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This Digital Platform Lets International Governments Compare Notes

Apolitical gives policy makers a way to share ideas.

This Digital Platform Lets International Governments Compare Notes
[Illustration: Josh McKenna]

The Problem

Policy makers often operate as if the challenges facing their state or country are unique to their own borders, when in fact legislators around the world may have encountered similar issues–and come up with applicable solutions.

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The Epiphany

Robyn Scott cofounded an organization that taught entrepreneurship and coding to prisoners in South Africa. Working in that environment showed her the power of policy–especially around mental-health care and education–and what happens when it fails. She met Lisa Witter, a former member of the Seattle City Council, in London in 2011. They discovered a mutual frustration over the information gap facing public officials, and set out to stop the constant “re-creation of the wheel.”

The Execution

In 2015, they launched Apolitical, a website featuring articles and case studies about policy advancements. With their network of lawmakers and policy wonks growing–and with seed funding from the European Union, plus investors spread across five continents–­Scott and Witter expanded the platform last summer to include peer-to-peer sharing, allowing users to discuss issues and solutions.

The Result

Public servants in more than 120 countries, including the U.S., now use Apolitical to understand how other governments operate. For some, it’s a source of inspiration: A European ministry of justice employee turned to the platform to study up on universal basic income experiments happening on a small scale around the world, and used them as a blueprint for a criminal justice exercise in his own country. For others, it’s a way to network. The U.K. government’s Cabinet Office seeded discussions about public-private partnerships on the site; later, it took the conversation offline by hosting Apolitical’s official U.K. launch, which was attended by officials from the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, India, and more. Apolitical is already achieving Scott’s original goal: inspiring officials with examples of success. “We’re so good at celebrating innovation in the private sector,” says Scott. “We wanted to show that governments have heroes, too.”

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About the author

Cale is a Brooklyn-based reporter. He writes about business, technology, leadership, and anything else that piques his interest

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