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ASU’s School of Public Affairs is working with a White House initiative to involve universities nationwide in creating opportunities for technological entrepreneurship.

School of Public Affairs assistant professor Spiro Maroulis said the University's challenge began after the White House reached out to ASU to create a university-lead initiative working toward the same goals as the "Startup America Policy Challenge."

The White House initially announced the "Startup America Policy Challenge" in December 2011 to involve the public in offering solutions for health care, education and clean energy policies.

The effort allowed individuals to submit entrepreneurial proposals on how technology could develop the three focused areas.

Individuals from all over the U.S. can submit a short description of their policy idea. Some are chosen to develop more in-depth analyses of their original proposals, and a select few are invited to deliver their idea before a board of judges.

"One of the things that (the White House has) done is try to engage a wider range of problem solvers to identify entrepreneurial barriers and ways of removing them," Maroulis said.

He said the ASU initiative has partnered with other public policy schools at New York University, Syracuse University and the University of Washington among others.

"The competition is open to allowing others to come up with new ideas and take them further," Maroulis said.

He said the initiative would also be a useful tool for analyzing job creation.

"People who participate in the competition are going to take the ideas for improving the status quo or reducing these barriers and try to estimate on what impact it would have on job creation," Maroulis said. "I think that's one way to conceptualize and quantify what the benefits of reducing barriers to entrepreneurship are."

School of Public Affairs associate professor Erik Johnston said the policy challenge is an example of how the government is responding to the public's desire for engagement.

"What you're seeing within the Arab Spring, within the occupy movement, are people who see the possibility of a responsive government," Johnston said. "This is one of the ways with the highest potential of changing the ways people interact with their government."

He said this challenge asks where entrepreneurship can be expanded to solve national problems.

"The high-level question within all three agencies is, 'what barriers are preventing job creation or the innovative use of technology within these different spaces?'" Johnston said.

He said the challenge's prize will not consist of money, but the opportunity to network.

"What you're winning is a voice in the process, you're winning the ability to make your community better," Johnston said. "That's a much stronger motivator than money."

Graduate research assistant Chase Gordon has been active in public relations for the policy challenge.

Gordon said the policy challenge focuses on tapping into the potential and experience of U.S. citizens that government administrators may not have.

"I think it's important for the government to connect directly to the people and to access their wealth of knowledge, insight and creativity," Gordon said.


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