Fall 2023 - 60970 - PA 680PA - Policy Research Project


Policy Research Lab

Instructor: Steven Pedigo

Client: Various

Seats: 20

Ideal for: students interested public consulting, strategy development, real-world application.

Meets: Tuesday 2-5PM

Skills: No special skills required

Imagine yourself as a part of a consulting team taking on a real-world problem and developing actionable strategies and policies. If you have interest public consulting or strategy advising after LBJ, this is the class for you.

Typically, Policy Research Projects [PRP] at LBJ are faculty-driven, meaning that a faculty member selects the project, maintains the relationship with the client and oversees the project deliverable.

However, for my PRP class—Policy Research Lab—we will utilize a different model: student-driven PRPs. In short, you and your team [3 to 4 students – small teams] will be in the driver's seat for the year-long project.  During the first few weeks of the fall semester, six to eight vetted client organizations will pitch their project possibilities to our class. Your team will then select a client and research project, develop a proposal and research plan, manage client engagement, and deliver a first-class deliverable.

In our two semesters together, you will do the following:

  • Conduct research and analysis on a policy-relevant topic of your interest.
  • Utilize an array of research tactics and methods: interviews, focus groups, surveys [semi-structured/structured], case studies and best practices.
  • Develop a detailed project proposal and MOU, including a project understanding, discovery/research approach and work plan.
  • Manage client engagement [especially on a project that is ever-changing and evolving], including project updates, engagement sessions and deliverable feedback.
  • Master the principles of teamwork, including collective writing, task management, conflict management and team facilitation.
  • Develop external- and client-facing writing and oral communication skills, including completion of final policy report and presentation of draft and final products. 
  • Create an external communications strategy, including development of press releases, advocacy materials and social media content.
  • Learn how to remain flexible, creative, and professional under time and budget constraints.

During the 2023-2024 academic calendar, four LBJ student teams:

  • Collaborated with Austin Energy to craft policy framework for equitable DER (Distributed Energy Resources) technology adoption (attacking both climate and equity challenges)
  • Crafted a 5-year strategic plan to guide the deployment of the Austin Cultural Trust, a 2.4 million-dollar fund to support artists in Austin.
  • Evaluated the viability of a statewide pensions program and offered policy recommendations to the Texas Pensions Review Board.
  • Created a strategy to grow the Dallas Workforce Scholars Program, a city-wide workforce and apprenticeship in North Texas.
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