By Mari Megias
January 11, 2023
Do you want to help your governmental agency or nonprofit organization create value, deliver services, improve efficiency, or address unique challenges? Then sign up for the February 1 webinar with HKS Lecturer Mark Fagan, when he will discuss how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver quality services cost effectively across diverse sectors. In this session, he will 1) provide an overview of AI; 2) offer examples of how to apply AI to service delivery; 3) delve into the risks and challenges of AI; and 4) examine how you can begin to tap AI’s benefits while minimizing its risks.
In addition, Fagan has offered to engage with HKS alumni and their non-HKS colleagues in hour-long (or so) sessions tailored to address specific operational issues. Julia Fusfeld MPP 2020 is one alumna who has availed herself of this bespoke opportunity. She serves as senior associate director for the office in New York City that oversees procurement, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. After running into Fagan during her Covid-delayed commencement celebration at HKS in 2022, Fusfeld received an email from her former professor asking if her colleagues could benefit from his expertise. She jumped at the chance, and in October 2022, Fagan sat virtually with her and 30of her colleagues from the procurement team.
“Participants were really interested and engaged,” says Fusfeld. “Folks appreciated the ability to step away from the day-to-day job pressures and have an opportunity to think about building a new skill. Everyone was enthusiastic to have Mark stop by—he did a great job of making topics accessible to everyone. Anyone looking at operations problems in the government and nonprofit sectors can benefit.”
She also found it helpful to hash out issues with Fagan, noting how useful it was to “talk problems through with someone who has such a breadth of experience, and be reminded how to apply solutions or tools. Mark is an incredible resource, and I would recommend that other alumni do this, 100 percent.”
Elena Hoffnagle MPP 2018 is another alumna who worked with Fagan to bring his expertise to her colleagues at HKS’s Government Performance Lab (GPL), which helps state and local governments design and implement solutions to social problems. As an assistant director at GPL, Hoffnagle partners with city leaders to reform procurement and contracting systems, all with the goal of improving services for residents.
Hoffnagle says that procurement is often one of the most broken processes in city governments. “Sometimes it takes two or three years to move from an initial need to having a contract executed, which impacts residents’ lives. Procurement can seem like a very internal government function, but if you can’t buy what you need or hire a qualified contractor, you can’t deliver results.”
She had taken two courses with Fagan during her studies and thought his insights could benefit her team. Together, they brainstormed process fixes that included devoting more resources to higher-priority purchases and providing greater transparency to stakeholders on a project’s status. Hoffnagle notes that Fagan’s webinar “was a great way to bring in outside expertise to examine process problems governments face and identify opportunities to tweak processes to save money and time.”
Fagan is gratified to help alumni solve difficult problems in state and local governments. “Connecting with our alumni provides me a great way to continue supporting their careers with the latest concepts and tools. The sessions also give me a window into the world of practice, enabling me to update my pedagogy at HKS.”