Welcome to InnOvation, bringing you news about innovations to improve services and operations in the public sector, sponsored by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) Institute for Innovation. Each newsletter will feature stories, upcoming events, and opportunities for you to engage with a growing community of innovators. Learn more about ACT-IAC and the Institute for Innovation .

Innovation Highlights

Coming Events

ACT-IAC’s Institute for Innovation would like to welcome back all of the federal government employees and those who support them who were affected by the furlough!


Can there be multiple solutions to one issue? What happens when those solutions are combined and given the resources and environment to flourish? The answer is the genesis behind the U.S. Department of State’s Boldline Accelerator, a three-day program that brings together groups from various backgrounds and sectors, and helps develop their ideas through design thinking, rapid ideation, and innovative partnership solutions. In December 2018, the Department's Office of Global Partnerships held their third Boldline accelerator, in collaboration with the Department’s Global Engagement Center, to find technological solutions to combat disinformation and propaganda campaigns.


Nomination Deadline Extended and Registration Opened for Igniting Innovation Conference and Awards


Breaking news! Due to the federal shutdown you have a little more time to nominate your organization's innovations but don't delay. Igniting Innovation is ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation's premier annual event to identify, recognize, promote and connect the best innovations and innovators to improve services to citizens and government operations. The Igniting Innovation 2019 Conference and Awards will be held May 23, 2019 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel. Nominations for Government and Industry will be accepted through February 22, 2019. Registration is now open for the Igniting Innovation 2019 Conference and Awards on May 23, 2019 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel. Click to register or get more information.


Also for the first time, Igniting Innovation is seeking academic nominations from students, faculty, and academic institutions under the leadership of our first time Academic Co-chair, Dr. Olivia Blackmon, the Director of Corporate Outreach and Special Projects at George Mason University. Academic nominations will be also accepted until February 22, 2019. Click to nominate your innovation.

Featured Innovator


Olivia M. Blackmon is Director of Corporate Outreach and Special Projects at George Mason University, She has her Ph.D. in Sociology with a concentration in Education Technology, and advanced quantitative methods. Dr. Blackmon recently received a Fulbright, where she will work with local NGOs in Ghana to conduct an impact evaluation of education, technology and women health programs throughout rural areas. She currently is the Director of Corporate Outreach and Special Projects at the George Mason University – Virginia Serious Game Institute (VSGI). At VSGI, Dr. Blackmon is the chair of the VA-Alliance for Cyber, Technology and Computer Science Training, a consortium of public school districts, community colleges, four-year universities, and industry leaders. She is also on the board of directors for the Virginia Community College System supporting Cyber Security and Technology partnerships across the Commonwealth. In addition, she works on Veteran programs to establish a pathway for Cyber, Computer Science and Technology, workforce development.


Formerly, she was the Asst. Program Director at The George Washington University school of Integrated, Information Science & Technology Program, and teaches courses in Political Data Analytics, Advanced Research Methods, and Education. Dr. Blackmon previously served as a Senior Education Advisor and Sr. Business Development Officer where she oversaw evaluations of K-12 STEM and reading literacy programs in Central America, East Africa and Southeast Asia. During her tenure at Devtech, she was the Senior Advisor to the United Nations Global Impact forum for West Africa to support equal educational opportunities for children and women. Previously she has served as the Director of Research at Thurgood Marshall College Fund and conducted research on STEM initiatives at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the U.S., and collaborations with STEM projects in Brazil. She has consulted with USAID, World Vision, the United Nations, and UNICEF to design, implement and measure high impact STEM, reading literacy and humanitarian programs.

Innovation in the News:


Modernization Innovation can come in Small (IT Portfolio) Packages


In our previous blog, we recommended a “Think Big, Act Small” approach to successful IT Modernization. We see that Government Accountability Office (GAO) is like-minded when they noted that agencies using the “big bang” approach-broad scope, delivered over years, reported poor results. So, it’s no surprise that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires agencies to use incremental development to deliver functionality every 6 months.


Government Innovation. What to Do When You Know the Question, but Not the Answer


Innovation is a topic that continues to draw attention in public sector. How can innovation be effective in organizations that, by design and tradition, have low tolerance for both risk and change? The proposed Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center (GEAR) is conceived to stimulate technology upgrade pilot programs for agencies. The end goal is to accelerate IT modernization, increase the skills of the government workforce and accelerate innovation. This also stimulates consideration of the question, “How does government best drive innovation?”



Every once in a while I get a comment from an audience member after a keynote speech or from someone who read my book, Mapping Innovation, about why so few women are included. Embarrassed, I try to explain that, as in many male dominated fields, women are woefully underrepresented in science and technology.


This has nothing to do with innate ability. In fact, you don’t have to look far to find women at the very apex of innovation, such as Jennifer Doudna, who pioneered CRISPR or Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who recently received the Breakthrough Prize for her discovery of pulsars. In earlier days, women like Grace Hopper and Marie Curie made outsized impacts.



A recent trend has been to set up an innovation office to serve as a catalyst for new ideas. These offices can be helpful starting points and an inspiration to employees across an organization. However, most leaders want to create a culture of innovation across their entire workforce, not just in an elite subset of employees.


Harvard professor Gary Pisano has studied what it takes to create an innovation culture in dozens of companies across the world and in a recent Harvard Business Review article he observes that “innovative cultures are seen as desirable . . . [but] are hard to create and sustain.”



Today’s agency leaders are challenged to be faster, more efficient, and more sophisticated—potentially with fewer resources. With the recent release of the Administration’s overarching plan for government reform, the pressure continues to grow.


While this environment can be a source of frustration, it’s actually one ripe for innovation because with pressure comes possibility. It’s precisely in this moment of reorganization that leaders should seek opportunities to embed innovation into the employee culture.



Among the 11 agencies participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, from fiscal years 2015 through 2018, 3 agencies awarded contracts and grants to small businesses majority-owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms (investment companies and funds). Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, and the Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences made a total of 62 awards and obligated $43.6 million to such businesses during this period. This amount constituted between 0.1 percent and 2.7 percent of these agencies' obligations for the SBIR program each year.



The U.S. Air Force invites airmen to take part in a competition seeking innovative concepts addressing the military's multi-domain challenges. The Vice Chief’s Challenge, announced at an Air Force Association convention, will provide specific topic areas for which participants develop new applications allowing users to clearly visualize the operational environment, USAF said Tuesday.



Due to the government shutdown, the deadline for nominations for the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration's Arthur S. Flemming Awards has been extended to February 28th, 2019. Visit the link below to learn more about the awards and submit your nominations.



The National Academy of Public Administration is launching a new program—Grand Challenges in Public Administration—to identify and address the biggest challenges that government at all levels will face through the 2020s. We seek input from everyone—including practitioners, academics, students, interest groups, and the general public—on WHAT government must do over the next decade and HOW it should do it.


Featured Innovation Programs and Web Sites

•Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

•USAID Global Development Lab

•Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships

•The Lab at OPM

•GSA Innovation.gov Toolkit

Additional innovation programs and web sites you may be interested in:

The Next 5 Years of Modernizing Analysis: Automation, Graph, and GPUs


Join the ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation for a webinar exploring the next five years of modernizing data analysis with guest speaker Leo Meyerovich founder of Graphistry.


Date: Thursday February 7th from 12pm-1pm ET


To register click .

Moving the Needle - Women in CyberSecurity (Webinar)


A new study has updated the ratio of women to men in the cybersecurity workforce – from 11% to 20%. Yet more than 300,000 cybersecurity jobs are unfilled today, a number that is exponentially growing into the millions. Let's do something to move the needle to 50% women in cybersecurity!


Date: February 8, 2019 at 1pm


Click for more information and registration.

Acquisition Excellence 2019


Featuring results from the Institute for Innovations’ Accelerating IT Modernization through Acquisition Innovation initiative, in collaboration with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy


Date: March 12, 2019

Location: Grand Hyatt DC, 1000 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20001


For more information click .

American Society for Public Administration Focuses on Critical Challenges

Public Finance. Infrastructure. Social Equity. Public Service. Among public administration’s most significant 21st century challenges, these four issues transcend geographic boundaries, sectors and levels of government. They impact the lives of citizens every minute of every day. They are researched, discussed and applied by our members in our public, private and nonprofit institutions. is a Call for Action on these issues. We who are dedicated to the public good must answer the call. Eighteen high-level panels will look at these four issues at the highest levels, bringing in some of the most knowledgeable experts to discuss how we can make progress and advance public service in the United States and abroad. Find more details and plan to be in Washington, DC, March 8-12.

Igniting Innovation 2019 Conference and Awards


Last year, over 150 innovation nominations were submitted and over 500 people attended the conference and awards event, helping spread best-practices to other professionals across government, at the federal, state and local level, industry, and academia. Don't miss this chance to see the newest innovations in the public sector.


Date: Thursday May 23, 2019

Location: Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel

999 9th St NW, Washington , DC 20001


For more information click .

Connect and Collaborate with Other Innovators

Now, you can connect, learn, and share your innovation challenges and successes with other innovators using tools developed by ACT-IAC’s Institute for Innovation. The “Government Innovators” group on LinkedIn () is a community-wide gathering spot to share information, help each other, and grow the government innovation community (including private companies and individuals). The LinkedIn Showcase () is your go-to resource for Institute-specific information, like upcoming events and original content. And, we encourage you to use the #GovInnovators and #GovInnovation hashtags in your tweets.

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