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Product Management and Public Interest: Summer Summit 2020

September 16, 2020

On August 21st, 2020, Product and Society hosted a Product Management and the Public Interest Summer Summit. The 300+ registrants, attendees, and speakers ranged across governments, non-profits, academia, private sector, venture capital, consulting, and more; all self-identified as working both in product management and in the public interest. They recognized that roles and titles for Product are complicated or sometimes non-existent in the public and civic sectors, and kept the invitation open to anyone who identifies as a product management practitioner. They also recognized that working in service of the public interest can take various forms in building “technology used to serve the public good.” The role of Product Management is often discussed in a private sector, for-profit context; this role is also so critical in the public sector and public interest context. The Summit aimed to spur connections, drive discussions, and create momentum for transforming our field of Product Management. 

Recognizing time constraints and online meeting fatigue, this was a two-hour virtual event of lighting talks with a focus on community building. Product and Society used the Spatial meeting platform to try out a new style of discussion and meeting, with streaming of the 21 Lightning Talks on Twitch. There were over 300 product people who signed up, and about half who showed up Live on Spatial for the event. 

The Lightning Talks highlighted product management in the public interest across government, non-profits, academia, industry, venture capital, and consulting, with hopes of further fostering conversation about building products and services that serve the public good in different environments. These talks included subjects such as building with community at the center, equity in design, understanding government constraints, COVID responses in government, insights from infusing ethics in defense, data for good, technology for childcare, building with integrity in consumer tech products, ethics in Artificial Intelligence, private sector product impacts on the public, building a sustainable data ethics model, private/public partnerships, and more. 

Lightning Talks, alphabetical by last/surname

  • Afua Bruce | Six Components of Data for Good | DataKind 
  • Kasia Chmielinski | Using ‘Nutritional Labels’ to Build Better AI | Data Nutrition Project, Harvard Berkman Klein Center, McKinsey & Co 
  • Adam Cohn | Private-Public Partnership for Social Impact | Zillow
  • Honey Dacanay | Government as (Un)usual | Government of Canada 
  • Spencer Daniels | Product at the Speed of Pandemic, Ontario’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool | Ontario Digital Service
  • Justin Goff | Lowering Barriers Through Online Testing | Duolingo
  • Kylie Havelock | Rapidly Scaling Advice Services | Citizens Advice
  • Rob Katz | Ethical Risk/Opportunity in work.com | Salesforce
  • Chase Kimball | Infusing Ethics into a Defense Company | Rebellion Defense 
  • Katie Lam | Closing the Justice Gap w/ Co-Design | Pro Bono Net
  • Jasmine McNealy | Major Questions for Product Managers | University Florida, Harvard Berkman Klein Center
  • Daniel Merriman | The Medium is Not the Mission | Raspberry Pi Foundation
  • Shalini Nagrani | Building Habits in Line with Our Goals | Smart Solutions Canada Consulting Inc
  • Sundar Narayanan | Sustainable Data Ethics 
  • Srividya Ramamoorthy | Bots, Trolls and All of Us : How to Build for Integrity | Thumbtack 
  • Alicia Rouault | De-Risking Government Technology | 18F
  • Biondi Sima | Pikobar – West Java COVID-19 Superapp | Jabar Digital Service
  • Maya Sussman | Equity as a Design Constraint | ParentPowered
  • Vish Srivastava | Making a Systemic Problem Tractable | BCG Digital Ventures
  • Serena E. Villalba | Making Tough (Financial) Decisions | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 
  • Pianpian Xu Guthrie | Learnings from Solving the Child Care Problem | Winnie Inc

Following the Lightning Talks, they hosted an hour of casual conversations in Spatial, where attendees were free to move to differently themed rooms or different parts of the room to engage in conversation and share ideas. Participants exchanged thoughts on the future of their respective sectors, commiserated on the challenges of working through the pandemic, reflected on lightning talks, or simply had fun testing out (and critiquing) the features of Spatial (couldn’t turn off the Product Management brains!). 


Thank you to all the speakers for sharing and spurring ideas, and all the attendees for all the thought-provoking ideas and conversations.

Organizers: Kathy Pham, Emily Chi, Emily Guo, Sahil Joshi, with special thanks to Allie Henske, Eva Weber, and Susan Tannehill at the Shorenstein Center. 

The event was hosted by Product and Society at the Shorenstein Center, with support from the Rita Allen Foundation. Find out more about Product and Society, and sign up for the mailing list at: https://www.productandsociety.com/.