Numerous members of the HKS faculty have developed teaching cases regarding the many aspects of racial inequality, race relations, and diversity. Their areas of focus include history, education, democracy, human rights, health care, leadership, and criminal justice. Through the analysis and dissemination of these cases, students can gain a better understanding of the extensive, profound, and enduring impacts of racism with the potential to apply this knowledge in changing the way that public leaders and officials think about race when addressing public issues. The HKS Case Program created this collection of cases to aid educators in the process of identifying and selecting a case within the themes of racial inequality and social justice.
Case: Leading with Empathy: Tarana Burke and the Making of the Me Too Movement
Length: 15 pages
Learning Objective: The case provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Burke’s thought process unfolded throughout her leadership journey, enabling an in-depth exploration of the internal and external struggles that shaped the Me Too founder’s leadership approach.
Case: LaToya Cantrell, Mayor of New Orleans: A Political ‘Outsider’ Takes Charge of City Hall
Length: 10-page Multimedia Case
Learning Objective: Designed for a class in urban politics and policy, this case allows students to consider and contrast the skills and strategies that allowed Cantrell to succeed as an activist with those needed on the election trail and at City Hall. It allows for discussion of what the rise of an African American woman from grassroots activism to New Orleans’ top elected office means for the city—and for the activist politician herself.
Video Case: Colin Kaepernick v. Donald Trump
Length: 8.30 minutes
Learning Objective: This video can be used to inform class discussions about protest movements in sports, race discrimination and police violence, social justice, culture wars, polarization in U.S. politics, and how antagonists in a conflict go about defining the issue at the heart of it and creating networks of support. It can be used as an assignment for students to view ahead of class or played at the beginning of the class session.
Case: Values-Based Leadership Across Difference: The Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela
Length: 35 pages
Learning Objective: The case is designed to facilitate a live, in-class discussion of the role of personal, core values in achieving and maintaining leadership. The learning objective is to understand the essence of values-based leadership in the service of others, along with the personal sacrifice, patience, persistence, and openness to change that is required.
Case: Crossing the Line: Don Imus and the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team
Length: 32 pages
Learning Objective: This case can be used to foster discussion on the issues of race, freedom of speech, and the power of the press and mass media in the modern internet age.
Case: Kmart Union in Greensboro Fights for a Contract: Early Days Exhilarating and Frustrating (A)/B Case
Length: 20 pages (A Case) and 18 pages (B Case)
Learning Objective: When the employees of a Kmart distribution center in Greensboro, North Carolina vote to unionize, they encounter difficulty in negotiating a contract with their employer, which viewed wages and working conditions as in keeping with regional conditions. This series of cases describes the tactics employed which at first alienate local opinion but which are adjusted in ways that prove effective. The case describes, in particular, the decision to recruit local religious leaders, whose support proves crucial. The case is meant to support discussion of organizing tactics and strategy. Alternatively, it can be used to discuss labor economics, as a vehicle to examine the substance of the Kmart employees’ complaints and the counter-arguments mounted by company management.
Case: Jesse Helms v. Harvey Gantt: Race, Culture, and Campaign Strategy in the 1990 Senate Battle and Sequel
Length: 39 pages
Learning Objective: The case raises a series of broad questions: what is acceptable discourse on race in US public life? Did either candidate in this campaign cross a line such that their campaign tactics raised moral issues because of their references to race? If such a line exists, does it constrain black and white candidates equally?
Video Case: Embracing the Uphill Struggle: Marc Morial's Quest for Corporate Diversity
Length: 25 pages
Learning Objective: Designed for a class in leadership, the case allows students to consider how personal influences, the opportunities and constraints of a given historical moment, and a set of leadership skills and approaches combine—in this case, to create an advocacy strategy for corporate diversity. The case could be paired with any leadership framework. At HKS, it was paired with the “4P” framework, which highlights the roles of perception, process, people, and projection.
Case: Harvey Mudd College: Promoting Women in Computer Science through Inclusive Education
Length: 31 pages
Learning Objective: The case was designed to foster classroom discussion on the barriers to increasing diversity and gender equity within STEM programs as well as a diagnosis of the approach taken by Harvey Mudd College. Students are asked to consider whether Harvey Mudd College’s approach is replicable and if so, under what conditions.
Video Case: The Massport Model: Integrating Diversity and Inclusion into Public-Private Partnerships
Length: 29 pages
Learning Objective: The case is designed to facilitate a live, in-class discussion to help students understand the challenges of crafting and implementing a diversity and inclusion requirement within a multi-stakeholder public-private partnership. Students assess the tradeoffs, consequences, and benefits for each stakeholder.
Case: Values in Conflict: The Furor over Admissions Policy at a Popular Virginia Magnet School
Length: 23 pages
Learning Objective: In this executive leadership case, the activist superintendent of Virginia's affluent Fairfax County public school district, Daniel A. Domenech, is faced with a complex, politically-loaded policy dilemma. At issue is the admissions policy for the county's popular and prestigious magnet high school, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The case describes Domenech and his educational philosophy, then provides a narrative summary of TJ's history, the evolution of its admissions policy in some detail, and the perspectives of various interested parents on the topic. It poses the question, how should Domenech approach this problem?
Case: Pushing the Boundaries: Redistricting the Kentwood Schools
Length: 18 pages
Learning Objective: This leadership case describes how a superintendent developed and implemented a plan she believed ensured racial integration within the public schools of a small, suburban municipality, notwithstanding citizen opposition. The case describes both her methods of dealing with the public and, in particular, her relations with Kentwood's elected board of education members.
Video Case: Diversity Programs at The New England Aquarium
Length: 22 pages
Learning Objective: Like many major museums, the New England Aquarium on Boston's waterfront is under pressure to have a higher profile in the city's minority neighborhoods. Its strategies to do so include the hiring of African American and Hispanic high school students for positions formerly filled by white, middle-class volunteers. Complications develop, however, in part because the youthful employees don't have the range of experience and interest in the field as did their predecessors. The inner circle of the Aquarium's management includes one minority staff member who finds himself obligated to handle them. Is it right for him to be asked to do so?
Case: The Making of a Public Health Catastrophe: A Step-By-Step Guide to the Flint Water Crisis
Length: 47 pages
Learning Objective: This rich case story offers multiple avenues for in-class analysis. At the Harvard Kennedy School, instructors use it to think about types of power, shifts in power over time, bureaucratic incentives, and the ethics of personal responsibility. These discussions deepen students’ understanding of structural racism. The case could also be used to discuss environmental justice, environmental regulation, bureaucracy, cost-cutting, and advocacy.
Case: Detroit’s Troubled Waters: Race, Politics, Bankruptcy & Regionalism
Length: 28 pages plus a video supplement
Learning Objective: Developed for a course in urban politics and policy, the case and video provide background for a traditional case discussion or simulation, in which students gain a deeper appreciation for how each party understands its own interests, goals, and red lines. The video is also available separately with guidance about using it to explore issues of urban racial history in the United States and the historical factors that led to Detroit's bankruptcy in 2013.
Video Case: The Rise and Fall of an American City: Race and Politics in Detroit, 1910-2013 (Documentary)/Multimedia Case
Length: 30-minute video/5-chapter multimedia case
Learning Objective: This video/multimedia case can be used to discuss key issues in the evolution of many American cities, such as white flight, institutional racism and deindustrialization. The video can also be used to inform a class discussion about the historical factors that led to Detroit’s crisis and influenced the controversial decision to suspend local government in order to restore financial stability to the city.
Case: "Broadmoor Lives": A New Orleans Neighborhood's Battle To Recover from Hurricane Katrina (A Case)/B Case/Sequel
Length: 24 pages (A Case) and 25 pages (B Case)
Learning Objective: The A case provides background on Broadmoor--a mixed-income neighborhood that encompassed both a relatively affluent, largely white area and a poorer, largely African American section that had been troubled by blighted housing and crime--and tells the story of its early steps to organize an all-volunteer redevelopment planning effort. Soon after it launched the process, it got an unexpected offer of help from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), which proposed to send students to Broadmoor during their spring break to assist the neighborhood with its plan. The case ends with a warning from the leader of the HKS initiative that the federal funds residents hoped would start pouring in once their plan was completed would not likely materialize. Part B then follows two strands of the Broadmoor planning effort: (1) how residents met to discuss and vote on components of the plan, and how differences over goals and priorities were mediated and resolved; and (2) how the neighborhood adopted a strategy of "partnerships" with outside organizations and corporations to get help in implementing its ambitious redevelopment plan. A brief sequel describes progress in key areas of the plan. Taken together, the cases provide a snapshot of a disaster-stricken community organizing itself and building the capacity to engineer and manage its own recovery.
Case: Plans versus Politics: New Orleans after Katrina
Length: 22 pages
Learning Objective: This case can be used to illustrate the difficulty facing political leaders in making decisions that would adequately satisfy the interests of different groups within their constituents. It can also be used in classes to foster discussion on appropriate emergency or strategic management after a natural disaster.
Case: Crossing the River: An Economic Development and Diversity Initiative in Southwestern Michigan (A Case)/B Case
Length: 43 pages (A Case) and 3 pages (B Case)
Learning Objective: The case prompts discussion about community tolerance and diversity, business-government-community relations, the structure and effectiveness of citizen-based planning efforts, and economic development strategies for older industrial communities.
Case: Addressing Racial Disparities at the Massachusetts Probation Service
Length: 8 pages
Learning Objective: By looking at an agency that has been intentional about addressing racial disparities, the case asks students to: 1. Analyze the reforms on their merits and evaluate whether they generated system-wide change; 2. Examine if it is possible for good leadership and a racially balanced workforce to achieve equitable treatment of all who come into the criminal legal system; and 3. Analyze the tradeoffs between introducing more fairness into the system and serving the institution’s mission.
Case: Strategic Moves & Tough Choices: The Campaign Behind New Jersey’s ‘Ban the Box’ Law
Length: 24 pages
Learning Objective: This political strategy case invites students to reflect on the roles, principles, and tools of non-profit organizations in lobbying for a bill. How to identify stakeholders; how to use data effectively; how to create a sympathetic narrative; how to understand and address the objections of critics; how to be attuned to the subtext of language in making the case for the bill; how to balance competing concerns in deciding who will be the face of the campaign; how to think about compromise.
Case: Into Local Streets: Maryland National Guard and the Baltimore Riots
Length: 19 pages
Learning Objective: This case prompts readers to reflect on challenges the National Guard may encounter when responding to civil unrest in domestic settings. It asks readers to consider how the Guard can best partner with the many different law enforcement agencies that will be involved in – and frequently in command of – the response to such events. The case also highlights some of the challenges Guard leaders may face when interfacing with elected officials – at both the state and local levels.
Case: A Rising Storm: Eric Garner and the Explosive Controversy over Race & Policing
Length: 36 pages
Learning Objective: This case was designed for The Responsibilities of Public Action, a core ethics course, where it is used to explore institutional racism, competing public values, and collective responsibility. The case invites students to question what is at stake for policymakers and stakeholders in the aftermath of Garner’s death and to evaluate the policy instruments available to them. The case could also be taught in classes pertaining to strategy, policy, criminal justice, and leadership.
Case: Revisiting Gang Violence in Boston
Length: 25 pages
Learning Objective: The so-called ‘Boston miracle’ — a dramatic decline in homicides, especially among the city's youth — was singled out by President Clinton as a model for the rest of the nation. Among the heroes of that miracle were co-founders of the Ten Point Coalition, a group of African American clergymen. In addition to walking the most dangerous streets in the city in an effort to reach out to gang members, Coalition members had also become participants in a citywide initiative — Operation Ceasefire, a partnership of the Boston police, probation officers, court officials, youth workers, prosecutors, academics, and others — which was widely credited with the steep in gang-related killings. The success had brought national and international acclaim, but ultimately led to a fracturing of both the Coalition and the Operation Ceasefire alliance. Faced with a resurgence in gang shootings, the case looks at individuals who had participated in Operation Ceasefire, and sought not only to revive the strategies that had proved so successful in the past, but also to find new ways to halt the cycle of retaliatory killings that had brought Boston's homicide rate to a ten-year high.
Case: Changing with the Times: South African Police in the Post-Apartheid Era
Length: 18 pages
Learning Objective: This case highlights, in an exceptionally dramatic way, the ways in which the missions of public agencies can change in relationship to the political climate. It calls for imagination in coping with a crucial problem of managing organizational change. The case discusses the changes and internal reforms that took place within the South African Police (SAP) during the post-apartheid era.
Case: Fallen Idol? Aung San Suu Kyi & the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis
Length: 23 pages
Learning Objective: Developed for a course in moral leadership, this case may be used to teach about how top officials may fail when faced with their greatest adaptive challenges. In this case, students may be asked to consider Suu Kyi’s approach in the light of adaptive leadership theory, which rejects the false certainty of easy answers in addressing intercommunal conflict in favor of embracing uncertainty, experimentation, and the risk of failure in the open-ended search for a more humane, enduring path forward.
Case: Caño Martín Peña: Land Ownership and Politics Collide in Puerto Rico
Length: 5-page Multimedia Case
Learning Objective: This case offers rich material for thinking about the most appropriate scale and means for addressing a range of complex socio-economic and environmental urban challenges, such as community empowerment, affordable housing, urban planning, gentrification and water pollution. Pundits and politicians across the globe overwhelmingly view the everyday operation of the private market, coupled with some degree of local and state action, as offering the best way forward in tackling these thorny, complex issues. The Caño Martín Peña community land trust provides students with an opportunity to critically assess an alternative solution -- namely, collectivizing land ownership at the small scale of a neighborhood and rebalancing decision-making power away from city and state authorities as well as private developers to the communities that make the neighborhood their home. Using this case, students can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the CLT model and consider how effective and sustainable it might be in different contexts.
Case: Female Genital Cutting: Confronting the Power of Tradition in Senegal
Length: 8-page Multimedia Case
Learning Objective: This multimedia case provides a compelling vehicle for the instructor and the students to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different mechanisms for changing deeply entrenched social norms, from public deliberation and community empowerment to a coordinated abandonment approach that seeks to quickly flip social equilibrium, using game-theoretic principles. Students can also explore ethical dilemmas in international development and aid, as well as the potential for cultural imperialism.
Case: Fighting Bonded Labor in Rural India: Village Activist Gyarsi Bai Tackles an Entrenched System of Coercion
Length: 19 pages plus a multimedia website of eight short videos, ranging in length from 1 to 3:30 min.
Learning Objective: This case was developed for a negotiations class to introduce the topic of coalition-building in multi-party negotiations, but can also be used to examine mechanisms of social change. It demonstrates that, even in extreme situations, disenfranchised groups can make significant headway through effective use of negotiating techniques. Students examine how activist Gyarsi Bai earned the trust of vulnerable laborers, created viable alternatives to bonded labor, and built coalitions with local and national NGOs, the state and central governments, and the media to expand her influence.
Case: Negotiating from the Margins: The Santa Clara Pueblo Seeks Key Ancestral Lands
Length: 23 pages plus video supplement
Learning Objective: This negotiations case describes the approach, over time, of Santa Clara, a small Pueblo Indian tribe in New Mexico, to recover a piece of land tribal leaders viewed as integral to their ancestral homeland. The case can be used to teach several lessons about negotiation – how to trade on differences to create value, overcome a status and power imbalance, build a multi-party coalition, and balance the demands of internal vs. external negotiations. In particular, case analysis shows the advantages of understanding one’s adversary, especially in framing an argument. It also shows how to dig beneath an apparent zero-sum conflict to find a solution that gives both parties what they most want and need.
Case: "No Prison in East L.A.!": Birth of a Grassroots Movement
Length: 28 pages
Learning Objective: This advocacy strategy case describes the special challenges faced and techniques employed by a poor, minority (Mexican-American) neighborhood group seeking to draw public attention to its concern about the proposed siting of a state prison facility on its borders. The Mothers of East LA employ a variety of attention-getting publicity techniques to apparent great effect. This case provides the basis for discussion of advocacy techniques, community organizing strategies, and the position of non-affluent interest groups.
Case: Against All Odds: The Campaign in Congress for Japanese American Redress
Length: 30 pages
Learning Objective: The dramatic story of how the Japanese American community successfully lobbied Congress and the White House for legislation mandating financial compensation for those sent to detention camps in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The case not only tells the inside story of a decade-long lobbying campaign--including a carefully researched personal approach which changed Ronald Reagan's mind on the subject--but serves as a model of how bills really become laws. Aspects of this process explored in the narrative include internal legislative strategy, the role of the press, the role of grassroots organization, and the structure and nature of coalitions. In addition to calling on students to consider the various approaches available to the Japanese community, such as the choice between legislative initiative and court action, the case allows students to assume the role of a marginalized group dealing with the political and cultural mainstream.