Reports & Papers

60 Items

Office workers using sticky notes on a wall

Adobe Stock

Paper

Human-Centered Policymaking

| April 2020

Human-centered design (HCD) is a complementary discipline that has its roots in industrial design, the discipline that crafts physical products like phones, guitars, and potato peelers. It leverages the qualitative research methods honed in the social sciences—such as ethnography, contextual inquiry, and targeted observations and interviews—to better understand people and interactions. HCD also considers environments, processes, systems, and tools outside of the digital realm. Practitioners often map out customer “journeys” to understand customer experiences across an entire system or ecosystem, not merely a single interface or piece of software. As in agile software development, practitioners of human-centered design iteratively develop solutions to the challenges they uncover, and they rigorously test their solutions with real “users.”

One of the parabolic mirrors arrays at the Shams-1 concentrated solar power plant in the UAE, January 2015.

IRENA photo, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

Report

Green Ambitions, Brown Realities: Making Sense of Renewable Investment Strategies in the Gulf

| March 2020

Gulf countries have hailed their investments in renewable energy, but some basic questions remain about the extent to which it makes sense for GCC states to invest aggressively in renewables. The sheer magnitude of such investments will require these countries to mobilize significant public resources.  Therefore, such an assessment requires these countries to focus on national interests, not just a desire to be perceived as constructive participants in the global transition away from carbon energy. 

This report starts by identifying four common strategic justifications for investing in renewable energy in GCC countries. Each of these rationales highlights a different aspect of renewable energy investments. In addition, each rationale is based on different assumptions about the underlying drivers of such investments, and each rationale is based on different assumptions about the future of energy. 
 

Paper

Data, Not Documents: Modernizing the Regulatory State

| March 2019

This report starts with a brief primer about the federal regulatory process, including how regulatory agencies collect information from businesses and regulated parties. We then explore potential benefits of data collection modernization—including newer models of regulators harvesting openly published data—and highlight the importance of regulators working with regulated parties to design data collection processes that work for both government and the regulated party.

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Paper - Harvard Business School

In the Shadows? Informal Enterprise in Non-Democracies

| February 2019

Why do regimes allow some low-income business owners to avoid taxes by operating informally? Electoral incentives are central to prevailing explanations of governments’ forbearance of informal enterprise. Yet many unelected regimes host large informal economies. This article examines forbearance in non-democracies. We argue that unelected regimes forbear their supporters’ informal businesses. We test this argument in Jordan. Using survey data of over 3,800 micro and small enterprises (MSEs), we find that informal businesses are more likely to operate in districts with higher rates of public sector employment, the crown jewel of the Jordanian regime’s patronage. Interviews with over sixty of the surveyed firm owners across four strategically paired districts illustrate that business owners covet forbearance, and that kinship ties to public sector employees limit forbearance to regime supporters. Communities that attract higher rates of public sector employment forfeit higher levels of fiscal revenue by permitting informality. This complementarity between public sector employment and forbearance amplifies inequalities between regime supporters and opponents in non-democracies.

(POMEPS Studies)

(POMEPS Studies)

Report Chapter - Project on Middle East Political Science

A landing strategy for Saudi Arabia

| January, 2019

With rising population and incomes, the “rentier” mode of development in Saudi Arabia has long been unsustainable. While the issue of fiscal stabilization will occupy policy-making in Saudi Arabia in the short and medium terms, the long-term challenge of finding new sources of growth to complement oil has only been made starker by the recent drop in oil prices. Analysis of the prospects for such reforms in KSA has long been divided between two opposite camps: those who believe that the inadequacies of the rentier model will necessarily usher a doomsday scenario sooner or later, regardless of economic policies; and those who believe the impending crisis can be met by moving from the current mono-sector economy to a modern and diversified knowledge based economy OECD-style.

Report

Big Data, Meager returns?

| Nov. 28, 2018

On October 12th, we brought together specialists, academics and activists to investigate the main points arising from the “Data, Artificial intelligence and the Global South” conversation. The purpose of the workshop was to explore economic fairness and the Global South. This post shares the questions we asked, some of our findings, and what we need to consider next.

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

2018 State of Digital Transformation

| October 2018

On June 12-13, 2018, digital HKS welcomed public sector digital services teams from around the world to share stories of success, talk about lessons learned, and discuss the challenges they face in transforming government. The teams convened all agreed on North Star goals of building platform services and putting users at the center; what remains much more difficult is identifying how teams in very different political and technology contexts should think about how to reach that end-state. In this report, digital HKS shares best practices we gleaned from this group, to start a broader conversation for digital services groups around the world about what comes next.

Report - Project on Middle East Political Science

POMEPS Studies 31: Social Policy in the Middle East and North Africa

This spring, major protests swept through Jordan over economic grievances and subsidy reforms. In July, protestors took to the streets in the south of Iraq, demanding that the government address persistent unemployment, underdevelopment, and corruption. Meanwhile, earlier in 2018, Tunisians launched a wave of protests to oppose tax hikes on basic goods and increased cost of living. Such highly politicized responses to social policy concerns are the norm rather than the exception across the Middle East and North Africa.

(MENARA)

(MENARA)

Paper

The Implications of the Syrian War For New Regional Orders

| Sep. 12, 2018

This paper argues that the impact of the eight-year war in Syria will reverberate across the region for years to come, and explores, in particular, four noteworthy legacies. First, it examines the series of interventions in Syria by regional and foreign powers (including Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that reconfigured the role of such powers across the region. Second, it reveals the emergence of two opposing alliances in the region, each comprising Arab states, regional Arab and non-Arab powers, global powers and local nonstate actors. These or similar alliances may well reappear in other Middle Eastern conflicts. Third, it analyses the striking number and variety of foreign forces that either directly fought in Syria or indirectly supported warring factions. Since 2012, these forces have included at least twenty states and major non-state players, alongside hundreds of smaller tribal, Islamist and secular rebel and pro-Assad groups. Finally, the paper suggests that the international community’s weak response to the untold war crimes on both sides, and its apparent de facto acceptance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s incumbency, portend continuing regional authoritarian and violent political systems for the foreseeable future.