POOL­ING RE­SOURCES

Fast Company - - Contents - By Cale Weiss­man

Apo­lit­i­cal’s net­work­ing plat­form helps leg­is­la­tors across the world con­nect and solve prob­lems.

THE PROB­LEM

Pol­icy mak­ers of­ten op­er­ate as if the chal­lenges fac­ing their state or coun­try are unique to their own bor­ders, when in fact leg­is­la­tors around the world may have en­coun­tered sim­i­lar is­sues— and come up with ap­pli­ca­ble so­lu­tions.

THE EPIPHANY

Robyn Scott co­founded an or­ga­ni­za­tion that taught en­trepreneur­ship and cod­ing to pris­on­ers in South Africa. Work­ing in that en­vi­ron­ment showed her the power of pol­icy—es­pe­cially around men­tal-health care and ed­u­ca­tion— and what hap­pens when it fails. She met Lisa Wit­ter, a for­mer mem­ber of the Seat­tle City Coun­cil, in Lon­don in 2011. They dis­cov­ered a mu­tual frus­tra­tion over the in­for­ma­tion gap fac­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials, and set out to stop the con­stant “recre­ation of the wheel.”

THE EX­E­CU­TION

In 2015, they launched Apo­lit­i­cal, a web­site fea­tur­ing ar­ti­cles and case stud­ies about pol­icy ad­vance­ments. With their net­work of law­mak­ers and pol­icy wonks grow­ing—and with seed fund­ing from the Euro­pean Union, plus in­vestors spread across five con­ti­nents—scott and Wit­ter ex­panded the plat­form last sum­mer to in­clude peer-topeer shar­ing, al­low­ing users to dis­cuss is­sues and so­lu­tions.

THE RE­SULT

Pub­lic ser­vants in more than 120 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the U.S., now use Apo­lit­i­cal to un­der­stand how other gov­ern­ments op­er­ate. For some, it’s a source of in­spi­ra­tion: A Euro­pean min­istry of jus­tice em­ployee turned to the plat­form to study up on uni­ver­sal ba­sic in­come ex­per­i­ments hap­pen­ing on a small scale around the world, and used them as a blue­print for a crim­i­nal jus­tice ex­er­cise in his own coun­try. For oth­ers, it’s a way to net­work. The U.K. gov­ern­ment’s Cab­i­net Of­fice seeded dis­cus­sions about pub­lic–pri­vate part­ner­ships on the site; later, it took the con­ver­sa­tion off­line by host­ing Apo­lit­i­cal’s of­fi­cial U.K. launch, which was at­tended by of­fi­cials from the United Arab Emi­rates, Swe­den, In­dia, and more. Apo­lit­i­cal is al­ready achiev­ing Scott’s orig­i­nal goal: in­spir­ing of­fi­cials with ex­am­ples of suc­cess. “We’re so good at cel­e­brat­ing in­no­va­tion in the pri­vate sec­tor,” says Scott. “We wanted to show that gov­ern­ments have he­roes, too.”

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