Campus & Community

Ash Institute awards grants to Harvard Kennedy School faculty, students

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The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) recently announced its faculty and student summer grant recipients for the 2008 academic year. The institute will fund four summer 2008 independent student research grants, two student Ash Summer Fellowships in Innovation, and five faculty research grants. Such grants are part of the institute’s efforts to enhance its studies of democracy and innovation by harnessing the talent and experience of the HKS community.

“We are incredibly pleased to encourage scholarship and real-world study of democracy and innovation,” said Marty Mauzy, executive director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “Our students and faculty are the keystone of the institute, and in supporting them, we hope to build a body of knowledge on innovation and democracy that can improve public sector practices worldwide.”

Independent summer student research grants

This summer, the institute is supporting five students in four independent student research projects. The recipients and their research (which they will present at the end of the summer) are as follows:

Ruth Kamukama, “Integrating Marginalized Groups into Policy and Development Processes in East and Central Africa”

Leah Cohen (HLS), “The Constitutional Mandate for Municipal Delivery of Water in South Africa: What Does It Really Mean for Cities and Their Informal Settlements?”

Cecilia Barja Chamas (Mason Fellow) and Karina Weinstein, “Women Street Vendors in La Paz”

Nicole Kekeh (Mason Fellow), “The Involvement of the Military and Its Effect on the Outcomes of Political Transitions in Three African Countries”

Ash Summer Fellowship in Innovation

The Ash Summer Fellowship in Innovation prepares HKS students for future public sector careers. Students are encouraged to adapt the skills developed in the classroom to meaningful real-world innovative public sector projects while gaining unique perspectives on government practice. Summer fellows are hosted by past government agency winners of the Innovations in American Government Awards Program, which recognizes and disseminates the country’s most exemplary innovations in federal, state, and local government.

The 2008 Ash Summer Fellows in Innovation

Cheryl Scott M.P.P. ’09 will work on a project related to the Chicago Police Department’s innovative CLEARpath program. Scott will attend neighborhood beat meetings to gather feedback for future CLEARpath development and help promote the system. The department is hosting the fellowship.

Sara Qutub M.P.P. ’09 will help the city of Seattle prepare its infrastructure, systems, and operations for the impacts of climate change. Qutub will present her findings and associated policy briefing to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Faculty research grants

In the 2008 academic year, the Ash Institute will fund five faculty research grants. Members of the Faculty Advisory Committee selected this year’s faculty grant recipients and ensured alignment with the institute’s overall research priorities. The institute has awarded the following faculty research grants:

Arthur Applbaum, professor of ethics and public policy, “Political Legitimacy and Counter-Majoritarian Institutions in Divided Societies.” This research explores the general claim that certain counter-majoritarian institutions and practices in a democracy not only are compatible with political legitimacy, but may even be necessary preconditions for political legitimacy. The research analyzes the concept of political legitimacy, arguing that the necessary conditions for political actors to act with legitimacy are in part substantive, and not merely ones of pedigree or procedure. The aim is to test the reach of claims to political legitimacy when these claims are under challenge from either inside or out. The substantive demands of political freedom and human rights limit the claims to normativity of both legal and democratic processes at home and abroad.

Pepper Culpepper, associate professor of public policy, “The Quality of National Democracy in the European Union.” The goal of this research is to investigate the effect on national democracies of the separation between national party competition, which takes place at the level of member-states, and the authority to make definitive policy decisions, which sits increasingly at the level of the European Union. The project examines how three different institutional devices ameliorate or exacerbate this problem: the use of referenda; the use of experiments in deliberative politics (this is a project already in progress in collaboration with Archon Fung); and the change of mainstream national party programs to allow direct competition on European issues.

David Lazer, associate professor of public policy, “Connecting to Congress.” The traditional view within political science of the average citizen’s knowledge of politics is grim: The average citizen knows very little about the issues of the day. However, this traditional view takes little account of citizens’ capacity to become informed when the situation demands it. A key part of the role of citizens is to engage in an active dialogue with their representatives, a dialogue that may inspire the citizen to learn about policies and inform representatives about potentially latent preferences of citizens. This research will examine the impact of “electronic town halls” on a U.S. senator and a large group of constituents in order to explore whether the Internet as a communications medium is a potential way for Congress to reach many people cost-effectively.

Todd Pittinsky, associate professor of public policy, “Innovations in the Science and Practice of Social Cohesion.” This research examines ways that individuals as leaders — and institutions through acts of leadership — can bring together communities of people from different social, cultural, religious, ethnic, political, and language groups to coexist, interact, and support each other with material help and by sharing group beliefs, customs, and expectations. Such cohesion is inextricably linked to democratization and governance, and in its absence there is often conflict, war, and instability. Democratic governments have both a need and a responsibility to ensure social cohesion, particularly in nations with many distinct identity groups. Democratic constitutions, governments, institutions, and processes must be designed and prepared to tackle the challenges of today’s multireligious, multicultural, and multiethnic communities.

Mathias Risse, associate professor of public policy and philosophy, “Human Rights across Cultures.” Sixty years after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights and the human rights culture have been and continue to be studied from numerous angles across disciplines. But even among those who do not share the more skeptical views on the human rights regime, important normative questions about the foundations (e.g., the reasons why one would be entitled or obligated to intervene on behalf of distant strangers) and function in the developing global order remain perplexing. This seminar series will examine the impact of the human rights regime, commencing with a talk on human rights in China in October 2008 followed by a seminar on human rights in Africa and in Islam.

The Ash Institute advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, publications, leadership training, global network, and awards program — developed in collaboration with a diverse, engaged community of scholars and practitioners — the Ash Institute fosters creative and effective government problem-solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens.