Policies for the Future

Two Students Speak About Their Work with the GovLab at NYU

Gauging the Impact

Experts warn that the effects of climate change will soon be the cause of as many as 250,000 deaths per year. The British Medical Journal said that the much discussed death toll of this year’s Ebola outbreak will “pale into insignificance when compared with the mayhem we can expect for our children and grandchildren if the world does nothing to check its carbon emissions.” John Farrell, an NYU law student, hopes that his team’s project will give people “a platform for education and action on climate change” in their everyday lives. The specifics of the project are still being hammered out, but one possibility is a tool for consumers to gauge the impact of green choices or purchases they make. The opportunity to develop it at the Academy has Farrell feeling optimistic. “My partners and I have talked about pursuing [this] for a long time,” he says. “[This course] has presented us with the structure to realize the idea. Everyone at GovLab has helped to push and direct us towards our final goal.”

Making Voices Heard

Nikki Zeichner used to work as a criminal defense attorney representing narcotics dealers in a federal system that she felt focused more on negotiation than rehabilitation. “I started looking at how I could tell those stories outside a legal context,” she says. “How can you get to know the realities of individuals or communities that aren’t typically heard? How can we bring about change and make policy recognize their voices?” Zeichner, now an MS candidate in Integrated Digital Media and a GovLab Fellow, is working with a coder, a civic hacker, and a data artist to collect public data from parole hearings that will faciliate predictions about rehabilitation versus recidivism. Their parole reform project could have major social and budgetary implications; moreover, it addresses what Zeichner sees as a problem of opacity and invisibility in the penitentiary system. “People think about how prisoners enter the system,” she says, “They don’t think about what happens afterward.”