One of the recent changes we’ve made to the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program is a transition to a continuous deployment model instead of a yearly call for applications and selection of fellows. The program shouldn’t limit itself to once a year recruitment, but instead match and deploy PIFs with projects at the ‘speed of need’ as Garren Givens likes to call it. It’s silly to think that if an amazing candidate from the private sector wants to serve as an agent for change within government they have to wait an entire year if they miss the application window.

A challenge the program faces with the shift to continuous deployment of fellows is addressing the disruption to the ‘class’ or ‘hive’ construct created when all the PIFs served the same 12 month term. Something we (the leadership team) have learned over the past three years is a PIF goes through a series of positive and negative experiences as they navigate government bureaucracy, serve as change agents, and rapidly deploy MVPs. In the ‘old model’ PIFs would rally around these experiences to synergistically block and tackle problems.

To support PIFs in multiple stages of their term and develop a process to transfer agency-specific lessons learned and best practices for future PIFs, I started exploring solutions that could help bridge this gap. Although email and listservs served as good tools for current state, it didn’t effectively support our new model, which is where Discourse comes into the picture.

Discourse is a long-form chat or forum created by some awesome peeps (to include Stack Overflow co-founder, Jeff Atwood) that helps us achieve the goals of knowledge sharing/transfer and collaboration between current and incoming PIFs, PIF alumni, and other agencies across the federal government. Even better, the project is open sourced (a big plus for us as we support open goverment and the like) and the guys at Discourse have been super helpful in supporting our efforts of utilizing Discourse within government because we’re a special star that needs attention and stuff…

Want to learn how I stood up a Discourse server for the PIFs? Check out the next post.