Research Initiatives and Themes

It is integral to the Center's core mission that we produce ground-breaking research and endeavor to spread it, engage in public discourse, and translate our academic outputs to various contituents at Harvard and in the public. One way we have sought to do this is through several large-scale research initiatives that integrate the work of our community with related work taking place in other scholarly communities around the campus and beyond. 

Research Initiatives

To these ends, the Center currently supports two major initiatives: The DKP Design Studio and the Justice, Health, and Democracy Rapid Response Impact Initiatives. Each initiative is a hub for faculty-led research projects within the initiatives' theme.

  • The Design Studio – The Design Studio is a hub that supports innovative ethics and civics learning projects originating all across the university, that are dedicated to teaching people how to think through and work collectively on hard issues. We serve as a hub for faculty-led efforts to work with partners to co-design and implement innovative ethics and civic education curricula, educator professional development offerings, assessment tools, and policy frameworks. Faculty-led projects are underway for K-12 learning, undergraduate and graduate learning, professional development, and life-long learning. Our goal is to develop informed, engaged, and compassionate citizens who know how to work together effectively in a shared democratic society. Doing so requires us to learn to act ethically where we are, regardless of our profession, especially in a distributed society such as ours. 

  • Justice, Health, and Democracy Impact Initiatives (JHD) – The JHD Impact Initiative is a process for values orientation, problem identification, agenda development, personnel assignment and network building, goal setting, policy development and dissemination, fundraising, communication and engagement, implementation, and implementation hand-off for urgent problems requiring rapid solutions. We focus on deploying this process specifically for problems that require a multi-disciplinary perspective and have urgent issues of ethics and human values at their core. Our projects under JHD expand on our ongoing work on health equity, justice reform, democratic governance, pandemic resilience, and broader social resilience. If health equity, justice, and good governance name critical pillars of human well-being, the concepts of social resilience and pandemic resilience focus attention on whether societies have the resources and social practices to cope with threats, and to adapt and transform themselves in ways that restore, secure, and enhance well-being. Ethical responses to crises are necessary for social resilience. 

Research Themes

In addition to our two major initiaties, the Center selects short-term research themes that will structure our general research and programming for 2-3 years, on average. We invite incoming Fellows to join us for the year with a focus on the research theme, and the theme guides the choice of public lecture speakers and much of our other programming, but is not so all-encompassing as to exclude work and programming outside of its boundaries. You can read about our current and past themes in the menu to the left.