Sonal Shah

Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation

Participation and Innovation in America
24 minutes, 11mb, recorded 2010-05-27
Sonal Shah

At the 2010 Gov 2.0 Conference in Washington, D.C., Sonal Shah, Head of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation for the United States Government, provides a general sketch of the challenges facing the country, including high school drop-out rates, pregnancy in low income families, and disparities in access to technology. Shah offers a perspective on the last issue, viewing it a bridging factor: if we utilize technology to the best of our ability, access to information and opportunity will grow.

Shah also discusses the range of action possible for each of these issues, especially from the perspective of a government office. The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, she says, can act in three broad ways: 1) deploying capital, 2) in partnership with other organizations, and 3) promoting civic participation. One other category that Sonal Shah wishes to improve is communication , not only in terms of public messages, but in reaching out to organizations.

Finishing the presentation with a question and answer session, Sonal Shah also touches on the creation of effective policy and the legal possibilities for civic improvement.


Sonal Shah heads the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP). She also served on President Obama’s Transition Board overseeing the Technology, Innovation, Government Reform working group. Prior to joining the White House, Sonal led Google.org’s global development efforts, focusing on transparency, openness, and civic participation, as well as growing small and medium sized enterprises. Before her time at Google, she was Vice President at Goldman Sachs, where she developed and implemented the firm’s environmental strategy. Sonal also co-founded and directed Indicorps, a U.S.-based non-profit offering fellowships for Indian-Americans to work on development projects in India. Prior to that, she worked on trade, outsourcing and post-conflict reconstruction issues at the Center for American Progress, and developed and managed policy and advocacy programs for the Center for Global Development. She previously worked in the federal government from 1995-2002, first at the Treasury Department and later detailed to the National Security Council. Sonal received her MA in Economics from Duke University and BA in Economics from the University of Chicago. She is an Aspen Crown Fellow, Next Generation Fellow.

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