40 Episodes

By: Harvard Kennedy School

Host Thoko Moyo speaks with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.

225 Staying Power: Tony Saich on 100 Years of the Chinese Communist Party
Last Thursday at 6:38 PM

Professor Anthony Saich is the Director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.

PolicyCast is a production of Harvard Kennedy School and is hosted by Ralph Ranalli, Senior Staff Writer and Producer at the HKS Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

PolicyCast is co-produced by Susan Hughes.

For more information please visit our web page or contact us at PolicyCast@hks.harvard.edu.

224 Between blind faith and denial: Finding a productive approach to merging policy, science, and technology

PolicyCast is a production of Harvard Kennedy School and is hosted by Associate Dean for Communications and Public Affairs Thoko Moyo.

Our guest for this episode, Sheila Jasanoff, is the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School and the founder and director of the Program on  Science, Technology and Society.

PolicyCast is produced and engineered by Ralph Ranalli and co-produced by Susan Hughes.

For more information please visit our web page or contact us at PolicyCast@hks.harvard.edu.

223 Democracy’s uncertain prospects 10 years after the Arab Spring

PolicyCast is a production of Harvard Kennedy School and is hosted by Associate Dean for Communications and Public Affairs Thoko Moyo.

PolicyCast is produced and engineered by Ralph Ranalli and co-produced by Susan Hughes.

For more information please visit our web page or contact us at PolicyCast@hks.harvard.edu.

222 Joe Aldy on how Joe Biden can jumpstart the global climate effort

Harvard Kennedy School economist and Professor Joseph Aldy has seen this all before. A climate in crisis. A big economic downturn. A transition from a Republican administration to a new Democratic president looking to drastically change the country’s direction. 

Twelve years ago, Aldy was a member of then President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team as it took over from the George W. Bush administration. He says the challenges today are much the same — figuring out how to push aggressive measures to stave off the worst effects of climate change while bringing back lost jobs and jump-starting a stall...

221 Young voters ascendant: How a generational shift won the 2020 election and could remake American politics

In 2019, the 72-million strong Millennial generation (23-to-38-year-olds) quietly surpassed the Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generational cohort. In the 2020 election, they made their voices heard with a roar. 

Not only did younger voters—and particularly younger voters of color—turn out to vote and organize for candidates in record numbers, they also provided the margin of victory for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in key states like Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. 

Mark Gearan is director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School and the Don K. Price Professor of Public P...

220 Garbage in, garbage out: Dissecting the disinformation that clouds our decisions

Some choices are easy. Some are hard. Some are momentous, which is how many people are describing today’s US national election. Yet all of the choices we make have one thing in common: Our decisions are only as good as the information we have to base them on. And with the rise of disinformation, misinformation, media manipulation, and social media bubbles, we’re finding it increasingly hard to know what information to trust and to feel confident in the decisions we make.

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Matthew Baum and Joan Donovan, the research director for the Shor...

The end of Us versus Them policing: The tough road ahead for reform

Recent polls show a majority of Americans say we need major changes to how police enforce the law and provide public safety. Policymakers and political leaders — under pressure from the Defund and Black Lives Matter movements after high police killings of Black people like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and numerous others — are now considering a variety of measures to curb police brutality. But Harvard Kennedy School professors Sandra Susan Smith and Yanilda Gonzalez, say history has shown that reforming the police is much easier said than done.

In her studies of policing in Latin America, Professor Gonzalez says...

218 If the Electoral College is a racist relic, why has it endured?

This is the first episode of PolicyCast's 2020-2021 season. 

Alexander Keyssar is the Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. An historian by training, he specializes in the exploration of historical problems that have contemporary policy implications.

In this episode, Professor Keyssar discusses his new book: "Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?" (Harvard University Press, 2020)  He is also the author of the widely-read book: "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States" (Basic Books, 2000), for which he was named a finalist fo...

217 Championing human rights amid disease and discrimination

Joining PolicyCast and host Thoko Moyo for this episode are Kennedy School Professors Mathias Risse and Jacqueline Bhabha of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. 

Professor Risse is faculty director of the Carr Center and his work focuses on global justice and the intersections of human rights, the climate crisis, inequality, and technology.  He is also the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School.

Professor Bhabha is an expert in public health — particularly involving children and vulnerable populations — as well as an internationally-known human rights lawyer. She is FXB Dir...

216 A historic crossroads for systemic racism and policing in America

For more information, please visit:

The Institutional Anti-Racism and Accountability Project at the Shorenstein Center.

The Nonviolent Action Lab at the Carr Center.

215 No quick or easy answers for the pandemic's toll on developing economies

Ricardo Hausmann, the founder and director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Growth Lab, is helping developing countries around the globe create capacity to model the coronavirus pandemic and develop economic and epidemiological responses. 

The Growth Lab COVID-19 Task Force explores the macroeconomic and fiscal implications of the pandemic and offers strategic guidance on policy decisions for collaborating nations including Albania, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Namibia, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. 

For more about this effort, Growth Lab COVID-19 Task Force, please visit the Growth Lab COVID-19 Task Force home page.

Under Hausmann’s lead...

214 When discrimination and a pandemic collide

First there was the shock of realizing that the COVID-19 pandemic would be widespread and lengthy. Now issues of race, equity, and the coronavirus are quickly coming to the fore, as data pours in showing how the virus is hitting minority communities the hardest.

Harvard Kennedy School Professor Cornell Brooks says historic systemic discrimination, lack of access to healthcare and healthy food, housing and employment disparities, and other issues have left communities of color uniquely vulnerable.

Discrimination means people in communities of color can’t follow many recommended individual actions for the pandemic including staying at...

213 Managing crisis without resources: Developing nations brace for Coronavirus

Visit the Building State Capability program's  “Public Leadership Through Crisis” blog.

All PolicyCast episodes are now being recorded remotely. 

This episode was recorded on March 27, 2020 using SquadCast.

212 When Bad Things Happen to Everybody: Crisis Management in a Chaotic World

Responding to a threatening virus is nothing new to HKS Senior Lecturer Juliette Kayyem, who played a major role in managing the US response to the H1N1 virus pandemic in 2009 as an official in the Obama administration.

But now as the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread from Asia to Europe and the Middle East and threatens to reach pandemic status, Kayyem says globalization and other factors have changed the nature of crises humanity is facing—and that governments and crisis managers need to adapt.

“The nature of the crises we’re facing on a global scale...

211 Post-expert democracy: Why nobody trusts elites anymore

Democratic governance expert Archon Fung says that since 2016 we have entered a political dramatically different from the previous 35 years. He calls it a period of “wide aperture, low deference Democracy.” 

In simplest terms, it’s an era when a much wider range of ideas and potential policies are being debated and when traditional leaders in politics, media, academia, and culture are increasingly being questioned, pushed aside, and ignored by a distrustful public.

And he says the fate of those leaders and elites is significantly of their own making, because they have supported self-interested policies that have re...

210 The Climate Crisis Was Caused by Economics, Can Economics Be Part of the Solution?

The New York Times called it one of the worst outcomes in a quarter-century of climate negotiations. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said the international community "lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis” at the recent UN Climate Summit in Madrid.

But Harvard Kennedy School Professor Robert Stavins says global climate negotiators still accomplished something important last month at the COP25 conference—because of what they didn't do. Instead of approving lax rules full of loopholes that big polluting countries like Brazil and Australia were...

209 Redistricting and Democracy: Can We Draw the Line on Gerrymandering?

Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor of Public Policy Benjamin Schneer says the drawing of electoral districts is a complex and partisan process that often results in politicians picking their voters instead of the other way around. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Schneer's work explores political representation, elections, and ways to mitigate forces that distort the ability of citizens to communicate their desires to government. His recent research has focused on redistricting, the political process of redrawing state legislative and Congressional districts every 10 years following a Census (the next one will take place in 2020).


208 The Precarious Fate of the African Century

A short decade from now, Africa will have the youngest workforce in an aging world and the potential to become a spectacular economic success story. Or it could become home to the overwhelming majority of the world’s poor.

“By 2030 or so, we'll probably need to create about 11 million jobs a year,” says Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the world's leading development economists. “That’s a tall order.”

But not an impossible one, says Okonjo-Iweala, a former managing director of the World Bank and Finance Minister of Nigeria. While the window for Africa to become a job-creating...

207 Mightier Than the Sword: The Unexpected Effectiveness of Nonviolent Resistance

Activists from around the world reach out to Harvard Kennedy School Professor Erica Chenoweth on an almost daily basis. And they mostly ask the same question: How can we fight authoritarianism — and the often-brutal repression that comes with it — without resorting to violence ourselves? They turn to her because her groundbreaking research has shown that, when done the right way, nonviolent civil resistance is actually more effective at driving political change than taking up arms.

Chenoweth is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Prof...

206 David Deming on Why Free College is a Good Investment

Harvard Kennedy School Professor David Deming, whose research focuses on the economics of education, recently wrote a New York Times op-ed titled “Tuition-free College Could Cost Less Than You Think.” Making college education widely affordable in the U.S. is vital, Deming says, because a degree will likely be a prerequisite for the labor market of the not-too-distant future.

Professor Deming recently sat down with PolicyCast host Thoko Moyo to discuss not just how to lower college costs, but also how to improve educational quality and what that could mean for students across the socioeconomic spectrum. In addi...

205 Fixing Ourselves Is Hard: Iris Bohnet on Solving Bias in the Workplace

Iris Bohnet is a behavioral economist, a leading researcher into gender bias, and Harvard Kennedy School's academic dean. She’s got some tough advice for the world’s biggest governments, corporations, and organizations: Stop wasting money on traditional diversity training programs, because they don’t work. But Dean Bohnet tells host Thoko Moyo that there's also good news: By focusing on fixing processes rather than people, we can create workarounds that solve for our stubborn biases.

Bohnet is also co-director of the Women and Public Policy Program at HKS and her research combines insights from economics and psycho...

204 Ambassador Wendy Sherman on High-Stakes Negotiation and Authentic Leadership

Ambassador Wendy Sherman has been at the table for some of the most challenging negotiations in recent history. She’s held talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and sparred with Iranian officials to hammer out the 2015 nuclear weapons deal.

Now she’s brought what she’s learned about authentic leadership, diplomacy, and succeeding as a woman in a male-dominated field to a new book, which is titled “Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power and Persistence”

Ambassador Sherman is a professor of the practice of public leadership, director of the Center for...

203 Robot Car Revolution: Using Policy to Manage the Autonomous Vehicle Future

Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer Mark Fagan is spearheading the Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, helping to ensure government officials can successfully navigate the impending robot car revolution. Mark talks with host Thoko Moyo about how AVs could have disruptive impacts on traffic safety and congestion, public transit, jobs, and even data privacy.

The Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative consults with stakeholders both inside and outside of the United States. Through research, teaching, and work with decision makers in administrations, with technologists and business leaders from AV companies and startups, and...

202 PolicyCast is back!

Harvard Kennedy School's PolicyCast is back! Enjoy this preview of our relaunch with host Thoko Moyo of upcoming episodes featuring autonomous vehicles expert Mark Fagan, Center for Public Leadership Director Ambassador Wendy Sherman, and Professor Erica Chenoweth, who has conducted groundbreaking research on the effectiveness of nonviolent civil movements.

Our relaunch starts Monday with Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer in Public Policy Mark Fagan, who is leading the Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government. The initiative is working to help local governments prepare for the impacts of driverless cars, which are...

201 Predicting the Future Through Know-How

Professor Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Kennedy School’s Center for International Development, and Tim Cheston, a research fellow with the center’s Growth Lab, explain how they leveraged data from the Atlas of Economic Complexity to assess the knowhow of more than 130 countries and predict their economic growth over the next eight years.

Learn more about CID's new growth predictions: http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/rankings/growth-projections/

200 Securing Elections Against Cyber Threats

Robby Mook, co-director of the Defending Digital Democracy Initiative and former campaign manager to Hillary Clinton, explains why he and fellow co-directors Matt Rhoades (Romney 2012) and Eric Rosenbach (Belfer Center) came together to create a series of “playbooks” for political campaigns and election officials to help secure against cyber security threats.

Read more about D3P at https://www.belfercenter.org/D3P

199 How History Shapes Our Political Beliefs

HKS Professor Maya Sen, co-author of the new book “Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics,” explains how she and her colleagues were able to pinpoint the extent to which slavery continues to affect political beliefs to this day.

198 Negotiating with the North: The Political Stakes

Lecturer John Park, director of the Kennedy School’s Korea Working Group, lays out the stakes for both North and South Korea, as well as China and the United States, as they enter into negotiations over denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

197 Negotiating with the North: Talks and Tactics

In the first part of an ongoing series on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Dr. Gary Samore, the Belfer Center’s executive director for research, describes the history of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and subsequent international efforts to dismantle it, including a landmark 1994 agreement which he helped negotiate. He details the negotiating tactics employed by North Korea in the past, expresses skepticism over the possibility of a complete denuclearization, and weighs in on the Trump Administration’s negotiating strategy.

196 Europe's Evolving Stance on Russia

Cathryn Clüver-Ashbrook, executive director of both the Future of Diplomacy Project and the Project on Trans-Atlantic and European Relations out of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, describes the changing nature of relations between Europe and Russia, providing historical context, examining contemporary factors such as the Syrian civil war and Russian election meddling, and describing how the new Project on Trans-Atlantic and European Relations, chaired by HKS Professor Nicholas Burns, seeks to find solutions to the emerging challenges.

195 Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Megaphone from the Diaspora

Hamilton Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, on campus to kick off the America Adelante Conference hosted by the Center for Public Leadership, discusses his advocacy for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, how he thinks about using his celebrity to effect change, and the falling barriers to minority representation in film and television.

194 Piketty’s Prescription for Wealth Inequality

Economist Thomas Piketty details the policies he believes will be key to overcoming the wealth inequality illustrated in his seminal 2013 book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” He also discusses the 2018 World Inequality Report, which builds on and updates the data sets first featured in “Capital,” except on a global scale thanks to the involvement of more than one hundred economists around the world. Piketty was on campus to deliver the Wiener Center’s inaugural Stone Lecture on Economic Inequality.

193 Data Dystopia: Online Ads and Elections

Shorenstein Fellow Dipayan Ghosh joins us again for part two of our extended interview on data privacy, digital advertising, and their effect on our democracies. In this episode, Ghosh moves beyond the Cambridge Analytica scandal to focus on publically available, data-driven advertising tools and how they can be leveraged by politicians and nefarious agents alike to manipulate voters.

192 Data Dystopia: Privacy and Regulation

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to unfold, Joan Shorenstein Fellow Dipayan Ghosh, who recently left Facebook's Privacy and Public Policy team, joins us for a double-header on data privacy, digital advertising, and their effect on our democracies. In this episode, Ghosh walks through the myriad ways companies like Facebook and Google collect and leverage data to target users, increase engagement, and ultimately sell advertising. He then discusses the challenges inherent in any effort to regulate the industry.

191 The Equal Rights Amendment

Professor Jane Mansbridge explains why efforts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution have failed in the past, but could now have a real shot at ratification.

190 How Cities are Thriving in a Populist Era

Bruce Katz explains what makes cities different from state and national governments, and why that difference has allowed them to thrive while populism and partisanship grip state and national governments. Using Boston, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Copenhagen as examples, Katz illustrates how the unique network effects of cities lead to innovative solutions to public problems. Katz was on campus as a guest of both the Center for Public Leadership and Ash Center.

189 Bringing Economics to the People

Tufts Professor Michael Klein explains how he’s using http://www.econofact.org to better inform the broader public about economics. The non-partisan publication features easily-digestible briefs on topical economic issues authored by a network of economists around the country, including HKS Professors David Deming, Jeffrey Frankel, and Mark Shepard.

188 New Orleans' Confederate Monuments

Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, a Hauser Visiting Leader at the Center for Public Leadership, describes the years-long process involved with removing four confederate monuments in New Orleans, including statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

187 Reinventing City Government

HKS Prof. Stephen Goldsmith says technology is enabling cities to radically change the way they operate, and both city workers and citizens stand to benefit. He describes how governments will shed the strict bureaucracies of the 20th century in favor of a distributed model where the city acts as a platform and service providers can be evaluated by outcomes. Goldsmith is the director of the Innovations in American Government Program out of the Kennedy School’s Ash Center, and recently co-authored, alongside Neil Kleiman, the book “A New City O/S - The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Gove...

186 Is Social Media Good For Democracy?

Adam Conner, a spring 2018 fellow at the Institute of Politics, digs into the nuance behind the question many are asking about platforms like Facebook and Twitter, namely: are they good for democracy?