The Fels Public Policy Challenge is a policy competition open to students of all schools. After an intriguing presentation by one of our classmates about why she intended to enter (thanks, Marisa!) a few of my classmates and I decided to form a team and throw our hats in the ring. I, at least, was a little concerned that we would be at a disadvantage because we were all from the same school; diversity of perspective can sometimes be a great thing. However, our common interest in social justice and concurrent training in public policy formation turned out to be the best asset of all.
The Challenge demands that you draw up a detailed policy proposal on something new your team thinks should be in place in Philadelphia. This proposal has to include a campaign plan, preliminary budget, assessment of political and structural barriers and sources of support, and funding streams. Of course, we needed to make a strong case for the proposal itself and think through a detailed implementation plan. MSSP classes had taught us about stakeholder analysis (figuring out who's for and against you), writing policy briefs, and various aspects of program evaluation that frankly I think gave us a great edge in the competition: very little of what we were asked to do was new or unfamiliar, and some of it we had already done before. By the time the semi-finals rolled around, we were completely prepared-- overprepared-- for all of the questions the judges lobbed at us. We had spent a lot of time consulting stakeholders and thinking around the proposal, identifying potential roadblocks and brainstorming solutions. I wasn't at all surprised that we made it into the final round.
As the finals approach, I can't help but reflect on how great of an experience entering the Challenge has been. I told my team the other day that this has been the best group project I've ever done-- and I'm not one for group-work, generally. The opportunity to practice and apply some of the skills we learn in classes in a serious and competitive atmosphere has brought out the best in all of us, given us confidence in our competence, and helped to solidify our sense that we are well-positioned to be assets to our future employers. Winning the $10K prize would just be the icing on the cake.
Then again, who am I kidding. I really want that $10K.
By: Janna Frieman, MSSP class 2012