Secretary of State John Kerry visits Hacking for Diplomacy

Steve Blank, adjunct professor, talks to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Steve Blank, left, Stanford adjunct professor, gets a moment with Secretary of State John Kerry.

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes to Twitter, people pay attention.

When Kerry tweets about a Stanford course where entrepreneurial principles intersect with learning to craft effective foreign policy, people know he is looking into the future.

“Brilliant minds are applying technology to world’s toughest problems. Their perspective will inform,” Kerry tweeted after spending time at Stanford earlier this week.

The brilliant minds Kerry met were students in the Management Science and Engineering course Hacking for Diplomacy: Tackling Foreign Policy Challenges with the Lean Launchpad. The “lean startup” entrepreneurial principles favor experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional “big design up front” development.

Led by STEVE BLANK, a retired serial entrepreneur, creator of the Lean Launchpad and an entrepreneurial educator, student teams take on actual foreign policy challenges and learn how to apply lean startup principles in an effort to develop solutions to the challenges and bring about change.


Twitter post about Stanford class by Secretary of State John Kerry

To find these solutions, the students work closely with officials in the U.S. State Department and other civilian agencies.

“While the traditional tools of statecraft remain relevant, policymakers are looking to harness the power of new technologies to rethink how the U.S. government approaches and responds to … long-standing challenges,” according to the Hacking for Diplomacy course introduction.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Stanford students
Secretary of State John Kerry addresses Hacking for Diplomacy class.

Blank says his goal is to provide students with a hands-on experience in developing strategies to resolve real-world problems. Additionally, Blank says, he wants the students to develop a fervor for public service and giving back to society.

Kerry was in the Bay Area to participate in a two-day conference called “Virtuous Circle.” The gathering brought together internet economy stakeholders that included entrepreneurs and government leaders.

“We’re going to create a network of entrepreneurial students who understand the diplomatic, policy and national security problems facing the country and get them engaged in partnership with islands of innovation in the Department of State,” says Blank.

“This is the first step to a more agile, responsive and resilient approach to diplomacy and national security in the 21st century,” he adds.