Rethinking the Future of Housing Worldwide: Favelas as a Sustainable Model?

On September 26, 2018, the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies co-sponsored the Energy and Environmental Programs Speaker, Theresa Williamson, Founder and Executive Director of Catalytic Communities based in Rio de Janeiro.  For the last 18 years, Catalytic Communities ("CatComm") has been engaged in pathbreaking NGO work with favela organizers and "jarring the logic that unregulated 'slums' are a horrid problem with no solution other than wiping them out or paving over them."  Dr. Williamson noted how favelas can pose solutions to the challenges of urbanization worldwide noting that already 1 in 3 lives in an informal settlement and by 2050 nearly 1/3 of ALL of humanity will live in an informal settlements.  She maintains though that CatComm is finding that favelas provide some models, "not only in the obvious sense of providing affordable housing, but actually in the development models they create through their innately flexible and community-led development approaches." 


The model that CatComm advances is a practical, asset-based community-controlled development framework.  Dr. Williamson earned her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and her Ph.D. in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania.  CatComm is the NGO she created as part of her field research and now 18 years later it continues to innovate as it creates new tools such as the proposed concept of a Sustainable Favela Indicator which would apply sustainable design principles to upgrading favelas.  The July 2018 issue of LAND LINES has a cover story about CatComm's innovative use of community land trusts in Rio's favelas. 


Dr. Williamson's work is the epitome of bringing theory and practice together!  She  recorded two lectures that will be used in both Environmental Science and Policy Program classes, but also our Nonprofit Management Program.  Her talk on the 26th was recorded, and you may view it here 


GAB Forum: Applying Analytics to Enterprise Risk Management

We were thrilled to welcome Tom Brandt, Chief Risk Officer at the IRS, to this month's Government Analytics Breakfast Forum.  Mr. Brandt gave a talk titled Applying Analytics to Enterprise Risk Management (ERM): Opportunities and Challenges.

Mr. Brandt begain with an overview of the top risks the IRC faces, namely (1) aging technology infrastructure, (2) cyber and data security and (3) critical staffing shortages.  Notably, these are the same top risks faced by many agencies across the federal government and by state governments. 

The IRS has developed a Risk Apptetite Statement, which outlines its risk management perspective and goals.  The statement notes that the IRS recognizes "that risk is inherent to the operation of any organization" and it is committed to managing this risk using analytic approaches.

As part of ERM, the IRS has identified the different types of risk it must evaluate and mitigate, such as reputational risk and operational risk.  As part of its risk management strategy, the IRS continously monitors social media to determine the public's attitude toward the agency and specific areas that could be improved, such as the filing and refund processes.

One major challenge the IRS faces in managing risk is acquiring relevant data from other agencies.  Sometimes the IRS could benefit from data gathered by a different agency, but it has encountered difficulty obtaining that data.  This is a government-wide problem.  The Social Security Administration, for example, should not be making payments to imprisoned felons, but the agency has sometimes struggled to obtain relevant data from law enforcement agencies.  

Overall, however, the IRS has found that using a variety of analytic approaches has been tremendously helpful for identifiying and minimizing risks.  The agency uses, for example, health checks, crowdsourcing, gamification and disruption analytics to identify, measure and visualize risk for key decision makers in the agency.

A recording of the talk can be viewed here.

Please join us for our next talk in October (data TBD).  The tentative topic will be the use of analytics to address the opiod crisis.


GAB Forum: Making Analytics Accessible

Today's speaker at the Government Analytics Breakfast Forum, Sarah Ellis Peed (Deputy Director for the NPPD Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis, DHS), gave an excellent talk on how government agencies, and DHS in particular, can ensure that analyses are meaningful to key  decision makers leading these agencies.

Ms. Peed began her talk by emphasizing that any analysis undertaken in her organization should have the goal of making a difference in the world. She explained that the way to ensure this happens is to involve the users of the analysis at all stages and to develop results that are useful to the user.  The users should be involved, for example, in setting the scope of the project, making methodological decisions as the analysis progresses and designing the final product.  

To Ms. Peed's mind, the success of a project can be determined by whether the results were used to make a positive difference.  For example, analysts working on examining active shooter preparedness programs around the country are producing results that are deeply meaningful to the decision makers in charge of these programs; the analysts on this project are therefore truly saving lives through their work.

The key takeaway from the talk was that analytics cannot be separated from the substance at hand -- an analysis should be undertaken with a substantive goal in mind and all aspects of the analysis, including the research design and final presentation of the results, should advance that goal.  The final results should be understandable and meaningful to leaders whose decisions can be improved through a greater reliance on analytical findings.

View a full recording of the talk here.



Dr. Jennifer Bachner Quoted in Baltimore Style

Today's piece in Baltimore Style Magazine, Power Pose in 2018: More Women Are Running for Office Than Ever Before, features several quotes from Dr. Jennifer Bachner, Director of the Master's in Government Analytics Program at Johns Hopkins University.  From the article:

While midterm elections usually don’t draw large turnouts, this year may be an exception. Every election has its own dynamic, says Jennifer Bachner, director of the master’s program in government analytics at Johns Hopkins University and author of “What Washington Gets Wrong.”

Some midterm elections are driven by national politics, while others are heavily influenced by local issues. This year, she says, “I anticipate the influence of national politics to be very strong, as President Trump evinces strong feelings from both Democrats and Republicans.”

Read the whole piece here.


Featured Alumni Talk -- Jon Powers (GSS '12)


On April 10, as part of a joint event between the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies and the EPC-ESP Speaker Series, Jon Powers gave a talk, "Exploring the Intersection of Energy, Innovation and Finance."  Jon is a 2012 graduate of the MA in Global Security Studies and wrote his thesis on energy security.  While serving as an U.S. Army officer in Iraq, Jon saw firsthand the vulnerability energy dependency brought to our military operations.  When he returned to the U.S., he worked as the Special Advisor on Energy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy & Environment.  He later brought his energy security expertise to the White House as President Obama's Federal Environment Executive.  Today, after a time as a Managing Director of Public Sector Business Development at Bloom Energy, Jon is the Co-Founder and President of CleanCapital, a pathbreaking renewable energy investment firm.  Jon gave a compelling overview of how innovation is driving renewables to not only be the cleanest and and most economical energy sources available, but in part for those very reasons are also the best bets from a finance perspective as well.   He also discussed his journey from Hopkins to his current position as a widely respected energy security expert and a leader in renewable energy finance.           
You may view his presentation as captured in the livestream of it at the DC Campus.  Please note:  Mr. Powers' talk begins at the 5:09 mark of the livestream.