Policy Briefs

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.

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.

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.

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

In this policy brief, we offer guidelines for federal policy reform that can fulfill the United States’ trust responsibility to tribes, adhere to the deepest principles of self‐governance upon which the country is founded, respect and build the governing capacities of tribes, and in the process, enable tribal nations to emerge from this pandemic stronger than they were before. We believe that the most‐needed federal actions are an expansion of tribal control over tribal affairs and territories and increased funding for key investments in tribal communities. 

Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting
Rapoport, Miles, E.J. Dionne, and et al. 2020. “Lift Every Voice: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Brookings Governance Program . Read the full report Abstract

The Universal Voting Working Group, July 2020 

Imagine an American democracy remade by its citizens in the very image of its promise, a society where the election system is designed to allow citizens to perform their most basic civic duty with ease. Imagine that all could vote without obstruction or suppression. Imagine Americans who now solemnly accept their responsibilities to sit on juries and to defend our country in a time of war taking their obligations to the work of self-government just as seriously. Imagine elections in which 80 percent or more of our people cast their ballots—broad participation in our great democratic undertaking by citizens of every race, heritage and class, by those with strongly-held ideological beliefs, and those with more moderate or less settled views. And imagine how all of this could instill confidence in our capacity for common action.

This report is offered with these aspirations in mind and is rooted in the history of American movements to expand voting rights. Our purpose is to propose universal civic duty voting as an indispensable and transformative step toward full electoral participation. Our nation’s current crisis of governance has focused unprecedented public attention on intolerable inequities and demands that Americans think boldly and consider reforms that until now seemed beyond our reach.

Cunningham, Edward, and Phillip Jordan. 2020. “Our Path to “New Normal” in Employment? Sobering Clues from China and Recovery Scores for U.S. Industry.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

Edward Cunningham and Philip Jordan, July 2020 

The US National jobs reports for May and June exceeded expectations, and for many, this signaled that April was the true peak of American job losses and real recovery may be underway. Yet mounting evidence suggests that a job recovery is a long way off and that many jobs may not return.

Part of the analytic disconnect stems from the fact that the global pandemic is a novel challenge for policymakers and analysts. We lack current, useful benchmarks for estimating the damage to the labor market, for estimating what recovery would look like, and for measuring an eventual recovery in jobs. Given this paucity of models, one place to look for patterns of potential recovery – particularly relating to consumption and mobility – is China.

The Chinese economy is driven largely by consumption, urban job creation is driven by small and medium-sized companies, and China is several months ahead of the US in dealing with the pandemic’s economic and labor impact. An analysis of China’s experience may, therefore, offer important clues about our recovery here at home, and inform new models of thinking about American job recovery.

Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time
Cunningham, Edward, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel. 2020. Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time. Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

Edward Cunningham, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel, July 2020

This policy brief reviews the findings of the longest-running independent effort to track Chinese citizen satisfaction of government performance. China today is the world’s second largest economy and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ruled for some seventy years. Yet long-term, publicly-available, and nationally-representative surveys in mainland China are so rare that it is difficult to know how ordinary Chinese citizens feel about their government.

We find that first, since the start of the survey in 2003, Chinese citizen satisfaction with government has increased virtually across the board. From the impact of broad national policies to the conduct of local town officials, Chinese citizens rate the government as more capable and effective than ever before. Interestingly, more marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions are actually comparatively more likely to report increases in satisfaction. Second, the attitudes of Chinese citizens appear to respond (both positively and negatively) to real changes in their material well-being, which suggests that support could be undermined by the twin challenges of declining economic growth and a deteriorating natural environment.

While the CCP is seemingly under no imminent threat of popular upheaval, it cannot take the support of its people for granted. Although state censorship and propaganda are widespread, our survey reveals that citizen perceptions of governmental performance respond most to real, measurable changes in individuals’ material well-being. For government leaders, this is a double-edged sword, as citizens who have grown accustomed to increases in living standards will expect such improvements to continue, and citizens who praise government officials for effective policies may indeed blame them when such policy failures affect them or their family members directly. While our survey reinforces narratives of CCP resilience, our data also point to specific areas in which citizen satisfaction could decline in today’s era of slowing economic growth and continued environmental degradation.

Gustetic, Jenn, Carlos Teixeira, Becca Carroll, Joanne Cheung, Susan O’Malley, and Megan Brewster. 2020. “Policy Prototyping for the Future of Work”. Read the full report Abstract

Jenn Gustetic, Carlos Teixeira, Becca Carroll, Joanne Cheung, Susan O'Malley, and Megan Brewster; June 2020

The future of work will require massive re-skilling of the American workforce for which current policy “toolboxes” for economics, labor, technology, workforce development and education are often siloed and antiquated. To meet the needs of tomorrow’s workers, today’s policy makers must grapple with these interdisciplinary policy issues.

This report describes a novel design-driven approach we developed to create policy “prototype” solutions that are inherently interdisciplinary, human-centered, and inclusive for the future of work. Using our design-driven approach, we collaborated with more than 40 interdisciplinary and cross-sector thinkers and doers to generate 8 distinct policy prototypes to support the future of work.

Fiscal Strategies to Help Cities Recover—And Prosper
Goldsmith, Stephen, and Charles “Skip” Stitt. 2020. “Fiscal Strategies to Help Cities Recover—And Prosper.” Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Read the full report Abstract

Stephen Goldsmith, May 2020 

Despite robust economies, many local officials entered 2020 already worried about budget balances that looked fragile in the short term and problematic in the long term due to enormous pension and health-care issues. Today, in the wake of COVID-19, clearly federal support is necessary, but it is also apparent that it cannot alleviate all the pressures on communities as responsibilities related to the pandemic skyrocket while revenues plummet.

While many public managers will rightly deploy a host of tactical cost-cutting measures, the most creative among them will explore deeper and more strategic changes, such as those presented herein, which will help address the current crisis while preparing their cities for the future. This paper suggests a transition to a culture deeply focused on data, incentives for city workers to produce internal reforms, public-private partnerships that monetize operational excellence, and rapid adoption of both new technologies and good ideas borrowed from other jurisdictions. These more deliberate and strategic approaches may be harder to implement but those offered here need not harm incumbent public employees nor negatively impact cities’ efforts to ensure access and equity. Rather, the strategies we outline should strengthen the efficiency and mandates of existing government offices while helping make cities more resilient and better prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.

Union Impact on Voter Participation—And How to Expand It

Tova Wang, May 2020

Some politicians have enacted measures in recent years to make voting harder and to reduce participation among certain groups. Others have sought to counteract that voter suppression by implementing laws to make voting easier, such as same-day or automatic registration. There is another antidote to the effort to reduce participation: lifting up worker organizations. This is especially important to understand given the ways in which powerful individuals and groups have sought to weaken unions because of their political strength representing American workers.

In this report, the author first explains efforts to weaken unions and the voice of working people; then what the decline of unions and union membership has meant for participation; next, Wang looks at the data showing the positive effects unions have on voter participation; and finally, she suggests how going forward we can reform the laws and how labor is structured such that it not only continues to facilitate voter participation, but even enhances it.

2019 State of Digital Transformation
Eaves, David, and Georges Clement. 2020. “2019 State of Digital Transformation”. Read the full report Abstract

David Eaves, Georges Clement; May, 2020

In June of 2019, the Harvard Kennedy School hosted digital service teams from around the world for our annual State of Digital Transformation convening. Over two days, practitioners and academics shared stories of success, discussed challenges, and debated strategy around the opportunities and risks digital technologies present to governments.

Teams that joined us for the summit used different approaches and methodologies in vastly different contexts. Some governments—such as those of Estonia and Bangladesh—were building on decade or more of experience refining already-advanced practices; others—such as the state of Colorado’s—were still getting ready to formally launch. Some had deep connections across their entire executive branch; others were tightly focused within a single agency.

Despite these differences, many key themes emerged throughout the convening. This paper contains reflections from the Summit. 

Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt; May 2020 

This study dissects the US Department of the Treasury’s formula for distributing first-round CARES Act funds to Indian Country. The Department has indicated that its formula is intended to allocate relief funds based on tribes’ populations, but the research team behind this report finds that Treasury has employed a population data series that produces arbitrary and capricious “over-” and “under-representations” of tribes’ enrolled citizens.

Leonard, Herman B. "Dutch", Arnold M. Howitt, and David Giles. 2020. “Crisis Communications for COVID-19”. Read the full report Abstract

Herman "Dutch" Leonard, Arnold Howitt, and David Giles; April 2020

Communication with employees, customers, investors, constituents, and other stakeholders can contribute decisively to the successful navigation of a crisis.  But how should leaders think about what they are trying to say – and how to say it?

This policy brief lays out simple frameworks that can be used to formulate the messages that leaders can and should – indeed, must – convey to help their communities and organizations make their way forward as effectively as they reasonably can.

Pages