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Paid Policy Incubator Fellowship For Technologists: A Call for Applications

By Betsy Cooper
Friday, August 9, 2019, 2:57 PM

Silicon Valley needs to understand Washington. While Valley companies increasingly make decisions that affect millions—even billions—of people, too many technologists still fail to grasp the important role of public policy, how to participate in the policy process, and how to explain their work in language that lawmakers can grasp.

Washington policymakers need to understand Silicon Valley. Policymakers must better comprehend today’s technologies and innovate solutions that match the speed and complexity of emerging tech challenges, from social media and artificial intelligence to privacy and security.

Few people can speak to both. Meeting the challenges of tomorrow will require far more people that pair Silicon Valley’s creativity with the impact of Washington.

The Aspen Tech Policy Hub was created to fix this exact problem. The Hub is a West Coast policy incubator training a new generation of tech policy entrepreneurs. In June of this year, the Hub welcomed its inaugural cohort of 15 engineers, startup founders, and academics to our ten-week fellowship program.

The Hub takes technical experts, teaches them the policy process through a paid in-residence fellowship program, and encourages them to develop outside-the-box solutions to society’s problems. It models itself after tech incubators like Y Combinator, but trains new policy thinkers and focuses the impact of their ideas. Since the start of the program, our inaugural cohort of fellows have met with over 20 policy leaders, including the Lieutenant Governor of California and a former US Chief Technology Officer, presented to leaders of a transatlantic commission on solutions to combat the spread of misinformation through deepfakes, and pitched to officials from the City of San Francisco on how to improve event security. We're now looking for the next amazing class of leaders to help us build Policy at the Speed of Tech.

Who? Anyone with an interest in technology policy. Founder or company staffer? Think-tanker? Faculty or student? You’re all welcome. Fellows are not expected to come into our program with previous policy expertise or degrees; in fact, we prefer people who are new to policy (they don’t have preconceived notions of what it should look like).

When? Winter 2020 (January-March).

What? A full time in-person incubator fellowship program. We teach fellows policy and give them access to resources to make them successful. Programming includes:

  • Regular classes exploring what policy is: problems, alternatives, outputs, etc.;
  • Action-oriented practical exercises, such as ‘how to write a policy memo’;
  • Mandatory morning pitch meetings for sharing ideas in progress;
  • Partnerships with experienced policy mentors who can help provide project guidance;
  • Practical resources, including designers, copy editors, legal experts, and comms specialists; and
  • Evening off-the-record dinners with top corporate and government policy experts;

We then encourage fellows to work in teams to develop new and innovative ideas for solving problems, with a high tolerance for risky ideas that flip the usual way of doing things. Fellows ‘exit’ our program by presenting their final projects to real decision-makers.

Why? Our alumni base will understand the importance of successfully mixing tech and policy no matter what jobs they move onto, and many will continue to contribute to our research and strategy agenda.

Cost? Here’s the best part: we pay you! Successful applicants receive $18,000 for ten weeks of participation

I’m sold. What next? Apply here before August 15 . Writing matters, so take your time with the application.

I’m interested but I have questions. Cool. First, check out the FAQ on our fellowship page as many common questions are answered there. If you have additional questions, we will host a Q&A based webinar on August 14, 2019 (register here) at 10AM PST/1PM EST.

Questions not answered? Contact