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Public Innovation Academy Offers Practical Training for Gov

Government technology veteran Abhi Nemani, who has experience both inside government as well as with prominent civic tech organizations such as Code for America, is leading the new startup company.

Public Innovation Academy
The Public Innovation Academy's elearning platform.
A veteran of gov tech work is launching an online training program called the Public Innovation Academy, which aims to go beyond the scope of programs that most often target C-level or executive participants.

The Public Innovation Academy, which is currently under development with a two-phase launch slated to start closer to the end of the year, is being led by Abhi Nemani, who helped build the nation’s pre-eminent civic tech group, Code for America, and has also served as chief data officer of Los Angeles, as well as the first CIO of Sacramento, Calif. Nemani describes his new online training venture as being aimed at helping people who perform jobs that aren’t necessarily technical, yet are being asked to rapidly use more technology as our reliance on it accelerates.

Another hope for the new venture, Nemani said, is that the programming will be able to take the lessons and practices learned by large jurisdictions and share them with those who work within small or mid-sized cities, too. The idea would be to enroll attendees from smaller cities that might not have the resources for a position such as chief data officer but could benefit from basic lessons that CDOs in places like Los Angeles or New York bring to the table. The e-learning courses would even involve current or former CDOs from the larger places as something like guest lecturers. 

Where the Public Innovation Academy really seems likely to standout, however, is in the way that it’s courses are structured. Unlike broader or more general professional development programs for civil servants who use technology, this one is going to take a results-driven approach. What that means, Nemani explained, is that rather than taking a class that is billed as being about human-centered design, participants might take a course structured around creating an actual tool that makes government digital services more user-friendly.

Such a course would inherently use much of what one might learn from a class specifically about human-centered design, it would just do so in a way that generated a finished project at the end that each participant could bring back to their city or agency.

“Through that process,” Nemani said, “you end up helping them understand not only the bigger picture, but you are also giving them a very specific direction on what to do.”

As for where the program currently stands, there is a survey up on the main page of its website. The goal of the survey is to collect data on what sorts of classes and projects potential enrollees would find most helpful. Those who complete it now will be given exclusive early access to the academy’s first courses, starting potentially as soon as this winter.  

Following the initial rollout of all this, the academy will eventually move to a model with a cost associated with classes primarily in the interest of sustainability.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine