This Harvard Kennedy School field class seeks to give students hands on experience to equip them with the tech and innovation skills to tackle real problems in government.
The last five years have seen the founding and growth of national digital services units (e.g. Government Digital Services in the U.K., and the U.S. Digital Services) and municipal tech and innovation units (e.g. Boston and Philadelphia's Offices of New Urban Mechanics). The scope and ambition of these efforts vary, but they center around making government better with a focus on understanding user needs, making iterative improvements, and using modern technology.
Separated into five teams, students will work closely with a government client to research an important user problem, develop user stories, rapidly design and build prototypes, user-test, and if relevant, develop a plan for the project to continue. Student teams will also make actionable recommendations to their clients, based on what they have learned during the research and prototyping phases.
DPI-663 students will learn user-centered design, prototyping, user-testing, and most importantly, how to hack bureaucracies with empathy to get stuff done.
Clients for Spring 2017 were the City of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Department of the Treasury. Clients for Spring 2018 will be announced in late fall.
Nick Sinai is an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and head instructor of DPI-663. Nick came to Harvard from the White House, where he was U.S. Deputy CTO. Nick is also a Venture Partner at Insight Venture Partners. Nick’s research, writing, and teaching is focused on technology and innovation in government—including co-authoring a 2016 Harvard Business School case about the U.S. Digital Service. Nick is helping start Digital HKS, a school-wide effort to bring more technology, innovation, and design to Harvard Kennedy School, and has recruited tech faculty, fellows, and students to HKS. Nick is a faculty mentor to the Harvard Open Data Project, a group of over 40 Harvard College students showcasing uses of Harvard University data—including predicting the results of the undergraduate student government election. Nick is also a faculty mentor to Coding It Forward, a student-led nonprofit that inspires and empowers technologists to effect social change.