The Public Sector’s Role in Driving Social Impact Through Innovation

Jennifer Sertl #a3r
4 min readAug 15, 2022
Image and photo below with permission Landmark Ventures, host of Social Innovation Summit

Rochester is a community in transition working to learn from the past and build more inclusion into our future. On my twitter stream today I came across an article recently published in *NatureSocial Capital I: Measurement and Associations with Economic Mobility.” The article is fairly provocative and provides a social capital scale that allows you to compare your zip code with zip codes across the nation. It points to the idea that we all have a role to increase the economic vitality of our respective communities.

Earlier this summer I attended the Social Innovation Summit hosted by Landmark Ventures. One of my favorite sessions was a conversation about driving social impact through innovation between Thomas Debass, Managing Partner & Chief Partnership Officer at the U. S. Department of State and Megan Smith, Former U. S. Chief Technology Officer and CEO of shift7.

The issues that we face around the world no longer have an identity. They are everywhere. Every part of the world has been impacted and there are blurred lines between what is the private sector and what is the public sector.” Thomas Debass, Managing Partner & Chief Partnership Officer at the U. S. Department of State

For those of you who may not know Megan Smith. She was the third Chief Technology Officer of the United States (U.S. CTO) and Assistant to the President, serving under President Barack Obama. She was previously a vice president at Google, leading new business development and early-stage partnerships across Google’s global engineering and product teams. She is Founder and CEO of shift7 an organization that foster collaborative problem solving by bridging gaps between the technology sector and public service. Here are the insights extracted from Megan Smith’s contribution to the conversation:

  • “I am a mechanical engineer and grew up with the idea of using tech and innovation for solution making as a young one. President Carter was in office when I was in middle school and high school. At that time he was putting solar panels on the white house. Participating in the science fair was mandatory in my school. That was so important because it meant that every kid had to actually practice inventing or learn confidence around making something they were interested in. I did a lot of projects in green energy.”
  • “Let’s talk about partnerships. One of the things that I really think is if we are 7 billion, plus people, someone in the world has already fixed the thing you are trying to fix. The sustainable development goals were launched from the UN in 2015. Just before that, we had partnered with the non-government liaison service to put up a webpage. The goal of this webpage was to learn who was out there already solving these problems and learn what they were doing, their prototype. The first year we got 800 submissions. We run it every year and in 2019 we got 1400 submissions from 141 countries in three weeks. We also had 400 people that wanted to participate on the committee. We had a bouquet of genius innovators. We put them on stage for a four minute talk. We create acceleration capability and acceleration sessions. Every entrepreneur needs teammates and a network. I bring this up because it is a message of a process I use called “scout and scale.” I find the innovators and help them do a lot of ecosystem work. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, you can find these innovation teammates.”
  • “We are connected at the speed of light in this network. So how can you think of that as a way to be in a team with so many more people? It is through the lifting of talent that we have the possibility to not make another industrial age, but an industrial community, and environmental civic. This age can be inclusive.”

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Driving social impact through innovation is such an important conversation. I invite you to join me and have the conversation with your family at dinner, with your colleagues at work, and with your respective communities at large.

*Citation for the article referenced above: Chetty, R., Jackson, M.O., Kuchler, T. et al. Social capital I: measurement and associations with economic mobility. Nature 608, 108–121 (2022).



Jennifer Sertl #a3r

Biz strategist fostering better decisions,systems thinking, scenario planning. Mind of chess player ♜ Heart of a poet ♫ Inviting depth ... @agility3r