2018 Government Innovation Awards

Rising Star: Drew Zachary

Program Director, Opportunity Project, and Co-Managing Director, Census Open Innovation Labs, Census Bureau, Commerce Department

Drew Zachary

Through the Opportunity Project, Drew Zachary has operationalized the process of engaging outside expertise for critical government missions. Agencies identify big issues to address, and Zachary helps shape the problem statement, then connects technology developers, local leaders and nonprofit organizations to the project.

A 12-week user-centered design sprint follows to transform the challenge into a data-driven solution.

Past projects have focused on homelessness among young people and veterans, the grants application process and communities that are hard for the Census Bureau to count.

Zachary helped found the Opportunity Project and has run the program out of the Census Bureau since early this year. Private-sector expertise has come from Airbnb, Esri, LinkedIn, Mapbox, Redfin, Socrata and other firms, and she said those partnerships are crucial.

“It’s not something we could or should do on our own,” said Zachary, a former Presidential Management Fellow. “We should be actively engaging developers, data scientists [and] engineers from outside government.”

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