Anil Dash, tech entrepreneur and former Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Six Apart (makers of TypePad and Movable Type), recently opened Expert Labs, a “new independent initiative to help policy makers in our government take advantage of the expertise of their fellow citizens.” (See Entrepreneur, blogger Anil Dash announces venture to connect tech, government experts)
Dash shares thoughts on his new role and civic venture.
Why leave the comfort and excitement of a successful start-up? Why now?
Well, I think Six Apart in particular is in great shape, and thriving, and with the people there meaning so much to me, I *couldn’t* go unless I knew things were in solid shape. And I was never looking for something else to do, I just had this opportunity that was important enough and ambitious enough that I had to give it a shot.
What type of projects will Expert Labs focus on?
We’re going to focus on helping with policy questions that can best be answered by having a large pool of contributors from the public offer their expertise. I think we’ll probably tilt a little bit towards technology and science-related questions, since that’s part of our strengths, but we’re really open as far as areas of exploration.
What do you want to accomplish in your first 100 days?
I think the highest priority is to determine what questions we want to help answer. Right behind that, we want to start forming the community who will collaborate on creating the technologies that we’re shepherding, and ideally I’d like to begin the process of providing grants to support the effort, either by naming a fellow or having a grant challenge contest.
What challenges do you forsee and how do you plan to overcome them?
I think our biggest challenge is the cultural gulf between the policy world and the technology world. They speak different languages, even when articulating the same goals or ideas, and that’s something we’ll need to overcome by simply encouraging dialogue and helping to translate. We also may face simple unfamiliarity, where people who have never heard of a model like ours will ask how we’ll be proceeding.
What tools do you plan on leveraging to connect ‘the experts?’
We’re going to use every tool that you have seen adopted by leading-edge companies, or that is put into use during political campaigns – social web technologies, in-person meetups, the energy of lots of regular folks who want to help but don’t necessarily know how to yet.
What does success look like?
When our policy makers can use the web to listen to our voices just as easily as they can talk to us, we’ll have succeeded.