Evidence for Policy: A Fellowship for Local Government Staff

A one-year program for teams from California cities and counties

The Stanford Impact Labs Evidence for Policy Fellowship is a one-year program developed to support the professional development and policy goals of career staff on teams in local governments in California as they seek to bring data, evidence, and research to bear in the design and implementation of a policy priority. A chosen priority might be a new policy or program; a new strategy; or a change in the allocation of resources that addresses a well-defined social problem in the community.

Fellows receive professional training, dedicated staff support, and a grant to support a concerted push on using evidence to drive this policy change in their communities. The fellowship will also build reciprocal relationships between local government practitioners and Stanford students, faculty, and staff. In the program’s first year, we will select a cohort of up to 10 Fellows focused on policy priorities related to economic opportunity or social mobility. 

Local government

Program Overview 

Participants engage in cohort workshops, one-to-one support, and peer-learning opportunities to build the process, infrastructure, and evidence required to move policy priorities from idea to implementation. Fellows gather as a cohort to dive into academic insights, share perspectives, and deepen their understanding of the specific problem they face in their community. They develop frameworks for applying research in their contexts, set goals, solidify their own approach to using data and evidence, and develop a plan to identify, test, and implement approaches that address their policy priorities. After the fellowship, alumni may continue to engage with Stanford Impact Labs (SIL) on an as-needed basis as implementation of their projects continues.

SIL grants $50,000 to each participating government agency, which may be spent flexibly during the one-year fellowship period for staff time and costs associated with moving a policy challenge from question to insight to implementation. During the Fellowship year, SIL staff arrange talks and broker conversations between Fellows, faculty, and graduate researchers who have expertise in economic opportunity or social mobility. SIL also provides one-to-one technical assistance and support on a monthly basis as Fellows execute on their plans.

Throughout the fellowship, SIL will staff look for opportunities to connect Fellows on the front lines of policy change with Stanford faculty and students to (1) foster meaningful relationships that support Fellows in their work, drawing on what university-based research has to offer, and (2) deepen scholars' understanding of how economic opportunity or social mobility are experienced and addressed in local communities.

Building relationships at the local government level may provide a chance for faculty and students to engage concretely with problems in ways that may inform their existing research, and open up new areas for further research and understanding. SIL staff will also continue to identify opportunities to engage faculty and students in the Fellows’ work as advisors, consultants, and/or formal partners.

Why Local Government?

Local governments play a central role in providing quality health services and public education, ensuring security, mitigating the effects of climate change, and spurring economic development. They can also be a key vehicle for identifying and testing solutions by developing best practices locally and sharing what works. When their programs and services are designed intentionally to be equitable, based in evidence, and responsive to community needs, they have the opportunity to be the first line of response to social problems, and improve the conditions of people’s lives. 

Yet, local governments face challenges in marshaling sufficient financial and human resources to use research and evidence for impact. With academic insights behind paywalls, and support and technical assistance flowing to the same few major cities, smaller cities and counties are left to develop their own capacity as learning institutions. The time is ripe to build deliberate pathways to enable all local governments to design, implement, and test solutions to social problems. 

What Does Success Mean?

We expect that the Fellowship will help accelerate the solutions-finding capacity in local government, both by aligning research and resources with local government needs, and by enabling government staff to lead in the design, testing, and implementation of approaches to challenging social problems. We anticipate that Fellows will apply the skills learned during the award period to other policy challenges they may face. Finally, in the most successful cases, we will see local governments moving the needle to advance economic opportunity or social mobility in their communities.  

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Amanda Graor

Chief Innovation Officer and Deputy Director of Research Services, Mid-America Regional Council

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Michelle Skoor

Founder, MWS Consulting

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Alex Andrade

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Director of Economic Development, City of Milpitas

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Robbie Bergstrom

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Senior Administrative Analyst - Economic Development, Tuolumne County

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Ben Goger

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Senior Planner - Community Development, Mariposa County

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Adam Gufarotti

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Community Support Manager, City of Lake Elsinore

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Brigiett Guzman

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Fiscal and Policy Analyst II, Kern County

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Katie Simmons

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Deputy Administrative Officer-Economic and Community Development, Butte County

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Qiuana Williams

2023-2024 Evidence for Policy Fellow | Economic Development Manager, City of Inglewood