News & Events

Previous ISS Events

“Functioning Centers of Government in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings: What works?” August 9-10, 2017


Guests from several countries joined UN officials, advisers from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and Innovations for Successful Societies to talk about how to improve the performance of cabinet offices or the “center of government” in very difficult settings. This event is part of an informal   collaboration to share experience and develop new ways to address some of the challenging issues new governments face in focusing on priorities, implementing policies, coordination across ministries, and communicating effectively.                 



Overview Notes

Innovations for Successful Societies cases on these topics.

Improving the Policy Process: Ghana Tries to Build Support for Cabinet Decision-Making, 2003-2008

Shifting the Cabinet into High Gear: Agile Policymaking in Rwanda, 2008-2012

Delivering on a Presidential Agenda: Sierra Leone's Strategy and Policy Unit, 2010-2011

Improving Decision Making at the Center of Government: Liberia's Cabinet Secretariat, 2009-2012

Translating Vision into Action: Indonesia's Delivery Unit, 2009-2012

Rethinking the Role of the Cabinet: Maryland's Center of Government Reforms, 2007-2012

Matching Goodwill with National Priorities: Liberia's Philanthropy Secretariat, 2008-2012

Unity Government

‘Reconciling The Impossible’: South Africa’s Government of National Unity, 1994-1996

Making Power Sharing Work: Kenya’s Grand Coalition Cabinet, 2008–2013

Caretaker Government

A Year of Calm: Tunisia's Independent Government, 2014–2015

Emergency Management

Chasing an Epidemic: Coordinating Liberia’s Response to Ebola, 2014–2015










Driving Change, Securing Tenure: Innovations in Land & Property Rights

A new series of ISS case studies profiles recent initiatives to strengthen tenure security and reform land registration systems in seven countries: South AfricaCanadaJamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Australia and Tanzania.

Marking the launch of this series, New America’s Future of Property Rights initiative is hosting a two-day workshop to highlight key lessons and provoke thinking about implications for property rights innovations around the world.

Day 1, Wednesday, May 31, features TED-style presentations from the case protagonists—the people who actually led the reforms—as well as an expert panel discussion about new practices and technologies in land and property rights.  Day 1 will be live-streamed.

Day 2, Thursday, June 1, brings together a group of educators and practitioners to build a global network around property rights case teaching and development.

Widner appointed to Commission on State Fragility, Growth, and Development

ISS Director and Professor of Politics and International Affairs Jennifer Widner has been appointed to a new Commission on State Fragility, Growth, and Development, chaired by former UK Prime Minister David  Cameron. The Commission, hosted by the International Growth Center (LSE) and the Blavatnik School at Oxford, will guide policy on economic growth in fragile and conflict situations. Along with Mr. Cameron, the Commission will be co-chaired by Dr. Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank and currently the Special Envoy of the African Union Peace Fund, and Dr. Adnan Khan, Research and Policy Director of the International Growth Centre. Professors Tim Besley (LSE) and Paul Collier (Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government) will be the Commission’s academic directors. In addition, eight leading figures from the public sphere, academia, and the private sector will serve as commissioners. The Commission will be launched under the auspices of the International Growth Centre in March 2017 and run until June 2018. 

Read the full press release here.


June 2017

Contested Terrain: Reforming Procurement Systems in South Africa

When he took office as South Africa's finance minister in 2009, Pravin Gordhan found that government officials responsible for purchasing goods and services wasted billions of dollars every year as a result of inefficiency, errors, and graft. To address this problem, he decided to centralize many procurement functions and he tapped longtime finance ministry official Kenneth Brown to serve as the country's first chief procurement officer. With the support of a skilled team, Brown tightened procedures and regulations, built effective oversight, reviewed and renegotiated costly contracts, developed new money-saving strategies, and launched efforts to create an online purchasing system. Despite opposition from people at some of the highest levels of government, Brown sharply reduced opportunities for corruption, increased transparency in the procurement process, and slashed the time required to process tenders. 


Read More

Protests outside the treasury on March 31, 2017 following the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan from his position as finance minister. Photo by Tristan Dreisbach.

Putting Justice Into Practice: Communal Land Tenure in Ebenhaeser, South Africa

Following the 1994 transition from racial apartheid to democracy, the new South African government sought to recognize the land rights of the estimated 16 million black South Africans living in communal areas. The absence of a clear legal framework applicable to most communal areas hindered progress. In 2009, land reform Minister Gugile Nkwiti designated Ebenhaeser, a small community on the country's west coast, as a rural "flagship" project. Provincial officials helped organize a communal association to serve as landowner and negotiated an agreement with white farmers to return land that had originally belonged to mixed-race residents. The community developed a land administration plan that would pave the way for Ebenhaeser's residents to become legal owners of the communal territory, providing an alternative to the granting of the land to traditional leaders.


ISS Featured Interview

While serving as South Africa's public protector from 2009 to 2016, Thulisile Madonsela (link is external) transformed the office of Public Protector into a powerful and effective anticorruption institution. She released reports detailing corruption and financial mismanagement at the highest levels of government. In this 2017 interview, Madonsela explains how she restructured the office and prepared its staff to take on an expanding corruption caseload while fending off resistance from opponents. 

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Innovations for Successful Societies (ISS) is a joint program of Princeton University's
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs