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Smart Talk: Lisa Gans, Fuse Corps; Jay Nath, San Francisco Chief Innovation Officer

"I'm From The Government..."And despite the classic Reagan joke, these innovators actually are here to help. But it isn't always easy.

Can a program designed for devel­oping nations be useful in America?

"In Ethiopia, we taught local women how to make better nutrition decisions. They'd then share the knowledge; they became conduits. In Washington, D.C., we want to repeat that result with different goals: helping mothers attain education and financial stability."

Lisa Gans, fellow, Fuse Corps, D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative

How do you empower citizens to help solve local problems?

"We've been working on, a digital platform where government is open about the challenges that we face. The first step is being honest with ourselves. Then we invite the public to suggest solutions."

Jay Nath, chief innovation officer, San Francisco

[Illustrations by Brett Affrunti]

Fast Talk: "I'm From The Government..."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.