Presidential Innovation Fellows at the National Archives

Throughout the halls of government, perhaps no word is more often cited than ‘innovation.’ While there’s no doubt that innovation holds the key to envisioning government’s work in the future, I’ll admit that innovation itself can be a challenging word, given that it has so many meanings to so many people.

At its core, I believe innovation is the ability to think, envision and act audaciously, to set far-reaching, often disruptive goals and enlist a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team to meet them. At the National Archives and Records Administration, our mission is to drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value records. In order to do this, and to do it well, we must be audacious.

One way NARA is working toward this vision is by partnering with the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Established by the White House in 2012 and now led by a dedicated program office at 18F in the General Services Administration, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly competitive program pairs talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community with top civil servants to tackle many of our Nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact.

Out of a competitive search involving over 2,000 applicants and over 100 potential agency projects since the Program’s inception, 27 Presidential Innovation Fellows were chosen this year to partner with 12 federal agencies. In September 2014, two of these Fellows – Ashley Jablow and David Naffis – joined NARA to support our efforts to bring innovative thinking and action to our work.

Ashley Jablow PIFAshley Jablow is an open innovation and online community strategist with a passion for social impact. Most recently Ashley served as challenge and business development lead at OpenIDEO – an online open innovation platform developed by IDEO where people design better, together for social good. In this capacity, Ashley served as an online community mobilizer, digital communications specialist, client coach, and design thinking facilitator. Prior to IDEO, Ashley worked in corporate philanthropy and in nonprofit fundraising. Ashley is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and holds a BA in Sociology and Spanish from University of Michigan and an MBA in Marketing and Corporate Responsibility from Boston University.

David Naffis PIFDavid Naffis is an entrepreneur and software developer with experience in software services, product development, strategy, and operations. He is a founder of Intridea, an Inc 500 winning software development firm where he oversaw several successful product spinouts and acquisitions. Before starting Intridea, David worked as a software engineer and architect at companies including AOL, Cisco, and McKinsey. He holds a masters in Systems Engineering from The University of Virginia, has contributed to a number of open-source projects, and has spoken at numerous regional and national conferences. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Aubrey.

David has been working with us on our application programming interface for the online catalog. He has also been working on a dog bot for the White House holiday decorations! Ashley has been conducting brainstorming sessions for the office of Innovation. We are honored to have Ashley and David join us, and look forward to further defining what innovation looks like at the National Archives in months and years to come.