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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. 


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 students to understand how such a tool is developed, but pushes students even farther to understand how to use data to address pressing problems once it’s collected.

Learning objective:

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