Harvard Votes Challenge awarded grant to increase participation across campus

Ash Center and Institute of Politics to expand University-wide effort to reach 100 percent voter participation in 2020 election. Sarah Grucza/Ash Center

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Harvard University President’s Administrative Innovation Fund awards grant to support the expansion of the Harvard Votes Challenge, a nonpartisan, University-wide effort to encourage voter participation led by the Institute of Politics and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.

This prestigious honor underscores President Larry Bacow’s and Harvard University’s commitment to serving as a national leader of civic engagement in higher education. The Harvard Votes Challenge will use the additional funding to institutionalize voter readiness and increase civic participation among students, faculty, and staff. In addition, funds will be dedicated to efforts to build capacity in student affairs and related administrative offices across the 12-degree granting schools of Harvard University ahead of the 2020 election.

The President’s Administrative Innovation Fund (PAIF) was created to foster a culture of innovation and catalyze administrative innovation and collaboration across Harvard by investing in staff-generated, creative solutions that reduce administrative burden, enhance our ability to serve faculty and students, and invigorate our employees.

“On behalf of PAIF, we are glad to support the Harvard Votes Challenge, especially with our theme this year of Creating Community and Connections,’ said Keith Collar, of the PAIF team. “Harvard Votes Challenge joins the eight other projects that were funded this year, and the 25 that were supported in previous years, as compelling examples of how administrative innovation advances the mission of the University.”

The Harvard Votes Challenge, created in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections by student leaders, quickly engendered excitement and energy from across the University. In 2018, over 90 percent of all eligible Harvard Kennedy School students committed to registering to vote and the challenge included representation from each degree-granting School at Harvard University. This fall, the Harvard Votes Challenge, in collaboration with the Dean of Students Office at Harvard College, will introduce a new innovation into Opening Days to connect the first-year orientation experience with registering to vote.

“Voting is a foundational civic rite of passage that has the potential to become a defining element of the Harvard experience. We believe it’s an institutional responsibility to ensure that all our students learn how to vote and feel supported and empowered to cast their ballot.” noted Rob Watson, director of student programs at the Institute of Politics. “We aim to empower the Harvard community to make their voice heard in our democracy. We are grateful for the leadership and support from President Bacow, who shares a vision of putting power back to people and it starts with making sure everyone votes,” added Teresa Acuña, associate Director for Democratic Governance at the Ash Center.