Innovations in Government

2020 State of Digital Transformation
Eaves, David, and Lauren Lombardo. 2020. “2020 State of Digital Transformation”. Read the full report Abstract

David Eaves, Lauren Lombardo, February 2021 

Starting in 2018, every year, the State of Digital Transformation report documents the main lessons from a Digital Services Convening hosted at Harvard Kennedy School. In 2020, Harvard Kennedy School and Public Digital hosted a series of discussions on the coronavirus digital response. These gatherings, which included a wide range of digital service groups, highlighted success stories, lessons learned, and tools that digital teams could leverage or repurpose. 

This year's report highlights some of the new possibilities discussed at the convening and provides further reflections on crisis response. 

New Jersey state capitol building

What’s the Value of Being a State Capital?

February 10, 2021

Cambridge, MA -- In a new study released today by Harvard Kennedy School, Linda Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, and a team of researchers published a detailed examination of the costs and benefits that accrue to capital cities that come from hosting state government. Specifically, the study, launched at the request of Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, examined the unique costs incurred by the City of Trenton and the overall economic value...

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Professor Stephen Goldsmith

Reforming the Curb: Using Technology to Create a More Equitable Streetscape

November 23, 2020

When Stephen Goldsmith, the Derek Bok Professor of Urban Policy and Director of the Ash Center’s Government Innovations Program, served as mayor of Indianapolis, Indiana, “I thought I was the mayor of parking. I don’t think anything mattered except parking in downtown Indianapolis.” Since Goldsmith last held the reins at city hall, the debate over how cities should best put to use curb space and sidewalks has only grown more intense as online delivery companies, ride sharing services, and commercial businesses all vie for...

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Deploying the Once-Only Policy: A Privacy-Enhancing Guide for Policymakers and Civil Society Actors

Naeha Rashid, November 2020 

The once-only policy (OOP) is increasingly seen by some digital government experts as central to establishing a national digital government strategy and as a gateway to next-generation government services. Once-only is so called because users (citizens, residents, and businesses) have to provide diverse data only one time when in contact with public administrations; after the initial data transfer, different parts of government can internally share and reuse this data to create public value and better service for users. 

Members of the digital government community are excited by the potential of OOPs to create public value and reduce the cost of government, and I want to help governments harness this potential. I am also deeply concerned by the potential for OOPs to concentrate and increase state power and the negative impact this could have on individuals’ privacy, freedoms, and capacity to dissent. 

The goal is to harness the benefits of OOP while minimizing the risks, to create a world in which the power of the state is counterbalanced by the power of its citizenry. This document outlines the key policy questions and concerns that must be addressed by governments intending to implement an OOP. It is designed to help stakeholders—including policymakers in government and interested parties in civil society—ask key questions during the development of OOP-facilitating infrastructure, specifically identity- and data-sharing mechanisms, and the development of OOP strategy. 

This document is not to intended to encourage or prescribe a specific pathway of development, but to consolidate and present a compendium of the key considerations at each stage. This work is based on an extensive literature review across the areas of privacy, identification, data sharing, and OOP; interviews with experts in the field; and mini case studies highlighting different lessons of implementation from five countries—the Netherlands, Estonia, the UK, Canada, and Australia—with diverse approaches and at very different stages of OOP maturity. 

Read the full report

Read the Deploying the Once-Only Policy Supplement

Getting Value from Workforce Stimulus Investments: What Works in Youth Workforce Programs and How to Grow the Evidence Base

Jane Wiseman, November 2020 

The current economic crisis will likely inspire federal investment in training for unemployed and underemployed Americans. When funds are made available for youth workforce development, transparent reporting and publication of results data should be required. User-friendly reports should be created that enable unemployed and underemployed Americans to see which training providers achieve the best results, much as the current College Scorecard helps youth and their families evaluate colleges. This will benefit program recipients, the taxpayer, and society at large. Evidence about what works for youth workforce development is still in an early stage of maturity, so upcoming investments present an opportunity to advance the state of knowledge. With this data and insight, future investments can continue to fund effective programs and ineffective ones can be discontinued.

The 2020 Election Season and Aftermath: Preparation in Higher Education Communities
Leonard, Herman B. "Dutch", Arnold M. Howitt, and Judith B. McLaughlin. 2020. “The 2020 Election Season and Aftermath: Preparation in Higher Education Communities”. Read the full report Abstract

Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt, and Judith B. McLaughlin; October 2020 

There is widespread uncertainty and heightened anxiety on higher education campuses and elsewhere about what might happen during the 2020 election season in the United States. At every turn, we see elevated emotions and anxieties generated by the election process and related events, together with the potential for disruption of various kinds in the election process itself – before, during, and/or after the end of voting on November 3. This is compounded by the possibility of uncertainty, perhaps over many days or even weeks, about who has won various contests and about who will take office.

A wide range of scenarios related to the election process and possible election outcomes have been described in mainstream media, in social media, and in other forums. Given the considerable (and, generally speaking, desirable) involvement and energy invested in these events within higher education communities among faculty, staff, students, and alumni, a number of these scenarios might well result in situations on campuses, in higher education communities, or in the surrounding communities where they reside that would call for institutional response. Many campus leaders and management groups are now thinking through what might be necessary or desirable and figuring out what they might usefully do in advance to prepare to provide the best response possible. Obviously, the difficulties of planning for the many possible circumstances that might confront us are compounded by the fact that all of this is taking place during an ongoing (and, indeed, now intensifying) pandemic accompanied by calls for racial justice and police reform. In this brief note, we suggest some ideas that might be helpful for higher education communities organizing themselves in the face of these uncertainties.

Lawrence stands with her foot and a baseball bat on top of an old typewriter

Moving Municipal Tech Out of the Typewriter Era

October 19, 2020

Boston likes to fashion itself as a global tech hub, proud of the legions of start-ups and tech workers who have made its economy the envy of cities around the country. Yet vestiges of Boston’s analog past can still be found, if you know where to look—such as in the long, brick-fronted building that sprawls over much of a block along Massachusetts Avenue in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood. From the building, which houses the city’s Inspectional Services Division (ISD), the sounds of aging IBM Wheelwriter 1500 electric typewriters, which until recently filled the ISD offices. used to be heard as permit-seekers hunched over its well-worn keys typing out applications for zoning variances.  

Jorrit de Jong looks at a wall of screens, each screen with an image of a mayor participating in a session

Crisis Leadership Essentials for Mayors

October 16, 2020

The Ash Center sat down with HKS Senior Lecturer Jorrit de Jong, an Ash Center resident faculty member and the faculty director of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The Initiative has been at the forefront of training mayors in management and leadership techniques since its establishment four years ago. de Jong has led numerous seminars for mayors with leading public health and crisis response experts from Harvard and around the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year and recently. de Jong recently published a compendium on COVID-19 Crisis Leadership Essentials for Mayors

The Analytics Playbook for Cities: A Navigational Tool for Understanding Data Analytics in Local Government, Confronting Trade-Offs, and Implementing Effectively

Amen Ra Mashariki and Nicolas Diaz, August 2020 

Properly used data can help city government improve the efficiency of its operations, save money, and provide better services. Used haphazardly, however, the use of analytics in cities may increase risks to citizens’ privacy, heighten cybersecurity threats, and even perpetuate inequities.

Given these complexities and potentials, many cities have begun to install analytics and data units, often head by a chief data officer, a new title for data-driven leaders in government. This report is aimed at practitioners who are thinking about making the choice to name their first CDO, start their first analytics team, or empower an existing group of individuals.

Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, August 2020 

Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President of Prevent Epidemics at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, provided a briefing of critical public health information on COVID-19 in Latin America and Africa. Rawi Abdelal, Harvard Business School Professor and faculty co-chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and Jennifer Musisi, the former executive director of Kampala, Uganda, and City Leader in Residence at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, facilitated a discussion between Mayors Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, Sierra Leone; Claudio Castro of Renca, Chile; and Bettina Romero of Salta, Argentina, on lessons learned while leading their cities through the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Elizabeth Patton, Gaylen Moore, and Jorrit de Jong; August 2020 

Throughout the spring of 2020, the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, held eleven sessions on crisis leadership for city leaders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over those harrowing weeks, as city leaders scrambled to protect their community members from the disease and provide services to the ill, the bereaved, and the vulnerable, these sessions offered a space for them to share their stories, concerns, hopes, and plans—and to get answers to their most pressing questions about the pandemic and how to mitigate not just the spread of the virus but also the economic and social fallout of measures taken to contain it.

New international project launched to bring digital era skills to public servants

New international project launched to bring digital era skills to public servants

July 31, 2020

Cambridge – MA, Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age (@TPSDigitalAge) is a new, international community of professors, teachers and practitioners who are worried about the modern skills shortfall inside of too many governments. Launched with the assistance of HKS Lecturer in Public Policy and...

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The view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California, United States

For a moment, partisanship takes a backseat to conservation in the nation’s capital

July 28, 2020

As election season descends across the country and the political rhetoric emanating out of Washington only becomes more bitter, something rare happened last week on Capitol Hill—large bipartisan majorities passed one of the most far-reaching pieces of conservation legislation in a generation. The bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will pump billions of dollars into overdue repairs and maintenance of the country’s national parks and permanently fund a slew of other federal conservation programs. President Trump tweeted his support ahead of its passage before the House and is expected to sign the bill later this month.

New Research in Series Assisting Tribal Nations Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

New Research in Series Assisting Tribal Nations Navigate the COVID-19 Crisis

July 24, 2020

Cambridge, MA – A team of researchers from Harvard University and the University of Arizona today released two policy briefs in their research series aimed at assisting tribal nations navigate the COVID-19 crisis, strengthen their governments, and emerge stronger than before.  

 

Policy Brief No. 4 

Emerging Stronger than Before:...

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Henson, Eric, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph Kalt, and Megan Hill. 2020. “Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act”. Read the full report Abstract

Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen & Joseph P. Kalt; July 2020 

The federal response to the COVID‐19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months.  For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year.

This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socio‐economic starting points for their community members as compared to non‐Indians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservation‐resident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or non‐existent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and non‐gaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

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