Publications

2020
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.

 Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?

Alexander Keyssar, July 2020

With every presidential election, Americans puzzle over the peculiar mechanism of the Electoral College. The author of the Pulitzer finalist The Right to Vote explains the enduring problem of this controversial institution.

Every four years, millions of Americans wonder why they choose their presidents through the Electoral College, an arcane institution that permits the loser of the popular vote to become president and narrows campaigns to swing states. Most Americans have long preferred a national popular vote, and Congress has attempted on many occasions to alter or scuttle the Electoral College. Several of these efforts—one as recently as 1970—came very close to winning approval. Yet this controversial system remains.

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

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

In the face of the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis that demands many urgent decisions but provides few clear-cut cues and requires tradeoffs among many critically important values, how can leaders and their advisers make effective decisions about literally life-and-death matters?  This policy brief contrasts the current “crisis” environment with the more familiar realm of “routine emergencies.” It argues that for crises, leaders need to adopt a more agile, highly adaptive, yet deliberate decision-making method that can move expeditiously to action, while retaining the capacity to iteratively re-examine tactics in light of decision impacts. This method can help the team take account of the multiple dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis and cope as well as possible with swiftly changing conditions.

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.

China's Most Generous: Examining Trends in Contemporary Chinese Philanthropy

Edward Cunningham and Yunxin Li, March 2020 

This annual report highlights leading results from the most recent data analysis of the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center’s China Philanthropy Project, capturing over one-quarter of estimated national giving in China. We focus on elite giving by building an annual database of the top 100 individual donors, top 100 donors from corporations and other organizations, and also top university recipients of philanthropic giving.

In 2018, such Chinese giving:

  • was dominated by large organizations (most commonly corporations) rather than individuals,  
  • supported in large part central government policy priorities in the area of poverty alleviation,
  • revealed an intriguing new philanthropy-driven educational model in the country, and
  • remained fairly local in scope.

Read the report in Chinese 

Malcolm McPherson, March 2020 

This paper examines how China can improve transboundary resource management within the Greater Mekong Basin (GMB) through its participation in the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC). Such improvement would ensure the efficient management and equitable development of the basin’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Finding Allies and Making Revolution

Tony Saich, Brill, February 2020 

What does a Dutchman have to do with the rise of the Chinese Communist Party? Finding Allies and Making Revolution by Tony Saich reveals how Henk Sneevliet (alias Maring), arriving as Lenin’s choice for China work, provided the communists with two of their most enduring legacies: the idea of a Leninist party and the tactic of the united front. Sneevliet strived to instill discipline and structure for the left-leaning intellectuals searching for a solution to China’s humiliation. He was not an easy man and clashed with the Chinese comrades and his masters in Moscow. This new analysis is based on Sneevliet’s diaries and reports, together with contemporary materials from key Chinese figures, and important documents held in the Comintern’s China archive.

Watch a video introduction to the book 

Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape

Stephen Goldsmith and Betsy Gardner, January 2020

In this paper we will look at the values and goals cities affect with policies concerning connected mobility, and how to create a new framework that aligns with these objectives. First, we identify the transformative changes affecting cities and mobility. Second, we discuss in more detail the guiding values and goals that cities have around mobility with examples of these values in practice. Our next paper, Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces, discusses the different regulatory approaches that cities can leverage to achieve these goals.

We recommend that cities identify various public values, such as Equity or Sustainability, and use these to shape their transit policy. Rather than segmenting the rapidly changing mobility space, cities should take advantage of the interconnectivity of issues like curb space management, air quality, and e-commerce delivery to guide public policy. Cities must establish a new system to meet the challenges and opportunities of this new landscape, one that is centered around common values, prioritizes resident needs, and is informed by community engagement.

In conclusion, cities must use specific public values lenses when planning and evaluating all the different facets of mobility. Transportation has entered a new phase, and we believe that cities should move forward with values- and community-driven policies that frame changing mobility as an opportunity to amend and improve previous transportation policies.

This paper is the first in the Mobility in the Connected City series.

Read the second paper "Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces" 

Effectively Managing Connected Mobility Marketplaces

Stephen Goldsmith and Matt Leger, February 2020

As new innovations in mobility have entered the marketplace, local government leaders have struggled to adapt their regulatory framework to adequately address new challenges or the needs of the consumers of these new services. The good news is that the technology driving this rapid change also provides the means for regulating it: real-time data. It is the responsibility of cities to establish rules and incentives that ensure proper behavior on the part of mobility providers while steering service delivery towards creating better public outcomes. Cities must use the levers at their disposal to ensure an equitable mobility marketplace and utilize real-time data sharing to enforce compliance. These include investing in and leveraging physical and digital infrastructure, regulating and licensing business conducted in public space, establishing and enforcing rules around public safety, rethinking zoning and land use planning to be transit-oriented, and regulating the digital realm to protect data integrity.

This paper is the second in the Mobility in the Connected City series. 

Read the first paper  "Prioritizing Public Value in the Changing Mobility Landscape"

Creighton, Jessica, Jean Arkedis, Archon Fung, Stephen Kosack, Dan Levy, and Courtney Tolmie. 2020. Insights from Transparency and Accountability Action Plans in Indonesia and Tanzania. Read Full Publication Abstract

Jessica Creighton, Jean Arkedis, Archon Fung, Stephen Kosack, Dan Levy & Courtney Tolmie; January 2020

This paper provides insight into community designed and led actions in Indonesia and Tanzania that were prompted by Transparency for Development (T4D), a six-year research project that explores whether, how, and in what conditions “transparency and accountability” or “social accountability” programs improve maternal and newborn health care.

Kentucky Video Courts: Kentucky – 1988 Innovations Winner

When a shortage of court reporters threatens to delay trials and back up the appeals process, Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts considers new technology as a solution to its problem. Video ”transcripts” of court proceedings hold the potential to sidestep the labor problem plaguing the courts. The use of video cameras to record court proceedings raises questions, however. Would a video record truly provide as useful a product as a written transcript? Would judges – and the courts themselves – accept video as a legal record? Director Don Cetrulo of the Administrative Office of the Courts, intrigued by the promise of video, must ponder both its implications – and the fact that no proven automatic camera technology existed in the mid-1980s that could adapt to the multiplicity of speakers and locations. Before he can reach the point of considering the legal impact of video court reporting, Cetrulo must decide whether to go so far as to award state funds to a local manufacturer who believes he can devise such a system.

Seattle Recycling Program: Seattle, WA – 1990 Innovations Winner


The closing of two landfill sites creates a municipal crisis in Seattle, forced to find new disposal options for the 2,000 tons of garbage it produces each day. Political concerns over what appears to be the most practical disposal option – construction of a major municipal incinerator – prompts the city’s Solid Waste Utility to undertake an innovative study to examine the extent to which recycling could minimize the city’s trash disposal needs. This case broadly examines the “Recycling Potential and Disposal Options“ study with an eye toward understanding the relationship between the political process and the techniques of public policy analysis. The case is designed to frame questions as to the proper relationship between policy analyst and elected official, and the ways in which analysis is constrained, properly or improperly, by political considerations.

Groundwater Management Code: Arizona – 1986 Innovations Winner

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, increasing demands for water threatened to lead to a crisis in Arizona. The growth of the desert state’s cities posed a conflict with its agricultural and mining interests. Its main source of water – groundwater extracted from beneath the arid surface – was threatened with depletion. This case frames the challenge faced by Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt to resolve the conflict in a way satisfactory to all three of the major interests: cities, farmers and mineowners. The case details the history of the Arizona groundwater dispute and the situation faced by Babbitt as he prepares to try to mediate it. The case invites discussion of mediation/negotiation techniques which can be employed by an elected official. In addition, it can be used as a policy exercise calling for proposals to develop an Arizona water policy that both serves and satisfies all players.

Project Match: Illinois – 1988 Innovations Winner

Located in one of the most troubled housing projects in Chicago, the job training program known as Project Match has an unusual approach to the task of bringing welfare recipients into the world of work. Rather than trying to broker a simple job placement, the program tries to encourage long-term change in the habits and living style of its hard-to-place population, in part by creating a social atmosphere in which work and ambition are valued. But because it receives funds from the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Project Match finds itself under pressure to produce job-placement results which demonstrate its success. The program itself urges authorities to find ways to quantify success besides simply finding someone a job – and places a premium on keeping track of those it’s trying to help, long after a first job placement. The case highlights the challenges of social service program evaluation, as well as the problems an innovative agency has explaining itself to traditional bureaucracies with which it must deal.

Environmental Cleanup Program: Wichita, KS – 1992 Innovations Winner

Long-undetected groundwater contamination, discovered in 1990, by the Kansas Department of Health and Environmental Protection, has a potentially catastrophic economic impact on downtown Wichita, Kansas. The four-mile long, one-and-a-half-mile wide site centered at the corners of Gilbert and Mosley Streets lies in the heart of Wichita’s central business district. Although it did not provoke health concerns, the newly discovered contamination prompted lenders to cease making any financial commitments in the district. This case focuses on the strategic approach to this crisis taken by Wichita's city manager. Initially faced with two bad alternatives – forcing hundreds of businesses to share in the clean-up cost, or face designation of the area as a federal Superfund site, portending perhaps a decade of legal wrangling – Wichita creates a more palatable way out of the crisis. The case can be useful both for discussions of constituency-building and political strategy, and for discussions of U.S. federalism.

Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network: Philadelphia, PA – 1991 Innovations Winner

When Wilson Goode becomes the first African-American mayor of Philadelphia, he must find ways to fulfill a particularly visible campaign pledge: elimination of the graffiti which mar public buildings throughout poorer sections of the city and particularly in the North Philadelphia black wards crucial to Goode’s victory. This tells the story of a series of quite different compliance strategies pursued by a new city agency specifically created to curtail graffiti and housed within the mayor’s office. The anti-graffiti effort first conceives the problem in social terms and initiates a series of efforts to deal with the ”roots” of the graffiti problem, specifically the alienation and joblessness which may affect graffiti writers. Public pressure builds, however, for the city to adopt a more aggressive enforcement posture, viewing graffiti as a criminal act which must be swiftly punished. The case allows for discussion of the nature of public compliance and how it is achieved.

Info/California: California – 1993 Innovations Winner

The growth of the kind of new interactive technologies promise to make it more convenient and less expensive for government, like private providers of consumer goods and services, to serve its customers – whether they seek a driver’s license or unemployment compensation. Incorporating such technologies implies change, however, and, as this case makes clear, requires decisions about when and how automated transactions should be the norm. The story of the Info/California decision focuses on competing visions of a new, interactive system which promises to allow Californians to obtain records, licenses and program information of all sorts. For its champion within state government, it makes most sense for a scarce number of interactive terminals to be placed in public areas – supermarkets, malls and the like. He must, however, face a demand by a state agency that a terminal be used to make up for laid-off employees in a place where the public has been accustomed to going for records and licenses. Developed for the Kennedy School’s Program on Strategic Computing, this case allows for discussion of the relationship between mission and technology.

Monroe Maternity Center, Inc.: Monroe County, TN – 1991 Innovations Winner

The combination of East Tennessee poverty and a lack of obstetrical facilities in Monroe County lead a U.S. public health officer, Dr. Barbara Levin, to seek different ways to provide prenatal and delivery services to women of the county. This case tells the story of the slow but successful effort to use nurses and midwives to staff a free-standing ”maternity center” which ultimately led to the maternity center delivering fully a quarter of all the county’s babies. It examines the strategies which Levin employed to build local support, overcome opposition in the medical profession and build a customer base. In addition, it frames a strategic question of whether and how Levin should attempt to transplant her idea to a far different region of the state.

Community Voice Mail: Seattle, WA – 1993 Innovations Winner

The staff of a Seattle non-profit employment and training agency come to a sudden realization in late 1990: the homeless with whom they deal are handicapped not only by a lack of a permanent residence but their lack of a phone. They lack the means to receive calls, schedule interviews and, ultimately, obtain employment. The insight leads the Seattle Worker Center to seek state and, over time, private funds which permit it to set up a successful “community voice mail“ system, through which the “phoneless“ can store and send messages. The case is designed for students of social policy and allows for examination of those factors which led outside funders and, ultimately, the community at large, to embrace the voice mail idea. Additional description of an attempt to replicate the program in Minnesota portrays a less immediately hospitable situation which a non-profit leader must negotiate.

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