The Policy Innovation Lab was created in February of 2015 so that McCourt students are able to more deeply and meaningfully engage with members of the D.C. community. A joint Baker Center and McCourt School initiative, its mission is to develop and advance equitable, inclusive, and innovative policy solutions that address community-specific challenges in Wards 7 and 8. With both educational and experiential learning opportunities for students, the Lab works closely with members of the D.C. community to learn about local issues firsthand. At the same time, students use human-centered design thinking to create original policy solutions and recommendations that put community voices at their center. Through the unique perspectives of students, professors, researchers, and community members, the Lab aims to tackle pressing social issues in D.C. using innovation and empathy.
A SNAPSHOT OF THE INNOVATION LAB
Who are we and what do we do?
We are future policy leaders at the McCourt School engaging with community partners to tackle tough urban issues and policy challenges.
What are our guiding principles?
We are working to advance social and economic justice through a racial equity lens.
Where do we work?
Our focus is on communities based in D.C.’s East End (Wards 7 & 8).
How do we shape our policy ideas?
The Lab uses traditional (qualitative and quantitative) and experiential (community engagement and listening) research methods.
What are our methods?
In order to innovate effective ideas and policy recommendations, we use human-centered design thinking to inform our work with community partners.
What makes us different?
Community engagement and listening as well as human-centered design thinking allow us to lead with empathy and put people at the center of policy.
HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN THINKING
Human-centered design is an iterative process using design approaches and tools that put the community’s needs in the center of solutions. It ensures that community member’s experiences drive innovation. The design thinking approach has been used across the country to tackle tough urban policy issues and challenges.
INSTITUTIONAL & COMMUNITY PARTNERS
The Lab works with an ever growing set of institutional and community partners. Most importantly, The Lab aims to develop close ties with community-based organizations in Wards 7 and 8 as well as with residents and community leaders.
Some of the local non-profit partners that the Lab works with include DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the Federal City Council, the Urban Institute, Bread for the City and the Anacostia Waterfront Trust.
The Lab is also closely linked to other entities within the University, including the Baker Center for Leadership and Governance, the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, the Office of Community Engagement, and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation.
Margaret O’Bryon is a Research Assistant Professor and Executive Director of the Policy Innovation Lab at the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University. She previously served as the Waldemar A. Nielsen Chair in Philanthropy from 2013-2015. In 2013, O’Bryon stepped down as founding president and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) after 14 years of building and growing the organization. CHF is the principal health philanthropy in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Under Margaret’s leadership, CHF built a regional and national reputation based on creative leadership, its activist approach to health grantmaking and policy reform, its pioneering work in the area of health and racial equity, as well as its ability to build funder and community coalitions to support its work. CHF was featured in the 2011 national publication, Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World. She has recently launched Accelerating Change Group (ACG), an enterprise committed to transforming the way individuals, communities, and institutions think, innovate, and create breakthrough and lasting solutions to big questions and complex issues. Early in her career, Margaret spent over a decade working for the US House of Representatives. She is past chair of Grantmakers in Health, which represents the field of health philanthropy in the United States. She received the Terrance Keenan Leadership Award from Grantmakers in Health. It honors outstanding individuals in health philanthropy whose work is distinguished by leadership, innovation and achievement. She also serves as a community council member of WAMU 88.5 public radio and as a member of the National Hispanic Council on Aging, as well as several other local boards. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and her master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the George Washington University. Margaret loves working with students of all ages, hiking, film festivals, and spending time at the Chesapeake Bay with her family.
Krista D’Alessandro is from Denver, Colorado and graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is currently a Master in Public Policy candidate at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy, where she is serving as both the Co-Director for the Policy Innovation Lab and as the Co-President for the Women in Public Policy Initiative. At the same time, for her final capstone project, she is working for the World Bank with four other McCourt students to develop an interactive map for data-driven targeting of the ongoing development and humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank.
This past summer, Krista worked as a full-time Public Policy Intern at the National Housing Trust to help preserve affordable housing in the United States, a job that she will continue this upcoming school year. Simultaneously, Krista acted as the Editor in Chief for a report published in Ecuador, one that she co-authored as a student in the Global Residency Ecuador course offered at the McCourt School. Through the class, at the invitation of Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno, students prepared policy recommendations to address the issue of malnutrition and presented their findings to various government ministries this past July, including the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion.
Prior to enrolling at Georgetown, Krista worked as a Lead Fellow teaching algebra to ninth-grade English and Spanish speaking students at a Denver Public School. At the same time, she volunteered as a researcher at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy to help connect unemployed Coloradans to work.
Krista is passionate about alleviating economic inequality and injustice and hopes to make these issues her life’s work. In her free time, she loves to hike and ski in her home state of Colorado as well as to play soccer, run, and read.