ASU joins elite universities to design modern governance

March 25, 2014

Erik Johnston, director of the Center for Policy Informatics at Arizona State University, will join an elite group of international experts on a major effort to improve governance. Along with Center for Policy Informatics colleague Justin Longo, Johnston will study new uses of technologies, data and public engagement to design innovative government programs with evidence of what works best.

“A lot of people see government grinding to a halt with the latest Congress being the least effective in history, and they think that they can do it better,” says Johnston. “We’re creating pathways that allow them to do just that. If you have a good idea or a valuable skill set – if you sense that you or a group of people like you can make a meaningful difference – we’re giving you the mechanisms to connect, to act and to create better communities.” Justin Longo and Erik Johnston of the ASU Center for Policy Informatics Download Full Image

Officially called the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Opening Governance, the project will be spearheaded by the Governance Lab (The GovLab) at New York University. The three-year project was made possible by a $5 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, as well as a gift from

The Research Network will study what happens when governments and institutions open themselves up to diverse participation. Network members include 12 experts (see below) in computer science, political science, policy informatics, social psychology and philosophy, law and communications. This core group is complemented by an advisory network of academics, technologists, and current and former government officials. Together, they will assess existing innovations in governing, and experiment with new practices and how institutions make decisions at the local, national and international levels.

“We want to arm policymakers and practitioners with evidence of what works and what does not, which is vital to drive innovation, re-establish legitimacy and more effectively target scarce resources to solve today’s problems,” says professor Beth Simone Noveck, network chair and author of "Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger and Citi More Powerful."

Part of the College of Public Programs in downtown Phoenix, the Center for Policy Informatics is addressing governance challenges and their consequences, which span the seeming inability of governments to solve complex problems and the disaffection of people from their governments. The center seeks approaches that enable our governance systems to address increasingly complex challenges and to meet the rising expectations of people to be full participants in their communities. Center for Policy Informatics approaches these challenges by applying a combination of complex systems modeling, crowdsourcing, participatory platforms and citizen science to explore complex governance challenges in domains that include education, environment and health.

The MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance comprises:

Chair: Beth Simone Noveck
Network coordinator: Andrew Young
Chief of research: Stefaan Verhulst

Faculty members:
• Sir Tim Berners-Lee (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/University of Southampton, UK)
• Deborah Estrin (Cornell Tech/Weill Cornell Medical College)
• Erik Johnston (Arizona State University)
• Henry Farrell (George Washington University)
• Sheena S. Iyengar (Columbia Business School/Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business)
• Karim Lakhani (Harvard Business School)
• Anita McGahan (University of Toronto)
• Cosma Shalizi (Carnegie Mellon/Santa Fe Institute)

Institutional members:
• Christian Bason and Jesper Christiansen (MindLab, Denmark)
• Geoff Mulgan (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts – NESTA, United Kingdom)
• Lee Rainie (Pew Research Center)

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Enrollment opens for PitchFunder, ASU's exclusive crowdfunding resource

March 25, 2014

ASU Foundation offers custom fundraising resource for use by entire university community

Crowdfunding has been successfully implemented by inventors, bands, startups and charities for more than a decade. Applying the power of the many to the needs of the few was a natural application of the Internet and, particularly, social media. But as would-be entrepreneurs and cause-oriented innovators often learn, the field of crowdfunding is crowded and filled with pitfalls and uncertainty. PitchFunder logo Download Full Image

Recognizing how useful crowdfunding could be in a university setting, the ASU Foundation set about developing a program that would increase the odds of success for ASU crowdfunders while answering their questions and easing their doubts.

Now the foundation has announced open enrollment in PitchFunder, a custom-created resource that allows members of the ASU community to safely and successfully raise funds for their own projects. Enrollment in PitchFunder opened March 17 for student groups and student projects, faculty members, researchers, schools and colleges.

Shad Hanselman, the foundation’s senior director of annual giving, oversaw the creation of PitchFunder. He says, “We want interested groups and individuals to take advantage of this open enrollment period to learn what PitchFunder can do for them.” Hanselman says an ASU-based charitable crowdfunding resource offers important benefits for university students and staff – benefits other services can’t provide.

“From the early development stage, PitchFunder was designed to give the ASU community the tools, technology and training needed to crowdfund successfully through the ASU Foundation,” Hanselman says. “It’s not like signing up online and hoping for the best. Each PitchFunder campaign has access to a personal account manager who will help clients maximize their results. We are there for the client from concept through completion to answer questions, provide advice and experience, and help focus and refocus the campaign whenever it’s needed.”

A related advantage came about, Hanselman says, through PitchFunder’s development within ASU’s environment of academics and innovation – an advantage not found in one-size-fits-all crowdfunding. “Our clients find that the account managers they work with in setting up their PitchFunder projects speak the same language they do. They get innovation. But those PitchFunder managers are also experts at helping a client describe a project and tell a story in a way that speaks to nearly anyone, and that has broad fundraising appeal,” says Hanselman.

During several months of PItchFunder beta testing, that fundraising expertise helped several campaigns achieve exceptional results. One of those was 33 Buckets, an engineering student-led initiative that combines sustainable clean water distribution with educational funding for young women in rural Bangladesh. Using PitchFunder, the “bucketeers” surpassed their goal not once, but twice.

Another student group, the ASU Graphic Design Students Association used PitchFunder to pay the expenses of 50 students to spend spring break in Seattle, visiting and learning from professional design studios.

And The Forgiveness Tree, a project taking empathy education into schools and the community “in order to make the world a more forgiving place,” is the most successful PitchFunder project to date, enlisting 153 supporters to carry the project to 158 percent of its funding goal.

A PitchFunder campaign is “live” for 30 days, but those 30 days will require a commitment of up to three months, from campaign application to fund disbursement, in order to be successful.

“A PitchFunder campaign requires the participation of the group,” Hanselman says. “It’s a social effort, so its success depends on creating or leveraging a network, then expanding it and building a ‘crowd.’ The bigger the crowd, the more successful the campaign. It’s not something a group can do successfully on their own, but we can provide them training and technology, our experience from running very successful campaigns and a very big crowd in Sun Devil Nation that can put their project and their campaign over the top.”

Dan Saftig, ASU Foundation chief development officer, says crowdfunding has been unfamiliar territory for university foundations, but developing this opportunity for the ASU community is a logical progression.

“At ASU, we encourage our students and staff to be explorers and innovators,” Saftig says, “and the foundation takes the same approach in finding ways to support those explorations. Charitable crowdfunding has become a positive force for many philanthropic causes, and we’re excited to bring it to university fundraising.

"Creating PitchFunder as an ASU-specific program does more than allow Sun Devils to raise funds for their projects. It also provides training and experience that will allow them to champion any project, any work throughout their careers. They can be as creative in generating support for their projects as they were in generating the original ideas,” Saftig says.

To read about the successful campaigns, learn more about crowdfunding at ASU with PitchFunder or apply to start your own PitchFunder campaign, visit

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College