ON THE AGENDA | APRIL 29TH, 2016 | Public Agenda

Engaging Ideas - 4/29

A collection of recent stories and reports that sparked consideration on ways to make progress on divisive issues.

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues including democracy, public engagement, opportunity, education and health care.


How Would You Spend $1 Million In Your Neighborhood? (WBEZ)

WBEZ Chicago city politics reporter Lauren Chooljian speaks with listeners about how they would spend the money, even if their aldermen aren’t participating.

Idea to retire: Technology alone fosters collaboration and networks (Brookings)

Jane Fountain writes: The fallacy that technology alone fosters collaboration and networks is so pervasive that I’ve written a white paper for the presidential transition recommending that the next administration include “management” as a key part of transition, specifically management to develop and sustain interagency collaboration. This paper notes the technology’s inability to foster collaborative networks by itself, and highlights an emerging ecosystem of institutions that support effective and sustainable collaboration across agencies. In the ecosystem, each organization fills a niche or specific role. These niche organizations interact to implement policies and manage initiatives across the federal government. While some dimensions of the ecosystem focus on information technology, most reinforce and support the many organizational changes that make interagency initiatives feasible and sustainable over time.


Constructive or Quixotic? Another Donor Devotes Millions to Improve Civic Discourse (Inside Philanthropy)

Repugnant and childish political mudslinging is as old as the country itself. Can a big university gift help to alter the dynamic that's seemingly embedded in our civic DNA? Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch, prefer to do something about it. The couple donated $15 million to the former Tisch College at the Medford, Massachusetts-based Tufts College, which will henceforth be known as the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, whose goal is to "develop a comment of leaders who are able to rise above the fray and bring positive change to the public sphere."

Why It’s Getting Harder to Learn What the Public Thinks (Governing)

Public officials need to understand how opinion research is evolving to meet modern challenges. Adam Davis, founder and principal of DHM Research writes: Done well -- using demographic quotas and statistical weighting to assure representative samples -- online panels should be accepted as a legitimate sample source for public-sector surveys.


Why is Productivity So Weak? Three Theories (The Upshot)

New data released Thursday showed that gross domestic product in the first quarter was up 1.9 percent over the previous year. Despite constant advances in software, equipment and management practices to try to make corporate America more efficient, actual economic output is merely moving in lock step with the number of hours people put in, rather than rising as it has throughout modern history.

Opinion: How the Other Fifth Lives (The New York Times)

Thomas B. Edsall writes: The trends at the top and the bottom are undermining cohesive politics, but more important they are undermining social interconnection as they fracture the United States more and more into a class and race hierarchy.

K-12 Education

Ed. Dept. Releases Resources for Youth Affected by Incarceration (EdWeek)

Early this week, The U.S. Department of Education announced grants and resources to help educators address the effects of incarceration on students and their families and also hosted a panel discussion on the issue.

Reporting Live From Miami: A Bunch Of Fourth-Graders Tell Their Teacher's Story (NPR)

NPR Ed asked the students in Marlem Diaz-Brown's class in Miami to tell the story of their "amazing" teacher.

Higher Education

What Do We Really Want To Attain? (Community College Week)

The state of Washington has set the highest ten-year attainment goals in the country. Its Legislature has mandated that the Washington Student Achievement Council oversee a roadmap which will lead to 70 percent of the state’s working-age citizens holding a college certificate or degree by 2023 and for 100 percent of the citizenry to earn a high school diploma.

Why pathways matter (Community College Daily)

"What’s the word on the street?” That’s how our own Alison Kadlec, opened a session two weeks ago at the second Pathways Institute, which is part of an ambitious effort to help 30 selected community colleges continue to develop their academic pathways for students in order to increase their success in college and beyond.

Things Successful Presidents Do (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

They convey a coherent vision, they keep their own counsel, and other sound advice, writes Scott Newman, a 2013-14 ACE Fellow and the vice president for academic affairs at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.

National Reentry Week Recognizes Successful Programs for Former Prisoners (Jobs for the Future)

A participant from JFF grantee Washburn University of Topeka sent in the following story: I released from Topeka Correctional Facility this past December. I wanted to share with you and your current/future students what completing the WIT program has done for me. Since the first of January, I have been working full time as a CNA with a former employer. I am so grateful they rehired me. After settling in, I started thinking about my future more. With the assistance of my [program] representative, I am enrolling for a CMA program that starts in July.

What Workplaces Gain When They Send Their Employees Back to School (The Atlantic)

Cigna, the health-care giant that posted $38 billion in revenues for 2015, generated a return on investment of 129 percent for its more than 2,200 workers who took advantage of the company’s education-reimbursement program from 2012 to 2014. Employees pursuing a bachelor’s or less received an allowance of $5,250 per year, while those seeking a master’s degree received $8,000. The number crunching, conducted by the Lumina Foundation and the business-consulting firm Accenture, shows that for each dollar spent on their employees, Cigna gained back that dollar and saved another $1.29 in talent-management costs.

Health Care

21 maps that show how healthcare prices shift across states (Healthcare Finance)

The Health Care Cost Institute has found wide discrepancies in prices for various medical services, including knee replacements, cataract removal and influenza evaluations. Healthcare Finance compiled a sampling of state-by-state comparisons for various services in this gallery, courtesy of the organization.

Health, United States, 2015 (Centers for Disease Control)

A comprehensive annual report out from CDC offers loads of national data on everything from coverage expansion and electronic health record adoption to use of colorectal tests and the number of dentists by state. CDC calls it the "report card on the nation's health," but it's essentially an encyclopedia crammed with information on trends across health care. It's accompanied by a special feature on disparities.

City Problems, City Solutions

In Wealthy Pocket of Connecticut, an Innovative Approach to Affordable Housing (The New York Times)

Not that the town had much choice in the matter. A 1990 state law meant to reverse decades of housing discrimination requires all of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities to guarantee that at least 10 percent of their housing units are affordable. In New Canaan, where the average home sells for $1.4 million, that number stands at 2.7 percent. “The problem is, the state is using a bazooka,” Mr. Hobbs, a former tank commander, said. The housing program “should fit in with the existing communities instead of just blowing up what everyone loves about them.”

Experiment on Queens Waterfront Would Mix Manufacturers and Dwellers (The New York Times)

It used to be that people lived over the shop. Now, as more crowd into New York, the de Blasio administration wants to marry housing and manufacturing once again. And while developers are typically the ones tearing down old plants for new apartments, a number of the city’s top builders are lining up for the chance to combine them, on an almost five-acre site on the waterfront in Long Island City, Queens.


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