179 episodes

Our hosts speak with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.

PolicyCast Harvard Kennedy School

    • Education
    • 4.6 • 74 Ratings

Our hosts speak with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.

    How American cities can prepare for an increasingly destructive climate

    How American cities can prepare for an increasingly destructive climate

    Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a unique perspective on the topic of climate resiliency. He was a city official in 2012 for Superstorm Sandy—which many call the worst disaster in New York City’s history—and in 2021 for Hurricane Ida, which caused $24 billion worth of flooding in the Northeastern United States, making it the costliest and most damaging storm since Sandy nine years before. He was also mayor during most of those nine years, when policymakers, planners, and the citizens of New York tried to grapple with the enormous task of making the city more resilient in the face of ever more destructive and dangerous weather events driven by the man-made climate crisis and global warming. With 520 miles of shoreline, 443 miles of underground railroad and subway tracks, and an antiquated storm sewer system, New York City is a nightmare to protect from rising seas and catastrophic rainfall, and de Blasio and city planners proposed billions in dollars of resiliency projects—including extending Manhattan’s shoreline 500 feet at the island’s vulnerable southern tip. But those plans, he says, encountered some surprisingly strong headwinds, including neighborhood opposition, short political and public attention spans, and competing concerns including the COVID-19 pandemic. So how do vulnerable localities like New York City overcome such obstacles and prepare for an increasingly adversarial climate? de Blasio, who is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, explores the possibilities with PolicyCast host Ralph Ranalli.

    • 33 min
    Why women are authoritarianism’s targets—and how they can be its undoing

    Why women are authoritarianism’s targets—and how they can be its undoing

    Harvard Kennedy School Professor Erica Chenoweth and Lecturer in Public Policy Zoe Marks say the parallel global trends of rising authoritarianism and attempts to roll back women’s rights are no coincidence. The hard won rights women have attained over the past century—to education, to full participation in the workforce, in politics, and civic life, and to reproductive healthcare—have transformed society and corresponded with historic waves of democratization around the world. But they have also increasingly become the target of authoritarian leaders and regimes looking to displace democracy with hierarchies controlled by male elites and to re-confine women in traditional roles as wives, mothers, and caregivers. LGBTQ people and others who don’t fit into the traditional binary patriarchal model have become targets not just in places like Iran, Russia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia but also China, Hungary, Poland, and the United States. But Chenoweth and Marks say the authoritarians are also fearful of empowered women—and that their research says they should be. Social movements like the protests currently underway in Iran that include large numbers of women tend to be more resilient, creative, and ultimately successful—which means the future of democracy and the future of women’s empowerment in this pivotal historic era may go hand-in-hand.

    • 42 min
    Former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on stemming the tide of right-wing authoritarianism

    Former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on stemming the tide of right-wing authoritarianism

    During his seven years leading Sweden’s government from 2014 to 2021, Stefan Löfven had a front row seat to observe the rise of right-wing and neo-fascist political parties both at home and around Europe. A former welder, and union leader from working class roots, Löfven earned the nickname “the escape artist” during his years as prime minister for his knack for holding together governments despite his country’s increasingly fractious and polarized politics. But this year the Sweden Democrats—a party with its roots in fascist and white nationalist ideology—became the second leading vote-getter and were embraced as part of a ruling coalition government by other conservative and centrist parties. Löfven says the Sweden Democrats, who were once politically radioactive, are now the tail wagging the dog of Sweden’s new government. And he says the rise of far-right parties is a trend all over Europe, most recently in Italy, but also in Poland and Hungary, where they have fanned fears of economic insecurity, cultural displacement, and crime to scapegoat immigrants and offer authoritarianism as a cure-all, which has enabled them to steal followers from more mainstream parties and take power. Löfven says Europe’s democratic multilateralists are now on the back foot, trying to sell democracy and tolerance in a social-media-driven communications culture that favors the simplistic slogans and memes favored by the right. In this tumultuous era in European politics, he says only time will tell whether the rapid pace of societal change will keep driving voters into the arms of extremist parties, or whether the unpopular Russian war on Ukraine being prosecuted by the Godfather of the continent’s strongmen, Vladimir Putin, will take some the shine off authoritarianism’s allure.

    • 39 min
    Low-wage and gig workers have it worse than we thought—and why that matters for us all

    Low-wage and gig workers have it worse than we thought—and why that matters for us all

    Eight years ago, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Danny Schneider co-founded The Shift Project, which has built an unprecedented repository of data on scheduling and working conditions for hourly service workers. Analyzing the effects of the pandemic, Schneider says the research shows that, even as they were being lauded as heroes, working conditions for hourly service workers were deteriorating. But if there’s a silver lining, it was that the pandemic also shone a spotlight on the plight of workers who had previously been largely invisible as they dealt with low pay, ruthless algorithmic scheduling, and health problems related to stress and overwork. And as evidenced by recent successful efforts to unionize at places like Starbucks and Amazon, Schneider says hourly workers may even have found a voice in shaping their own working environments. The question, he says, is, "Are corporate executives and policymakers actually listening?"

    Daniel Schneider is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Sociology at the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Professor Schneider completed his B.A. in Public Policy at Brown University in 2003 and earned his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University in 2012. Prior to joining Harvard, he was a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar in Health Policy Research at Berkeley/UCSF. Professor Schneider’s research interests are focused on social demography, inequality, and the family. He has written on class inequality in parenting, the role of economic resources in marriage, divorce, and fertility, the effects of the Great Recession, and the scope of household financial fragility. As Co-Director of The Shift Project, his current research focuses on how precarious and unpredictable work schedules affects household economic security and worker and family health and wellbeing.

    Ralph Ranalli of the HKS Office of Public Affairs and Communications is the host, producer, and editor of HKS PolicyCast. A former journalist, public television producer, and entrepreneur, he holds an A.B. in Political Science from UCLA and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University.

    The co-producer of PolicyCast is Susan Hughes. Design and graphics support is provided by Lydia Rosenberg, Delane Meadows and the OCPA Design Team. Social media promotion and support is provided by Natalie Montaner and the OCPA Digital Team.

    • 39 min
    Data analysis and policy design—not good intentions—will fix healthcare post COVID

    Data analysis and policy design—not good intentions—will fix healthcare post COVID

    The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the US health care system and health care systems across the world to the breaking point and beyond. If there’s a silver lining, it may be that there is now the urgency and will among politicians and policymakers to pursue meaningful changes that could result in improved access to healthcare services that are both more affordable and higher quality. One recent example in the U.S. were the health care provisions in the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act—which were hailed as a breakthrough if for nothing else other than finally breaking the pharmaceutical industry’s stranglehold on any attempt to control prescription drug prices. But as health care policy enters what is widely seen as an inflection point, Harvard Kennedy School professors Amitabh Chandra and Soroush Saghafian say even well-intentioned quick-fix policy changes may end up doing more harm than good. Instead, policymakers need to pursue change with care, by deeply analyzing the weaknesses COVID exposed and using that data to design intelligent policy that can create transformational change. Professor Chandra is the director of Health Policy Research at the Kennedy School, and his research focuses on innovation and pricing in the biopharmaceutical industry and value and racial disparities in health care delivery. Professor Saghafian is the founder of the Public Impact Analytics Science Lab at Harvard and his work combines big data analytics, health policy, and decision science to discover new insights and provide new solutions to various existing problems. They’re here to talk through this important historic moment in health care policy, both in terms of challenges and opportunities.

    Soroush Saghafian uses and develops operations research and management science techniques that can have significant public benefits. He is the founder and director of the Public Impact Analytics Science Lab (PIAS-Lab) at Harvard, which is devoted to advancing and applying the science of analytics for solving societal problems that can have public impact. His current teaching focuses on Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics tools for solving societal problems. His current research focuses on the application and development of operations research methods in studying stochastic systems with specific applications in healthcare and operations management. He has been collaborating with a variety of hospitals to improve their operational efficiency, patient flow, medical decision-making, and more broadly, healthcare delivery policies. He also serves as a faculty affiliate for the Harvard Ph.D. Program in Health Policy, the Harvard Center for Health Decision Science, the Harvard Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, the Harvard Data Science Initiative, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and is an associate faculty member at the Harvard Ariadne Labs.

    Amitabh Chandra is the Ethel Zimmerman Wiener Professor of Public Policy and Director of Health Policy Research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the Henry and Allison McCance Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School where he directs the joint MS/MBA program in the life-sciences. His research focuses on innovation and pricing in the biopharmaceutical industry, value in health care, medical malpractice, and racial disparities in healthcare. Professor Chandra is a member of the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Health Advisors, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Chair Editor of the Review of Economics and Statistics. Professor Chandra is also an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Social Insurance. In 2012, he was awarded the American Society of Health Economists (ASHE) medal, which is awarded biennially to the economist aged 40 or under who has made the most significant contributions to the field of health economics.

    Ralph R

    • 40 min
    Values, courage, and how good public leadership can save us

    Values, courage, and how good public leadership can save us

    New Center for Public Leadership co-director Deval Patrick ascribes bad leadership as a root cause of many of the huge problems facing human society and the world, including the climate crisis, and threats to democracy and human rights. But are bad leaders flawed because of their personal shortcomings or are they an inevitable product of the flawed systems they operate within? And what makes a good leader? Is it their ability to get people to follow them? Or is it choosing the right things to lead those people toward? Patrick recently became co-director with Hannah Riley Bowles of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, or CPL, as it’s usually referred to here in Cambridge. Transcending his humble beginnings growing up as the son of a single mother on the South Side of Chicago, Patrick has built an impressive—and impressively varied—leadership resume, including serving as governor of Massachusetts, becoming the first Black man to do so. He also served as the Assistant US Attorney General for Civil Rights under President Bill Clinton, as a top corporate executive at Texaco and Coca-Cola, and even launched a brief bid for the White House in 2020. Patrick says that too many of today’s leaders are focused on getting into leadership positions and keeping them—with all the power and perks that entails—but have lost track of the greater meaning of what they can achieve for the common good. He joins us to talk about how good, values-based leadership can help turn things around—and the role he hopes CPL can play in that effort.

    Deval Patrick is a professor of practice and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Patrick attended Milton Academy, thanks to the organization A Better Chance, and then Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After law school, he clerked for a federal appellate judge and then launched a career as an attorney and business executive, becoming a staff attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton administration, a partner at two Boston law firms and a senior executive at two Fortune 500 companies. In 2006, in his first bid for elective office, he became Massachusetts’ 71st governor, the first Black person to serve in the role. During his two terms, Patrick expanded health care to over 98 percent of the Commonwealth’s residents, made unprecedented investments in Massachusetts public schools and public infrastructure, and launched initiatives stimulating clean energy and biotechnology. Under his leadership, Massachusetts ranked first in the nation in student achievement, energy efficiency, health care coverage, veterans’ services, and entrepreneurship, and emerged from recession to achieve a 25-year high in employment. Patrick remains involved in progressive politics, currently as co-chair of American Bridge 21st Century through its BridgeTogether initiative, which supports local grassroots groups working to build engagement among disenfranchised and marginalized voters. Patrick is a Rockefeller Fellow, a Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, and the author of two books, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life and Faith in the Dream: A Call to the Nation to Reclaim American Values. He divides his time between Cambridge and Western Massachusetts.

    Ralph Ranalli of the HKS Office of Public Affairs and Communications is the host, producer, and editor of HKS PolicyCast. A former journalist, public television producer, and entrepreneur, he holds an A.B. in Political Science from UCLA and an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University.

    The co-producer of PolicyCast is Susan Hughes. Design and graphics support is provided by Lydia Rosenberg, Delane Meadows and the OCPA Design Team. Social media promotion and support is provided by Natalie Montaner and the OCPA Digital Team.

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
74 Ratings

74 Ratings

22J56 ,

Good

Excellent pidcast

DarbyKirvs ,

variety of topics and thoughtfully crafted

Just what I was in search of! Thanks

uZandi ,

Great Podcast!

The interviewer is exceptional and the content is timely. Love the “Fixing ourselves is hard” with Iris. Please keep them coming.

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