These project-based training programs in public entrepreneurship are designed to help the next generation of leader learn how to solve public problems more openly, collaboratively and with better evidence.

By matching teams of graduate students to governments and nonprofits to solve problems, the Clinic supports the strengthening of democratic institutions by using legal, technological, and management innovations to create more effective and legitimate solutions to complex public problems.

The goals are three-fold: 1) to help institutions innovate in how they work and become more effective using both big data and collective intelligence; 2) to promote the public’s right to participate in governing in ways that access people’s talents, creativity, and interests; and 3) to empower participants to become 21st century public leaders and problem solvers armed with a diverse and powerful toolkit for social change.

Previously offered at New York University, Yale University, MIT Media Lab, Stanford University, New York Law School and online to passionate individuals, clients have included the National Health Service, US Patent and Trademark Office, the Delaware Secretary of State, Presidencies of Mexico and Argentina, Poverty Action Lab, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, Inter-American Development Bank, the Quito Linq Lab, Brazilian Parliament, Brookings, Connecticut Commissioner of Prisons and The Legal Aid Society.

Why a Governance Innovation Clinic?

We live in an era of unprecedented technological innovation with ingenious new advances for achieving clean energy, eradicating disease and providing greater wellness, more equitably and effectively delivering education, and improving the quality of human existence and expression. At the same time, we are experiencing clear deficits within centralized institutions of government and civil society: deficits of agility, innovation and capacity. Reinventing our governing institutions has become both imperative and possible as a result of the advent of: sensors to collect large quantities of data; communications tools to gather information and insights from people; and technologies of expertise to target and match the demand for know how to the supply of it for improved decision-making.

How Do these Clinics Work?

Participants in these clinical courses form small teams to take the lead in working with client-partners. The course always includes a “think” and a “do” component. Class is a discussion-style seminar where we examine advances in technology, their impact on how we govern, and the the legal and ethical implications. This alternates with the “do” portion focused on skills training and learning to design and deliver a public interest project.

We do not write abstract policy papers. We work with clients to implement and test the projects in practice. Hence students usually must conduct ethnographic research — today called Human Centered Design — and gather empirical data to understand human behavior and incentives for changing it. Students deliver the persuasive materials needed to explain innovations to busy public sector professionals.

How Do the Clinics Choose Projects?

In some classes, participants identify their own passion projects.

In most cases, the Clinic collaborates with public institutions to identify important and impactful projects for participants.

Although we address impact of technology on government, we choose our projects carefully, aiming only to advance social justice and progressive governance. Therefore we do:

1) Transparency projects — Students worked with a British non-profit on evaluating models for responsibly using administrative data to conduct impact evaluations while safeguarding privacy.

2) Citizen engagement projects — A team worked with Madrid’s city council to design Madrid’s first law on citizen engagement.

3) Data-driven social policy projects –A team helped the Legal Aid Society in New York dive into their 30 years of untouched data to improve how Legal Aid delivers services and to identify broader policy reforms.

 

We invite projects that:

  • Have the potential to improve people’s lives;

  • Can be developed in one semester and are implementable in a one-year time frame;

  • Involve innovative leaders as clients willing to experiment and test what works;

  • Involve the design of technology as well as the study of the legal implications of technology;

  • Give students the opportunity to design and implement new products and projects and to do original, publishable research and writing.

 

The Clinic will be offered in 2017–18 at New York University Tandon School of Engineering. To propose a project, please contact: anirudh@thegovlab.org.

ABOUT THE CLINICS