WELFARE REFORM. RACE AND POVERTY. COMMUNITY POLICING. For 30 years, the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy has been contributing insights and solutions to some of society’s most vexing problems. Now, with a renewed focus on the critical issues of inequality and opportunity, the center is looking to the future.

Through it all, the center has benefitted from the generosity and vision of Malcolm Wiener, whose support for the Kennedy School has also included faculty chairs, teaching spaces, and programming.

The past accomplishments and future work of the Wiener Center were highlighted at a 30th anniversary celebration held in April. The event included the 30th Anniversary Malcolm Wiener Lecture, presented by Harvard University President Larry Bacow.

Julie Wilson, David T. Ellwood, and Mary Jo Bane at the front of a classroom giving a panel lecture.
Julie Wilson, David T. Ellwood, and Mary Jo Bane at Dean’s Weekend, 1993

Formed in the late 1980s, the Wiener Center was from the start an influential voice in domestic policy. Its core faculty was distinguished both by the quality of their research as well as by their understanding of the political and management challenges of implementing their recommendations. Work by Director David Ellwood and Mary Jo Bane, Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management, Emerita, and the Wiener Center’s first director, was instrumental in framing discussion around welfare reform in the early 1990s. Similarly influential was work by William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, in understanding urban poverty and race and work by the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management in developing and popularizing community policing in the 1980s.

The Wiener Center has caused us to focus on issues central to who we are as a people and a nation, and also on the tools and strategies available to us in improving people’s wellbeing and to help people have control over their own lives.”

David Ellwood, director of the Wiener Center and Scott Black Professor of Political Economy

More recently, the center has focused on the structural barriers to mobility, including the role of education, economic opportunity, and racial and social discrimination. The breadth and depth of the Wiener Center’s portfolio represent Malcolm Wiener himself, Ellwood said.

Image of Malcolm Wiener and Graham T. Allison seated next to each other, laughing and applauding during the dedication of the Graham T. Allison Senior gate.
Malcolm Wiener and Graham T. Allison at the dedication of the Graham T. Allison Sr. gate, 1990

“Malcolm Wiener is a genuine renaissance man,” Ellwood said. Wiener, an alum of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, is, among other things, the founder of an investment management company, a preeminent scholar in Aegean prehistory, and an expert in nonlethal military technologies.

“He is one of those rare people who really does understand how different pieces fit together to form a whole,” Ellwood said. “He’s also a man who cares deeply about those left behind and so the Wiener Center is a reflection of one of his many interests. But it is also ultimately reflective of his deep commitment to the world of ideas and to the notion that scholarship and practical ideas really matter.”

Banner photo: Kate Wiener, Klaus Schwab MC/MPA1967, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Elizabeth Wiener, Malcolm Wiener, Carolyn Wiener, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and David Gergen, public service professor of public leadership, pictured at the Malcolm H. Wiener Lecture on Political Economy, 2017.

Photos by Martha Stewart