Policy Innovation Lab


Units: 6


The Policy Innovation Lab is a new Public Interest Technology initiative that connects students with real policy challenges and introduces an agile, design-driven framework to rapidly create solutions to those challenges. This course is an experiment in improving public policy by working outside the traditional structures of government. 

Students will be working with external partners to investigate real problem spaces and building policy-driven prototypes driven by user research. Students will work to solve pressing challenges by redefining the problem in terms of understanding the affected users of systems, conducting user-centered research, designing solutions, testing those same solutions, and iteratively improving those outcomes. This course is designed to take advantage of recent lessons learned in applied innovation in government entities around the world. The actual outcomes will be heavily dependent on both the needs of the problem sets for each course as well as the skills of the students.

The course will apply some methodologies commonplace in industry like agile, design-thinking, and prototyping to deliver open source products and services that have the potential to live on beyond the course. For public-facing projects, work will be done in a transparent manner where possible in order to encourage external participation. Students will be expected to embrace a culture that expects and encourages rapid iteration, express a willingness to fail early in order to discover a solution that ultimately works, and a flat structure that provides students with an opportunity to deliver for our government partners.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify how innovation in government can benefit from agile methodologies and iterative design strategies. 
  2. Apply agile and lean methods to make cross-disciplinary teams and government partner interactions functional and valuable. 
  3. Understand how to conduct user research to inform a better experience for citizens. 
  4. Learn how to prototype solutions quickly, test them, and repeat the process with stakeholder involvement. 
  5. Develop and document an MVP and complete a clean handoff to the partner. 

Prerequisites Description

This course is designed for graduate-level experience that have at a minimum basic computer proficiency skills.  This means you should feel comfortable working with data in spreadsheets, an ability to write clearly and organize materials well, an interest in exploring new programs and present a willingness to learn something outside of your comfort zone.