How A Small Group of Entrepreneurs Transformed Government Services

Aneesh Chopra | | May 7, 2014

Presidential administrations since Roosevelt have faced varied and vexing challenges, domestic and abroad, that forced them to recognize the need to venture outside their comfortable circles of party loyalists, campaign volunteers and policy advisers to tap into the expertise of those not already working in government.

President Obama started with his own White House, recruiting Internet-savvy entrepreneurs to serve as chief technology officer (me), chief performance officer (Jeff Zients), chief information officer (Vivek Kundra) and director for social innovation (Sonal Shah), among other senior positions. And he directed his Cabinet to do the same. More than 50 other entrepreneurs would fill senior roles, reporting directly to department and agency heads, and tasked with applying technology and innovation to advance that agency’s mission.

The participants brought a wide range of experience. Jim Shelton, the co- founder of the school management company LearnNow and the educational manager for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, joined the Department of Education to design the Investing in Innovation competitive grant program. That vehicle would provide seed capital for promising ideas and provide scaling capital for those, like Diplomas Now, already proven viable...