This summer I interned as a Research and Evaluation Intern at the Partnership for Public Service. The Partnership specializes in, and is committed to, improving the federal government, especially the effectiveness of its executive branch agencies. The standard tagline at the Partnership is “Creating Effective Government for the American People.” As a part of this mission, one of my major projects this summer was about the use of data analytics or other advanced uses of data in the federal government. The project plan was to first identify groups within the federal government that are using data innovatively, or even just effectively, to improve the overall functioning of government. It was my good fortune to begin my internship just as the project was picking up steam. This gave me the opportunity to work with three members of the senior staff, all of whom were encouraging and supportive of me, and gave me additional responsibilities as the project progressed. We began by identifying data groups in government and interviewing them about their work. These interviews were usually with the individuals actually doing the work with data or the senior leadership or directors in charge of the data-oriented groups. These interviews went in depth on the work being done at these agencies and helped me learn a lot about data, project management, and issues facing the federal government in general. As an added plus, many of these interviews were off-site, which gave me the chance to see many federal offices and meet, in person, these important government workers. I was responsible for note-taking, summarizing key points from the interviews, and, later, performing qualitative analysis on the interview transcripts. This stage of the project lasted most of the length of my internship, such was the scale of the project, and so I gained a lot of experience in these areas. But, the project, which will take at least another year to complete in full, is about more than just interviews. It also features a series of three workshops between the Partnership, our sponsor, and workers from federal agencies surrounding best practices, insights, strategies, and challenges in working with data inside of the federal government. Although I cannot comment on specifics, our first workshop, which was held recently, involved several high-level leadership in the data and statistical community and yielded many positive insights. The next two workshops will be held after my internship is done, and the findings from those, coupled with what was discovered during the many interviews we conducted, will go into a final authoritative report cataloging struggles, best practices, and recommendations for agencies working with, or hoping to work with, data in the federal government.
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