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Research and Curriculum

The Initiative's goals around research and curriculum are to create practitioner‐oriented research to help mayors and city leaders address issues that require innovative thinking and approaches, and to create a repository of teaching tools and online learning materials dedicated to improving professional practice.

All of the Initiative's curricular materials and research outputs will be made freely available as they are developed.

The research goals for the Initiative are threefold:

  1. Create new, usable knowledge about municipal governance, effective leadership, and innovative problem-solving in urban settings

  2. Consolidate existing knowledge and make the developing body of knowledge more accessible to current and future leaders in cities around the world

  3. Capture the new knowledge generated through the interaction between practitioners and academics in the Initiative programs

The Initiative intends to stimulate the design and production of curricular materials aimed to translate the most relevant and up‐to‐date knowledge about leadership, management, governance, and innovation in cities into active tools for teaching and learning. Teaching tools include concept frameworks on leadership capabilities, teaching cases centered around urban problem-solving, analytic teaching notes, and graphics to illustrate teaching concepts.

Below, find the Initiative's research outputs and curricular tools that can be put to use by those working in or studying the field of city leadership.

If you're a faculty member interested in working with the Initiative to develop research or curricular materials, please contact us here or email cityleadership@harvard.edu. 



“You Have One Hundred Days”: Accelerating Government Performance in the UAE

By Jorrit de Jong and Fernando Monge

In the fall of 2016, the state government of the United Arab Emirates decided to take a new approach to spur floundering projects toward faster results.

Frustrated with slow progress on key issues like public health and traffic safety, the state launched a new program to accelerate change and enhance performance across government agencies. The innovative program, called Government Accelerators, ran 100-day challenges—intense periods of action where “acceleration” teams of frontline staff worked across agency boundaries to tackle pressing problems. This case illustrates how three teams were chosen to participate in the program, and how, in the 100-day time frame, they worked toward clear and ambitious goals that would impact citizens’ lives.

The case aims to raise discussion about different types of public sector innovation, to explain the approach and methodology of the Government Accelerators, and to analyze the conditions under which a similar tool might work in other cities. An accompanying teaching note includes theory and conceptual frameworks to lead classroom discussion on the case.

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Learning objectives:

Examine, compare, and contrast methods to promote and sustain innovation and continuous improvement in government.

Identify the conditions required to launch and make a Government Accelerators program thrive.

Discuss the pros and cons of using 100-day challenges for public sector innovation.

Identify the drivers of success for teams participating in 100-day challenges and the lessons learned by the Government Accelerators team from these experiences.


Change at the Speed of Trust:
Advancing Educational Opportunity through Cross-Sector Collaboration in Louisville


At the turn of the 21st century, Louisville, Kentucky, found itself in the middle to the back of the pack among peer cities along a number of key measures of prosperity and quality of life. Since then, two consecutive mayors have advanced collaborative efforts across sectors to increase students’ college and career readiness and address the city’s significant achievement gap. This case tells the story of how that effort evolved under the leadership of Mayor Greg Fischer into an effort to effect system change in education from “cradle to career” through wraparound services and scholarship guarantees for graduating high school students.

The case explores cross-sector collaboration and governance in a city-wide context from the mayor’s point of view, centering the question of whether the process is moving too fast or too slow. It also supports learning about the design and management of cross-sector collaborations, including common challenges and success factors. An accompanying teaching note includes theory and conceptual frameworks to lead classroom discussion on the case.

Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

Learning objectives:

Examine conditions and choices that foster and hinder cross-sector collaboration, and enable participants to recognize and differentiate common challenges.

Develop participants’ ability to imagine and understand the potential effects of alternative approaches to the problem.

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Design Decisions for Cross-Sector Collaboration

by Jan rivkin, susie ma, and michael norris

These five short cases aim to help city leaders explore whether working with sectors outside their own government organizations is the right path forward, and how to be effective if/when they choose to engage in cross-sector collaboration. The cases especially highlight key design decisions that every cross-sector collaboration must make, to help students reflect on design decisions of their own collaborative efforts.

Learning objectives:

Examine the variety of forms that collaboration can take and the circumstances under which forms can create public value.

Enable participants to reflect on these forms of collaboration and challenges – and the extent to which they are fit-to-purpose.

Explore the full range of assets used to produce public value in a collaboration, including tangible and financial assets, regulatory authority, and moral suasion.


A Task Force with Teeth?
Blight, Data, and Driving City Performance in Lawrence, Mass.

by Jorrit de Jong, Lisa Cox, and Alex Green

After taking office, Mayor Daniel Rivera creates a new task force to combat blight in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Although blight was not on Rivera’s campaign agenda, he soon realizes that the issue is worth his attention. The issue of blight and distressed properties is complex and far-reaching, having to do with his city’s public health and safety, inequality, and real estate prices. Although Rivera feels he has little flexibility to change staffing levels on a short-term basis, he endeavors to motivate the team members he has. But creating a task force from entrenched groups poses challenges. Effecting change is slow, and Rivera often feels the task force is not making a dent in the problem. The case describes a data tracker for collecting information on distressed properties from disparate sources, and the tracker includes over 40 input fields. The case allows participants to understand how such a tool is developed, but pushes them even further to understand how to use data to address pressing problems once it’s collected.

Learning objective:

Examine how teams work with data to produce public value.


2018 Mayors Curriculum

The 2018-2019 program began with three days of in-person classes at the Bloomberg campus in New York City. The convening was broken down into three overarching themes:

  1. Leading with Purpose: Engaging Others in Collective Action

  2. Leading Performance: Collaboration, Data, and Innovation

  3. Leading Across Boundaries: Collaboration, Experimentation, and Mapping Your Leadership Journey


2018 Senior Leaders Curriculum

Following the in-person programming for mayors in July 2018, programming for senior leaders began in August 2018. Four days of in-person classes were broken down into four overarching themes:

  1. Dimensions of Leadership: Collaboration and Negotiation

  2. Building Organizational Capabilities: Creating Conditions for Success

  3. Pushing Boundaries: Development, Innovation, and Experimentation

  4. The Senior Leader in Action: Leading with Purpose, Empathy, and Authenticity