David S. Ferriero 2015-04-01 11:09:18
NARA’s “Innovation Fellows” Help Prepare Agency for Future Throughout government these days, perhaps no word is cited more often than “innovation.’’ There’s no doubt that innovation holds the key to envisioning how government will work in the future. But I’ll admit that innovation itself can be a challenging word, given that it has so many meanings to so many people. I believe that innovation, at its core, is the ability to think, envision, and act audaciously, to set far-reaching goals that often disrupt the status quo, and to enlist a collaborative, multidisciplinary team to meet them. At the National Archives and Records Administration, our mission is to drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value records. To do this, and to do it well, we must be audacious. We must embrace innovation. The Presidential Innovation Fellows Program One way NARA is working toward this vision is by partnering with the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Established by the White House in 2012 and administered by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly competitive program pairs talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community with top civil servants to tackle many of our nation’s biggest challenges and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact. Out of a competitive search involving more than two thousand applicants and more than one hundred potential agency projects since the program’s inception, twenty-seven Presidential Innovation Fellows were chosen this year to partner with twelve federal agencies. In September 2014, two of these fellows—Ashley Jablow and David Naffis— joined NARA to support our efforts to bring innovative thinking and action to our work. Fellows at NARA Jablow is an open innovation and online community strategist with a passion for social impact. Most recently, she served as challenge and business development lead at OpenIDEO, an online open innovation platform developed by IDEO where people design better, together for social good. In this capacity, Jablow has served as an online community mobilizer, digital communications specialist, client coach, and design thinking facilitator. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Boston University. Naffis is an entrepreneur and software developer with experience in software services, product development, strategy, and operations. He is a founder of Intridea, an Inc 500 winning software development firm where he oversaw several successful product spinouts and acquisitions. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Virginia. Bringing Innovative Thinking and Action Since they joined the team at NARA’s Office of Innovation, Naffis and Jablow have been busy immersing themselves in what we do here at the National Archives. Since neither has worked in this field before, they’ve spent the majority of their time learning about archival processes through one-onone interviews and research exercises with NARA staff, public researchers, and outside experts. As they synthesize and organize their learning into themes and patterns, their goal is to identify opportunities to streamline our workflow and accelerate our progress toward a fully digitized online catalog for public access. In addition to their primary focus, Naffis and Jablow have spent time supporting NARA staff development and learning in other ways. Naffis has been working with us on an API (application programming interface) for our online catalog as well as strengthening our staff’s digital fluency through trainings on Git Hub and API development. In his spare time, he worked on a dog bot for the White House holiday decorations (http://goo.gl/21UNBo). Jablow has been sharing her expertise in design thinking and innovation by conducting brainstorming sessions and hands-on workshops for the Office of Innovation and working with NARA staff to develop a community management plan for NARA’s online tagging and transcription program. We are honored to have Jablow and Naffis join us, and we look forward to further defining what innovation looks like at the National Archives in months and years to come.
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