The Policy Academies will train and cultivate a new and diverse generation of researchers focused on promoting social justice through public policy. The Policy Academies' approach is built on the premise that the people who conduct research and analysis profoundly impact the policy discourse. Leading policy institutions and prominent scholars have an outsized impact on public policy decisions. They help shape our knowledge base and our understanding of social challenges. Even one powerful, well-placed voice can achieve dramatic change - conceiving policy innovations, build influential institutions, and even transform entire policy conversations. Researchers with the personal experience of being underserved will bring more accurate, nuanced, and culturally-conscious analysis to the nation's public policy discourse. A more comprehensive understanding of evolving social and economic conditions will lead to policy solutions that more effectively expand opportunity and support an equitable and inclusive society.
To this end, The Policy Academies' three main goals are:
Short-term: Recruit, train, and cultivate a pipeline of public policy scholars of color to help define, investigate, and propose solutions to the social equity challenges of our time.
Medium-term: Add diverse voices trained in rigorous quantitative and evidence based research -- and who understand and respect the complex challenges of people of color and underrepresented communities -- to the policy research community
Long-term: Transform the policy sphere and ultimately the policy conversation, by adding a critical mass of voices from marginalized communities to the policy research community.
The Policy Academies operates on three levels:
1) Student Development - Promoting the individual career success or our Fellows and Alumni by training and cultivating a pipeline of public policy scholars of color to help define, investigate, and propose solutions to the social equity challenges of our time.
2) Institution-Level Change - Creating institution-level change by building on-ramps and connections for researcher of color and targeting first-generation college students-goers. TPA leverages institutional expertise and resources, and connects leading policy institutions to this diverse talent pool.
3) Policy Field Transformation - Transforming the field and ultimately the policy conversation by cultivating a critical mass of researchers and analysts of color and connecting leading policy research institutions to enhance diversity and inclusion efforts across the field.
In its tiered approach, The Policy Academies will begin by recruiting talented students of color early in their careers (rising college seniors and pre-masters) for rigorous training and research mentoring in on-site at the nation's leading think tanks. Once students complete training program they become a part of the growing alumni pool that The Policy Academies cultivates
The Policy Academies programming consists of two main components:
Academy Fellowship Training – one- and two -year fellowships for undergraduates and pre-masters students of color in the nation's leading think tanks. A crucial element to this component is that every cohort serves as a learning community that reinforces the program's goals and values as well as strengthen social development through class cohesion and positive peer influence and accountability. Each Academy will begin with summer-long intensives on-site at leading policy research institutions and the training offered will be uniquely tailored to the research strengths of the hosting institution, and;
2) Academy Alumni Program that supports the early career development of Academy graduates.
Supporting these two program components is:
3) Think Tank and Graduate School Network -- will undergird the two student-focused program components. The Policy Academies is designing this component to formally collaborate with leading think tanks and graduate programs in public policy and related fields to provide additional early career development, job opportunities, and fellowships for Academy alumni to support their further education and training.
The Policy Academies is based on a successful pilot program that achieved its original goals of putting several cohorts of aspiring researchers of color on track for impactful policy careers. This program actively engaged leading think tanks in developing a robust curriculum that provides a broad skill set to make Fellows attractive to a wide range of prestigious policy institutions and graduate policy programs. This input by the broader policy community allowed the pilot program to simultaneously tailor a training program to potential employers, create buy-in by these organizations, and build professional networks for Fellows. The pilot program incorporated input from several think tanks and research centers to determine the kinds of qualities and skills they look for in their research assistants (RAs). This feedback allowed The Academy staff to better target student recruitment; develop TPA's curriculum to teach professionally-desired skill sets, and determine the need to provide technical training.
TPA's program was successful in its extensive outreach and nationwide recruitment of students of color – especially in targeting low income and first generation college-goers. There was high demand from the very first year – with over 100-200 applicants annually for the 10 slots. The staff successfully piloted the program from 2008-2012, serving 10 fellows per year, with no student attrition over the four-year period. There are now 41 alumni moving through the early stages of their policy careers. Eight are currently enrolled (and fully funded) in Doctoral programs at U.C. Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Harvard University, NYU's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Brown University, University of Maryland, University of Texas, and Cornell University.
Among these doctoral students is a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow and a National Science Foundation grantee. Twenty-four of the alumni have completed or are enrolled in Masters Degree or Law Degree programs (3) with a focus on public-interest law. The remainder of the Alumni are employed (or have been employed) at prominent policy institutions.
Based on the success of the early program, The Policy Academies has reconstituted its original team and has recruited several more leading institutions and policy leaders. The new organization will not only relaunch and expand the old model, it will extend supports through graduate school completion. By building on these early successes with an expanded and stronger team, The Policy Academies has created a foundation of long-term success.
The Policy Academies' major markers of success are in three areas that match our overall organizational goals.
• Short term: New voices framing issues, leading research, and conceiving policy innovations
• Intermediate-term: Diverse body of researchers contributing to policy solutions
• Long-term: More nuanced and complete policy discourse around race and class that reflects the perspectives of people of color
To keep track of our success in progress to these goals we will gather information along several indicators:
For our short term goals we will evaluate:
➢ Number of program applicants
➢ Number of new students served per year
➢ Number of alumni in graduate programs and in policy organizations of choice
➢ Retention rate in Academy programs
➢ Alumni graduate school (MA and PhD) completion rates and time to completion
➢ Employment of researchers of color at think tank partner organizations
For intermediate goals:
➢ Diversity statistics for partner think tanks
➢ Retention and promotion of people of color in partner think tanks
➢ Diversity of partner graduate programs
The ultimate goal is that at full launch, The Policy Academies will serve 50-60 new Fellows per year. Over 10 years, we will build an alumni pool of 750 to 850 highly-trained and networked researchers of color from low-moderate income backgrounds populating the think tank community throughout the US – a critical mass of new analysts and researchers to help fundamentally enrich and transform the policy discourse.
The Policy Academies programming has a demonstrated track record of success from its five years of development and implementation at the Urban Institute. The model has shown that it can attract a large number of talented and diverse applicants and leverage the resources of working research institutions. The alumni outcomes clearly demonstrate that our combination of intensive training, supports, and networks can transform career trajectories.
To replicate this success with the relaunch and expansion, The Policy Academies staff has started by ensuring deep industry buy-in as was done with the pilot. The Policy Academies has recruited several leading think tank and policy institutions to serve a program partners as well as an extensive list of individual scholars and mentors to work with program participants. The Policy Academy has begun building formal relationships with leading policy graduate schools to strengthen its program offerings and provide fellowships to graduate school for program alumni.
To carry out the ambitious programming, The Policy Academies leadership has recruited a board and influential advisors who are leaders in the field. It has also identified its future staff. The Policy Academies leadership has designed expansions of the program offerings and launched the website.
Over the next calendar year, The Policy Academies will update the website with alumni biographies and think tank partner descriptions. In addition, The Policy Academies experts will coordinate with think tank scholars and graduate school leaders to update its Academy training curricula and graduate school supports program.
To support future programming The Policy Academies staff are planning Spring fundraisers to fund an alumni convening this summer. In addition, the leadership is planning for an official program relaunch in Fall 2018 and will begin new student outreach and recruitment in early Winter 2018.