In April 2018, the CEO of one of the largest U.S. social–media companies appeared before both chambers of Congress to discuss his company’s data practices. The American people and the media anticipated a difficult experience for the CEO. Instead, the opposite happened: the hearing revealed that many U.S. lawmakers struggle to understand new technologies and the digital economy. Policymakers and their staff did not yet possess the knowledge to advise, analyze, and communicate about these critical issues.
The Emerging Tech Policy Leaders Program (ETPL), launched in 2020 by the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, aims to close this gap. ETPL offers selected participants the chance to work at innovation and technology policy-focused organizations while participating in the experiential leadership and professional development curriculum of the Koch Associate Program.
“Finding emerging tech policy talent to work with, while giving them the development opportunities they need to enhance their knowledge, is difficult,” said Chris Koopman, executive director at The Center for Growth and Opportunity (CGO), an ETPL partner organization. “Joining ETPL was a no-brainer. We knew CKI could connect us with the next generation of smart thinkers.”
The volume of applications CKI and the Hewlett Foundation received for its first class reflects the demand for programs that combine work experience with professional development. Ninety individuals applied and seven were chosen, including Caden Rosenbaum, a recent American University Washington College of Law graduate. Rosenbaum joined CGO, which is based out of Utah State University, to help the organization explore how technology, immigration, and environmental–stewardship policy can empower individuals and communities to solve society’s greatest challenges.
Rosenbaum agreed with Koopman that finding meaningful entry- and mid-level technology–policy opportunities is difficult. “There are a lot of barriers in today’s job market,” he said. “It is risky for an organization to take a chance on someone who is unproven. Knowing that ETPL is backed by CKI and the Hewlett Foundation is a validation. It’s a catalyst.”
At CGO, Rosenbaum specializes in regulation, innovation, and technology policy and brings an analytical and legal perspective to the organization’s work. He works on issues like antitrust policy and the oversight of social–media content.
Rosenbaum has learned from his CGO and ETPL mentors to stay nimble. “Especially when it comes to tech policy, you have to be amenable to change,” Rosenbaum said. “Whenever you see a new problem, you need to know how to stop and think about how you can contribute to solving it.”
Rosenbaum also values the exposure he’s received through ETPL to new issues and ideas. “That’s one of the lessons I take from ETPL. Listening to other people and taking in their perspectives.”
Like all participants in KAP, EPTL scholars take part in a robust professional–development program where they are exposed to civil society, policy, and technology–sector business leaders. Koopman said these experiences also benefit partner organizations.
“CGO is developing thought leadership around online content moderation, and as part of ETPL programming, Caden actually gets to sit down with members of oversight boards who are developing standards for their own companies,” Koopman explained. “Knowing Caden is being challenged by others and given the chance to think about these issues in a principled way is extremely valuable. That professional development opportunity would come at a high cost to CGO if we tried to provide it on our own.”
Rosenbaum will be with CGO as part of ETPL for up to 24 months. The length of the ETPL experience distinguishes it from other fellowships or internships. “I’m living the dream right now,” said Rosenbaum. “This is exactly where I was hoping to end up after law school, and I just hope to grow in this space.”
Koopman said his organization hopes to hold on to Rosenbaum for much longer than 24 months. “We’re already thinking about what Caden’s next three to five years look like. What lines of research does he want to pursue? Where can he add value to the discussion?”
One issue Rosenbaum said he wants to consider is automation as it relates to commercial transportation. The era of automated vehicles (AVs) is upon us, but Rosenbaum said policymakers still have not fully considered how commercial AVs will impact the labor force. “There is a lot of fear out there, and we need to consider this transition for workers,” he explained.
“The entire tech policy community today can fit into one room,” said Koopman. “ETPL is generating opportunities for young policy analysts to become principled leaders in this space. We don’t have that now, and we’re going to see the return on this investment for 20, 30 years. Having a dozen Cadens is exponential growth over what we have in terms of leadership today.”
CKI’s educational programs equip innovators to discover their personal passions and make an immediate impact — to create new ventures, improve existing institutions, and contribute right away. Whether you are just beginning your venture or further along, we want to hear from you. Apply for KAP.