“Who Ever Said That Government Can't Be Innovative?” Panel at George Washington

Former PIFs Jacqueline Kazil, Ross Dakin, and Ashley Jablow shared thoughts with students and others at a recent George Washington University event, sponsored by GW’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Moderated by Dr. Michael Cohen, Deputy Director of the program and creator of the “Congress in Your Pocket” app, the “Who Ever Said That Government Can’t Be Innovative?” panel was an opportunity to ask PIFs about their experience inside government and life after their fellowships.  Cohen asked the PIFs about their personal journeys coming into government from the private sector, especially the coolest and most fulfilling moments.

For Dakin, a 2015 PIF, it was traveling to Harlem to speak with individuals who had written letters to the White House regarding difficulties with their social assistance programs. Sitting down with someone in the program and then actually trying to go through the registration himself unsuccessfully — as a highly technical person — was eye opening.  “The first hand experience is critical in understanding need,” Dakin said.

Seeing firsthand the impact of government programs is not the only experience for PIFs, however. Helping with those already doing the work is equally important.

“I actually enjoy having the uncomfortable conversations,” said Jablow, also a 2015 Fellow, in reference to engaging career employees as a temporary fellow and making that relationship work for long term impact. “If we can identify tensions, we’re giving folks on the front lines of our agency projects a louder voice, one they may not always have.”

“They’re the experts but they’re not incentivized for risk,” added Dakin. “If you save the government money, you get an ice cream social. If you lose the government money, you’re on the cover of the Washington Post.”

“Taking risks for people is how to build that trust,” Kazil, a 2013 fellow, noted as well. “I quickly began looking for the legal basis behind processes and, if they’re wasn’t one, asking why things were done a certain way.”


The Presidential Innovation Fellow Foundation’s Speakers Bureau is open to connecting with other universities, conferences, and companies about innovation within and for government.  Please contact us for more information!

Katie Easton