OPPO prepares faculty for effective interactions with policymakers and connects policymakers with subject matter experts in relevant policy issues.
The Office of Public Policy Outreach leads the effort to create effective public policy in the Commonwealth by connecting local and state policymakers to academic experts within VCU. Through our Translational Research Fellows program and annual workshops, we prepare faculty for effective interactions with policymakers and connect policymakers to targeted subject matter experts.
We also work across public policy disciplines to translate the insights from each stakeholder to the larger policy community, keeping knowledge flowing to where it can make a difference – creating opportunities for public policy success in the Commonwealth. Through our Wilder School Public Policy Poll, our Legislative Brief project, and our electronic newsletters, we provide policymakers with timely background on the issues before them.
Below are more in depth descriptions of our five ongoing programs.
Two times each year, our office conducts a representative poll of adult Virginians to better understand what the public thinks in key policy areas such as public safety, economic development, education and mental health. The resulting snapshot gives policymakers insight on opinion throughout the commonwealth, complementing the input they receive from their own constituents. Poll results are shared back to the public through the media, as well as with policymakers in the General Assembly and state government. (The Public Policy Poll includes the long-standing Commonwealth Education Poll.)
There are four releases from the Summer 2017 Public Policy Poll. The fourth release examines perceptions of public school and campus safety, opinion on ways of measuring public school performance and whether universities should emphasize protection from discrimination or unlimited freedom of expression in campus environments. The third release examines opinion on the use of financial incentives to attract businesses to Virginia, familiarity of residents with key economic development policies like Go Virginia and opinion on higher education performance in training graduates for the workforce. The second release examines responses to four public safety questions related to immigration enforcement and the welcoming of refugees from Muslim-majority countries. The first release provides a snapshot of the status of the three state-wide races in Virginia (Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General). The poll, a random sample of 806 adults in Virginia contacted by landline and cell telephone from July 17-25, has an overall margin of error of 4.2 percent. The margin of error for registered voters (707 adults) is plus or minus 4.5 percent. The margin of error for likely voters (538 voters) is 5.1 percent.
Launched in 2017, our Translational Research Fellows program selects competitive applications from faculty across VCU’s diverse schools to be part of a unique mentoring program in translating the precision and depth of academic research into relevant, high quality briefs and presentations for policymakers. Fellows work with experienced policy communicators to refine the key insights of their research into short briefs, then present their research to relevant Virginia legislators in face-to-face meetings. Our office also assists fellows in tracking public statements by those legislators in their subject areas to facilitate follow-up conversations.
Piloted in 2017, our Legislative Briefs Project works with key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Virginia Senate to provide short and timely background briefs on some of the many bills that attract minimal attention from lobbyists and organized interest groups but which make up a crucial portion of the Senate’s legislative work. The briefs compile information from the General Assembly’s Legislative Information Services, highlight any prior history of the legislation and provide links, if available, to relevant non-partisan research on the topic.
Founded in 1998 by former State Superintendent Dr. William C. Bosher, Jr., the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute (CEPI) is an ongoing program of the Office for Public Policy Outreach that focuses on education because of its linkages to other key policy areas including public safety, urban and regional planning and economic/workforce development. CEPI coordinates the development of education questions in the Public Policy Poll and publishes the results as the Commonwealth Education Poll, now in its 17th year. CEPI publishes Compass Point, a monthly electronic policy brief, and a weekly update on K-12 related legislation during the General Assembly sessions. Occasional policy conferences are also organized to bring state and local education policymakers together on key topics.
VCU faculty come from across the U.S. and around the world. Understanding the unique aspects of Virginia’s government (part-time legislators, bi-annual budgets, single-term governors) requires explanation at times. To help faculty understand how to effectively share the insights of their research with policymakers, our office and the Senate of Virginia host VCU faculty annually for a day-long seminar that offers an overview of state government. Legislative veterans discuss topics such as how a budget is created in Virginia and how a bill becomes a law, from the conceptual stage through final passage.
Along with key state agencies, we also cohost the Family Impact Seminar for Virginia, which is part of a national network that aims to strengthen family policy by presenting research knowledge through a family impact lens.