Can You Solve America's Problems?
America may have election fever at the moment, but through all the coverage of the candidates' proposals and counter-proposals, there runs a thread of cynicism that whoever wins in November, government just isn't very good at finding and implementing innovative solutions to the challenges that we face. Not nearly as good as the business community in general and start-ups in particular, anyway.
So what if you, as an experienced entrepreneur, could bring some of your know-how and pragmatic, can-do attitude to government (at least at a more local rather than the presidential level) and actually make a difference in American communities?
Fuse Corps says you can. It's a fellowship program now in its second year that places experienced business people with at least eight years of work under their belts with local leaders who are looking to pair with private sector expertise to find solutions to pressing public issues--solutions that can be replicated elsewhere across the country.
"Fuse Corps takes the top minds in business and in entrepreneurship and places them for 12 months with some amazing and innovative mayors and governors around the country in order to create a space for innovation. The people who can do that, who have been tested in the crucible of getting stuff done, are entrepreneurs," explains Jennifer Anastasoff, co-founder and CEO of Fuse Corps (other co-founders include entrepreneur Peter Sims and McKinsey senior partner Lenny Mendonca; Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp is an advisor).
Fuse Corps is careful to match fellows with projects that fit their skills and interests (and geographic constraints). Current projects range from building a private-public partnership to involve Silicon Valley talent in government in Sacramento to improving public education for the governor of Delaware.
"We work very closely with the cities and states to scope out a project that has very clear deliverables for the year. It's the job of the entrepreneur who comes in to identify, what are the resources we need? How do we get them? What barriers need to be crossed? What do we need to be learning? The way that we support someone is something we call the Civic Leadership Institute," explains Anastasoff.
With its less than catchy name, the Institute may sound about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the intensive two-week boot camp held in Silicon Valley is actually a main draw of the program.
"We use design theory and a design approach to leadership and management," Anastasoff explains. "We get type-A folks who have willed their businesses into existence by hook or by crook and we really push them."
Also included is a series of lectures from Fuse Corp's high-profile contacts with all the obvious networking benefits that implies--"One of our placements said, 'I thought that I was applying for a fellow, but what I realized is I was actually getting a full network,'" says Anastasoff--as well as a deep understanding of how government works that entrepreneurs can carry back to the private sector after the program finishes.
"City and state, that's where stuff gets done, so if you really care about getting stuff done, this is where you should be. If you're a brilliant troublemaker, we want you," concludes Anastasoff.
Think that might be you? Check out the Fuse Corps site for more information, including details of the financial support fellows receive, as well as how too apply. But don't dawdle: this year's deadline is October 14th.
JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.