’t Wait: A Justice and Equity Agenda For Boston’s Black and Brown Communities

The Ash Center, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Center for Public Leadership, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston hosted a discussion focusing on urgent issues—from economic and climate justice to immigration and mass incarceration —that the next Mayor of Boston must address to rectify structural inequities and support Black and Brown communities.

Two Americas Emerging: Voting Rights in the States

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Two Americas Emerging: Voting Rights in the States

In the nearly one year since the November 2020 elections, the diverging directions state legislatures took on expanding or contracting voting rights created a huge fault line in American democracy, described by some as ‘two Americas’. A Voting Rights Lab tracking report as of September 13, 2021, identified 27 states representing 70 million voters that had passed laws to expand voting opportunities, and 13 states with 55 million people that had passed sharply restrictive legislation. And state legislatures were still at work. What’s causing this divergence?

How are voting rights advocates advancing their work in such disparate political environments? What does it mean for upcoming elections and the future of American democracy? Join the Ash Center as voting advocates from two key states that have gone in opposite directions and policy experts evaluated the trends, discussed the present, and looked into the future.

Speakers include:

  • Mimi Marziani, President and CEO Texas civil rights project
  • Henal Patel, Director of the Democracy & Justice Program, New Jersey Institute of Social Justice
  • Randy Perez, Program Director, Voting Rights Lab
  • Jake Grumbach, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington
  • Miles Rapoport, Ash Center Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, Moderator