Ideas Lunch

Crowdsourcing A Meeting of Minds: Designing the Future of Work

Tuesday, June 2, 2016, 12:30-2pm, 2 Metrotech Center, 9th Fl, Brooklyn 11201

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Crowdsourcing is an increasingly powerful method where computation guides many amateurs’ efforts in order to recreate an expert’s abilities. However, across domains from design to engineering to art, few goals are truly the effort of just one person — even one expert. If we can now crowdsource simple tasks such as image labeling, how might computation coordinate many peoples’ abilities toward far more complex and interdependent goals? In this talk, we present computational systems for gathering and guiding crowds of experts, including professional programmers, designers, singers and artists. The resulting collectives tackle problems modularly and at scale, dynamically grow and shrink depending on task demands, and combine into larger organizations. We’ll demonstrate how computationally-enabled expert crowds can pursue goals such as designing new user experiences overnight, producing animated shorts in two days, and even pursuing novel research.


Michael Bernstein is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, where he is a member of the Human-Computer Interaction group. His research focuses on the design of crowdsourcing and social computing systems. This work has received five Best Paper awards and eleven honorable mentions at premier venues in human-computer interaction and social computing. Michael has been recognized as a Robert N. Noyce Family Faculty Scholar, and awarded the Sloan Fellowship, NSF CAREER award and the George M. Sprowls Award. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, and a master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT.

Melissa Valentine is an Assistant Professor at Stanford University in the Management Science and Engineering Department, and a core faculty member of the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization. She studies the changing nature of groups and teams in organizations, with a focus on team learning and design. She has conducted multi-method field research in a variety of organizational settings; current projects include team coordination in emergency medical care, synchronized group learning in cancer care, and complex group coordination in online labor markets.  Prof. Valentine has won awards for research and teaching. She won the Outstanding Paper with Practical Implications award from the Organizational Behavior division of the Academy of Management, and the Organization Science/INFORMS dissertation proposal competition. She received her PhD from Harvard University.


The Finance Innovation Lab – A Strategy for Systems Change

Monday, May 2nd, 2016, 12:30-2pm @The GovLab, 2 Metrotech Center, 9th Floor, Brooklyn, 11201

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When crisis hits, how do you organize a diverse, disgruntled and disparate group of people to take action together?

Rachel Sinha of the UK Finance Innovation Lab, will share stories, strategies and key lessons from seven years co-leading the project, which was launched in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis to catalyze a system that is democratic, responsible and fair.

The Finance Innovation Lab, first convened by The Institute of Chartered Accountants and the World Wildlife Fund, brought together accountants, activists, investors and citizens to work on transforming the future of finance. It launched several successful organizations as part of the strategy, from an accelerator program for economic justice campaigners (Campaign Lab), to a Rockefeller Foundation and World Bank funded ‘Natural Capital Coalition’ with a protocol for business to account for natural capital.

About Rachel

Rachel Sinha is a British award winning social innovator. One of four co-founders of The Finance Innovation Lab, named by the Guardian newspaper as one of 50 Radicals- ‘changing the face of the UK for the better’, she built the Lab from an idea, to an independent fully funded not-for-profit. She is an established thought leader in the field of social innovation and systems change and the co-author of Labcraft, a book on social Labs. She has written for publications including HBR and Fast Company, documented the work of systems leaders with Oxford University as well as published her experiences of running a Lab in A Strategy for Systems Change.


Fighting corruption with advocacy, tech and civic engagement

Thursday, April 14th, 2016, 12:30-2pm @ The GovLab, 2 Metrotech Center, 9th Floor, Brooklyn 11201

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In 2015, the public learned of a series of political corruption scandals in Chile. The Smart Citizen Foundation (Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente) decided to lead the fight against corruption with a new approach: file lawsuits against politicians accused of illegally financing their campaigns, participate in a presidential commission against corruption, and create tools for civic engagement in the transparency and probity reforms agenda. Leading the charge was Smart Citizen’s Executive Director, Pablo Collada. In this talk, he will discuss the opportunities and challenges of reimagining Latin American democracy: from engaging a larger citizenry, to reforming the relationship between money and politics, to establishing new forms of public innovation. In a moment where corruption scandals are common news, Collada will discuss how citizen-driven responses are growing in intensity and size.

About Pablo

Pablo is the Executive Director of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente (Smart Citizen Foundation), a Latin American nonprofit based in Chile that designs and implements participation models that integrate research, communication and civic tech developments. Pablo is a Mexican sociologist that has worked for the past 14 years in the Social Development sector mainly in education, youth and community organization projects either in the public sector or the civil society arena. His previous work includes being head of the Research Area for the Lab for the City initiative in Mexico City, where he was part of the development of the Open Government Platform. He also lead the creation of regional networks promoted by international agencies such as UN-Habitat to promote local government observatories, and the development and implementation of digital tools for youth participation in the Mexican context.


Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in the Digital Age

Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 12:30-2pm @ The GovLab, 2 Metrotech Center, 9th Floor, Brooklyn 11201

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Hollie Russon Gilman will speak about her new book, Democracy Reinvented, the first comprehensive academic treatment of participatory budgeting in the United States. Participatory budgeting empowers citizens to identify community needs, work with elected officials to craft budget proposals, and vote on how to spend public funds. This global phenomenon started in Brazil in 1989 but came to America only in 2009.

Democracy Reinvented places participatory budgeting within the larger discussion of the health of U.S. democracy and focuses on the enabling political and institutional conditions. Gilman presents theoretical insights, in-depth case studies, and interviews to offer a compelling alternative to the current citizen disaffection and mistrust of government. She offers policy recommendations on how to tap online tools and other technological and civic innovations to promote more inclusive governance. Gilman suggests practical ways to empower citizens to become change agents. Democracy Reinvented also includes a discussion on the challenges and opportunities that come with using digital tools to re-engage citizens in governance.

About Hollie

Hollie Russon Gilman is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs where she is co-teaching a new course on Technology and the Future of Governance and Public Policy. She is also a fellow at New America and Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Innovation and Governance.  Hollie most recently served as Open Government and Innovation Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and holds a PhD in Government from Harvard University. She is a founding researcher and organizer for the Open Society Foundation’s Transparency and Accountability Initiative and Harvard’s Gettysburg Project to revitalize 21st Century civic engagement. She has worked as an advisor, researcher, and consultant to leading non-profits and foundations at the intersection of technology and the public sector including the Case Foundation, Center for Global Development,, and the World Bank Institute.


Designing a Public Sector Innovation Lab

Designing a Public Sector Innovation Lab

MindLab, existing since 2002, is the longest living public sector innovation lab. MindLab runs design-led projects to create policies and services that deliver better outcomes for people and society. Through the use of ethnography and design methods, like rapid prototyping and testing, MindLab involves citizens in the development of new public sector solutions, and brings an out-side-in perspective to organizations.

MindLab Deputy Director, Kit Lykketoft, will share the story behind the first government lab, addressing the unique challenges and lessons learned from working within government administration, as well as her insights from setting up other public sector labs in various countries. Kit will also discuss MindLab’s methodology and current work with the elementary school reform and it´s implementation.

About Kit:

Kit Lykketoft is the Deputy Director of MindLab, a cross-governmental innovation unit in Denmark. Kit has been part of MindLab for the past eight years and previously worked in the Danish Ministry of Employment where she also began her career in 2001.

As an experienced change leader with deep practical knowledge on policy-making, service-design and organizational development, she has served as an advisor on innovative capacity-building, trainer, facilitator and presenter to numerous organizations and institutions in Denmark and around the globe. Kit has assisted in setting up public sector labs in several countries. Kit has had numerous prior engagements with the UNDP.

Kit holds an Executive M.Sc. from Oxford/HEC, Paris (2014) and a MA and BA in History and Anthropology from Copenhagen University.  She lives and works in Copenhagen, however July 2015 – July 2016 she will be based in NYC as a visiting scholar at Parsons the New School for Design, DESIS Lab as well as work with MindLab partners in the region.

More here.


Portraits in Data

On November 19, R. Luke DuBois shared his work and perception on data and arts in the GovLab offices. DuBois holds a doctorate in music composition from Columbia University, and has lectured and taught worldwide on interactive sound and video performance. He has collaborated on interactive performance, installation, and music production work with many artists and organizations and was the director of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra for its 2007 season. He is currently the director of the Brooklyn Experimental Media Center at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and is on the Board of Directors of the ISSUE Project Room.

More here


Open Source Drug Discovery: Curing Neglected Diseases With Crowdsourcing

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Professor Samir Brahmachari’s lecture will focus on the use of open innovation, citizen science and crowdsourcing to accelerate and lower the cost of drug development to achieve “affordable healthcare for all.”  He will tell the story of the Open Source Drug Discovery project (OSDD), which has been accelerating groundbreaking innovation in the design of new drugs for neglected tropical diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. Each day thousands of people die of TB around the world, and resistance to existing drugs has increased creating a major public health problem. No new safe TB drug has been developed in 50 years. Inspired by open source principles and making use of India’s computational strength, Dr. Brahmachari founded Open Source Drug Discovery to enable students, scientists, researchers, and individuals from all over the world to work collaboratively in a horizontal and decentralized manner, making contributions to the identification of novel drug targets to fight infectious diseases. He will talk about OSDD and its successful launch of a clinical trial of a new TB drug and discuss the learnings from this life-saving crowdsourcing project.

About Samir

Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari, J.C. Bose National Fellow, is currently also the Academy Professor of Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research and Chief Mentor of Open Source Drug Discovery. He served as the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India – one of the largest chains of industrial R&D labs in the world for over six years (2007-2013). He is also the Founder Director of CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi (1997-2007) and has pioneered Functional Genomics research in India, successfully leading the Indian Genome Variation Project. This exploration of human genome variation in multi-ethnic, multilingual populations of India led to development of a national resource: the genetic profile of the people of India. Prof. Brahmachari has conceived and established the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD), a global collaborative translational research platform for affordable healthcare and a model for Science 2.0.His present interest lies in the utilization of genomics and computational technology to gain a systems level understanding of pathogenic organisms like Mycobacterium tuberculosis towards the development of low cost drugs and diagnostics to achieve the vision of affordable healthcare for all. Prof. Brahmachari mentors young students and is actively involved in promoting innovations through application oriented education and research.

Here are three papers about the Open Source Drug Discovery project:

  1. Open source drug discovery- A new paradigm of collaborative research in tuberculosis drug development, September 2011,
  2. Crowd Sourcing a New Paradigm for Interactome Driven Drug Target Identification in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, July 2012,
  3. CSIR’s Open Source Drug Discovery Programme: Changing the Rules of Drug Discovery, April 2014,

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP so we have accurate numbers for food.


Data-Driven Tensions in Human Rights

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The application of data-driven tools and technologies to address human rights issues is gaining traction. Collecting and analyzing data from various digital sources offers promising methods for monitoring or intervening in instances of abuse, exploitation, or victimization. Yet practitioners, researchers, and policymakers face unique challenges and opportunities when assessing technological benefit, risk, and harm. How can these technologies be used responsibly to assist people in need, prevent abuse, and protect from harm? A number of challenges and anxieties emerge around such questions – from surveillance and privacy to data biases and accountability. Addressing these concerns are crucial as data-driven techniques become the basis for decision making at the policy and operational levels. Using the case of big data and human trafficking as an example, this presentation will discuss the tensions that arise around data-driven interventions in human rights domains.  

About Mark

Mark Latonero a professor and researcher interested in technology and social change. Mark is interested in examining the risks and benefits of applying data-centric approaches to human rights and human security issues involving vulnerable populations. A primary area of investigation involves tech and data driven approaches to address human trafficking.

Mark is a Fellow at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York as well as the research director at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, and a research professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He completed his PhD at the USC Annenberg School and was a postdoctoral research scholar at the London School of Economics.

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP so we have accurate numbers for food.


Advancing Children’s Learning in a Digital Age

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Advancing Children’s Learning in a Digital Age

Michael Levine, Founding Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, will be discussing his new book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens. With Tap, Click Read, Lisa Guernsey of New America and Michael Levine tackle some of the most urgent concerns of the digital age: How do we encourage young children’s early literacy skills and promote a love of learning in the midst of a media landscape full of a dizzying array of games, videos, and apps? What will it take to create a future in which parents and teachers become adept at using media to build a foundation for children’s reading? Beyond traditional literacy, what are the digital competencies that today’s young children will need to master in an increasingly complex and interconnected world? The authors scan the marketplace of digital apps and games, and look at innovative models that use technology to encourage adult-child interactions to foster early literacy skills.

About Michael

Michael Levine is the Founding Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.  The Center conducts research, develops prototypes, scalable models and design challenges, and convenes leaders to promote investments in high quality media experiences for children. Levine also serves in a senior executive position on Sesame Workshop’s leadership team, concentrating on public engagement and educational impact for the global non-profit.

Prior to joining the Center, Michael served as Vice President for Asia Society, managing the global nonprofit’s interactive media and educational initiatives to promote knowledge and understanding of other world regions and cultures.  Michael previously oversaw Carnegie Corporation of New York’s groundbreaking work in early childhood development, educational media, and primary grades reform and was a senior advisor to the New York City Schools Chancellor, where he directed dropout prevention, afterschool, and early childhood initiatives.

Dr. Levine serves on New York City’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Scientific Advisory Council, and is a Pahara-Aspen Education Reform Fellow. He has been a frequent adviser to the White House and the U.S. Department of Education and writes for public affairs journals, including a regular column for Huffington Post.  He was named by Working Mother magazine as one of America’s most influential leaders in family and children’s policy and serves on several nonprofit boards, including Classroom, Inc., Forum for Youth Investment, We Are Family Foundation, DigiLearn, the Leman School, and Journeys in Film. Michael received his Ph.D. in Social Policy from Brandeis University’s Florence Heller School and his B.S. from Cornell University.

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP so we have accurate numbers for food.


How Citizens Can Force Government To Change: Liberating Our Data (At Scale!)

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How Citizens Can Force Government To Change: Liberating Our Data (At Scale!)

When a government bureaucracy is not working the way you think it should be, what can you do to make it change? In this Ideas Lunch, Carl Malamud will discuss techniques and tactics his nonprofit organization uses to cajole large government agencies to change their ways. Three case studies will used to illustrate these principles.

In the first half, we’ll look at the IRS Exempt Organizations database and how it is distributed, issues of privacy in the Form 990 reports made public by nonprofit organizations, and the question of e-file data. This will be followed by a brief discussion of the issue of edicts of government, the promulgation of the laws by which we as a people choose to govern ourselves.

The second half of the session will be devoted to the PACER system, the electronic docketing system used by the U.S. federal courts. We’ll discuss the Yo.YourHonor.Org effort, a response to the Year-End report from the Chief Justice in which he discussed technology and the courts. A brief exercise in applied rhetoric will conclude this part of the Ideas Lunch.

About Carl

Considered one of the pioneers in getting government to face the challenges of the Internet in their own internal operations, Carl Malamud is the founder of Public.Resource.Org (“Public Resource”), a nonprofit organization that creates public works for a better government. Public Resource has helped put online 6,000 videos from the National Archives and other agencies, over 14,000 hours of video from the U.S. Congress, over 8 million Form 990 returns from the IRS, historical opinions of the U.S. Court of Appeals, docket materials from U.S. District Courts, and edicts of government (such as mandated public safety codes) at both the state and federal level. In many cases, these efforts have been accomplished over the strenuous objections of the government agencies who purportedly “own” the data.

Lunch will be served.  Please RSVP so we have accurate numbers for food.