Advocacy & Social Movements

How Authoritarian Police Thrive in Democracy

In early October, young Nigerians took to the streets, clogging roadways in Lagos, calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an elite arm of the police, notorious for violence, harassment, corruption, and unlawful arrests, to be disbanded.

The outpouring of anger in Nigeria was set against the backdrop of months of similar protests against police violence all around the world. From demonstrations in May seeking answers over for the death of 14-year-old João Pedro Mattos Pinto in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; to protests over the summer calling for the...

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A New Story for Nigeria

In June 2006, a few days after Uche Pedro MC/MPA 2020 graduated from Western University, Ontario with a degree in business she started an anonymous blog about Nigerian pop culture.

Going to a university in Canada had opened Pedro’s eyes to how little people knew of her native country’s burgeoning entertainment scene. Posting clips from magazines and stories about music and fashion in her free time, she hoped BellaNaija, her site, could help introduce the world to a new narrative about Nigeria.

What happened next surprised her. The site’s...

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Valerie Jarrett on the value of a vote and reaching Gen-Z

Following the 2016 presidential election, senior advisor to then President Barack Obama Valerie Jarret and First Lady Michelle Obama poured over election return data. “Michelle Obama and I did a lot of soul searching trying to figure out what happened,” said Jarrett during a virtual discussion moderated by Harvard Law School Lester Kissel Professor of Law David Wilkins, hosted by Harvard Votes Challenge, the Ash Center for...

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What Justice Looks Like

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. 

“What Justice Looks Like” takes a perspective of “public policy from below” by centering the voices of those on the ground level of struggles for justice, but traditionally...

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Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative

The Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative is a joint initiative of the Harvard Divinity School's Religious Literacy Project and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. This groundbreaking new four-year initiative includes a robust program of research, coursework, internships, professional collaboration, and programming to engage the roles religions...

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Social Policy Expansion in Latin America
Garay, Candelaria. 2017. Social Policy Expansion in Latin America . Cambridge University Press. Visit Publisher's Site Abstract

Candelaria Garay, Cambridge University Press, January 2017 


Throughout the twentieth century, much of the population in Latin America lacked access to social protection. Since the 1990s, however, social policy for millions of outsiders - rural, informal, and unemployed workers and dependents - has been expanded dramatically. Social Policy Expansion in Latin America shows that the critical factors driving expansion are electoral competition for the vote of outsiders and social mobilization for policy change. The balance of partisan power and the involvement of social movements in policy design explain cross-national variation in policy models, in terms of benefit levels, coverage, and civil society participation in implementation. The book draws on in-depth case studies of policy making in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico over several administrations and across three policy areas: health care, pensions, and income support. Secondary case studies illustrate how the theory applies to other developing countries.



The Ash Center promotes innovation and advances excellence.

The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. We invite you to explore the various themes and programs below which comprise the Center's research focus. 


The Ash Center’s Program on Democratic Governance strives to foster innovation in participatory democracy through initiatives such as Participedia. The Center’s work explores new models of participation, such as participatory...

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What a Mighty Power We Can Be: African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality

Theda Skocpol, Ariane Liazos, & Marshall Ganz, Princeton University Press, 2006 

From the nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries, millions of American men and women participated in fraternal associations – self-selecting brotherhoods and sisterhoods that provided aid to members, enacted group rituals, and engaged in community service. Even more than whites did, African Americans embraced this type of association; indeed, fraternal lodges rivaled churches as centers of black community life in cities, towns, and rural areas alike. Using an unprecedented variety of secondary and primary sources – including old documents, pictures, and ribbon-badges found in eBay auctions – this book tells the story of the most visible African American fraternal associations. The authors demonstrate how African American fraternal groups played key roles in the struggle for civil rights and racial integration. Between the 1890s and the 1930s, white legislatures passed laws to outlaw the use of important fraternal names and symbols by blacks. But blacks successfully fought back. Employing lawyers who in some cases went on to work for the NAACP, black fraternalists took their cases all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in their favor. At the height of the modern Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, they marched on Washington and supported the lawsuits through lobbying and demonstrations that finally led to legal equality. This unique book reveals a little-known chapter in the story of civic democracy and racial equality in America.