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CALL: Tech Congress, 2019 Innovative Scholars Program

Tech Congress

2019 Innovative Scholars Program

We’re thrilled to announce: now through the end of February, we’re recruiting for the 2019 Congressional Innovation Scholars Program!

Growing the Scholars fellowship— the sister program to our Congressional Innovation Fellowship— is an exciting development.  The Innovation Fellowship is now in its fourth year, and continuing to mature. We’ve seen the impact that our fellows can have— including leading the investigation into Cambridge Analytica, passing a landmark open data bill, and securing the Congress from hacking attempts by the Russian government.  This is all in the last nine months.

These accomplishments have proven the core hypothesis of TechCongress: that technologists, when placed in the right roles in government, can have an outsized impact improving and modernizing government.  Just as importantly, fellows are proving the necessity of their expertise, making themselves indispensable, and getting hired on as leaders in Congress and civil society.

Our fellowship model is priming the pump on the demand side of government and civil society.  Once institutions realize how much more effective they can be with a technical person working on policy issues, they also realize they can’t live without that expertise.  Once you’ve driven a Porsche, there’s no going back to your old Ford Pinto.

But there’s another side to the equation that needs just as much attention as the demand side: the supply of technical talent, especially in universities.

I wrote last year of talking with computer science, engineering, informatics, and data science faculty across the country. “I can name for you, right now, half a dozen students that would like to work in government or public policy.” Ths was the response I got from virtually professor I spoke with.

And I’ve personally heard from these students as well.  Over 100 students applied for the Congressional Innovation Fellowship, even though that program is squarely mid-career.  I get a cold email every couple days from a student seeking to do public interest work.

We need more pathways for them to do so.  And that’s why we’re expanding the Scholars program.

Last year, we piloted the program, and wanted to test a few assumptions:

  • Could we find graduate students that would want to serve in Congress for six months, and would that duration work for their own studies?
  • Could we find them meaningful work and a good placement in Congress with only six months to spend on Capitol Hill?
  • Would the program serve as a career catalyst for students like the Congressional Innovation Fellowship has for our mid-career fellows?

The answers from our first Innovation Scholar, Katherine Pratt were unequivocable: yes to all.

Katherine had seven Congressional Offices fighting over her— tying our fellowship record at the time— each pitching her on why their office was the ideal place to serve her fellowship, before deciding to work for her local Member of Congress, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

She did extraordinary work on digital privacy issues, including helping Rep. DelBene introduce comprehensive privacy legislation, and probing issues of facial recognition and notice and consent of data use.  And she built an extraordinary network of policymakers and advocates that will serve her well as she finishes her PhD dissertation about the risks of human-computing interfaces and neural privacy. Just this week she was testifying before the Washington State Legislature about the risks of facial recognition!

Katherine’s experience was a resounding success. Now it’s time to find more Katherines.

From now until midnight EST on February 28, 2019, we’re recruiting for two to four 2019 Congressional Innovation Scholars.

Scholars, starting in June 2019, will serve for a minimum of six months— and up to twelve, if desired— in Congress.  The program is exclusive to current students or recent graduates with a technical background. TechCongress will provide needs-based stipends as required, and include support for healthcare, relocation and other travel for the Scholars.

For more information, you can visit our application page.

Interested in learning even more?  Join us for an informational call about the program on Friday, February 15th at 2:00pm ET // 11:00am Pacific, or listen to one of our prior informational calls.