Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology

As the speed and complexity of the world increases, governments and nonprofit organizations need new ways to effectively tackle the critical challenges of our time—from pandemics and global warming to social media warfare. In Power to the Public, Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank describe a revolutionary new approach—public interest technology—that has the potential to transform the way governments and nonprofits around the world solve problems. Through inspiring stories about successful projects ranging from a texting service for teenagers in crisis to a streamlined foster care system, the authors show how public interest technology can make the delivery of services to the public more effective and efficient.

Clear-eyed yet profoundly optimistic, Power to the Public presents a powerful blueprint for how government and nonprofits can help solve society’s most serious problems.


A Discussion about the Promise of Public Interest Technology (video)

Power to the Public: Tackling Homelessness (video)

Power to the Public: Tackling Benefits Delivery (video)

Shorenstein Center/ Harvard Kennedy School

Google Book Talk (video)


Public Interest Technology to the Rescue (Gov Web Works)

Tech for the Public Good (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

Introducing the Public Interest Internet (EFF)

Power to the Public: New Book Makes Case for Public-Sector Tech (Government Technology)

Everything Is a Public Interest Tech Story, Authors Argue (State Scoop)


What Happened When the U.S. Government Tried to Make the Immigration System Digital (Slate)

What Brooklyn rats can teach us about designing cities for everyone (Fast Company)


The Government Fix: How to innovate in government

When it comes to redesigning how government functions, most of the common assumptions about innovation don’t hold up. Hana Schank and Sara Hudson conducted nearly 70 interviews with people inside of government at the federal, state, county and city level, to understand the common threads for successful innovation projects. They found that innovation at its most basic level has nothing to do with what is typically called “innovative.” Instead, they discovered who the real change-makers are, what successful projects look like, and why redesigning government can sometimes feel so very hard. In this book, they share what they’ve learned about how to truly make change.

The Ambition Decisions: What women know about work, family, and the path to building a life

Over the last sixty years, women’s lives have transformed radically from generation to generation. Without a template to follow–a way to peek into the future to catch a glimpse of what leaving this job or marrying that person might mean to us decades from now–women make important decisions blindly, groping for a way forward, winging it, and hoping it all works out. As they faced unexpectedly fraught decisions about their own lives, journalists Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace found themselves wondering about the women they’d graduated alongside. What happened to these women who seemed set to reap the rewards of second-wave feminism, on the brink of taking over the world? Where did their ambition lead them? So they tracked down their classmates and, over several hundred hours of interviews, gathered and mapped data about real women’s lives that has been missing from our conversations about women and the workplace. Whether you’re deciding if you should pass up a promotion in favor of more flex time, planning when to get pregnant, or wondering what the ramifications are of being the only person in your house who ever unloads the dishwasher,The Ambition Decisions is a guide to the changes that may seem arbitrary but are life defining, by women who’ve been there. Organized by theme, each chapter draws on real women’s stories of facing down crisis, transition, and decision-making to illustrate broader trends Schank and Wallace observed. Each chapter wraps up with a useful bulleted list of questions to consider and tips to integrate that will guide women of all ages along the way to finding purpose and passion in work and life.

The Edge of Normal


The Edge of Normal – Kindle Single, 2015

What is normal? Everything in Hana Schank’s life is going according to plan — career, marriage and a growing family. But when her second child is born with albinism, a rare genetic condition whose most striking characteristics are white blonde hair, pale skin and impaired vision, she discovers that the very definition of normal is up for grabs. A moving memoir with flashes of humor, this essay tells one mother’s story of navigating the spectrum of ability and disability, filled with both heartbreak and joy. And how ultimately she and her daughter learn to balance together on the edge of normal.

A More Perfect Union


A More Perfect Union: How I Survived the Happiest Day of My Life – Atria, 2006

My wedding planning memoir was a Discover Great New Writers selection.

Here’s what Barnes and Noble had to say about it:

Every 21st-century woman faced with planning her wedding thinks she’s going to do things her own way. Schank was no exception. However, as she watched herself slowly succumbing to the succubus of “bridezilla,” she wrote this nifty little book, that will not only educate but also entertain readers along the way.

Just a few weeks after her engagement, Schank realized that the rock she now sported on her ring finger and her wedding plans had become her “new vital statistics.” What she did for a living, where she lived, what she hoped to accomplish in life: “all these facts had now become secondary to the single, all-encompassing fact that soon I would be someone’s wife.” She discovers the joys of poring through the racks of bridal magazines, selecting a dress at Kleinfeld’s, and finding the perfect location. As she stares into the mirror, clothed in the first “princess” wedding gown she tried on, Schank sees instead a woman “young and innocent and eager to share her meat loaf recipe with you.” Her reaction to this transformation? “I think I’m going to hurl.” Approaching a wedding registry her fiancé says, “If we have to register for something, let’s register for something good. Like CDs.”

For brides-to-be, brides-perhaps-someday-to-be, brides-that-were, and anyone else interested in the conflicting feelings this sacred rite brings up for the modern woman, A More Perfect Union is the perfect companion. (Summer 2006 Selection)