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or, How to Actually Get Things Done In Government

A practical, skills-based course on how to create, implement, and secure lasting change in government and other risk-averse institutions




Student evaluations 



This course will equip the next generation of policymakers with the skills, strategies, and savvy they’ll need to secure lasting change in their governments. Building on a foundation that extracts practical guidance from political philosophers and public servants, the course will draw from behind-the-scenes experiences of how policy is developed using technology and tools. It will also provide students with a suite of resources for their own careers with communication, persuasion, and political tactics that will empower them to navigate the complex and frustrating bureaucracies in any government agency or risk-averse institutions.



The course will start with a macroscopic overview of the political philosophy behind government policy-making, studying what happens inside government by mapping the motivations and forces that drive government decision-making. It will take an overview of what happens outside government, studying the role of external pressures, including party politics, citizen advocacy, private sector interests, and the 24-7 news cycle.


The second half of the semester will focus on hard and soft skills necessary to create, implement, and ensure lasting policy change, including: learning tools for evidence-based policy making; leveraging crises, willing partners, and targets of opportunity; and how-to sessions ranging from memo-drafting and op-ed writing to persuasive pitches to authority figures and mastering the unspoken rules of bureaucracy navigation.



Once in government, there’s very little practical training offered to government officials on how to convert innovative ideas into effective, lasting policy. This course will serve as a sort of forensic study of political and bureaucratic processes that impact policymaking, training students in the specific, tangible, applicable tools, tricks, and tactics that fuel how things actually get done in government and other risk-averse institutions.



I actively serve in government and have for over a decade, both at the federal and city level, at multiple agencies. Starting as a mid-level Program Analyst in the Obama administration’s State Department and working my way up to my current position as Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Innovation for the City of New York, I’ve learned in the field -- the hard way, through trial and error -- how to write, pitch, persuade, and partner for successful real-world policy outcomes. To share and reflect on what I’ve learned, I’ve also been teaching, writing, and presenting about this topic for years, with articles and keynote speeches including “Hack the Bureaucracy: A User’s Guide to Getting Things Done In Government,” (GovExec), “What Government Can & Should Learn from Hacker Culture,” (The Atlantic), and “’There Are No Hard Problems’: Embracing Low- and No-Tech Solutions for Government Innovation” (Google News Initiative - São Paulo Brazil).


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