Reflections on the APPAM Spring Conference

Our names are Mike McCarthy, Trevor Mattos, and Jason Wright, and we are graduate research assistants at the Public Policy Center (PPC). The PPC graciously funded our trip to the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) spring conference entitled “How policymakers use APPAM member research.” The overarching theme of the conference was creating a dialogue among policymakers, practitioners, and researchers, in essence connecting those who make, implement, and study policy. Such a dialogue has the potential to enrich policy debates and the policy process in general by infusing them with empirical knowledge.

One of the main challenges surrounding such an effort is that these actors tend to remain isolated within their respective fields. Researchers, for instance, may not have experience in translating their findings to a large audience or marketing their research within policy circles. The concurrent sessions were designed to highlight examples of when cross-fertilization was successful and strategies and tools for facilitating such interaction.

We attended a session that examined the impact of research, and specifically evaluation of state policy innovation, surrounding the 1996 welfare reform. The session focused on how research on welfare programs contributed to the final reforms and the ways in which this research reached the reform’s architects. One of the main points was that confidence in a research team’s ability and integrity built trust on the part of managers, thus reputation matters greatly. Unfortunately, these individuals do not necessarily have the time or resources to devote to learning about advanced statistical methods, meaning that trust is crucial in ensuring that research findings make their way into the decision making process. To this point, panelists closed the session by discussing how scholars can best market their research to policymakers. A major takeaway for us was that connections between researches and government are often strongest at the local level, mostly through the presence of university centers that provide a service to their communities in the form of objective research.

Another session examined recent developments in federal research clearinghouses. These websites feature research related to federally funded programs. The “What Works Clearinghouse” is particularly well developed. It includes practice guides for educators, intervention reports, and reviews of single studies and research efforts at large. Perhaps the best aspect of these resources is that they are in the public domain, increasing access to individual practitioners and their institutions regardless of available resources.

We also attended a session entitled “Simple isn’t Stupid” that focused on disseminating research findings in the digital age. Doing so involves an active effort and multiple platforms, formats, and instances of release are key to success. Comparisons were drawn with the timeline of a movie release. First, we hear news that a project has started and learn who the major actors are. Next, a trailer is seen, which is comparable to a project update, research brief, or infographic highlighting preliminary findings. Then, there are reviews that offer a synopsis of the film, which parallels the executive summary. Finally, it was suggested that the release of the final report should have a number of well-timed publicity pushes, like we would expect to see from a major film release. Having a thoughtful dissemination plan for research ensures that all potentially interested parties have an opportunity to come into contact with some aspect of the project.

Over lunch, we heard from a congressional staffer. This talk was eye opening because it showed how little members of Congress are briefed on the important issues before them. The staffer mentioned that they often had only a two to three minute train ride from the office complex to the capitol during which they could brief their boss. Thus, a translatable summary of research findings is critical!

Fortunately, we were able to enjoy the city around the conference events. The capital is a bustling city made even more so by the cherry blossom festival that was still ongoing that weekend. The trees were beautiful, and the National Mall is a great tribute to civic virtues. We also had some great food and toured Georgetown. We were able to learn a lot, meet great people, and see great sights thanks to the support of the PPC.

Below is a picture of us near the White House

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Trevor, Mike, and Jason

UMass Dartmouth, Durfee High students to present collaborative photo project on 5/16

Press Release

Fall River Portraits – Creative Initiative Project

Over the past several months, students from B.M.C. Durfee High and UMass Dartmouth have taken their cameras into the Fall River’s various neighborhoods and photographed the people and places they encountered. The result is a wonderfully varied and fresh look at life in various corners of the city. This collaborative portrait features many of the city’s small businesses – barber shops, bakeries, grocery stores, tattoo parlors, clothing stores – as well as neighborhood scenes, moments of everyday life, and often unnoticed but fascinating detail. Their outstanding work of over 200 images will be shown at The Narrows Center for the Arts in an exhibit entitled, “Fall River Portraits: People, Neighborhood, Community.”

The project was designed to create meaningful collaborations between high school and college students and to encourage all of the students to explore and better understand the people and communities that make up Fall River. UMass Dartmouth students gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the city that is just down the road from their campus, and high school students were encouraged to explore and reflect upon their own communities. Both sets of students found ways to creatively document the city’s diverse cultures and communities.

One of the results of this project is a celebration of Fall River’s family-owned businesses.   Students visited over forty small businesses in the Flint/Pleasant Street and South Main/Columbia Street areas, talked extensively to store owners, and documented the people and interactions in these establishments. Stories about some of these businesses will be featured in the show. Local businesses were also selected to print the images, host the show, and provide the refreshments for the exhibition opening. Participating merchants will also receive personal invitations to the exhibition as well as copies of students’ photographs in thanks for making the students feel welcome in their establishments.

The project is sponsored by a University of Massachusetts Creative Economy grant and organized by Mark Carvalho, photography instructor at B.M.C. Durfee High School, and Andrea Klimt, anthropology professor at UMass Dartmouth.

An Artists’ Reception will take place on Saturday, May 10th from 1:00 – 3:00, at the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan Street in Fall River.   Admission is free. The public is cordially invited. The show will be open from May 10th until May 31st, Wednesday thru Saturday, 12-5.

For more information see http://www.narrowscenter.org or contact Andrea Klimt at aklimt@umassd.edu, 508-999-8331. Exhibition posters and gallery cards are available upon request.

 

Revealing our sources

One of the biggest  hits of our monthly newsletter is our section on grant opportunities. Many of our community partners report reading about previously unknown funding sources here, and they often wonder where we get our info. So we decided to put together a blog on some of our favorite sources for not just grant opportunities, but also for events, urban policy news, and local goings-on. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you have suggestions you think we’re missing, please let us know!

Grants

The Foundation Center is the UI’s grants mecca, and one of the best ways to passively keep tabs on opportunities (so we can in turn share them with you) is by subscribing to their weekly Philanthropy News Digest RFP Bulletin. You can find new RFPs here, and you can subscribe to get updates sent directly to your inbox at this link.

Is it federal funding that you seek? Grants.gov also has an email alert service that you can subscribe to (and customize according to your organization or needs) here.

If you have some time on your hands and have some social media savvy, Twitter can be surprisingly helpful too. Start with a simple hashtag like #grant, and you’ll be amazed!

Events

Our favorite event-type to share is the kind that builds capacity among stakeholders in our community. In our newsletter you’ll see lots of workshops, many of which are either low-cost or free. The best sources for these have often been the Rhode Island Foundation, which puts on great one-off and series events through their Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, and the NonProfit Center in Boston. The latter has a monthly newsletter cataloging events, to which you can subscribe via this link. Another nonprofit-oriented resource is the MA Nonprofit Network, whose bi-monthly newsletter can be found here.

Local interest

In addition to keeping tabs on the newspapers serving the South Coast (New Bedford-based Standard Times and Fall River’s Herald News), we are big fans of the Sustainability Almanac put out by our colleagues at the UMass Dartmouth Office of Sustainability. It hits inboxes every Thursday, and contents include environmental news, local events, and even area job opportunities. You can read back issues and subscribe by following this link.

 

Civil rights activist to speak in New Bedford on Thursday

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, journalist and civil rights activist, will speak in New Bedford on Thursday, July 5 at 6p at the Rotch Jones Duff House. She will be signing copies of her book, To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement, which documents her experiences growing up in the racially segregated South and being one of the first two African-American students to enroll at the University of Georgia.

More details available in this Standard Times story that appeared yesterday.

Event: Nonprofit fundraising workshop

Our friends at the UMass Dartmouth Center for University and School Partnerships (CUSP) are offering a terrific event on nonprofit fundraising right here in the SouthCoast. If you read our monthly newsletter, you know that it’s rare to have such events located close to home (usually a drive to Boston or Providence is involved), so check out more details here and be sure to register soon!

WHAT:Nonprofit fundraising workshop for those interested in obtaining grants in the education, public, and/or private sectors. Topics will include grant research, preparing a development strategy, developing a budget, building objectives, and writing grant proposals.

WHEN: Saturday, June 23, 9a-3p

WHERE: CUSP office, 200 Mill Rd., Fairhaven

COST: $75, includes lunch. Limited scholarships available on request.

Again, learn more at this link: http://www.umassd.edu/media/umassdartmouth/seppce/cusp/Nonprofit_Fundraising_Workshop.pdf.

 

 

Event: Financial Empowerment for Individuals & Families

Have you read Dr. Michael Goodman’s recent article in Communities & Banking, that was written based on research conducted by members of the Urban Initiative team? While we highly recommend reading it, the condensed version is that many low-income people in New Bedford are using non-traditional, high-cost financial service providers (i.e. check cashing outlets) when they could be saving money at traditional institutions, but the missing link is information on the accessible, low-cost services that banks and credit unions provide. The solution? Financial education.

And that’s just what locals can access at Bristol Community College’s Fall River campus on Saturday, May 19th. The Money Conference will be offered by the MA State Treasury and the MA Financial Literacy Trust Fund, and registration (plus breakfast and lunch) is free! Learn more at www.themoneyconference.com, and please share this with someone who might benefit from this event.

Events to check out at the Rhode Island Foundation this week!

Evaluating your nonprofit program: the what and the how

Presented by the RI Foundation’s, Jill Pfitzenmayer, Ph.D., this workshop will cover the key components to creating a successful evaluation plan for your program or nonprofit. You will learn about methodology, data collection tools, and basic data analysis.

Thursday, April 12, 2012, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Cost: $15

Register Here.  Only a few seats left!

Google Analytics: A free and easy way to improve your online communications strategy

In a three-hour session, Ann-Marie Harrington,founder and president of Embolden, will show you how to interpret the data, including from advanced features and tools.

Friday, April 13, 2012, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Register Here.

Are there too many nonprofits?

Tune into the Urban Institute’s panel discussion on Tuesday, April 3 from 12:00 to 1:30p

Panelists include:

  • Elizabeth Boris, director, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute (moderator)
  • David La Piana, managing partner, La Piana Consulting; author, The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution and The Nonprofit Mergers Workbook
  • Glen O’Gilvie, chief executive officer, Center for Nonprofit Advancement
  • Mark Pacella, chief deputy attorney general, Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section,Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
  • Pat Read, principal, Pat Read Consulting; former senior vice president for public policy, Independent Sector

To watch the video webcast or a recording, go to
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/urban-institute-events.

Event: nonprofit board member training

From http://www.cfsema.org/news-and-events:

“The Community Foundation is partnering with the Community Development Clinic at the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth to present “Roles and Responsibilities for Nonprofit Boards.” This training workshop will be held from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, April 11, at the Law School’s Moot Courtroom, 333 Faunce Corner Road, North Dartmouth.

The workshop will be presented by Craig J. Dutra, Community Foundation President, and Linnea R. Michel, Esq., Clinic Attorney / Research Associate at the Community Development Clinic. A $10 registration fee includes a light supper.

This invaluable session will enhance nonprofit board members’ knowledge of their basic roles and responsibilities.  Topics to be covered will include communicating your nonprofit’s mission, best practices for board meetings, legal duties of board members, strategic planning, and other important topics. Send your entire board!

To attend, you can download the registration form here and mail in to the Community Foundation at 63 Union Street, New Bedford, MA, 02740. Checks can be made payable to CFSEMA. If you prefer, you can email Nancy Harding with the names and titles of those who will be attending, and pay online by selecting “Roles and Responsibilities for Nonprofit Boards” from the drop-down funds menu.”