Two groups of graduate students put their training into practice on real projects for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Horizons for Homeless Children. Professor Gavin Shatkin described the groups as strong, independent problem solvers.
The projects were part of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs Capstone, a semester-long project where student teams work in partnership with local, state, or federal agencies or nonprofit institutions, to assess a problem, produce a thorough policy analysis, and recommend solutions to the client.
“The projects with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Horizons for Homeless Children represent two completely different scales at which policy professionals can have an impact. While one project focused on a very grassroots effort to collect data to advocate for a very vulnerable group—homeless children—the other focused on national-level measures needed to make our local government institutions more transparent, effective, and accountable.”
—Gavin Shatkin, Director, Asian Studies Program; Associate Professor of Public Policy & Architecture; Director, MS Urban and Regional Policy
Students presented their projects on Wednesday, Dec. 14, followed by the School’s annual holiday party.
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a private foundation that seeks to inform public dialogue and decisions about land policy through research, training, and effective communication. The capstone group worked with Lincoln to better understand why municipal governments often have trouble fully utilizing federal grant money, and sometimes use substantial portions unspent. This project follows on a congressional briefing held by Lincoln focused on municipal fiscal health that called attention to this issue in the fall of 2015. In order to help Lincoln develop solutions to help states and localities spend more of their grant dollars, the team conducted a literature review on federal grant utilization, and researched case studies of Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, and Los Angeles. Their research resulted in recommendations focused on improving organizational capacity, auditing and oversight, and use of information technology.
Horizons for Homeless Children: Horizons is one of the few organizations in Massachusetts focused exclusively on the needs of young homeless children and their families, providing high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and family engagement services to more than 2,000 homeless children each week in Massachusetts. In addition to its programming, Horizons has conducted surveys in the past to collect information both for program development and for policy advocacy. For this project, capstone students developed recommendations for Horizons for future data collection and advocacy to maximize impact on relevant policy issues. Students analyzed recent data collection efforts, most recently a survey that was conducted using funding from the Social Impact Lab of Northeastern University. They also analyzed the current landscape of policy that directly impacts homeless children, and interviewed key stakeholders to understand effective lobbying and advocacy efforts in homelessness policy. They developed a series of recommendations focused on streamlining Horizons’s data collection efforts, informing debates on high impact policy areas, and developing partnerships for maximum policy impact.