Today’s Problems: Tomorrow’s Toolkit

The Governance Lab Executive Education Program in

Governance Innovation in the Digital Era

For democracy to thrive, democratic governance has to work. Yet we are confronting an exploding number of complex societal challenges from climate change to inequality and our public capability to tackle these problems, individually and collectively, is eroding. By some measures, the situation is quite dire as evidenced by the rapidly declining trust in our public institutions and their capacity to create public value.

This program offers a systematic method for using data, public engagement, collaboration, innovation and new technology to solve problems more effectively and legitimately. We teach you the innovative craft of taking projects from idea to implementation in government. By working differently – using agile methods, data analytics, collective intelligence and behavioral insights – we can solve real world problems better and faster.

What We Will Cover

In this accelerated learning program you will learn:

  1. Digital Government: Latest digital government technologies needed for public problem solving and their ethical implications.
  2. Problem Definition: How to define a public problem that is urgent and matters to real people and can be addressed with practical solutions.
  3. Data Analytical Thinking: Ways of using data to understand the breadth and nature of the problem.
  4. Human-Centered Design: Strategies for deepening your understanding of the problem by consulting people directly affected by it.
  5. Open Innovation: Tapping collective intelligence to solve problems.
  6. Rapid Field Scanning: Methods for reliably scavenging for solutions.
  7. Powerful Partnerships: How to build teams and partnerships to become more effective at implementing change that others will adopt and accept.
  8. Behavioral Insights and Experiments: Ideas for how to pilot, test and learn what works.

Finally, we focus on how to tie these methods together into an agile approach to better policies and services.

Program learning goals

  • Empower you to become public leaders and public entrepreneurs armed with a powerful toolkit for social change.
  • Introduce you to the latest tools and technologies for use in designing, implementing and managing policies and services.
  • Give you an expanded toolkit for change, including ways of using data and technology to solve problems.
  • Ensure you have data-driven and democratic approaches to working with communities.
  • Help you take your work from idea to implementation, building partnerships to booster programs and high-quality results.

The program is available with English or Spanish instruction.
For more information and to arrange a program, please contact [email protected]

One Week Program Outline in New York City

In this session, we introduce you to the latest digital government technologies that you will need to know, such as big data, machine learning, collective intelligence tools, blockchain, expert networks, Internet of Things and chat bots. We want to make sure everyone has the same baseline level of tech literacy. In addition to explaining these technologies and what they are, we address how governments are using them with special emphasis on their institutionalizations and the ethical issues that may arise.

One cannot come up with workable solutions until one has defined, as concretely as possible, the problem to be solved. Problem definition is the process of narrowing a major issue down to a more readily definable and solvable smaller problem by hypothesizing why a problem is occurring and identifying its root causes. The process generally involves a multi-step process of defining and re-framing the problem to arrive at either a narrower or a new understanding of an actionable challenge. Problem definition skills include developing a hypothesis; defining and re-defining root causes and requires the capacity to listen all people affected or involvement in that particular area inside and outside the organization.

You can solve problems faster and more effectively when you understand the environment, wants, and needs of those you are trying to help. Thus, we focus next on human-centered design (HCD). HCD is a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. It consists of ethnographic practices that involve observing or talking to those affected by a policy or service to understand their needs, desires and experiences. For a design to be truly human-centered, it should engage and involve users from start to finish. Human-centered design involves skills such as interviewing, prototyping and journey mapping.

By making it possible to measure past successes, spot present disparities, and predict future performance, data is becoming a key tool for making decisions and tackling problems in every arena. Next we turn to identifying the data we need to understand the problem and develop some basic skills in data analysis needed to develop projects further. Data helps us both to define the problem and establish metrics and indicators of success. Data analytical thinking emphasizes the value of data to achieve improved outcomes and equities, reduced cost and increased efficiency in how public policies and services are created. Data analytical skills include formulating a hypothesis, identifying data to test a hypothesis, spotting patterns and predicting trends from data and sharing data responsibly. We also study methods of sharing data for social good pioneered by the GovLab open data and data collaboratives.

**For those who want a more intensive introduction to data-driven decisionmaking, see Optional: Masterclass on Decision Intelligence

Open innovation describes the distributed process of working across organizational boundaries to accelerate innovation. Open innovation enhances both the effectiveness and legitimacy of policymaking. As we know from restaurant reviews on Yelp and medical discussions on WebMD and Patients Like Me or from reading entries on Wikipedia, productive knowledge is widely distributed. People have diverse forms of expertise, from lived experience to professional know-how. The value of more open innovation is that it leverages this collective intelligence that go beyond preferences and opinions to accelerate the solving of public problems. Open innovation skills include the ability to define a clear and compelling goal, determine appropriate incentives, define the task for people to do and decide how to use their contributions to support future decision-making and actions. We learn key techniques including crowdsourcing, crowdlaw and social auditing.

Bill Clinton famously said, “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” Solid research is essential to the work of the public entrepreneur. Before championing an intervention, she needs to know whether it is likely to improve outcomes? Will the results be worth the investment it will take to bring about this change? What alternative solutions are out there? How does she know what the right – or at least likely – answers to these questions are? Thus, the public entrepreneur cannot afford to ignore any possible solution, whether the subject of a narrow randomized controlled trial or a broad scale pilot in the field but without formal evaluation. We learn how to get up to speed quickly both on academic research and on social innovation.

An inductive approach to policy making that combines insights from psychology, cognitive science, and social science with empirically-tested results to discover how humans actually make choices. Behavioral insights aim at improving the welfare of citizens and consumers through policies and regulations that are formed based on empirically-tested results, derived using sound experimental methods. We learn together the skills of knowing how and why to design an experiment, such as a randomized controlled trial, measure the results and know how to scale the learnings.

The magnitude and urgency of challenges such as climate change, social inequality, and technology-generated un(der)employment calls upon us to work together. With the right design, and far more effectively than if we acted separately, we can concentrate resources and energy to tackle our shared problems. A leading-edge example of partnership is the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). This six-year program takes Year 9 students through to an associate degree by Year 14, to prepare them for a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field. There is no entrance exam and admission is by lottery to improve equity. P-Tech began as a partnership between the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York (CUNY) and IBM. Working together, the partners launched the first school in Brooklyn in September 2011, graduating the first class in 2017.

In this final session, we talk about how to combine these methods and tools into a pathway for rapid problem-solving. We discuss your expanded toolkit for social change in the 21st century.

Learning by Doing

When learning how to innovate in government, it helps to talk with those who have done it before. Attendees enjoy confidential small group, off-the-record discussions as well as informal conversations with experienced public entrepreneurs from innovative government organizations such as divisions within:

We make an effort to customize field trips to respond to your interests and requests. Please note that guest presentations will be in English.

Building Community

To foster conversation and community building, we do some of our learning in the classroom and some in and around the scenes and sites of New York City. Outings might include:

  • Chinatown Banquet
  • Visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art
  • Broadway Theatre Outing
  • Hudson Yards

Optional: Online Project Coaching

Following the in-person training, we offer an optional online coaching program that includes:

  • A flexible, customized program responsive to the participants’ specific needs and challenges;
  • Rigorous diagnosis of impediments to project implementation;
  • A combination of subject-matter and skills-based training to address deficits in knowledge;
  • Mentoring and coaching from experts with a track record of leading successful social change; and,
  • High-quality original and curated content, tools, and resources.

The coaching program is designed to support participants at their desks to advance your own projects. Coaching generally includes Twelve weeks of hands-on training, where each team will receive:

Each team aims to finish with a tested prototype, a proof of concept and a plan for its implementation and scale.

Optional: Masterclass on Decision Intelligence

Decision Intelligence: Toward Data-Driven Decision Making
A Master Class by Stefaan G. Verhulst, Co-Founder The GovLab
The masterclass will cover the following topics:

  • Data: An Introduction
    • The increase in volume, variety and velocity of Data
    • Structured vs Semi-Structured vs Structured Data
    • Internal Data: The challenge of Dark Data
    • External Data: Open Data and Data Collaboratives
  • Bad Data
    • Risks across the Data Value Chain
    • Balancing Risks and Benefits
  • From Data to Insight: Case Studies of Data Intelligence
    • Descriptive Intelligence
    • Diagnostic Intelligence
    • Predictive Intelligence
    • Prescriptive Intelligence
  • Data and Clearing Decision Fog: Determining Context and Levels of Insecurity
  • Re-imagining the Decision Life Cycle
  • The use of Data Intelligence across the Organization for Decision Making
  • Taxonomy of Decisions
  • Demand: Defining and Prioritizing Questions
  • Supply: Audit and Inventory of Data and Data Expertise
  • Design: Determining Technical, Legal and Capacity Needs
  • Analysis: Overview of Tools and Techniques
  • Insight: Informing Key Audiences
  • Assessment: Becoming Data Driven in Using Data for Decision Making
  • Trust: Toward Data Stewardship
  • Culture: Change Management and New Metrics
  • Partnership: Data Collaboratives
  • Capacity: Data Literacy
  • Policy: Move beyond Privacy Compliance toward Data Responsibility
  • Technology: Access Controls; Data Transfer and Data Preparation

Faculty Leads
All sessions are taught by NYU leading faculty with both academic and real world experience.

Beth Simone Noveck

Beth Simone Noveck serves as the State of New Jersey’s first Chief Innovation Officer - a position she was appointed to by Governor Philip D. Murphy in August 2018. In this capacity, Dr. Noveck, a native of New Jersey, focuses on enhancing innovation in government and in the Garden State’s economy. Using better data, more collective intelligence and agile technology, her team leads projects, designs policies, and advises agencies on innovative strategies to improve the lives of New Jerseyans. Dr. Noveck serves as the Chair of the Governor’s Future of Work Task Force, sits on the Governor’s Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council, and is also a gubernatorial appointee on the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology.

In addition to her role as New Jersey’s Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Noveck is a professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, a Fellow at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, and is a Visiting Senior Faculty Fellow at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. She also directs NYU’s Governance Lab, an action research center studying the impact of technology on governing. Previously, Dr. Noveck served in the White House as the first United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer, and as director of the White House Open Government Initiative under President Obama. UK Prime Minister David Cameron later appointed her senior advisor for Open Government, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel named her a member of her ten-person digital council.

She is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, and was named one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government 2018” by Apolitical. Previously, she was selected as one of the “Foreign Policy 100″ by Foreign Policy as well as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company and “Top Women in Technology” by Huffington Post. Dr. Noveck has written multiple books, and has been published extensively, on how technology can improve governing.

Victoria Alsina

Victòria Alsina is an Industry Assistant Professor and Academic Director at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress and Senior Fellow at The GovLab. Alsina’s current research and teaching focus on finding innovative solutions to rethink public institutions, exploring how collaborative governance and civic engagement can change the way we govern, solving some of society’s most pressing problems at the intersection of the public and private sectors and helping communities and institutions to work together to solve public problems more effectively and legitimately.

She advises numerous governments, organizations and private institutions on issues related to publicsector reform and democratic innovation. At the Harvard Kennedy School, she is a Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, a Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation,and an Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Public Administration from Universitat Pompeu Fabra; an MPA from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; an M.A. in Public Leadership from ESADE Business School; and a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She has been recipient of the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship.

About The GovLab

The Governance Lab’s mission is to improve people’s lives by changing the way we govern. Our goal at The GovLab is to strengthen the ability of institutions — including but not limited to governments—and people to work more openly, collaboratively, effectively, and legitimately to make better decisions and solve public problems. We believe that increased availability and use of data, new ways to leverage the capacity, intelligence, and expertise of people in the problem-solving process, combined with new advances in technology and science, can transform governance. We approach each challenge and opportunity in an interdisciplinary, collaborative way, irrespective of the problem, sector, geography, and level of government. For more information, visit