Hacking* for Diplomacy

A collaboration with Stanford University, Hacking for Diplomacy (H4Di) uses innovative research methods for students to tackle real-world problems that defy territorial boundaries and resist easy resolution.

In this class, student teams take actual foreign policy challenges and learn how to apply Lean Startup principles, (Mission Model Canvas, Customer Development, and Agile Engineering) to discover and validate agency and user needs and to continually build iterative prototypes to test whether they understood the problem and solution. Teams take a hands-on approach requiring close engagement with officials in the U.S. Department of State and other civilian agencies.

*Hack – to improvise effectively; to take things apart and repurpose them to solve problems or create new products

Fall 2018 Class

Students are pursuing solutions to achieve the following:
  • Optimize the deployment speed of 20 NATO nations
  • Recruitment support for the D.C. National Guard
  • Determine early warning signs of human trafficking (U.S. Department of State)
  • Neutralize terrorist propaganda targeting youth and new followers (U.S. Department of State)

Fall 2017 Class


In 2017, JMU offered the only H4Di course in the country at JMU X-Labs and was the first in the nation to offer it exclusively to undergraduate students. Unlike other “Hacking for” courses (Hacking for Defense, Hacking for Diversity, H4Di, etc.), JMU staff and faculty did the legwork to secure client sponsors and find wicked problems** for the class to tackle. As a result, students from nine different majors worked in interdisciplinary teams on problems as diverse as cybersecurity and hate crime prevention for clients such as a nonpartisan think tank called The Aspen Institute, a cybersecurity firm called Endgame, a nonprofit called PeaceTech Lab, and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

**Wicked problem –  a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

Fall 2019

Hacking for Diplomacy
Thursday evenings
Lakeview Hall

Interested in this class?
Contact us and we’ll connect you with the instructor.

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