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Harvard Professors Release Guide to Help Civic Leaders Leverage Data for Responsive Governance

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 8:08 am EDT
"of the people, by the people and for the people."

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School announces today the publication of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance (Jossey-Bass; September 2, 2014).

The Responsive City is a compelling guide to civic engagement and governance in the digital age that will help municipal leaders link important breakthroughs in technology and data analytics with age-old lessons of small-group community input to create more agile, competitive and economically resilient cities. The book is co-authored by Professor Stephen Goldsmith, director of Data-Smart City Solutions at Harvard Kennedy School, and Professor Susan Crawford, co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg penned the book’s foreword.

Based on the authors’ experiences and extensive research, The Responsive City explores topics including:

  • Building trust in the public sector and fostering a sustained, collective voice among communities;
  • Using data-smart governance to preempt and predict problems while improving quality of life;
  • Creating efficiencies and saving taxpayer money with digital tools; and
  • Spearheading these new approaches to government with innovative leadership.

“Now, more than ever, substantive reform in governance is critical for civic leaders to meet the needs of a rapidly growing urban population,” Stephen Goldsmith explains. “Fortunately, data and technology can fundamentally change the way government operates, breaking down hierarchies and silos, enabling preventive action, incorporating citizens into every aspect of governance, and increasing overall efficiency.”

A confluence of new technologies has created an opportune time for substantive reform. Already, several forward-looking cities are implementing digital innovations to create local governments that are more transparent, responsive, accountable and cost-effective. As The Responsive City underscores, the results so far have been highly promising. Featuring case studies highlighting the work of individuals in New York, Boston, Chicago and more, the book provides a model for the future of governance.

But technology alone cannot power change. The Responsive City concludes with a challenge to its readers: data-smart governance needs a cadre of city officials and innovators to lead the charge and empower public employees with the discretion to translate these technological advances into action.

Susan Crawford explains, "We have found heroes in city halls and communities around the world who are using technology to improve the lives of citizens and make local government more responsive to human needs. This book tells their stories and underscores the crucial role of leadership—at all levels—in transforming civic life." With greater civic engagement and leaders who challenge the status quo, the digital revolution will thicken the bonds of democracy and create government that is truly “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The Responsive City is the culmination of research originating from the Data-Smart City Solutions initiative, an ongoing project at Harvard Kennedy School working to catalyze adoption of data projects on the city level. Additional information, including a link to purchase the book, can be found on or on the publisher’s website. Updates, further details on the cases in the book, and additional content will be available on the Data-Smart City Solutions website throughout the fall. Join the conversation on Twitter with #TheResponsiveCity.


Contact the publicist:
Melissa Connors
Publicity Manager

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