Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Frontiers of Innovation conference was held at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), March 31–April 2, 2008, and hosted participants from more than 50 countries. The conference highlighted how governments can be more effective at solving problems and improving the lives of their citizens through innovation.

The conference—designed by HKS faculty for senior managers, elected officials, and nonprofit leaders—included crosscutting themes such as anti-corruption reforms, successes in engaging citizens in democracy, and twenty-first century models of governance. In addition, participants learned how successful innovations in global health, disaster management, and social justice are used to solve pressing public policy issues.

Conference Proceedings

◊ Keynote Speakers

  • Gowher Rizvi, Director of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, HKS. Welcome and Overview of Conference. Presentation.
  • The Honorable Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico. Democracy, Good Government and Development: Mexico, an Experience in Latin America. Video of speech.
  • The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa. Innovation in Government. Video of speech; Charter Agencies Program; Transform Iowa Web site.
  • Fazle Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC (formerly, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee). The Coproduction of Governance: Civil Society, the Government, and the Private Sector. Video of speech; Presentation and biography.
  • Professor Amartya Sen, Harvard University. Introduction for Fazle Abed. Audio of speech.
  • His Excellence Nabil Alyousuf, Executive President of the Dubai School of Government. The Dubai Experience of Government Innovation. Video of speech; Presentation and biography.
  • Professor Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, HKS. Introduction for Alyousuf.
  • Sandford Borins, editor of Innovations in Government: Research, Recognition, and Replication. Virtual book tour.
  • Professor David T. Ellwood, Dean of HKS. Innovation in the 21st Century. Video of speech.

◊ Panel 1—Innovations in Governance: Ethics and Accountability in the Public Sector

While many nations around the world now recognize that corruption is a major impediment both to economic growth and to the formation of a fair and orderly society, there remains no consensus about either its causes or its remedies. In order to generate effective and enduring anti-corruption measures, it is essential to identify the design principles underpinning productive innovations in public sector accountability. On this panel, we will explore three successful initiatives at local, regional, and national levels of government to uncover strategies for increasing transparency and enhancing competence of leaders in the public sector.

Context Setter: Professor Kenneth Winston, HKS

  • The Next Step for Stat Programs: Using Real-time Data for Municipal Management, Ms. Stephanie Hirsch, Director SomerStat, Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
  • The Role of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Ms. Aruna Roy, Cofounder MKSS, India
  • Drastic Measures to Eliminate Corruption, The Honorable Frederick Sumaye, Former Prime Minister of Tanzania, Tanzania

Panel 1 Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies; Small Group Results.

Panel 2—Innovations in Participation: Citizen Engagement in Deliberative Democracy

Democratic governance depends on citizen participation to mitigate corruption, harness public energy, and remain responsive to community needs. Citizen activism can be a productive check on the expansion of special interests as the public determines where its government's priorities should lie. Both in developing and developed countries, innovators continue to explore a range of strategies engaging communities to deliver social services, defuse conflict, improve public sector accountability, and raise public opinion about quality of governance. This panel will examine several such innovations to consider new ways to engage citizens in building fair and effective government.

Context Setter: Professor Archon Fung, HKS

  • Incorporating the Informal Sector into Urban Planning, Mr. Richard Dobson, Founder of Asiye Etafuleni, South Africa
  • Revitalizing Urban Cities Through Resident Empowerment, Mr. Robert Miller, Director of the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program, USA
  • Together We Can Tackle the Power Gap, Dr. Henry Tam, Deputy Director of Community Empowerment Delivery, UK

Panel 2 Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies; Small Group Results.

◊ Panel 3—Innovations in Global Health: New Approaches to Neglected Diseases

Global health care has undergone momentous changes in the last decade as a host of new organizations, many of them public-private partnerships, has emerged outside of traditional multilateral institutions (such as the World Health Organization). One focus of these organizations is the so-called "neglected diseases"—a group of infections including yellow fever, tuberculosis, and cholera—that are widespread in the developing world but generally receive little research investment. Using case studies of new approaches to these illnesses, this panel will evaluate recent system-wide reforms in health care research to determine the successes of these innovations.

Context Setter: Professor William C. Clark, HKS

  • TB Alliance: A Public-Private Partnership to Develop Accessible and Faster-Acting TB Medicines, Dr. Maria Freire, President of The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, USA
  • Building Partnerships to Ensure Needs-Driven Research and Development, Bennett M. Shapiro, M.D., Chair of the DNDi North America Board of Directors, USA
  • Prize4Life: A Nonprofit Search for a Cure for ALS, Nicole Szlezák, M.D., Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University, USAP

Panel 3 Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies.

◊ Panel 4Innovations in Emergency Management: Making Governments Flexible and Responsive

In the wake of national and international disasters like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2004 tsunami, emergency management strategies that minimize loss of life and restore service delivery quickly are at a premium. Governments must have flexible policies in place to meet the particular human, social, and financial challenges of unexpected and catastrophic events. The participants in this panel will analyze their emergency management experiences to develop procedures for creating disaster policy and for collaborating with citizens once a disaster has occurred.

Context Setter: Professor Arnold M. Howitt, HKS

  • A Campaign for Safer Schools, Mr. Mihir Bhatt, Honorary Director of All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, India
  • Incident Management Systems: An Organizational Template for Operational Coordination, Mr. James Schwartz, Fire Chief of Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Reporting and Responding to Emergencies in Nanning City, Professor Lan Xue, Executive Associate Dean of School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China

Panel 4 Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies; Small Group Results.

◊ Panel 5—The Future of Innovation: 21st Century Models of Governance

Governments around the globe are seeking strategies to make their outmoded and unwieldy bureaucracies smaller and more cost effective and responsive to the needs of citizens. Public servants are looking to the private sector and to civil society to find ways to govern by network or by market, which is a promising development; but these innovations must also be monitored to ensure effectiveness of implementation. This panel will explore ways to generate governance structures that are flexible enough to meet the twenty-first century's challenges without replicating the twentieth century's soaring costs and ineffective policy implementation.

Context Setter: Professor Elaine C. Kamarck, HKS

  • Shifting the Paradigm of Public Policy Delivery: The Role of America Works, Professor Lee Bowes, CEO, America Works, USA
  • The Role of BouniEsempi.it, Mr. Carlo Flamment, President of Formez International, Italy
  • Identity Management: Unlocking the Door to Multijurisdictional Collaboration Transforming Service, Professor Maryantonett Flumian, Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, Canada

Panel 5 Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies; Small Group Results; "The Challenge of Good Governance in India: Need for Innovative Approaches," by Balmiki Prasad Singh; "Innovation in Governance in the Mediterranean Region," by Zouhaïer M'dhaffar.

◊ Roundtable—Government Innovation and Social Justice

There are few places in the world where everybody starts from a level playing field. On the contrary, concerns with social, economic, racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities, amongst others, are a constant theme and a constant challenge. For most of the second half of the twentieth century, it was felt that greater economic development and better government services would in time lead to a reduction in inequalities. Unfortunately, as report after report has pointed out, that has not proved to be the case. Increasingly, governments are being asked to "put people first." The focus is on services in terms of their contribution to the construction of citizenship, and the guarantees of individual and collective rights. Social justice has become a transversal theme, a question to be asked of all areas of public policy provision. In this panel, members of the Liaison Group for Innovations in Governance and Public Action will take a critical look at the progress being made.

Introduction: Professor Gowher Rizvi, Director of the Ash Institute, HKS

  • Ms. Rhoda Kadalie, Executive Director of the Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust, South Africa
  • Ms. Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga, Founder of the Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Program (MILGAP), East Africa
  • Professor Gonzalo Portocarrero Maisch, Director of the Participation and Local Management Program, Peru
  • Ms. Amy Besaw Medford, Director of the Honoring Nations Program at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, HKS
  • Professor Peter Spink, Director of the Public Management and Citizenship Program at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Professor Yang Xuedong, Assistant Director of China Local Governance Innovations Program, China

Summation: Professor Peter Spink

Roundtable Resources: Video coverage; Presentations and biographies.

Related Documents