Recoding America: Why Government is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better

An event of Bloomberg Center for Cities

Author Jennifer Pahlka

4:15 p.m.
Bloomberg Center for Cities, Taubman Third Floor, Harvard Kennedy School

About the Event

Co-sponsored by the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy

Guest Speakers

  • Jennifer Pahlka, author, “Recoding America,” and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer
  • Moderator: Jorrit de Jong, Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School, and Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University
  • Introduction: Laura Manley, Executive Director, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy

Governments fail to deliver results when policy is disconnected from the details of implementation. Jennifer Pahlka will discuss an approach that keeps pace with today’s pervasively digital world and reclaims government for the people it serves.

Refreshments will be offered and registration is requested.

This in-person event is open to all Harvard University ID holders.


We welcome individuals with accessibility needs to participate in our events. Contact us at to request accommodations or if you have questions.​


Jennifer Pahlka

Jennifer Pahlka

Author, "Recoding America," and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer

Jennifer Pahlka served as deputy chief technology officer of the United States under President Obama and a member of the Defense Innovation Board during the Obama and Trump administrations. She founded the award-winning nonprofit Code for America, which she led for ten years. Pahlka is the winner of a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and was selected by Wired magazine as one of the people who have most shaped technology and society in the past twenty-five years. Ezra Klein called her book, “Recoding America” “one of the best policy books I have ever read” and “the book I wish all policymakers would read.”

Jorrit de Jong
Jorrit de Jong, Center director and faculty co-chair, headshot

Jorrit de Jong

Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University

Jorrit de Jong is the Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School. He is director of the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University. His research and teaching focus on the challenges of making the public sector more effective, efficient, equitable, and responsive to social needs. A specialist in experiential learning, Jorrit has taught strategic management and public problem-solving in degree and executive education programs at HKS and around the world.

Jorrit is Faculty Co-Chair of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a joint program of Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, funded by and executed in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. It is the world’s most comprehensive effort to advance effective problem-solving and innovation through executive education, research, curriculum development, and fieldwork in cities.

He is also Academic Director of the Innovations in Government Program at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. In that capacity, he launched the Innovation Field Lab, an experiential learning, executive education, and action-oriented research project working with 15 cities in Massachusetts and New York to help them leverage data, community engagement and innovation to revitalize distressed and underinvested neighborhoods. He also founded the Organized Crime Lab and Human Trafficking Field Lab, facilitating diverse, multidisciplinary crime-fighting teams in collaborative innovation work.

Before coming to Harvard, Jorrit co-founded the Kafka Brigade, a social enterprise in Europe that helps governments diagnose and remedy bureaucratic dysfunction. Before that he was director of the Center for Government Studies at Leiden University and founding co-director of a consulting firm for the public sector in Amsterdam.

Jorrit holds a PhD in Public Policy and Management (VU Amsterdam), a Master in Philosophy (Leiden) and a Master in Public Administration (Leiden). He has written extensively, including the books The State of Access: Success and Failure of Democracies to Create Equal Opportunities (Brookings 2008, co-edited); Agents of Change: Strategy and Tactics for Social Innovation (Brookings 2012, co-authored); and Dealing with Dysfunction: Innovative Problem Solving in the Public Sector (Brookings, 2016). Jorrit wrote over 25 teaching cases and designed numerous simulation exercises on collaborative governance, organizational behavior and innovation.

His research has been published in various academic journals, including Public Administration Review, Public Management Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, International Journal of Public Administration, and the Journal of Public Health Management and Policy.

Laura Manley

Laura Manley

Executive Director, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy

Laura Manley is the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The Center’s mission is to protect the information ecosystem and support a healthy democracy by addressing the crises of trust and truth in communities around the world.

Previously, Laura served as the founding Director of the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project at the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. At TAPP, Laura launched several new initiatives including the TAPP FellowshipTech Fact Sheets for Policymaker Series, and the Tech Spotlight to make advances in tech more inclusive, safer, and fairer. She has also testified to Congress twice on improving science and technology expertise and capacity in government.

Earlier in her career, Laura co-founded the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE) in Washington DC, which is a nonpartisan research organization that works with governments to leverage data for social and economic good. At CODE, she worked with over a dozen U.S. federal agencies on their data management strategies and with eight national governments on their digital economy policies and IT modernization efforts. She is also the lead author of the Open Data for Business Tool, which is a World Bank assessment methodology for private sector use of government data.

Laura is an Adjunct Professor at the NYU Wagner School of Public Policy, where she teaches Data for Social Innovation and Instructor at the Harvard University Extension School, teaching Data-Driven Decision Making for Business Leaders. She previously served as Senior Consultant for the World Bank Group and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs.

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