Archive for innovation

Celebrating the 5-year anniversary of Columbia Startup Lab

If you are interested in social entrepreneurship, you will find plenty of resources to research in this post.

Last month the SIPA community helped celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Columbia Startup Lab. A co-working space located in New York’s Soho neighborhood, the Lab has more than 40 startups from all over Columbia campus and is the result of a partnership between multiple Columbia schools — including SIPA.

To celebrate this space that provides Columbia alumni entrepreneurs to work full-time on their ventures, SIPA Dean Merit Janow, Professor Sarah Holloway, and several SIPA alum were in attendance.

Pictured above is Professor Sarah Holloway, who teaches Social Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Financial Management at SIPA and runs the Management Specialization – a set of courses and activities that support knowledge and skill building in non-profit, for-profit and social enterprise management. (She also holds an MPA from SIPA!)

Manal Kahi MPA ’15 is pictured next to Professor Holloway. She is a Startup Lab alum with Eat Offbeat, a startup that delivers authentic ethnic meals prepared and delivered by refugees resettled in NYC. To find out more about Manal and Eat Offbeat, you can check out her interview on the Sincerely, Hueman podcast. (Incidentally, the podcast was created and is hosted by Camille Laurente MIA ’16.)

Pictured below is Shanna Crumley MIA ’18 (she’s been profiled on our blog before here), who co-founded Bitae Technologies with Gemma Torras Vives MPA ’18. They combined data protection, strategic management and refugee policy to create blockchain-based credentials for refugees and migrants.

Congratulations to Columbia Startup Labs and everyone involved! You can keep up with more news like this on SIPA’s LinkedIn. For those of you interested in social entrepreneurship, I hope this is a good starting point for you to figure out what resources are available to you and what other connections you can make through Columbia to support your venture.

Dean’s roundtable discusses technology and innovation for cities

Dean Merit E. Janow convened leading technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and experts in urban policy to discuss the application of digital technology and advanced data analytics to improve urban environments around the world.The event was co-hosted by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir and founder of Addepar, among other companies, and set the stage for the launch of the Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant Program, which is seeking proposals from SIPA and other Columbia students for innovative projects using technology and data to address global urban challenges. The Program aims to integrate problem-solving from different fields such as public policy, computer science, and engineering.

Daniel Doctoroff, the CEO and president of Bloomberg and a former deputy mayor of New York City recounted examples of the ways in which New York City’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning — also known as the city’s “geek squad” — used data to solve problems, like how to identify restaurants that were illegally dumping grease and clogging the city’s sewers. By using information about restaurants that were not contracting with waste disposal companies to eliminate grease, the geek squad overlayed a map of those restaurants with geospatial data that identified areas with concentrated grease in the sewage system. This resulted in a 95 percent success rate in identifying and stopping the illegal dumping of grease from restaurants.

This example underlined how data is an increasingly important tool for government, not only to solve problems but also to reduce costs — a sentiment echoed by other speakers at the roundtable.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, cited crises in employment, education, healthcare, and energy as problems that needed prioritizing in the United States, and expressed his hope that advanced technology would be used to improve efficiency in those areas. He stressed that data and technology should be used for good governance. Open governance should allow for active public participation.

Along a similar vein, Carter Cleveland, CEO of Artsy, an online platform connecting users to works of art, said he would like to see more open-source information that allowed joint ownership of data between the government and the public. Cleveland said access to information could empower civilians to participate and partner with government to monitor crime and improve urban safety, for example, whereas information asymmetry could erode cooperation between citizens and governing bodies.

Patricia Culligan, associate director of the Institute for Data Science and Engineering and co-director of the Earth Institute’s Urban Design Lab, advocated for the meshing of technology and policy around urban infrastructure. She said more investment was needed to improve infrastructure providing for the safety, lives and needs of cities, and to address manageable challenges like reducing energy consumption. A study she led at Columbia, she noted, found that transparency and sharing data about energy use with residents of a building helped reduce consumption by up to 30 percent.

Panelists seemed to agree that the role of information and communications technology (ICT) and data was increasingly important in helping cities become more responsive, more sustainable, safer, and healthier. The challenge was to catalyze innovations and encourage multi-disciplinary, multi-sector solutions.

However, cautioning that governments don’t work like businesses, Rohit Aggarwala, professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at SIPA and expert on urban sustainability, said the key was to identify areas where there is a lack of timely or useful data and fill that gap where the government already has the mandate and resources to act.

Other participants included James D. Robinson III, co-founder of RRE Ventures and former CEO of American Express and Zachary Bookman, co-founder and CEO of OpenGov. View the full discussion here.

excerpt from Doyeun Kim MIA ’14 commentary for SIPA

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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