Lincoln Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2014 with a mission to help bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and DC, advancing a more perfect union between technology and the American republic. We believe in a world of free people and competitive markets, and that fostering a robust innovation ecosystem is crucial to creating a better, freer, and more abundant future.
How We Approach Policy
Lincoln Network was created to solve exactly this challenge, bridging the gap between the two cultures of tech and policy, and acting as a translation layer and network builder between these different communities. Our unique advantage is that we combine policy expertise with hard-earned business and technology acumen, giving us a deeper level of insight into policy debates.
Lincoln Network is organized into three organizational divisions, one for policy (Lincoln Policy), one for events and media (Lincoln Network), and one building technology (Lincoln Studio). All of our teams collaborate often on projects that bring both areas of expertise together.
At the policy team, our work is focused on three broad goals:
- Strengthening American leadership in innovation;
- Securing the future from technological risks;
- Leveraging technology and technical talent to solve governance and policy challenges.
In this work, we don’t seek to have a single voice, but to cultivate a range of new ideas and conversations for how innovation can support human flourishing and abundance.
Selecting Issues for Impact
Because we are a small “boutique” policy shop, we select our projects by valuing impact over noise-making. We seek out issues where:
- We can be a leading voice instead of one of many in a crowd;
- We can bring to the table expertise in both the technical and policy dimensions of an issue;
- We can leverage our network of innovators, tech professionals, and technologists to augment our expertise or advocacy.
With a cross-partisan portfolio of issues and staff from diverse backgrounds in technology and policy located on both coasts, we have built expansive networks across different sectors and ideological lines without ceding ground on our values and beliefs. As a result, we occupy a unique space in the civil society ecosystem.
While we conduct research and emphasize staff expertise, we don’t always operate like a traditional think tank. Where we do research, it’s focused on providing useful information within the Overton Window of ongoing policy debates, rather than contributing to an academic body of knowledge, making noise, or articulating an ideological goal post. Similarly, our efforts on network building, cross-pollination, and translation infrastructure necessitates a different portfolio approach than traditional DC-based groups.
Current Program Areas
- Modernizing Congress and the Future of Oversight: Decades of cuts to Congress’s policy capacity have created a deep institutional gap for policy formation, particularly for science and technology. In the wake of a middling response to the pandemic, eroding military superiority, and weakening tech dominance, it’s essential that we reverse Congress’s atrophy and dysfunction, and modernize how it does business. This project is focused on research and programming that supports strengthening the legislative branch and its capacity to independently understand technical policy issues, review regulatory actions, and respond to constituent input. This work is focused in three areas: (1) improving technology policy expertise in the legislative branch in key areas like committees and support agencies (e.g. the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service); (2) utilizing our staff expertise to improve capabilities and governance of Congress’s digital services and information technology infrastructure; and (3) leveraging new technologies to improve Congress’s ability to conduct oversight to hold the government accountable to the American people.
- Governance of Tech Platforms and the Internet: We are concerned about growing reactionary efforts to regulate the technology sector, and see them as a threat to America’s long term leadership in innovation. This is not to suggest there are no legitimate policy challenges—we’re aware of and have made real criticisms of tech companies. Yet, these must be understood in context, and addressed without undermining the role of free enterprise and innovation in providing for our future security and prosperity. As part of this project, we’re engaging in work to develop novel approaches to respond to critics and weigh in on the debate. We’re also bringing to the table unique voices from Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, which are often absent from conversations in DC.
- Combating Digital Authoritarianism: Technological innovation has advanced prosperity, but it has also created new challenges. The People’s Republic of China is pursuing a global technology strategy to advance its objectives and challenge liberty and democracy around the world. American policymakers increasingly recognize the need to answer the China technology challenge. Our current programmatic work involves analyzing this challenge and drawing on the expertise of the technology community to develop recommendations for policymakers.
- Preserving America’s Leadership in Science & Technology: For the US to remain the world leader in science and innovation, it needs to remain the R&D hub for the world. This requires an effective pipeline from basic and applied research—originating in universities and public sector entities like DoD, NSF, and NIH—to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who can effectively commercialize them. From atomic energy, to GPS, to the computer, to the Internet, this model for American innovation has reshaped the world. To maintain America’s leadership in innovation, these institutions, and regulations governing them, must be revitalized and reformed.
- Securing the Future from Technological Risks: Securing America for the future will require managing technological risks and developing innovative solutions and institutional capacities to anticipate and defend against emerging threats. From competition over critical emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, to persistent vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, the United States faces a challenging and evolving technology threat landscape. Drawing upon expertise from the technology community and our experience serving in government, we are working to shape debates over how best to secure the future.
- Technology Talent Pipeline / Fellowship Programs: Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. Yet, it often comes with disruptive effects that raise complex policy questions, compete with existing industries, and challenge our social norms. This is where DC comes head-to-head with Silicon Valley. This culture clash that has, of late, heightened mistrust between tech entrepreneurs and government, and significantly increased the likelihood of harmful policy outcomes. To help bridge this divide, we operate two fellowship programs to develop technology professionals to be effective voices in policy debates. Learn more at hackpolicy.org.
Information about Lincoln’s non-profit status, incorporation, and recent 990s can be found on our GuideStar profile. Past annual reports are available on request for friends and supporters. You can also find annual year-in-review posts from co-founder Garrett Johnson for 2020, 2019, and 2018.
Lincoln’s unique business model is only possible thanks to substantial general operating support from foundations and individuals. We are incredibly thoughtful about the donations we accept, particularly for program and project-based support. When we begin a new major project or program area, we always endeavor to develop and pilot it internally before seeking dedicated support. Our major foundation supporters include: the Miles Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust.
We also accept some corporate support, which accounts for a minority share of our funding mix. Much of this is tied to conference and event sponsorships, but some is allocated to policy and technical programs. Our corporate donors have included venture capital firms, large tech firms, as well as numerous small and medium tech companies and their founders.
If you’d like to help support Lincoln’s work and independence, please consider donating.