What interests you about public policy?
“While I’d always been interested in politics, I was discouraged by the anti-innovation reputation of government. I worked at a couple of startups before I came to Penn but my big moment of realization didn’t come until my junior year. I was splitting my time between a startup called ROAR for Good and Philadelphia city government. ROAR was trying to reduce violence against women by making safety jewelry for women (bluetooth personal alarms for women walking home alone). While city government knew what problems to solve: access to capital for struggling immigrant entrepreneurs, parents who didn’t know how to end cyclical violence, poor public schools, they didn’t have the tools that Yasmine and the ROAR team have, VC funding, creativity, technology. While ROAR focused on a small problem and executed beautifully, government poured half of the required resources into dozens of initiatives. While ROAR focused on making sure metrics, customer engagement, open rates and sales determined what we did and talked about, city government had no feedback cycle with its constituency. I, naively, wanted government to run like a 10 person startup. It wasn’t until last summer volunteering at the 2016 DNC when I realized that the pull of politics, and the stakes of leaving governance unchecked, were too great to continue working for tech startups. I want to understand better which problems in government lend themselves best to a technologist’s approach to problem solving: which means taking courses in everything from the achievement gap to health care.”
What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?
“I hope that building relationships with future government officials and policy wonks in the PPRS program will allow me to unite the technologist community and the governing one. This semester, I’ve been working on a project called Lightbulb, an education platform that teaches you about current events and policy in an easy, entertaining way. I’ve been excited about the prospect of using tech, feedback, and iterative thinking to help increase political efficacy and understanding, and hope that my work in the PPRS program will continue to inform the way I build this project. I believe my life’s work will leverage technology to improve policy making and public education, especially public civic education. Private enterprise can’t replace government in educating people, reducing poverty and creating opportunity– but private citizens can work with government to lend their tools and brainpower to supplement government efforts. Through educational opportunities like PPRS, I hope to truly understand the frontiers of policymaking and how technology might be applied. It is in this way that I hope to maximize my own impact.”