Celebrating Leadership, Civility, and the Presidential Innovation Fellows
“Do you want to know why I’m the most optimistic about our future?” asked Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of the United States. “It’s the PIFs!”
Park attended a dinner, Monday, February 24th, hosted by Elena Poptodorova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United States, at her residence, in celebration of the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIFs) program and the Institute for Education. Dr. Amy Geng, IFE Innovation Steward, CEO Coach Kathy Kemper, and several PIF’s joined the dinner to applaud the collaboration.
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As expected, the conversation was wide-ranging and forward-looking, demonstrating the breadth of experience and knowledge that the PIFs bring to their “tours of duty” at their respective government agencies and departments.
Health care, disaster response, education, broadband Internet access, resources for returning veterans, economic growth, and startups were just some of the compelling topics discussed around an elegant four-course meal.
The dinner also served to honor and recognize John Paul Farmer, longtime member of IFE leadership and co-founder of the IFE Emerging Markets Roundtable, who recently left his position as Senior Advisor at the White House to join Microsoft. Farmer was instrumental in co-founding, managing, and growing the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, and as PIFs paid tribute to Todd Park, they also paid tribute to Farmer.
Park explained how PIFs represent “the intersection of the tri-sector movement” — referring to a growing acknowledgment of the value of leadership and skills across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and the ability of leaders to move, nimbly, from sector to sector throughout their career.
“If you treat every experience in your life as a source of inspiration — this is a group of folks who are incredibly skilled at what they are doing and then blending those skills together in an incredibly exciting way,” Park said.
It was an acknowledgment that, despite the ultra-partisan times in which we live (especially as this election year begins in earnest), the PIF program represents the very best of what the vast majority of Americans say they want their government to do for them: solve problems.
In this way, the PIF program also demonstrates the mission of the Institute for Education — to promote leadership and civility, find common ground, and support social entrepreneurship. In a town as divisive as Washington, the PIFs are rarities — and they are celebrated by IFE.
As the evening drew to a close, Park reminded guests of Joy’s Law of management, attributed to Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, who said: “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.”
The PIF program, Park explained, is a “practical application of Joy’s Law” and a reminder that even within an institution (government) that is inherently resistant to change, innovation is possible and, in fact, is vital. The PIF program is bringing the Silicon Valley startup mentality inside government and is, as Park said, “a start-up within government without any money but with the President’s backing — and that’s what matters.”
Guests also included the Ambassador’s son Georgi Georgiev Petrov and IFE Leadership: Marci Robinson, Chair, IFE Board of Stewards; David Fenstermaker, Raymond James; and Jerry Jasinowski, IFE Steward and Former President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. As well as Presidential Innovation Fellows: John Felleman, Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration; Garren Givens, Department of Education; Jacqueline Kazil, FEMA; Sokwoo Rhee, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Matthew Theall, Department of Energy; and Ben Willman, Department of Veterans Affairs.
IFE Fellows Jordan D’Eri, Chris Golden, Joanne Ke, and Mark Schulte, IFE Innovation Intern and the evening’s program director Emily Lovell, and NEXTGEN program director Nathalia Penton also attended.Contributed by IFE Fellow Chris Golden.