ASU concludes White House initiative in nation's capitol

ASU’s School of Public Affairs and Center for Policy Informatics recently capped off a national policy proposal competition in response to the White House’s Startup America Policy Challenge with the competition finale and a workshop funded by the National Science Foundation.

The two events took place on May 21 and May 22 at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. They brought together a group of 60 interdisciplinary and cross-sector high-level individuals from across the nation to discuss participatory challenge platforms as a means to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy of the governance process.

“In two exciting days we saw ASU make enormous contributions in the realm of public policy,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of ASU’s College of Public Programs. “The Policy Challenge brought fresh ideas to Washington where the participating teams were engaged and encouraged. The NSF-supported workshop then gathered innovators to exchange ideas and experiences to advance the opening of the policymaking process in ways never contemplated.”

With the support of 16 partner institutions, the ASU School of Public Affairs conducted a national policy proposal competition in response to the White House’s Startup America Policy Challenge. The Policy Challenge called on the American public to unleash and identify high-impact ideas to help the U.S. government best enable the use of new technologies in education, energy and healthcare when addressing public issues. The May 21 Policy Challenge Finale was the culmination of the four-month long competition where eight finalist teams, selected from 41 submissions from students, faculty, small business entrepreneurs, industry professionals and government administrators from across the nation, presented their proposals to a panel of eight high-level expert judges. Presentations were followed by an awards reception where one finalist team for each field was announced and figures central to the initiative highlighted the importance of this type of participatory challenge platform. Keynotes included:

• Jonathan Koppell – Dean, College of Public Programs, Arizona State University

• Aneesh Chopra – Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer and associate director of Technology, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

• Carmel Martin – Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education

• Richard Kauffman – Senior Advisor to Secretary Chu, U.S. Department of Energy

• Farzad Mostashari – National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

“The Policy Challenge was a fantastic opportunity to meet other public service-minded individuals and interact with established policymakers in Washington,” said David Nitkin, a winning team member of The Policy Challenge and Master’s Candidate in Economics and Education at the Columbia University Teachers College. “It strengthened my resolution to build a career in public service, and illuminated new pathways by which I could do so.”

Building off the momentum generated by the Finale, the School of Public Affairs and Center for Policy Informatics hosted a May 22 NSF workshop that critiqued and envisioned the future of the research and practice of participatory challenge platforms with a public intent. The workshop was a collective process of reflection and discovery among all participants that explored the challenges, opportunities and best practices, design tensions, building a community of problem solvers and hosts, and the future of the research and practice of these platforms. Among the participants were:

• Macon Phillips – Director of the Office of Digital Strategy for the White House discussed building and

• Cristin Dorgelo – Director of Grand Challenges for the White House discussed her role in leading the X prize that launched the first privately funded spacecraft into space that same day and the White House's future strategy for challenges.

• Tom Kalil – Deputy Director of Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy offered a federal government perspective on the importance of challenge platforms.

• Esteve Almirall – Associate Professor of the Department of Information Systems at the Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas discussed the international aspect and importance of challenge platforms.

“The workshop on participatory challenge platforms bought together a diverse set of expertise and perspectives to shed light on a fundamental issue facing our public agencies – how do we creatively leverage the wisdom of crowds and involve the public in solving challenges facing our nation?” said Kevin Desouza, a workshop session speaker and the director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. “The mix of practitioner and scholar participants resulted in a deep, thoughtful, and constructive dialogue on the design and implementation of future participatory platforms for the management of public goods.”

Extending the energy and enthusiasm created by these events, the ASU School of Public Affairs and Center for Policy Informatics will develop two reports based on the specific lessons learned and general insights gained from both events to help guide the successful research and practice of participatory platforms with public intent. NSF is supplementing their current research into the 10,000 Solutions project for a second year. They are working with the ASU Office of University Initiatives and Social Embeddedness Initiative to design the next generation of challenge platforms informed by these events. They will continue working with the White House and their community of public administration schools and organizations to develop the second iteration of The Policy Challenge.

Along with the NSF funded research on the 10,000 Solutions project, The Policy Challenge and NSF Workshop helped positioned ASU as a leader in the research and practice of challenge platforms and grow its community of problem solvers.

For more information, visit