Engaging Ideas - 7/28/2017

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Are women better than men at creating online petitions? More open data in NYC government. Closing the economic gap with rural internet. A balanced view in the charter school debate. What is quality in health care? Diversifying America’s workforce with private colleges.


Politicians can’t seem to do it, but these citizens are learning how to find common ground (Washington Post)
Like so many Americans, most of Donna Murphy’s social circle shared her politics. So when she, a self-described liberal, was tasked with putting together a weekend-long event with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, she needed to broaden her bubble. To aid in her search, Murphy visited one of the most personally uncomfortable, but almost assuredly conservative places she could think of: Local gun shops.

City Releases Latest Progress on Open Data Plan (Gotham Gazette)
The city released its annual update to its Open Data plan on July 15, detailing the progress by city agencies to release all of their public data by 2018. The initiative, originally launched in 2012 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was expanded by the de Blasio administration two years ago under its Open Data for All plan, which aimed to make the data more accessible to everyday New Yorkers. City agencies periodically add data sets to the portal for public access.

Funders must join forces to defend civil society (@lliance)
Accustomed to being relatively invisible, philanthropy doesn’t just have a role to play in trying to get money to those most in need; it has a role to play in seeking to influence powerful actors, and to help uphold the fundamental values of everything that we do.


Women create fewer online petitions than men — but they’re more successful (Washington Post)
Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for U.S. president reignited debate about gender inclusiveness in politics and the rate at which women participate. Many studies have shown that women do not participate as much as men in many aspects of offline politics. Yet this may be changing as a result of new technology.

Puerto Rico as a Blueprint for Voter Engagement (Pacific Standard)
Extraordinary efforts to bolster access to voting and participation in civic life have led to a high level of political engagement in Puerto Rico.

Public participation at City Council meetings begins — within limits (Chicago Sun Times)
Chicago residents finally got their individual three minutes of fame today in the City Council chambers, as a flashing digital clock on the wall counted down to zero. At the start of the 30-minute public comment session — a City Council first — George Blakemore boomed: “This is historic — you are now allowed to speak at City Council.” Three minutes later, the clock cut him off.


Americans: Getting By, But Not Getting Ahead (Next Avenue)
Despite a growing economy and the lowest U.S. unemployment rate in 16 years, things aren’t looking up for many Americans — financial fragility is especially an issue for people with low incomes and for minorities, according to the new 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard.

Rural internet can help shrink economic gap (Seattle Times)
Microsoft wants to connect rural areas to better digital service. It’s a welcome initiative from an industry that, aside from locating some data centers in the hinterlands, tends to focus on metro areas. But the economic divide is long-standing and won’t be easily bridged.

One big reason millions are locked out of the American dream (MarketWatch)
Millions of families are living in perpetual financial insecurity. Low-income families are still unable to accrue enough savings to see themselves through a period of joblessness.

K-12 Education

A Career Pathway To Educational And Employment Success (Forbes)
How can our schools transform education to make it applicable and adaptable to the future? How can they foster the capacity for lifelong learning that young people entering the workforce today need for future success? Stephen Spahn, chancellor of New York’s preschool-12 Dwight School, has been asking these questions for 50 years.

Please keep this guy away from rousing charter school debate (Washington Post)
Along with many Americans, I enjoy intense arguments about charter schools, the tax-supported institutions independent of school districts. I happily air my biases and skewer the squishy defenses of my foes. People like me have to watch out for Zachary W. Oberfield, an associate professor of political science at Haverford College. He spoils our fun. On the charter school issue he is scholarly, precise and balanced.

How Colorado could see more “blended learning,” combining online courses and traditional teaching (Chalkbeat)
A new guide released Monday seeks to help Colorado schools successfully introduce blending learning, a growing practice combining traditional classroom instruction with online coursework.  

Higher Education & Workforce Development

College Degrees Lead to 'Good Jobs' (Inside Higher Ed)
The college degree has solidified its role as the best ticket to the middle class. With the title “Good Jobs That Pay Without a B.A.,” new research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce would seem to offer some solace for job seekers with only a high school credential. But not much, as the study shows that an increasing share of well-paying jobs have shifted to workers who hold four-year or associate degrees.

For-Profit Graduate Schools Popular With Black Women (Inside Higher Ed)
Graduate student enrollment is declining at for-profit institutions, but the sector continues to resonate with one particular demographic -- black women.

Private colleges play a key role in diversifying America's workforce (The Hill)
What may be surprising is that private colleges serve a higher proportion of first-generation and low-income students than public and private doctoral universities. At private nonprofit colleges 17 percent are first generation, and at private doctoral-granting universities, 11 percent are first generation.

What Makes a Good Free College Plan? (Inside Higher Ed)
We have recently witnessed the introduction of a growing number of diverse plans for free public college. But what we’ve not seen -- and what must be done -- is to determine a set of criteria to judge the effectiveness and the viability of these various financial aid models.

Health Care

What do patients value in healthcare? (Modern Healthcare Executive)
When defining quality, it is important to understand that patients value different qualities of care depending on their health needs, according to a new survey from Public Agenda, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Universal Health Insurance? Why? (Health Affairs)
The Congressional health care debate has become a war between two seemingly irreconcilable extremes, coverage versus budget control. Health care is a right, thunders Bernie Sanders (I-VT). There’s no free lunch, roars back Rand Paul (R-KY). We think both sides miss the boat.

Which Metrics on Hospital Quality Should Patients Pay Attention To? (The Upshot)
The relatively recent movements toward transparency and quality in health care have collided to produce dozens of publicly available hospital quality metrics. You might consider studying them in advance of your next hospital visit. But how do you know if the metrics actually mean anything?


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