Stephen Goldsmith

Stephen Goldsmith is the Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Policy and the Director of Data-Smart City Solutions at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He previously served as Deputy Mayor of New York and Mayor of Indianapolis, where he earned a reputation as one of the country's leaders in public-private partnerships, competition, and privatization. Stephen was also the chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, the Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the district attorney for Marion County, Indiana from 1979 to 1990. He has written The Power of Social Innovation; Governing by Network: the New Shape of the Public Sector; Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work through Grassroots Citizenship; The Twenty-First Century City: Resurrecting Urban America, The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance; A New City O/S: The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance; and Collaborative Cities: Mapping Solutions to Wicked Problems. His most recent book, Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development, was released in February 2022.

Additional Projects

The Government Leadership Network

The Government Leadership Network (GLN) is a convening of municipal chiefs of staff and other senior city leaders from among the largest cities across the United States. GLN is a unique initiative that provides a platform for cities to share and adapt best practices and innovative policy ideas that improve the lives of citizens. 

Twice a year, the Ash Center hosts a convening for GLN representatives chaired by Stephen Goldsmith, the Derek Bok Professor of Urban Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the director of the Ash Center's Government Innovations Program. At each convening, representatives discuss important policy challenges and innovative solutions with national policy experts, academic thought leaders, and senior government practitioners. Convenings focus on critical topics in urban policy, ranging anywhere from city competitiveness to leading in times of change. Part of our goal is to share the best practices developed through GLN with other interested cities.

The Mayoral Leadership in Education Network

The Mayoral Leadership in Education Network is a community of mayors and senior city leaders focused on the mayor’s role in education innovation, exploring better ways to navigate the political, policy, accountability, and equity considerations that cities face as the landscape of innovation evolves. The Mayoral Leadership in Education Network leverages the Ash Center’s ongoing work on public sector innovation and deep connections to city leaders to provide frameworks, tools, and practices related to leadership and collaboration across sectors, mayoral mechanisms for accountability, building capacity for leveraging data and evidence, ensuring equity and fairness across the city, engaging members of the community, and more.


Of particular importance for current mayoral administrations is the need to develop data-driven, education-to-career pathways that ensure youth are entering the workforce equipped with the skills demanded by regional employers. The Mayoral Leadership in Education Network seeks to build mayors’ capacity to convene multiple city stakeholders around a shared vision for skills and talent development that empowers all youth in their communities to thrive in jobs of the future.  This network is co-facilitated by two former mayors, Stephen Goldsmith and Sly James, with input from an advisory committee listed below. 

Meg Ansara
CEO and Founding Partner, 270 Strategies

John Arnold
Co-Chair, Arnold Ventures

Emma Bloomberg
Founder and CEO, Murmuration
Harvard Kennedy School ‘06
Harvard Business School ‘07

Secretary Arne Duncan
Managing Partner, Emerson Collective
Harvard College ‘87

Adrian Fenty
General Partner, M Ventures
Former Mayor, Washington, D.C.

Joel Klein
Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, Oscar Health
Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
Harvard Law School ‘71

Mitch Landrieu
Former Mayor, New Orleans, LA

Dr. Michael L. Lomax
President and CEO, UNCF

Hanna Skandera
CEO, Mile High Strategies

Marc Sternberg
K-12 Education Program Director, Walton Family Foundation
Harvard Business School ‘00
Harvard Graduate School of Education ‘01

Operational Excellence in Government

Operational Excellence in Government is led by Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Innovations in American Government Awards program and Professor at Harvard Kennedy School. The project identifies operational efficiency themes across state and local governments. 

Learn more about the project here.

Regulatory Reform in the 21st Century

Working with US cities, the  Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School built an inventory of regulatory best practices that will support local governments in streamlining regulatory processes, while at the same time supporting local and regional economic development.

Learn more about the project here.