Interested In Helping Advance Tech Policy In The Right Direction? Here's An Amazing Opportunity

from the go-do-something dept

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.

Filed Under: tech, tech policy, tech policy hub
Companies: aspen institute


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 2:23pm

    Fellows will be paid a stipend of $7,500/month for 2 months to defray their living costs in the Bay Area

    7500 * 12 = 90,000. From what I've heard, while that's a decent income in most other places, in the Bay Area that may as well be below the poverty line due to excessive housing costs. How much does that actually defray?

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    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 2:58pm

      I'm not as ashamed of this as I should be...

      counts on fingers

      Well, since this seems like a "per diem" situation, and that's usually tax free, I'd say it defrays about $7500 dollars a month.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 4:02pm

      Re:

      I live in the bay area. $7,500 is significantly more than I make in a month, and is sufficient to find a one bedroom apartment along with food and utilities and other costs of living, though likely not an upscale one. If policy makers have to either dip into their own funds or live like a normal person, perhaps that is for the best.

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    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:22pm

      Re: How much does that actually defray?

      Probably my elitism is showing, but I don't think it's wise to have people who need the $7500/month making policy.

      I'd like to see policy made by people with deep knowledge and experience in the policy field at hand. People of demonstrated competence.

      At a very minimum, they should have earned enough money, in their prior life before coming to policy-making, to pay their own rent.

      People who can't afford to do that are not necessarily incompetent - they may just be young and inexperienced. But they haven't, yet, proven minimal competence.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:37pm

        Re: Re: How much does that actually defray?

        In a corrupt society, people without money are the most honest, and often the smartest, and definitely not the greediest.

        Of course, people who have money and nothing else to offer will judge people financially. They have no practical alternative.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:50pm

        Re: Re: How much does that actually defray?

        I'd like to see policy made by people with deep knowledge and experience in the policy field at hand. People of demonstrated competence.

        Oh, you mean people like Ajit Pai?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: How much does that actually defray?

        Probably my elitism is showing, but I don't think it's wise to have people who need the $7500/month making policy.

        Yes, it really is. To a rather disgusting degree.

        People who can't afford to do that are not necessarily incompetent - they may just be young and inexperienced. But they haven't, yet, proven minimal competence.

        Or, y'know, maybe they could have simply had other expenses that prevented them from saving up enough to afford to live unpaid in one of the priciest cities in the world? Just maybe?

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        • icon
          OldMugwump (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 7:29pm

          Re: Re: Re: How much does that actually defray?

          I understand where you're coming from.

          I just think we have too many legislators who would have a tough time making a living doing anything else - who, in fact, have never supported themselves doing anything other than telling the rest of us how to live.

          Such people oughtn't be telling anybody how to live. If they can't run their own lives well, why should we trust them to run ours?

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:31pm

    "Mandatory programming" LOL

    I could draft mock legislation in about six hours. Three months? Bloat.

    I'm guessing they have an agenda.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:31pm

    By "the right direction", I'm assuming you mean whatever direction the advertising/surveillance industry would like it to go in?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      Pretty much.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:47pm

      Re:

      By "the right direction", I'm assuming you mean whatever direction the advertising/surveillance industry would like it to go in?

      No. I mean whatever direction the individuals who join the program want it to go in. Indeed, the whole freaking point of this is to enable smart people to help set the agenda, RATHER THAN the big companies.

      But, hey, cool cynicism dude. Must make you feel great.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 4:35pm

        Re: Re:

        From the site you linked:

        We model ourselves after tech incubators like Y Combinator

        That tells me pretty much all I need to know.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:38pm

        Re: Re:

        Still too subjective and what does it accomplish? If it's a 501(c)(3), everyone on staff gets not only salaries but student-loan forgiveness, a huge cost to the taxpayers.

        We could do without such organizations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If it's a 501(c)(3), everyone on staff gets not only salaries but student-loan forgiveness, a huge cost to the taxpayers.

          Check with a lawyer with tax or incorporation experience. 501c3 salaries are not paid by the taxpayers; salaried staff in fact ARE taxpayers. Student-loan forgiveness doesn't happen for over 10 years; is not available for employees of all 501c3 orgs (in particular for those engaging in political activity) and is also available for employees of some other non-501c3 organizations that exist primarily to provide a public service--think of private schools, hospitals, etc.

          501c3 contributions (which pay salaries, purchase supplies, buy/rent/maintain facilities, and cover other operating costs) may POSSIBLY, in some circumstances, reduce the amount of income or inheritance that is taxed. Again, this is also true of some contributions to many kinds of organizations.'

          Full disclosure: not an accountant or lawyer of any kind. But have spent a few hundred hours looking at Form 990 and helping those professionals get it filled out correctly.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 4:23pm

    Not in the bay area. Not sure I'd be of any help then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:09pm

    "we'd all be a lot better off if the folks making the decisions actually knew what the hell they were talking about. "

    Let's all hang out sniffing unicorn farts until that happens. Oh right, ain't going to happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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