Make a Difference through Government: Data-Driven Public Management with Elizabeth Linos

In this age of deep societal challenges and growing complexity, when government at all levels is tasked with implementing a wide and growing range of policies to ensure and improve the public good, public managers and those working with governments can find it very difficult to move the needle on important programs and policy initiatives.
With her new course MLD-125 Data-Driven Public Management , Professor Elizabeth Linos introduces graduate students to the central elements of public management and policy implementation, with a focus on three core challenges that public managers face: managing programs; managing people; and managing change.  A sampling of the questions explored in this course include:

  • How can governments use data and evidence to improve program performance and what do you do when the data is bad?
  • How do we reduce administrative burdens in government and why does it matter?
  • How can we recruit, retain, and support frontline workers?
  • What are the big dilemmas around algorithmic decision-making, nudging, participatory government, and other innovations that an effective public manager should consider?

Using academic theory from public management, real-world case studies, and a series of guest speakers who work in and with government, students will learn about the barriers and opportunities to make a difference through government.  While most of the cases studied will focus on federal, state, and local government challenges in the U.S., Linos draws on best practices and studies from around the world.

Portrait photo of Elizabeth Linos smiling
Elizabeth Linos

Dr. Elizabeth Linos joined HKS in July 2022 as the Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor for Public Policy and Management.  Linos is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College with majors in Government and Economics. She earned her PhD in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2016, and went on to spend 5 years as Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley
Between college and graduate school, Linos worked directly in government as a policy advisor to the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, focusing on social innovation and public sector reform. While pursuing her doctorate, Linos spent two years as Vice President, Head of Research and Evaluation at the Behavioral Insights Team – North America, working with government agencies in the U.S. and the U.K. to improve programs using behavioral science and to build capacity around rigorous evaluation. In 2021 she was appointed, and now remains, a non-resident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution.

Linos’ research focuses on how to improve government by focusing on its people and the services they deliver. Specifically, she uses insights from behavioral science and evidence from public management to consider how to recruit, retain, and support the government workforce, how to reduce administrative burdens that low-income households face when they interact with their government, and how to better integrate evidence-based policymaking into government. To those ends, Elizabeth founded and now directs The People Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with a mission to empower the public sector by producing cutting-edge research on the people of government and the communities they are called to serve. For more information, follow the work of The People Lab on Twitter.

MLD-125 will be offered in the fall semester. For questions about these courses, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

MLD-304: The Science of Behavior Change with Todd Rogers

Leverage insights about human decision making to develop interventions that improve societal well-being.

This is the primary learning goal of MLD-304 The Science of Behavior Change taught by Professor Todd Rogers.
The fast growing research field dubbed “behavioral economics” or “behavioral science” examines the mechanisms of, and influences on, human judgment and decision making, especially in the areas where our choices differ from the rational and the optimal.  Insights from this research has provided a new set of tools that complement standard economics and policy levers for influencing behavior (namely, incentives and information) and allowed us to improve implementation of interventions promoting the public good.  These new tools and ideas have relevance across fields ranging from healthcare, education, criminal justice, social welfare, electoral politics, personal finance, and beyond.
In addition to learning more about the science of how humans make judgments and decisions, students in MLD-304 will also be taught how to improve the quality of their own judgments and decisions by identifying areas of thinking prone to errors and cognitive biases. Some of these errors are particularly important for real world problems.  This course will also increase students’ familiarity with randomized experiments, enabling them to be smarter consumers of claims that interventions cause certain outcomes.

Watch Professor Rogers describe an example from his work on voter mobilization:

Read an extensive piece the HKS alumni magazine about Todd Rogers’ recent work.

Join other students at HKS and across Harvard interested in behavioral science in the Behavioral Insights Group which brings together an outstanding group of decision research scholars, behavioral economists, and other behavioral scientists. BIG’s staff are always happy to talk with students. Please feel free to reach out to Program Manager, Maja Niksic (maja_niksic@hks.harvard.edu), follow BIG on Twitter, check out BIG’s LinkedIn Network where behavioral science-specific jobs are posted, or access the resources of the Behavioral Insights Student Group.

MLD-304 is offered at Harvard Kennedy School in the Spring semester. If you have any questions about this course, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

Join us for the MLD Shopping and Welcome Event on August 28th!

The HKS Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences Faculty (The MLD Area) invite all HKS degree program students to join us for our Shopping and Welcome Event on Monday, August 28th from 5:00 – 6:15pm in the Allison Dining Room, (Taubman Building 5th floor).

The purpose of this event is to provide students with a centralized opportunity to hear about courses in Management, Leadership and Decision Sciences, to meet the faculty, as well as to hear about the numerous related co-currcular activities in the MLD space. Examples of the latter include the Behavioral Insights Group (BIG), Social Innovation and Social Change (SICI) Studio, and the Kennedy School Negotiation Project (KSNP). Faculty in attendance will provide detailed overviews of our course offerings, and will introduce the MLD Certificate program. Plus… there’ll be cupcakes!

Should you have questions, please contact  MLD Area Administrator, Greg Dorchak at greg_dorchak@hks.harvard.edu  We hope you will join us on August 28th!

Please note: This event is not meant to be a substitute for the regularly scheduled MLD course shopping sessions taking place during the day on 8/28 and 8/29 at which you will hear in much greater detail about the fall and January courses.