From the Initiative



The art of governing through questions - March 25, 2019

By Jorrit de Jong, Stephen Goldsmith, and Fernando Monge

Over the years, public leaders have shared with us their urge to develop their inquiry skills. While they seldom get rewarded for acknowledging uncertainty, they know that the tacit knowledge that lies within and outside organizations is invaluable and that questions are the ultimate tool to unlock the potential for innovation. Leaders can also use questions to hold their teams and others to account, to find shared purpose, to mobilize or to motivate. But while they acknowledge the importance of questions, they also know that not all queries are equally effective. There is an art to asking questions, and the leaders dealing with very hard problems in government are eager to master it.


2018 Summer Fellows Blog - Jan. 28, 2019

In Summer 2018, the Initiative sent Harvard graduate students to work in cities around the United States. Made possible by a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the 17 fellows spent 10 weeks working on issues of importance to the mayors of their respective cities — everything from heat mitigation, to kindergarten readiness, to performance management, to equitable growth. The fellows came from the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. They were each matched, based on interest and skill set, with a city where they could work with the mayor and other senior government leaders to make the most impact for citizens. The students chronicled their fellowship experiences, describing the work in their own words and illustrating the meaning they found in their summer.


Bringing case discussion to cities - Jan. 14, 2019

Cases are stories that are designed to raise questions and generate discussion. Bloomberg Harvard cases are accompanied by instructional materials that enable a wide range of people working in—and with—cities to quickly spur insightful discussions and engage in illuminating conversations with their colleagues.

The Initiative’s newest case, “Change at the Speed of Trust,” explores cross-sector collaboration and governance in a city-wide context from the point of view of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. It supports learning about the design and management of cross-sector collaborations, including common challenges and success factors. The case is freely available to download and use, and is accompanied by a “conversation note” so anyone can use the material to guide a productive discussion around ideas and themes raised in the case.


Tackling city challenges through partnerships

Harvard Business School professor Jan Rivkin’s sessions, at the New York mayors convening in July 2018, looked at how city governments can tackle local challenges by working effectively with representatives from non-profit organizations, school systems, the private sector, and the community. He laid out how a cross-sector collaboration can be effective through a case that provided real-world examples of ineffectiveness.

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Collaborating to problem-solve in cities

In July 2018, mayors explored through case study a type of challenge that HBS professor Amy Edmondson calls a “wicked problem,” or something complex and seemingly insurmountable – the type of challenge that mayors face all the time. It may truly be impossible to solve these problems alone, but working with the right group of people, and “teaming” effectively, makes it possible.


Harnessing the power of narrative in city leadership

In July 2018, 40 mayors began their year of Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative programming with a three-day convening in New York City. The first day of the convening was devoted to Ganz’s public narrative, which gave mayors a chance to reflect on how they frame city challenges, issues, and goals when addressing others. The public narrative framework includes three pieces, Ganz explained to the mayors: what he calls the ‘story of self,’ the ‘story of us,’ and the ‘story of now.

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How mayors lead: Emerging insights from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative

By Jorrit de Jong and David Margalit

"You can only really achieve your goals if you unlock the contribution of both the community and city organization" -- this and other insights from the first class of 40 mayors, who were asked about their biggest takeaways from the program thus far.


Second class of mayors go back to school - July 25, 2018

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative today announced the second class of forty mayors from around the world who will participate in the yearlong education and professional development program designed exclusively for mayors. The forty mayors joined Harvard faculty and renowned management experts in New York City this week for a 3-day, immersive classroom experience and convening to kick-off the program.