PIT in Practice Profile: Alisar Mustafa, CMU

PIT In Practice Profiles

In this Q&A series, PIT-UN talks to various technologists and practitioners who are helping define the field to learn about their PIT journey and outlook, in their words. 


Carnegie Mellon University

Featured Practitioner

Alisar Mustafa, M.S. in public policy and management, Class of 2021

Q. Tell us about your work in public interest technology. What need or problem does your work address?

Alisar Mustafa: I worked as a public interest technology fellow at Carnegie Mellon University working directly with the Census Bureau xD Technology Team on developing a tool that aims to educate and equip government agencies to recognize and minimize bias in their respective government datasets and algorithm implementations.

Q. Did you set out to create a PIT product?

AM: I founded Analytics for Advocacy, an organization that equips advocacy groups with the policy, data, and tech resources to effectively pass or change legislation. We are working with a grassroot organization on reimagining public safety.

Q. What was a challenge you encountered, or something that surprised you?

AM: One of the challenges is the ideation process and getting out of the “thinking inside of a box” mindset. I think a lot of us struggle here because we’ve been jaded by experiences shaped by budget, resources, and bureaucratic constraints, but after a couple of minutes of guided ideation using tools like Mural you find that people have exciting and innovative ideas to offer.

One of the challenges is the ideation process and getting out
of the “thinking inside of a box” mindset.

Q. What advice would you give to other PIT practitioners or students about working in the space?

AM: I would say definitely find the most out-of-the-box idea you can come up with and try to implement a version of it. The most exciting part of being in PIT is that this kind of thinking is not only encouraged but usually leads to the most adaptive solutions.

Q. What excites you about being a part of PIT?

AM: I think PIT is trying to solve old issues with modern solutions, which I absolutely love. We are trying to get out of the box that has limited the very needed progress when it comes to solving issues for the public interest.