Study Groups and Workshops

The Ash Center regularly supports a number of non-for-credit study groups and workshops for interested HKS, Harvard, and other Boston-area students to work and learn from practitioners and scholars affiliated with the Center. Most study groups and workshops are convened by fellows with varied backgrounds as political practitioners, policy advocates, technologists, and academics who are interested in sharing their real-world experiences. Unless otherwise noted, study groups require no prior registration or application. 

Spring 2020 Study Groups and Workshops

Study Group with Miles Rapoport and Tova Wang -- A Democracy Agenda: Conversations with Leaders in the Field

Join Miles Rapoport, Senior Practice Fellow in American Democracy, and Tova Wang, Ash Center Democracy Fellow, for a five-part study group which will examine various aspects of the burgeoning democracy reform movement sweeping through states across the country. Throughout the semester, leading advocates, organizers and scholars on voting rights, social movements, and structural election reform will share their unique experiences and perspectives. The group will discuss democracy reform campaigns, lessons learned, and the building of a movement to make democracy more inclusive, participatory, and responsive. Email or for more information.


Study Group with Victoria Alsina -- Cities for Democracy: Tools to Improve Representation in Your City

Join Victoria Alsina, Ash Center Democracy Fellow and Academic Director NYU Center for Urban Science & Progress for a three part spring semester study group starting in late February examining political representation in cities. Representative democratic governance processes face several critical legitimation and effectiveness problems. Public engagement is sometimes seen as a solution to overcome them. In connection with that, the past three decades have seen a proliferation of large and small-scale experiments in citizen participation, specially at the local level. In mature democracies the unmistakable symptoms of political malaise manifest themselves as declines in party membership, decreased electoral turnout, and a rise of nontraditional parties and other political formations. This picture contrasts with a generalized proliferation of social movements and popular initiatives in the public sphere, mostly driven through the aide of social media and new technologies, and many of which are precisely expressive of such popular dissatisfaction with traditional democratic politics and of some wish for disruption. However, these civil society uprisings and mobilizations are proving unable to find the means of institutional articulation and mechanisms for generating practical impact and transformation. Thus, unless and until our party systems develop solutions to reconnect with popular constituencies and properly articulate their interests within the framework of representation, these legitimacy deficits will continue to deepen. Increasing citizen participation is also sometimes seen as a way to increase the effectiveness of law and policymaking, improving the provisioning of public goods and services. This study group will discuss to which extent such efforts can indeed help to repair the effectiveness or the legitimacy of democratic governance processes. 
Email for more information. 

Study Group with Johnnie Lotesta and Gali Racabi on American Labor Organizing Past, Present, and Future

Join Ash Center Democracy Fellows Johnnie Lotesta and Gali Racabi for a spring semester study group on the struggles and successes of the U.S. labor movement. They will examine unions’ past efforts to represent and give voice to marginalized groups within the workplace and without. The study group will also look at the role of the labor movement in important social transformations – such as the advancement of civil rights – as well as the organized attacks that have contributed to labor’s decline in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The study group will conclude with an eye towards the future, debating the prospects for aspirational labor law reform at the federal level. In these ways, the study group aims to shine light on labor organizing innovations past and present in order to deepen scholarly and practitioner insight into the possibilities for cross-sectional, worker-driven institutional change in the American context.

Technology and Democracy Workshop Series 

The Ash Center's Technology and Democracy Workshop Series are hands-on, cocurricular events designed to help HKS students develop real-world technology skills. Led by a network of technology practitioners, participants spend work together and with the workshop leader to learn how to apply technical skills to impact real-word scenarios. Click here to view past Technology & Democracy Events and Workshops.