Study Groups

Reframing Government for the 21st Century  (Offered Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 by Esko Aho)

Esko Aho, former Prime Minister of Finland and head of government and public affairs for Nokia, invites students to a series of sessions to reframe government.  A key focus will be to analyze how Europe and the U.S. can restore their competitiveness and improve productivity of their public sector by fully exploiting the potential of technology and innovation.  

The study group will address three overarching questions:

  • Do small countries differ from large countries in terms of their requirements for a business environment and the role of the government?
  • What kind of future public-private sector relationship will be optimal to make the most of the huge opportunities offered by science, technology, and innovation?
  • What strategies can provide high quality physical and intellectual resources and a favorable regulatory environment for private-sector growth in key economic sectors?

Sessions meet on 10/16 (2:40-4:00pm in Bell Hall) and 11/22 (10-12:00 in Bell Hall).  Additional sessions to be announced soon. 

Esko Aho has enjoyed a distinguished career in the private sector and government service.  Since 2008, he has led Nokia's government and public affairs function, overseeing the company's global policies and activities regarding sustainable development and social responsibility. He has been a member of the Nokia Leadership Team since 2009, stepping down from that role on August 31, 2012. He was prime minister of Finland from 1991 to 1995.  He was elected to Parliament in 1983 and served on several key committees. He also served on the Nordic Council and the Finnish Delegation to the Council of Europe, is a former vice chairman of Liberal International, and was President of the Finnish Innovation Fund, SITRA, from 2004 to 2008. Currently, he is a member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) World Council and vice chair of ICC Finland, as well as a board member of the Technology Academy Finland. He also serves as a board member of Terveystalo and is vice chairman of the board of Technology Industries of Finland.  He holds a master's in social science from the University of Helsinki. As a senior fellow, Aho is pursuing research on the changing role of the state in maintaining welfare and global competitiveness. His faculty sponsor is Steven Kelman, Albert J. Weatherhead III and Richard W. Weatherhead Professor of Public Management.  

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Benefit Cost Analysis in the Real World: Tales from the Trenches  (Offered Spring 2014 by Lisa A. Robinson)

Benefit-cost analysis is a widely-used framework for collecting and analyzing information on the impacts of alternative policies, that estimates the extent to which those affected value the benefits they accrue more than the costs imposed. In the U.S. and other countries, such analysis is required for major regulations and increasingly used to support other types of policy decisions. While the theoretical foundation is well-established, actual practices often diverge due to limited data, time and resources. Conducting such analyses and appropriately interpreting the results poses many challenges.

This study group involves a series of seminars led by experienced practitioners who work in a variety of policy areas. Each will discuss examples of analyses they have conducted, including the difficulties they faced and the innovations they implemented. There will be no assignments or required reading. The study group will help those interested in preparing such analyses better understand their conduct, and will help those interested in using the results better understand the how to interpret them.

Sessions will meet 2:40 – 4:00 PM, Wednesday January 29 to March 5, 2014, in the Hauser Conference Room, Belfer building lobby level. 

Lisa A. Robinson specializes in the economic analysis of environmental, health, and safety regulations. In addition to her role as senior fellow at M-RCBG, she is a research associate at the Center for Risk Analysis and Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is also affiliated with the M-RCBG’s Regulatory Policy Program, and will be developing and teaching a Kennedy School course on benefit-cost analysis in the spring of 2014. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations, she has led numerous assessments of the costs, benefits, and other impacts of policy options, developed related methods, and drafted guidance documents. Her recent work focuses on approaches for estimating the value of outcomes that cannot be fully valued using market measures, particularly mortality and morbidity risk reductions. She has also explored the implications of behavioral economics and options for enhancing the analysis of employment impacts and distributional effects. Robinson was previously a Principal at Industrial Economics, Incorporated, the Director of Policy, Planning, and Budget for the Federal Institute of Museum Services, and an analyst at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. She serves on the governing boards of the Society for Risk Analysis the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis as well as on the editorial boards of their journals. She received her Master in Public Policy degree from the Kennedy School. As a senior fellow, she is investigating how the costs and benefits of regulatory policies are distributed across demographic groups. Her faculty sponsors are James K. Hammitt, Professor of Economics and Decision Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Richard Zeckhauser, Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy.

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