At the start of his second term, President Barack Obama said, “We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government.” Some people point to the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program as a primary example of those words in action.
Earlier this week, the White House welcomed the third edition of Fellows to serve year-long tours-of-duty in government, partnering with dedicated civil servants and employing data-driven iterative lean startup approaches to create change in months, not years (full disclosure: I co-founded the program in 2012 while working in the White House). Fellows will be embedded in a number of agencies, working across three distinct project areas: Data Innovation; Crowdsourcing; and Creating a 21st Century Veterans’ Experience.
A number of these newly-minted Fellows boast New York roots, including:
- Rachel Harrison Gordon (Mobile Analytics Manager at the New York Times)
- Robert Sosinski (Vice President of Engineering at Ticket Evolution, MS from NYU, Air Force veteran)
- Jeff Chen (Director of Analytics at FDNY, MA from Columbia University)
- Christopher Daggett (Vice President at ideas42, Board of Advisor to BigApps NYC)
- Christopher Goranson (Director of the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping at The New School)
- Maia Hansen (Software Architect at the New York Genome Center)
- J. Kalafarski (Vice President of Product at Onswipe)
- Christopher Wong (Executive Director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU School of Law)
You can learn more about these Fellows and the rest of their colleagues by reading the bios here.
When we talk about civic engagement, there is no better example than the Presidential Innovation Fellows. But fortunately, there are a number of easier ways to get involved in improving your community — and Microsoft New York is working on that directly. Here in New York, BetaNYC holds weekly hack nights every Wednesday. The TEALS program places experienced software programmers in public school classrooms across the city. Maker Week starts this coming Monday and will feature various opportunities to get hands-on experience with fabrication technologies. And organizations such as Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code spread tech skills to groups that have historically been underrepresented in the tech sector.
From all of us at Microsoft, congratulations to the new round of Fellows as they begin their important work of building a more effective, efficient, and responsive government. Garren Givens, the Director of the PIF program, describes the mission as “creat[ing] technology that hopefully delivers a profound and lasting impact.” But that isn’t a mission that needs to end with him or with the new Fellows in Washington; it’s a mission that each of us can – and should – make our own.