Category Archives: federal government

Happy Birthday USA!

White House image with Barbara Jordan quote: "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise."Barbara Jordan was one of my professors at the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the US House of Representatives, where she served on the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Jordan was a commanding presence.

She filled any room she entered. She chose each word thoughtfully, offering insight and wisdom. She was an early role model for me, and I felt fortunate to spend time with her both inside and outside the classroom. I was both terrified and in awe of her, which I think she found quite amusing. I’ll share one extremely embarrassing story. On one occasion, she asked me take her to the restroom, which required maneuvering her wheelchair into narrow stalls — this was in the 1980’s before ADA-compliant standards. Horror upon horrors, I wedged her in the restroom and had to get help to free her. I was mortified. She just shook her head, and said, “Oh, Beth, Beth, Beck…” which only works if you can hear the authoritative enunciation with which she spoke. She actually used my name as a phrase quite often. I believe I was comic diversion for her. Thankfully, she was willing to put up with my knack for making a mess of things — perhaps because of my  insatiable curiosity and inability to accept traditional thinking. She saw promise in me, and invested her time and talent into a spunky 20-something who fervently believed in the American political system — flaws and all.

Note:  The following week after the wheelchair incident, the women’s restroom at LBJ School was remodeled for wheelchair access. I guess you could say its my LBJ School legacy….

As we head into the 4th of July, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve our country for almost three decades in the federal government. Even today, I still believe my job is to provide public good — a uniquely public sector responsibility.  Open government, which may be a trendy phrase, is what I’ve always believed our government exists for —  much to the credit of LJB School professor Barbara Jordan and her contribution to public service. Even after leaving office, she poured into future change-makers, like me. How many other public servants are paying it forward because she invested in us….

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” ~Barbara Jordan

She’s right. What people want IS an America as good as it’s promise. We’re working to make that happen every day at NASA through open innovation programs like Space Apps and LAUNCH. I’m fortunate to play a role in Open NASA movement. We have much to celebrate.

Thank you Barbara Jordan. Thank you USA.

Happy Birthday!!

USA Flags

 

 

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White House Climate Data Initiative

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Yesterday I had the privilege to take part in the White House Climate Data Initiative Launch event — which culminates months of collaboration with the White House, NASA, GSA, and other federal agencies to create the new climate.data.gov website. NASA is leading the curation of federal data sets and tools that will reside on the site for use by citizens, communities, municipalities, organizations, industry, and scientists and technologists to gather insights and make informed decisions about climate resilience. We’ve only just begun the collection of datasets and tools, but this site offers a data watering hole for users to engage and act. The site also features four climate-related International Space Apps Challenges that global solvers can gather together to address April 12-13 at nearly 100 locations around the globe.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Bina Venkataraman and Brian Forde of the White House organized the Climate Data Initiative events. I participated in one of the two workshops preceding the press event. Leaders from citizen organizations, city government, federal and state agencies, and data innovators shared cutting edge tools, and discussed climate-related challenges facing cities, business, and the public. Coastal hazards from sea-level rise is a rallying point to gather data-driven insights and tools to equip decision-makers — who come in many shapes and sizes, from home owners to business owners to city/state/federal leaders.

We heard from Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information at the City of New Orleans who discussed the challenge of brittle data supply chains and the pathological complexity of decision-making at the local level. Innovation is a far reach, but optimization is the more reasonable goal for local government. She called for mobile damage assessment tools that can operate in disconnect mode — not only for disaster environments, but for poverty-stricken areas where cell or wifi connections aren’t an option. Sara Wu, Climate Planning and Policy Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia, discussed their need for insights into extreme heat/precipitation to plan for at-risk communities, along with life cycle costs for real estate planning. Their city is working to create a one-stop climate data shop, but implementation of innovative data assessment tools may be more aspirational that realistic. Katherine Greig, Senior Policy Advisor for New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, discussed their need for hyper-local data — such as the depth of basements and height of ground level floors. They are looking for resilience in design standards and consistent planning models. Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network in DC discussed the lack of data use in decision-making, and the need for concrete examples of creative use cases.

The workshop featured existing tools and data, including the new Google Earth Engine tool; ESRI, geo-spatial data and map-based resilience tools; InaSAFE, a plug-in open street map tool to simulate disaster effects, Microsoft’s FetchClimate tool, NOAA’s earth data, and more.

Microsoft's FetchClimate Tool

Microsoft’s FetchClimate Tool

Google Earth Engine

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Thanks Second Muse for designing the workshop. You guys are awesome, as always!! Now the real work begins. We need to figure out how to set free all available data and tools (and create new ones) to equip our decision-makers to make decisions for the future — in the face of certain uncertainty.

White House Climate Data Initiative

Here’s what we have at stake: our very own blue marble. The only human-friendly planet we’ve found…so far.

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

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Filed under data, environment, federal government, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Hope of Public Good…Beyond Furlough

Furlough: noun  • leave of absence granted to a member of the armed services or civil servant  • a temporary release of a convict from prison • a layoff, esp. a temporary one, from a place of employment.

Public Good: noun   • a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.

As a civil servant on directed furlough while Congress deliberates on our agency budgets and the debt limit, I find the conversation around the worthiness of federal employees quite disconcerting. I’ve spent most my career as a civil servant in the federal government. I firmly believe my job is to serve the public and bring about the public good by being available and accessible, creating processes and products that allow engagement, participation, and inclusion; and leveraging the scarce tax dollars as creatively and efficiently as possible.

Do I see waste in the government? Absolutely. Do I see opportunities and possibilities for innovative practices in the government? You bet. That’s why I’m still wearing my NASA badge.  [Ok, it's hanging by the door at this moment, but you know what I mean....]

As part of my PhD research, I ran across an article about inclusive public management and the promotion of democratic engagement. The authors distinguish between participatory and inclusive practices by government officials. Participatory programs enable individuals to engage in a discussion or activity, where inclusive practices allow participants to help define problems, deliberate on issues, and develop outcomes (Feldman, Khademian, Quick 2009). As a political scientist, I believe our government exists for the “people.” As  guardians of the public good, we best serve by opening up our decision-making processes (inclusively) to develop solutions collaboratively with creative thinkers, both inside and outside the government. Think: LAUNCH.org.

LAUNCH Impact Study

LAUNCH Impact Study

The article also introduces the concept of hope as a  means of collaboration and problem-solving within the public sector. As a public servant, I see this as my job — offering hope for a better tomorrow. It’s my passion language, actually.

Government Goddess ScepterIn my imagination, my super power might be…ta da…Government Goddess. [Much better than Government Girl, don't you think?] Cool if my tool belt armed me with a  Scepter of Inspiration to anoint humanity with hope and vision and strength of character to make tough [and often unpopular] decisions AND the desire to help those who can’t help themselves.

Tall order, I know. Sadly, I don’t own a cape or scepter, but we have amazing opportunities at NASA to make choices each day to serve the public while allowing external folks to create the public good with us — in whatever form it may take.

So, let’s get on with the business of offering hope through innovative government programs. I’m ready. I’ll start…the day after our mandated furlough ends. Deal? ;)

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson

Source: Feldman, Martha S., Anne M. Khademian, Kathryn S. Quick. “Ways of Knowing, Inclusive Management, and Promoting Democratic Engagement: Introduction to the Special Issue.” International Public Management Journal 12, no. 2 (2009): 123-36.

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Filed under federal government, LAUNCH, NASA

LAUNCHing Materials System Innovators from JPL

Congrats Top 10 Innovators

This week, the LAUNCH team convenes in Pasadena to celebrate ten LAUNCH 2o13 Systems innovators. The LAUNCH forum will be held Friday and Saturday at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. You’ll be able to watch the presentation via Ustream and participate in the conversation via MindMapr. Details will be on the LAUNCH website.

In 2013, the LAUNCH team adopted a long-term focus, called LAUNCH 2020, to seek and support innovations that positively influence the materials system. Innovations can take the form of early-stage technologies and prototypes; manufacturing processes; waste production methods; data, decision-support tools, and open technology platforms; business models; financial tools; and programs that accelerate research, education, and capacity building. This year’s challenge is the first step toward transforming the materials system, with a focus on fabrics.

The final ten innovators have the potential to shape the future of sustainable materials and low-impact making. Each demonstrated an understanding and commitment to positive social and environmental impact; and, together, represent a range of solutions that seek to revolutionize the treatment and production of fabrics and textiles on a large scale while reducing negative environmental impacts on Earth. Some of the innovators offer sustainable business models that benefit low-income communities, as well as education campaigns to create awareness and change behavior patterns to reduce harmful consumption of planetary resources.

Mark Browne: Benign By Design

Benign By Design’s unique data-driven process propels the textile industry toward cost effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers.  “Our program will lead to cost-effective fabrics that emit fewer and less toxic fibers via novel research on how fabrics compare throughout their life cycle.” – Dr. Mark Anthony Browne, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara

Rana Gupta: Geckskin

Geckskin is a device that can attach and release effortlessly, repeatedly and quietly without affecting either surface. “Our innovation is a new approach to attach and release. Geckskin uses neither classic pressure sensitive adhesive (scotch tape) forces, nor the mechanical properties of a zipper or nail. Geckskin will create new industries of products that we have not envisioned because we have been stuck in a singular-use attach paradigm for decades.” – Rana Gupta, CEO of Felsuma LLC

Sam Harrington: Mushroom Materials

Ecovative works with nature to replace plastics, foams, and other harmful materials with a new high performance, mycelium-based biomaterial platform technology. “These 3-D Myco Fabrics can be composted at the end of their useful life. Unlike many biopolymers such as PLA, these biomaterials can be composted in low temperature home compost piles, and they will break down naturally. Rather than becoming a burden on communities at the end of their useful life, Ecovative’s Mushroom Materials add nutrients to the soil.” – Sam Harrington, Ecovative

Oliver Heintz: Barktex Bark Cloth

BARKTEX® is a contemporary take on traditional bark cloth, which is produced in a sustainable way from the Ugandan Ficus tree. “Bark Cloth is an agroforest-based tree bark fleece from Uganda and said to be the most ancient textile of mankind… Designers value its expressive character, unique texture, inimitable structure and sensual tactility.” – Mary Barongo-Heintz, Co-founder of Barktex

Suzanne Lee: Biocouture

Biocouture is building an open source ‘bioneer’ community of material innovators to catalyze an explosion of product development in this area. There is increasing demand for compostable materials that can be produced with minimal raw materials and toxins. “Microbial cellulose is a fascinating material. From one hugely efficient, single production method, at least three direct products can be obtained: a health drink, a foodstuff and potentially a ‘vegetable’ material. In a process that takes about ten days, the material can be harvested by simply lifting it off the liquid.” – Suzanne Lee, Founder of Biocouture

Jay Nalbach: CRAiLAR

CRAiLAR’s processing technology efficiently creates a high quality natural flax fiber which is nearly indistinguishable from cotton. “CRAiLAR efficiently creates a high-quality natural fiber from flax with its proprietary processing technology. The resulting fiber, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber, is the functional equivalent of cotton in cotton-CRAiLAR blends. The results are clear: compared to cotton, CRAiLAR Flax Fiber is superior in all impact categories considered.” – Jay Nalbach, CMO of CRAiLAR

Felix Puller: Qmilk

Qmilk uses surplus milk unfit for human consumption to produce a new casein-based fiber as a bio-textile replacement for cotton. “Qmilk takes a highly innovative approach to repurposing a waste stream that is seen in every country in the world.” – Anke Domaske, Founder and CEO of Qmilk

Candice Reffe: Blue Flower Initiative

The Eileen Fisher Blue Flower Initiative (BFI) reframes the existing textile values chain as a sustainable eco-industrial co-operative with a paradigm shift from competition to collaboration. “We seek to take our bold experiment to scale. To make an impact that invokes and insures the wellbeing of our great, great grandchildren and our blue flowering planet. For this we need you to LAUNCH us with your expertise and access to resources and collaborators who can not only make the Blue Flower Initiative bloom, but also accelerate the adoption of this unprecedented model so that it will truly transform the planet.”– Eileen Fisher, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Eileen Fisher

Atshay Sethi: Ambercycle Recycling

Ambercycle’s novel process lowers the cost of recycling plastics and provides waste-generators and producers a sustainable and economically sensible choice for the disposal and synthesis of plastics. “With our new approach, we intend to revolutionize the concept of recycling to include environmentally friendly and sustainable elements to already existing infrastructure.” – Akshay Sethi, Co-founder of Ambercycle

Tara Sutherland: Artificial Honey Bee Silks

Bio-synthetic silk is produced through a process that allows industrial volume silk production at room temperature without negative environmental effects. “Proteins are under-represented in materials science mainly because, until now, the lack of structural protein templates that can be engineered and generated in sufficient amounts has limited exploration in this area.” – Tara Sutherland, Principle Research Scientist for CSIRO Division of Ecosystem Sciences

For the past few weeks, the ten innovators and their team members have been immersed in the LAUNCH program, beginning with counseling and mentorship in preparation for this week’s LAUNCH Forum. The LAUNCH Forum will feature innovator presentations and facilitated conversations with the LAUNCH Council, which consists of global thought leaders from multi-disciplined organizations in the public and private sector. The LAUNCH Council recommendations, collected during the two-day Forum, will inform individually-designed innovator Accelerator plans – which serve as the rocket fuel to propel each innovation toward Destination Success. The LAUNCH team guides, supports, and evaluate progress throughout the Accelerator process, which typically lasts between four-six months depending on the maturity of each innovation.

If you want to help these innovators reach success, contact the LAUNCH team.

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Filed under federal government, innovation, LAUNCH, NASA

Space Shuttle: Wheels Stop

“In life, there are no ordinary moments. Most of us never really recognize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening.” — Kathleen Magee

One week ago today, STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis landed on Earth for the final time.

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button.

Last Thursday, I left my Cocoa Beach hotel at 3:00 a.m. to head out to the Kennedy Space Center to meet the space tweeps who would share this historic moment STS-135 Landing Tweetup with us.

I’d never seen a Space Shuttle landing before. This would be my first…and last.

After checking in all our landing tweeps, we boarded the bus around 4:30 a.m. — Zero-Dark Thirty!!! We waited for news of STS-135 Atlantis in orbit. Only at Deorbit Burn could we head out to the landing strip.

Chris our KSC Escort wait for new of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Chris our KSC Escort waits for news of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Ah the anticipation. But still, it was really, REALLY early. Thankfully, some came well-equipped with Red Bull and Energy Drinks!!

Ching-Yao Yu @nutzareus pointing to Energy Drinks

@nutzareus pointing to @sharkb8t Energy Drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks!

Many of our friends showed up — some flat, some furry, some human: @CraftLass, @WoodToast, @MouthTheTribble, @Astro_Fuzz, @FlatSamantha, and Camilla_SDO

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters.

We received news of Deorbit Burn! WooHoo! Our bus driver pulled out of the parking lot. We were on our way.

Space Tweeps on way to Final Space Shuttle Landing

Deorbit Burn means NASA Tweetup Bus is moving!

Not long into our journey, we slowed to a crawl in snarled “final landing” traffic. @WiredForFlight and @FlightSoft checked an iPad app to track our progress on the road.

@WiredForFlight @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic

@WiredForFlight + @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic.

Once we arrived, we headed to the viewing stands. I was hoping the sun would defy nature and rise early so we could see Atlantis drop from the skies. But no.  Still dark.

Shuttle Landing Tower

Shuttle Landing Tower

As we waited for Atlantis to land, the Expedition 28 crew onboard the International Space Station streaked across the sky at 17,500 mph. What an amazing treat to wave to @Astro_Ron Garan, Mike @Astro_Aggie Fossum and their crewmates 220 miles overhead.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Atlantis landed just a few minutes after Station crossed the sky. I expected to cry, but instead, I squealed and giggled. This was my first landing. It was more first than last to me. I felt incredibly giddy.

Tweet: Job Well Done America!

What a treat to be part of history!

We all boarded the bus again, and said goodbye back at the media badging building. @WinObs rode off into the sunrise on his bike, but before he left, he posed with @Camilla_SDO.

@WinObs post-landing w/ @Camilla_SDO

@Camilla_SDO gets around. Here she is with @WinObs.

I headed back to Cocoa Beach to check out of my hotel and grab breakfast with Madi Sengupta and Mary Lynne Dittmar. Next we headed over to the launch pads of our past — Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury. The Apollo pad is well cared for. Gemini and Mercury, not so much. Walking among the ruins, I imagined ghosts of rocket boys with crew cuts and slide rulers who paved the way for the Space Shuttle generation.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

One of the highlights of the day: attending the employee celebration with Atlantis post flight! Here is my first view of Atlantis, the star of the party.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Atlantis Post-Landing

Here she is: Atlantis!!!

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

My "mark" on history.

My "mark" on history.

Thank you Stephanie Schierholz for making the landing tweetup happen. What a glorious day. Sad because it’s the end. But what a wonderful 30 years we’ve had!

Time to head to the airport. On the way, I pulled over to take a picture of space melons. Only on the space coast…! ;)

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

On the flight home, the flight attendant read aloud a note someone gave him, recognizing the last Space Shuttle landing and the end of an era, as well as the NASA Administrator in the front row and other NASA employees on the flight. The passengers broke into applause. Tears streamed down my face. The end. It finally hit me.

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Filed under Earth, federal government, NASA, space, tweet-up

Tips for Anthony Rotolo’s Students

Professor Anthony Rotolo asked me to skype with his social media class. They want to talk about how students can be effective out in the workforce through the use of social media. I’m not sure social media will be the coolest, hippest thing around town by the time they get established in new jobs. It might be. Or the next coolest thing might be what they offer to their new employers.

So instead, I offer a few tips on how to affect change in organizations, which I think is the real question.

Get to know your new organization’s culture.

Ask questions:

  • What do you want to see changed?
  • What does change look like?
  • What does success look like?
  • What stands in your way?

Sometimes knowledge stands between status quo and success. Sometimes technology stands in the gap. Most of the time, culture creates the divide.

Explore your organization to understand its culture:

  • Status quo.
  • Incremental change.
  • Innovation.
  • Some combination of the above.

Your recommendations should reflect the organization’s ability to receive them.

For instance, if the organization is conservative and status quo-oriented, your eagerness to offer change may overwhelm them, causing the organization to shut down the conversation, or worse, shut you out and keep talking with other like-minded folks.

Your goal should be to keep the conversation alive, and to expose them to small doses of change at a time, if that’s all they can absorb.

Always give options:

  • Option 1: looks and feels familiar.
  • Option 2: feels like home but offers new capabilities.
  • Option 3: new look and feel.

Let the organization pick and choose among the options to craft what makes them happy.

Always offer something uncomfortable. If you offer a range from 1-3, the most they can stretch to is #3. If you offer #1-10, #10 may seem so outrageous that they actually pick #6 because it feels so much safer than #10.  But they’ve moved twice as far as they would have had the options been safer.

And now, we can talk specifically about social media. Fire away with questions.

:)

Update:

Maren Gause from Professor Rotolo’s class posted this blog after class: Social Media in SPAAAACE.

Professor Rotolo’s Blog: @Rotolo Blog: Galactic Guest Appearance

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Filed under culture, federal government, innovation, NASA, social media

Look Who’s Orbiting My Biosphere!

I rarely leave the NASA HQ building in the cold, blustery winter season. We’re a self-contained biosphere, with a cafe and deli, credit union, post office, and dry cleaner. What more could I need?

Yesterday I zapped downstairs to mail a package. Horror of horrors, I found a note in the chair where the Post Office guy should be. He was off taking a class. Rats. That meant I needed to go down to the garage, get my coat from my car, and trudge out into the winter air to the post office around the corner. (I’ve lived in DC for 20 years, but I still have Texas weather  blood. I really, really don’t like the cold. I was annoyed.)

Let me set the scene. I walk across the street, round the corner, and head toward the sketchy railroad bridge I must go under. A car horn blares behind me. I keep walking. I’m not about to turn around. The car horn is quite insistent. It blasts away, getting closer and closer. I look straight ahead and keep walking. In a matter of moments, I realize the honking car could mow me down, so I turn to see what’s going on.

A shiny black Lincoln Town Car — the kind the NASA Administer rides around in — pulled up next to me. I see a figure inside the tinted windows waving wildly. Wait. I recognize that familiar outline.

It’s my DAUGHTER!!!

The window rolls down. Oh my gosh. There she is, all official in her Homeland Security Legislative Affairs Town Car. She’s on her way to the Hill for meetings with Members of Congress. She introduces me to the occupants in the car. We laugh and laugh. Her driver  teases me that I can still get honked at walking down the street. By my daughter, I might add.

Too funny!

As a mom, I walked on air the rest of the day. A momentary glimpse of my gorgeous daughter lifted my spirits. I didn’t mind the cold after all. It was a poignant moment for me. Not that I didn’t realize it already, but this was an opportunity for me to see my daughter all grown up. And then the irony, of course, made me laugh. She has a better ride around DC than I do. I’m walking. She’s being transported. She orbiting right outside my little NASA-sphere. :)

I’m truly amazingly blessed. One daughter is helping keep our nation safe. The other is helping keep children safe a continent away.

Thank you Postman for taking your class. You gave me an unexpected highlight. Not only did I get a chance encounter with my daughter, but I got to see her in her own sphere of influence. She’s pretty amazing!

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Filed under Africa, federal government, NASA