My Own Fellowship Year

Jennifer Pahlka | Code for America | May 30, 2013

Other than being a parent and a partner, Code for America has been the most important thing in my life for the past three years. I can’t imagine that it won’t remain so for many years to come. It’s challenging, and inspiring work, and I’m proud of the team we’ve built, the quality of the people we’ve attracted to the cause, and the stories of true change that we’ve been privileged to witness and to tell. Keep that in mind when you read what I am about to say: I’ve been asked to join the staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, serving as the Deputy CTO for Government Innovation under U.S. CTO Todd Park, a man whose work and character have been an enormous inspiration to me. And after much consideration, I’ve decided that I should take some of my own advice: I am taking my own fellowship year of sorts.

During my year, I hope, as the CfA fellows do, to both give and get. I want to give whatever perspectives and experiences I have to offer, and I want to gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to work in government, with all of its challenges and opportunities, because that experience is increasingly central to our work here. We may have started with a notion that people from the outside could make a difference, and we’ve seen that they do, but what we’ve learned is that the long term, sustainable change comes from harnessing the creativity and expertise of the people who work in government, and giving them tools to change the culture and the system from within. [...]