University News

Georgetown Effort Advises Next Administration on Driving Government Innovation

October 7, 2016

– Nearly 300 scholars and leaders from across the public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors gathered at Georgetown yesterday to explore how the next presidential administration can institutionalize innovation in federal policymaking.

“Innovation has become a buzzword,” said Sonal Shah, founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, during her opening remarks at the Data for Social Good: Innovation in the Next Administration symposium. “We need to instead use it to improve impact and outcomes.”

A Roadmap for the Next Administration

The event, sponsored by the Massive Data Institute (MDI) at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and the Beeck Center, marked the release of The Architecture of Innovation: Institutionalizing Innovation in Federal Policy Making, a report providing presidential transition teams with a roadmap to accelerate the culture of innovation across government.

Hollie Russon Gilman, a Beeck Center Fellow and MDI adviser, and Jessica Gover, a Beeck Center research associate, co-authored the report that includes interviews with leaders in government, business, nonprofits and philanthropy and features profiles of 10 cities as incubators of innovation. The report also makes more than 30 recommendations on topics that includes structures for managing data and innovation in government and investing and cultivating in tech talent.

Bridging the Divide

Event panelists and speakers discussed the recommendations within the report and reviewed innovation in the Obama and other presidential administrations.

McCourt School Dean Edward Montgomery moderated a fireside chat with U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil and the executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights, William Eggers.

Reflecting on his role and connecting it to the purpose of Georgetown’s Data for Social Good effort, Patil said, “our mission is, uniquely, that we are to responsibly implement data to make things better for all Americans.”

Patil and Eggers discussed the need for the next administration to make the use of data a core competency, as well as ways the administration could responsibly implement a systematic approach to develop data-driven solutions for a variety of social issues.

“We need to bridge the divide between policymakers and tech experts,” Eggers said.

Changing Government Tech Culture

The day’s panelists included report co-author Russon Gilman along with Don Kettl, former dean of School of Public Policy at University of Maryland; Archana Vemulapalli, the chief technology officer for Washington, D.C.; and Karen Evans, the national director of U.S. Cyber Challenge.

In a discussion moderated by Dan Chenok, executive director of IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, panelists asserted the need to change the technology culture within government and set up an appropriate structure for innovation.

“[It’s] constantly evolving. If you don’t set up the structure for it, you won’t sustain it,” shared Vemulapelli.

With an eye toward the coming months of transition for the new presidential administration, panelists said the 2016 presidential transition teams should build strong strategies to change the culture of innovation and better prioritize data innovation in government to makes strides in multiple policy areas.

Helping Those Who Need It Most

The Data for Social Good initiative launched in November 2015 with a convening of more than 200 thought leaders, faculty, students, and practitioners from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors focusing on the use of data to reach underserved communities both domestically and abroad. That inaugural event helped frame the Data for Social Good project by identifying key knowledge and capacity gaps.

“As an objective, nonpartisan convener, located at the center of the nation’s and indeed the world’s public policymaking, Georgetown is positioned to work across borders and sectors, to help create knowledge exchanges and facilitate discussions about important topics such as data-use ethics and the untapped potential of innovation at the federal level,” said Montgomery.