Special Edition  |  COVID-19 Update  |  March 27, 2020


COVID-19 support for mayors and city officials

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a project based at Harvard Kennedy School, is working with faculty from across the university to offer virtual sessions focused on emergency preparedness, emergency response, crisis leadership, and crisis communication. Each session also features critical public health updates from experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The first session, featuring Kennedy School faculty Juliette Kayyem and Dutch Leonard on crisis management, drew more than 450 mayors and city officials from across the United States.


Crisis leadership essentials: Takeaways from first session

Kayyem and Leonard identified three leadership tasks underlying all other aspects of responding to a crisis.

  1. Assess where you are in the life cycle of the crisis with as much accuracy as possible. This will inform the ways in which you allocate your attention and activities and organize the work.

  2. Establish a problem-solving process for a novel threat. Routine emergency management processes will not be sufficient for responding to this crisis, which will require rapid integration of new (and incomplete) information, learning on the fly, and nimble reactions to emergent issues.

  3. Understand the political aspects and identify risks to be managed in order to keep order, secure and retain support, and create the conditions for effective collaboration under extreme circumstances.

For more on how the Kennedy School is working to support public leaders and policymakers during the current crisis, visit our resource page.


COVID-19 resource tool for public sector officials

Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation has built an online resource center for public sector practitioners who are responding to COVID-19. The resource database is curated by Kennedy School scholars to highlight cases, teaching, policy solutions, and other examples of how governments are responding to the outbreak. These include resources developed within Harvard as well as toolkits, webinars, and materials from other academic institutions, cities, and partners working to solve the crisis and ease the impact on citizens. 

Also see: COVID-19 Resources for City Leaders from the Kennedy School’s Data-Smart City Solutions project.


A new blog series to help leaders across the globe during crises

Meeting the COVID-19 challenge is especially difficult for governments that have low capability or are trying to build capability. A new blog series, “Public Leadership Through Crisis,” by Matt Andrews, faculty director of the Building State Capability Project in the Kennedy School’s Center for International Development, offers ideas for leaders in developing countries to determine what kind of leadership and action is required in crises. Each blog post provides suggestions as well as questions for reflection.


Online Kennedy School forums offer public discussions on COVID-19

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Harvard’s premier arena for political speech, discussion and debate, is hosting virtual gatherings on responses to and ramifications of COVID-19. The Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has launched “Fast Forums,” a new series of online discussions to keep policymakers and the public informed and involved. The first Fast Forum on Thursday, March 26, featured Massachusetts Congressman James McGovern and LaTosha Brown, a 2019 IOP fellow who is co-founder of Black Voters Matter. These 30-minute conversations will convene elected officials, political operatives, journalists and activists. They are publicly live-streamed on the IOP’s Facebook page, and guests must take question from the audience.



Joseph Nye on dangers of U.S.-Chinese conflict over COVID-19


  • The crisis could last 18 months. Be prepared. [Juliette Kayyem] The Atlantic

  • Economists cheered by stimulus plan but see long, tough slog ahead [Karen Dynan, Kenneth Rogoff] Harvard Gazette

  • Flattening the COVID-19 curve in developing countries [Ricardo Hausmann] Project Syndicate

  • The debate over money for everybody [Jason Furman] NPR

  • How the world will look after the coronavirus pandemic [Nicolas Burns, Joseph Nye, Stephen Walt] Foreign Policy

  • How social distancing could ultimately teach us how to be less lonely [Arthur Brooks] Washington Post

  • How courageous leadership can help a community through a pandemic [Stephen Goldsmith] Governing

  • The death of American competence [Stephen Walt] Foreign Policy

  • Trump is missing the big picture on the economy [Lawrence Summers] Washington Post

  • How to lead in a time of pandemic [Nicholas Burns] Foreign Affairs

  • When schools close, vulnerable families are left in the dark [Todd Rogers] EdWeek

  • The coronavirus crisis response should point the way to long-term voting reform [Miles Rapoport] Medium

This weekly update of expert opinions and perspectives on how to confront the COVID-19 crisis is produced by Harvard Kennedy School. Please share feedback and suggestions to

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