Innovation Field Lab Engages with Massachusetts Cities and Towns

Jorrit de Jong, lecturer in public policy, listens to a student group work through an issue. photo credit: Bryant Renaud
Jorrit de Jong, lecturer in public policy, listens to a student group work through an issue.
photo credit: Bryant Renaud

Cities and towns across America face myriad challenges — from crime and criminal justice policy to educational and transportation infrastructure — but perhaps none as visible and visceral as so-called “problem properties.” Boarded up houses and fenced up vacant lots represent urban blight, deflating property values and spawning a number of health and security concerns.  Even small to mid-size cities are experiencing this reality as the economy struggles to recover from the Great Recession.

The problem of poorly-maintained properties is exacerbated by city governments encumbered by bureaucratic silos, which are simultaneously struggling with decreasing public revenues.  But the Massachusetts towns of Chelsea, Fitchburg and Lawrence are re-engaged in the challenge with support from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) student teams deployed through the Innovation Field Lab spring module. Co-taught by Jorrit de Jong, lecturer in public policy, and Joe Curtatone, Innovations in American Government Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the mayor of Somerville, the seven week module offers students the opportunity to do real work on real problems in real settings and to learn firsthand about the practice of public sector innovation.

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Harvard Kennedy School – Beyond the Classroom

You should expect to get your hands dirty if you take a management, leadership, and decisions science (MLD) course at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Learning-by-doing is a key pedagogical component of the majority of MLD area courses at HKS. Running a range from personal case analyses, “live” case and negotiation simulations, simulated-client projects, to fieldwork for real clients and organizations, MLD students learn by experiencing for themselves real world lessons in management, leadership, teamwork, and decision making.

On the scaffold of classroom curriculum, and with the guidance of faculty and support from their peer teams, students work to address challenges in complex areas like negotiation, government innovation, operations management, social organizing, philanthropy, and municipal budgeting. The learning students achieve by engaging the curriculum and working in real and challenging contexts is often transformative for them, but the simultaneous positive impact students make has become a major part of the mission of the Kennedy School. Read More