This session is a must-attend for anyone who came into the government or tech space to promote democracy and civic participation. Civics education is at a crossroads: In 2014, less than 25% of 8th graders scored proficient on the National Civics Exam, and in 2018, only 9 states required year-long US government courses. This fall, the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance (F) took on the challenge of reimagining civics education through a sprint to develop data-driven digital tools. Groundbreaking not only in the subject matter, but also as the pilot of TOP’s new open source toolkit - TOPx. Hear from Jim Richardson, Director of F on data transparency and usability, and from tech teams from Syracuse iConsult and Suffolk University about the products they developed. Then, join us for a fireside chat with the State team on their experience using TOPx, a newly launched toolkit that allows federal agencies to leverage the TOP model and resources to facilitate sprints on flexible timelines and topics. If you’re an edtech company, a teacher, student, education advocacy organization, or a federal agency looking for new innovation strategies - this session is for you!
Don’t Forget the Data – or the Civics: Digital Education for a New Generation
James “Jim” Richardson is the Director of the Office of Foreign Assistance at the U.S. Department of State. On behalf of the Secretary of State, where he coordinates $35 billion in foreign assistance across the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), ensuring policy, performance and budget alignment. He is also responsible for foreign assistance strategic planning, policy, and monitoring and evaluation standards.
Previously, Jim served as Coordinator of USAID’s Transformation Task Team, where he led the Agency’s historic reorganization to reshape the Agency around the principle of ‘Ending the Need for Foreign Assistance’, establishing new Bureaus, policies, processes, and workforce solutions. Concurrent to his role on Transformation, he served as Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) where he was responsible for agency-wide strategic planning, policy development, monitoring and evaluation standards, and international donor coordination.
Jim has nearly 20 years of government experience. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, he served as Chief of Staff for then-Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04) — overseeing Congressman Pompeo’s offices in Washington, DC and in Wichita, Kansas, as well as the campaign organization.
Throughout his years in Washington, Jim spearheaded numerous complex operations and developed an extensive background in public policy and the legislative process. Prior to leading Congressman Pompeo’s staff, Jim worked with the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee for Congressman Todd Tiahrt (KS-04), the House Armed Services Committee for Congressman Jim Ryun (KS-02), and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO). He started his government career with Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO).
Jim holds a Bachelor of Science in Government from Evangel University and a Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University. He is also a graduate of the United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College (ACSC).
Terri Susan Fine is Content Specialist at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship and professor of political science in the School of Politics, Security and International Affairs at the University of Central Florida. Her work at the Joint Center includes working with social studies teachers grades 6-12 focusing on civics and U.S. government, supporting curriculum development and item development, and consulting on various civic education projects including the Florida Commissioner of Education Task Force on Holocaust Education. In her professorial role she teaches courses focusing on American politics, civic engagement, and political participation. She has published one book, and several articles and book chapters, presented papers at international and national conferences, and serves on several journal editorial boards, and serves as the faculty advisor for three UCF student organizations. She is an endorsed Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics consultant for the College Board's Advanced Placement program.
Abhi Desai is the founder of LexGen, a student-led organization that is working to reform civics education for 21st-century students. LexGen works with a variety of partners in the public and private sectors, ranging from ed-tech startups to advocacy groups. He is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, and enjoys hiking and watching Phoenix Suns basketball in his free time.
Amin Vafa is the Enterprise Data Strategy Lead at the Department of State, working in the Department’s Center for Analytics. Most recently, he worked in State’s Office of Foreign Assistance (F), where he was the Data Analytics, Transparency, and Accountability (DATA) Team Lead, managing ForeignAssistance.gov, the Department’s Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR), and F’s data analytics and visualization activities.
Prior to joining the State Department six years ago, Amin was an analyst with the U.S. Census Bureau's International Programs for over seven years, where he created population projections and conducted workshops for counterparts in the developing world. Amin holds an MA International Affairs and a Master’s Certificate in Project Management (both from The George Washington University), and he has a BA in Sociology and International Relations from The College of William and Mary.