The Justice, Health and Democracy Impact Initiative: Forging a 21st Century Social Contract

Clear, accessible policy guidance. Designed for practitioner use. Responsive to local needs.

Public policy in the U.S. is at an inflection point. Existing policy is dated and inadequate for America’s problems of inequality and social injustice. Policy-making is often disconnected from the communities it is meant to serve. Expertise is siloed and fails to address intersecting problems of public trust, health equity, justice, democratic participation, and political economy that are central to a thriving society. Too often policy-makers begin by assuming trade-offs rather than by clarifying overarching objectives and seeking maximum alignment among them.

A new, integrative policy-making model fit for our challenging times .

With the Justice, Health and Democracy Impact Initiative (JHD) national experts work directly with local leaders to clarify overarching policy needs and objectives anchored in ethical principles, and to develop practical approaches to a new social contract that improves people’s lives.

The model is multidisciplinary and responsive to local issues. It connects expertise to on-the-ground need with rapid “orient-do-learn-do” cycles of research, policy implementation and locally-driven innovation.

The integrative policy-making model works. Over the course of several months in early 2020, and again in 2021, Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, working with New America, Brown University School of Public Health, and a network of nationally recognized experts, mayors and other local leaders, led an effort that integrated multidisciplinary expert resources with practitioner need to craft effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was clear, accessible guidance to local leaders on how to target and suppress COVID-19 more effectively in their localities, including in schools to keep them safe for in-person learning.

  • The model delivered converged public health technical advice, metrics and key performance indicators for the COVID-19 response, providing needed clarity to public health officials and the public.
  • It produced a range of recommendations and policy supports that can be tailored to a locality’s characteristics and experience with the disease.
  • These included two policy roadmaps on pandemic resilience and disease suppression, strategy briefings, a technical advisory manual, and data tools designed for practitioner use.
  • Informed by local leaders’ needs and the experiences of their communities, the model’s recommendations were adopted at every level of government from the U.S. Conference for Mayors and the National Association of City and County Health Officials to the National Governors’ Association, the House and Senate, and the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.

Collaborative federalism, equitable recovery and a 21st century social contract.

Our model is one of national experts working with leader practitioners to design effective policy supports for local implementation and national scale. This requires analyzing how different jurisdictional levels can contribute to overarching objectives in a harmonized fashion.
The model is now focused on core challenges facing America’s communities as they rebuild following COVID-19. It spans issues that are central to a thriving society including justice reform and equity, public health, political economy, and governance.
JHD partners Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, New America, and Brown University School of Public Health invite collaboration on research, policy, and dissemination.

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