There are a few common themes around Techdirt: (1) the lack of tech understanding among people crafting policy these days, and (2) our general annoyance at the cynics who insist there’s nothing to be done to stop bad policy making. Well, here’s an opportunity to actually do something, and to help be in a position to craft better, knowledgeable tech policy. The Aspen Institute recently launched a new Aspen Tech Policy Hub out here in the Bay Area, with a program designed to “train the next generation of policy entrepreneurs.” The approach they’re taking is a good one. I’ve complained many times in the past that the way that most DC folks try to “bridge the gap” between tech and policy is to come out to Silicon Valley and wag their fingers at annoyed entrepreneurs and technologists, lecturing them on how they need to care about policy — when so many of those entrepreneurs and technologists believe the answer is just for policymakers to “stay out of the way.”
Of course, if anything has become clear over the last few years, it’s that folks in DC (and Brussels and lots of other places) have no interest or intent in staying out of the way, and much of the rest of the world also wants them to get more and more engaged in directing and regulating technology. And if that’s going to happen, we’d all be a lot better off if the folks making the decisions actually knew what the hell they were talking about.
That brings us to the new Fellowship Program that the Aspen Tech Policy Hub is launching. They’re comparing it to a startup incubator like Y Combinator, but for getting technologists and entrepreneurs (and journalists) up to speed on tech policy.
Incubator fellows will spend a minimum of 2 months with us for mandatory programming in summer 2019, from early June to mid-August 2019. The fellowship is tentatively scheduled for June 10 through August 9, 2019. The exact start date for this pilot cohort is still tentative based on space availability and fellow scheduling….
This is an intense, full time program, and we expect fellows’ full attention while they are participating. Fellows will be paid a stipend of $7,500/month for 2 months to defray their living costs in the Bay Area, with an option to apply for a 3rd month of stipend funding if the fellow is available to remain in residence for an additional month after formal programming concludes. (We will provide office space, but fellows will need to find their own housing if they are not already local.) We also have limited funds to assist with relocation to the Bay Area if needed. So long as space is available, fellows are eligible to continue to work out of our facility for an additional three months free of charge, through November 2019.
During residence, fellows will be required to create at least one practical policy output—for instance, mock legislation, toolkits for policymakers, white papers, op-eds, or an app. Fellows have to propose a possible project in their application for the fellowship, but they are not tied to working on that project once in residence. In fact, we encourage fellows to work together to identify new ideas for projects on arrival.
I have no association with the organization. I just think it’s a great program concept. The tech policy world is quite small, and right now the vast majority (though certainly not all…) of the people who end up in that world tend to be lawyers, rather than technologists and entrepreneurs. Nothing against the lawyers, but the tech policy world could use some other perspectives as well. So if you’ve always complained about dumb policy makers and you’re actually interested in breaking through the cynicism and actually doing something, check out the program and apply.