Header Image for Basic Page

You are here


Innovation Happens Here

A sense of innovation permeates the school. It’s an outlook we prize, encourage and reward. We have an entire center devoted to policy, leadership, innovation and service. We offer a yearlong class on innovation in government. There’s even an interdisciplinary student group focused solely on social innovation.

Innovative Courses

Sanford is one of the first in the country to offer a course for policy students on human centered design. Duke students learn in partnership with Durham city and county government personnel. 

We also offer a yearlong course, Behavioral Economics for Municipal Policy. The course is a collaboration between Sanford and Professor Dan Ariely’s Center for Advanced Hindsight.

Tony Brown has been a Professor of the Practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy since 1993. His courses for undergraduates include Social Entrepreneurship in Action, Moral Courage & Leadership, and Enterprising Leadership & Civic Engagement

Policy Practitioners

Often, students and policy practitioners will be in the classroom at the same time. For example, 70 North Carolina mayors, city managers and other officials joined students for a weekend intensive. The group explored how behavioral science can it be used to spur innovation. Watch:



Student Innovators

Since 2013, Sanford has been home to a powerful student-run group dreamed up by two MPP students: Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators (DISI). Students team up to offer consulting to nonprofits. The program is special because the teams are  interdisciplinary; students from Sanford School, Fuqua School of Business, and the Pratt School of Engineering join together to tackle problems.

For example, one team helped helped a nonprofit set up a system to collect data and measure their impact. Watch:


Innovation News

Browse more stories of innovation here:

Innovation News

Tyler Gamble smiling

Student Research Reveals Way to Increase On-Time Tax Payments

For his masters project, Tyler Gamble ran an experiment with Guilford County, N.C. to find out if small changes to a single letter could get more people to pay their taxes on time. He used principles from behavioral economics in his project and the outcome surprised even him.

OSPRI course

OSPRI To Offer Course in Open Governance Innovation

Emerging open innovation strategies have organizations from private companies to government agencies reaching beyond their borders to develop new ideas and find creative solutions to some of society’s most pressing problems. The governance of open data is a key factor to the success of these strategies.

student sorting stickies

What I Learned From Sanford’s Innovative Course on Innovation

This year, for the first time, Sanford offered a course in Human Centered Design, which is both innovative as a course and teaches the tools of innovation to rethink the policy process. HCD principles are well known in the tech sphere. For example, designers watch people struggle with and then learn how to use a prototype smartphone. Watching people engage with the prototype for the first time gives designers key insights about how to improve the prototype for maximum usability. Public policy should benefit from the same philosophy.