Invited Speakers

Alissa Black, Director, California Civic Innovation Project, New America Foundation

Participatory Budgeting: Illuminating Public Decision Making

Alissa Black directs the New America Foundation’s California Civic Innovation Project. Based in the Bay area, Ms. Black is exploring the use of innovative technologies, policies, and practices that engage disadvantaged communities in public decision making throughout California. The project builds communities of practice within California local governments, and identifies and promotes best practices that deepen engagement between government and citizens throughout the state.


Guy Grossman, Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Does IT flatten interest articulation?

Guy Grossman is assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in comparative politics, with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. In his work he applies a variety of methods, including randomized control trials (RCTs), social network analysis and behavioral experiments to study political behavior and political economy of development. His most recent work explores the relationship between governance institutions and the provision of public goods and the extent to which information technology innovations can increase political accountability in low-income countries.


David Herzog, Assistant Professor, Missouri School of Journalism

Data driven journalism

David Herzog serves as the academic adviser to the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), a joint program of the Missouri School of Journalism and Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., a global association of journalists. Herzog specializes in using geographic information systems (GIS) tools to report the news and is author of the new book Mapping the News: Case Studies in GIS and Journalism, which explores how journalists have used analytic mapping software to discover news stories.


Tariq Khokhar, Open Data Evangelist, The World Bank

Opening up the World Bank – Access to Information and Open Data

Tariq Khokhar is the World Bank’s Open Data Evangelist. His interests lie where technology, transparency, poverty and data meet. He guides the World Bank’s strategy on Open Data and Open Development and is responsible for internal and external outreach and execution. Prior to joining the Bank, Tariq led innovation and community engagement work at Aidinfo and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).


Finnur Magnusson, Former CTO, Icelandic Constitutional Council

Crowdsourcing Iceland’s New Constitution

Finnur Magnusson was the Chief Technology Officer for the Icelandic Constitutional Council, a large crowdsourcing event responsible for drafting Iceland’s new constitution. Magnusson has also worked with London-based VYRE as a consultant and sales engineer.  In recent years, he has focused on social media, crowd sourcing and community management.


Ethan McMahon, Program Analyst, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Environment Protection Agency’s efforts and opening data and increasing citizen engagement

Ethan McMahon is the Advocate for Information Access in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Information. He leads the agency’s effort to help the public use apps to protect the environment. He led EPA’s Apps for the Environment Challenge, a contest for software developers to create apps that use EPA’s data. The project used social media to reach developers and engaged the public to submit over 100 ideas for apps. Mr. McMahon contributes to EPA’s Open Government effort and was deputy manager of an earlier transparency effort, EPA’s Information Access Strategy.


Daniel Posner, Professor, Department of Political Science, MIT

Does information lead into participation? Evidence from Kenya

Daniel Posner the Total Chair on Contemporary Africa and Professor of Political Science at MIT. His most recent co-authored book, Coethnicity: Diversity and the Dilemmas of Collective Action (Russell Sage, 2009) employs experimental games to probe the sources of poor public goods provision in ethnically diverse communities.  He currently serves on the editorial boards of World Politics, PS, and the Annual Review of Political Science., and is co-founder of the Working Group in African Political Economy (WGAPE).


Nicholas Skytland, Program Manager, Open Innovation Program, NASA

NASA’s Open Innovation Program

Nicholas Skytland is the Program Manager of NASA’s Open Innovation Program where he is responsible for directing the agency’s Open Government Plan and Digital Strategy, with aggressive goals towards releasing more high value data sets online, pushing forward the use of open source software, developing new technologies, and creating participatory opportunities to engage citizens in NASA’s mission. Skytland has experience planning galactic-sized hackathons, envisioning future space exploration missions, designing next generation space suits, training space-bound astronauts, developing open-source software and encouraging new partnerships between government and industry, academia and organizations. His current research focus is to better understand how government can apply the art and science of mass collaboration.


Whitney Smithers, Manager, Business Plan and Budget Coordination, The City of Calgary

Our city, our budget: City of Calgary

Whitney Smithers is the Manager of Strategic Initiatives in the Planning, Development & Assessment department at The City of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.  She is responsible for providing the overall leadership and coordination required in The City’s efforts to transform its planning system through engaging City staff and stakeholders – industry, communities, citizens – to design and deliver a high-performing, outcome-focused planning and development system.


Shannon Spanhake, Deputy Innovation Officer, Office of Mayor Edwin M. Lee, City and County of San Francisco

Innovation for the city of San Francisco

Shannon Spanhake is the Deputy Innovation Officer for the Office of Mayor Edwin M. Lee, City and County of San Francisco. Her focus is on building an Open Innovation program to enable job creation, citizen engagement and government efficiency. Prior to this role, Spanhake worked for a start-up that was founded with her patented participatory data collection technology, which she was named by the Grace Hopper Foundation as “100 Women Innovation Science and Technology” and was a Semi-Finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Inventors competition.


Chris A. Vein, Chief Innovation Officer, The World Bank

Open Innovation:  Creating the Next Generation of Government

Recently described by FedInsider as “innovating innovation itself,” Mr. Chris Vein is the Chief Innovation Officer for Global Technology Development at the World Bank. In this capacity, Chris leads the implementation of the World Bank’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategy, ICT policy and engagement dialogue with internal and external clients, and global ICT knowledge and expertise with client countries. Prior to joining the World Bank, Chris was the Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In that role, Chris focused on making government more open, entrepreneurial, and lean; creating new and innovative opportunities for delivering government products, services and processes; and incubating innovation capacity in the civic, technology and civic society arenas. Over the past two award-winning decades, Chris has had the honor of serving four Presidents of the United States, thousands of professional association practitioners around the world, for-profit consulting organizations, and local government organizations.


Juan-Pablo Velez, Civic Technologist, Open City Project

Open city project in the city of Chicago

Juan-Pablo Velez is a civic technologist with Open City and organizes Chicago’s open gov hack night. He is fascinated by design, data analysis, and the intersection of cities, government, and technology. Before moving to technology, Juan was a journalist for the now-defunct Chicago News Cooperative, covering Chicago for the New York Times. He’s now a data scientist at Datascope Analytics.


Timothy Vollmer, Manager of Policy and Data, Creative Commons

Public Access to Publicly Funded Resources: It’s about time

Timothy Vollmer is Manager of Policy and Data at Creative Commons. He coordinates public policy positions in collaboration with Creative Commons staff, international affiliate network, and a broad community of copyright experts. Timothy helps educate policymakers at all levels and across various disciplines such as education, data, science, culture, and government about copyright licensing, the public domain, and the adoption of open policies.


John Wonderlich, Policy Director, Sunlight Foundation

Open Government and Public Discourse: Realignment through Transparency

John Wonderlich is the policy director for the Sunlight Foundation and one of the nation’s foremost advocates for open government. John spearheads Sunlight’s goal of changing the government by opening up key data sources and information to make government more accountable to citizens. He is an authority on transparency policy, from legislation and accountability in Congress to ethics and information policy in the executive branch. John has spoken internationally on technology and transparency and has testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has appeared on NPR, Fox News and C-SPAN, and his expertise has been cited by The New York Times, The Washington Post and other media outlets.