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The Policy Innovation Lab offers students educational and hands-on experiences that develop the skills and understanding necessary to create policy that serves and responds to the needs of communities. The Lab participates in strategic partnerships with organizations and community members in Washington, D.C.’s Wards 7 & 8 that engage students in policy research, analysis, formulation, and advocacy. We do our work with an intentional focus on concerns of racial equity and social justice, respect for communities and our place in their ongoing work, integrity in fulfilling our commitments, and innovation in taking new approaches to policy problems.

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Vision, Mission and Values

Vision

We envision a world where every person’s needs are met and each individual has equal opportunity to learn, grow, and lead a fulfilling life.

Mission

The Policy Innovation Lab offers students educational and hands-on experiences that develop the skills and understanding necessary to create policy that serves and responds to the needs of communities. The Lab participates in strategic partnerships with organizations and community members in Washington, D.C.’s Wards 7 & 8 that engage students in policy research, analysis, formulation, and advocacy. We do our work with an intentional focus on concerns of racial equity and social justice, respect for communities and our place in their ongoing work, integrity in fulfilling our commitments, and innovation in taking new approaches to policy problems.

Values

Racial Equity
Racial Equity exists when a person’s future cannot be predicted by race. Structural and systemic racism are largely responsible for the concentration of poverty and related harms among black people in Wards 7 and 8. We are thoughtful, intentional, and explicit when considering the impacts of race and racism in the communities we serve.

Social Justice
We support equitable political, economic, and social structures that promote justice for each member of our society. It is essential to understand intersectionality between systems of power and privilege that result in different outcomes according to one’s distinct identities.

Respect for Communities
The residents of Wards 7 & 8 should determine the future of their respective communities. The Policy Innovation Lab is committed to learn from stakeholders through empathy and active listening. This commitment acknowledges the Lab’s unique composition of graduate students willing to challenge divisive structures.

Integrity
The Policy Innovation Lab is committed to transparency through the sharing of goals, processes, and limitations with student members and community partners. The Lab is flexible, willing to adjust its work and practices based on actively solicited feedback. Transparency and flexibility ensure accountability, sustainability, and responsiveness as the Lab evolves.

Humility
The Lab acknowledges its privilege, and positions community engagement at the center of its work. We are not experts, but we are committed to listening and learning from partners with direct experience and knowledge of the communities in Wards 7 and 8. We remain willing to critically engage with our beliefs, approaches, and goals — as well as the opinions, ideas, and information that we encounter as we move forward. The beliefs, approaches, and goals we hold are the result of critical engagement with stakeholders, and members commit to evaluating their preconceived opinions as the result of humble community engagement.

Innovation
Conventional approaches may not resolve complex issues, so the Lab focuses on finding new strategies, theoretical approaches, and practices to solve seemingly intractable problems. We do not promote ideas because they are novel or new, but focus on intentional approaches and policies that place people and their communities at the center of the policymaking process.

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Snapshot of the Policy Innovation Lab

Who are we and what do we do?
We are future policy leaders at the McCourt School engaging with community partners to tackle tough urban issues and policy challenges. To find out more about our work, you can read our 2018-2019 report.

What are our guiding principles?
We are working to advance social and economic justice through a racial equity lens. In that work we center our values of respect for communities, integrity, humility, and innovation.

Where do we work?
Our focus is on communities based in D.C.’s East End (Wards 7 & 8).

How do we shape our policy ideas?
The Lab uses traditional (qualitative and quantitative) and experiential (community engagement and listening) research methods.

What are our methods?
In order to innovate effective ideas and policy recommendations, we use human-centered design thinking to inform our work with community partners.

What makes us different?
Community engagement and listening as well as human-centered design thinking allow us to lead with empathy and put people at the center of policy.

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Human-Centered Design Thinking

Human-centered design is an iterative process using design approaches and tools that put the community’s needs in the center of solutions. It ensures that community member’s experiences drive innovation. The design thinking approach has been used across the country to tackle tough urban policy issues and challenges.

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Institutional & Community Partners

The Lab works with an ever growing set of institutional and community partners. Most importantly, The Lab aims to develop close ties with community-based organizations in Wards 7 and 8 as well as with residents and community leaders.
Some of the local non-profit partners that the Lab works with include DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the Federal City Council, the Urban Institute, Bread for the City and the Anacostia Waterfront Trust.

The Lab is also closely linked to other entities within the University, including the Baker Center for Leadership & Governance, the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, the Office of Community Engagement, and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation.

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Staff

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Staff

Margaret O’Bryon

Executive Director

Margaret O'Bryon

Rachel Grich

Co-Director

Rachel Grich

Emilia Calma

Co-Director

Emilia Calma