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Obama Makes The Presidential Innovation Fellows Permanent

Now in its fourth year, the program helps the U.S. government approach problems like a lean startup.

Obama Makes The Presidential Innovation Fellows Permanent
[Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Today, President Obama signed an executive order to make the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program a permanent facet of the federal government.

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The 12-month program, started in 2012, brings entrepreneurs, technologists, and other innovators into the fold of various issues facing the government and teams them up with government employees to devise solutions for those issues.

The program is part of Obama’s broader agenda of infusing the government with entrepreneurs and figureheads from America’s tech sector to make it operate more like a startup.

“From now on, Presidential Innovation Fellows will be an integral part of our government,” Obama announced in a video posted today. “My hope is this continues to encourage a culture of public service among our innovators and tech entrepreneurs so that we can keep building a government that’s as modern and innovative–and as engaging–as our incredible tech sector is.”

Obama didn’t elaborate on how the fellows would be installed as parts of the government.

Garren Givens, a 2013 fellow who now directs the program, wrote in a blog post announcing the executive order that the program first homes in on problems that could use a boost from new ideas and technology, then goes after people in the private sector with a diverse background of skills and backgrounds.

So far, the program has brought in 88 fellows from nine industry sectors to work on programs that affect more than 150 million Americans, according to the PIF website. The Police Data Initiative, for example, came of out the program, as did this report on human-centered design inside the Department of Veteran Affairs (the VA).

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“The innovator’s seat at the table is part of our longstanding American tradition,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith wrote in the post. “Our Founders had these skills — they, of course, were statesmen, writers, leaders, orators, organizers — they were also inventors, engineers, and systems thinkers.”

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