Justin de Benedictis-Kessner Photo

Justin de Benedictis-Kessner

Assistant Professor of Public Policy


Over 80% of people in the US live in cities. City and town governments constantly have the potential to change policies with massive impact on this enormous population's lives. Preparing for climate change, providing housing to the growing urban population, and keeping the businesses driving urban economies working are all examples of challenges facing these governments. Yet national politics gets the majority of attention -- from the media, from researchers, from voters, and even from public policy students -- instead of the less flashy work of governing and policymaking that happens in local governments. As a result, local governments are often under-equipped to understand the policy solutions available to them to address these challenges. Nor are they usually equipped to confront the often-contentious politics of public opinion and engagement required to actually implement these solutions.

This course is an experiential learning lab in which students work in teams on political challenges facing real-world local government clients. Project teams will partner with local cities and towns, or departments of larger government entities, to address policy challenges such as transportation, the impacts of climate change, affordable housing, and other current topics. The projects vary in policy area focus, but all allow students to apply skills learned in HKS classes to real-world policy settings, and in turn provide tangible benefits to partner cities and towns. Project teams will use a variety of skills, but will almost all incorporate original public opinion polling of city residents to assess the political viability of policy solutions. In advance of team project-based work, the course includes training in advanced relevant analytical skills, such as GIS mapping, data visualization, and survey measurement and design. Project work and technical skills-based learning are complemented by sessions discussing current academic research on relevant urban policy issues. Extensive field work outside of class time will be required, including multiple visits to client sites by student team members. Students who complete the course may have the opportunity to develop team projects into publishable research projects following the class or extend partnerships with client governments into PAE projects.

Applicants must submit a short statement of interest and resume/CV to https://forms.gle/2uha4d75orEgJUbTA.

Applicants will be required to submit a short statement of interest and resume/CV to https://forms.gle/2uha4d75orEgJUbTA.