Recent Updates

Join Us for a Midterm Election Return Party November 6!



GAB Forum: Using Analytics to Combat the Opioid Crisis

This month’s Government Analytics Breakfast forum featured a distinguished panel of experts to discuss how the public sector is using analytics to combat the opioid crisis.  The panel included:

  • Dr. Mona Siddiqui, MD, MPH – Chief Data Officer, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Ms. Allison Oelschlaeger, Chief Data Officer, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Dr. Jim Kyung-Soo Liew, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University

One of the most important themes to emerge during the discussion was that the government is “data-rich and information-poor.”  In other words, the government collects a vast amount of data, but there are legal, technical and cultural hurdles to deriving useful conclusions from that data.  In terms of legal challenges, there are laws and regulations in place that protect individuals’ personal identifiable information.   This makes releasing individual-level data on, say, Medicare beneficiary prescriptions and health outcomes unfeasible.

The technical challenges are likewise difficult to address.  Datasets are often stored in difficult-to-use formats, including as PDFs.  Further, it is extremely time-consuming to link datasets from different agencies and organizations.

The cultural challenges are frequently rooted in concerns about sharing valuable data – in short, protecting one’s data “turf.”  As a result, data across the government and private sector are siloed.  Data officers at critical agencies and many in academia are working hard to build relationships to overcome these turf battles and promote data sharing.

A chief conclusion from the panel discussion is that there is a wealth of data that has been collected but a lack of infrastructure in place to share, analyze and interpret that data.  HHS, CMS and other agencies are, however, working very hard to put that infrastructure in place.   The panelists were extremely optimistic about the potential for using the data they’ve amassed to develop evidence-based recommendations that will remedy the opioid crisis.

A full recording of the event can be viewed here.     


You're Invited: 25th Anniversary Reception of the MA in Government Program


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.