Rachel Swaner

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration

Rachel Swaner

Rachel Swaner is the Deputy Research Director at the Center for Court Innovation. She is currently the principal investigator on an evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Minority Youth Violence Prevention program; PI on a mixed-methods study of police legitimacy and the criminal justice system in Newark, NJ and Cleveland, OH; co-PI on an exploratory study of sex work and human trafficking in NYC; and co-PI on a study of gun carrying among NY youth. She recently led the evaluation of the Defending Childhood Initiative, a federal initiative to address children's exposure to violence in six cities and on two tribal reservations; was the project director of a study on youth who trade sex; and was co-PI of an evaluation of a public health approach to reducing gun violence in New York State. She was previously a researcher and evaluator at Harlem Children's Zone. She is on the advisory board for the Participatory Budgeting Project. Rachel received her PhD in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center, and her Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Administration from New York University, and has been teaching at Wagner since 2007.

This course serves as an introduction to those evaluation tools most commonly used to assess the performance of publicly funded programs, in both the public and private sector. Topics include developing and assessing program theory, implementation and process assessment, methods of impact evaluation, and efficiency analysis (cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis). The focus is on critical analysis and understanding of both the underlying programs and their evaluations.

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This course serves as an introduction to those evaluation tools most commonly used to assess the performance of publicly funded programs, in both the public and private sector. Topics include developing and assessing program theory, implementation and process assessment, methods of impact evaluation, and efficiency analysis (cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis). The focus is on critical analysis and understanding of both the underlying programs and their evaluations.

Download Syllabus

Though the policy-making process is complex, with a host of actors and competing interests, public policy is traditionally shaped by elected officials, administrative agencies and organized interest groups. There are many avenues for policies to be informed by the lived experience of members of low-income and marginalized communities, however, their participation is often hidden and/or undervalued. Public servants and policy-makers can provide proactive opportunities for communities to assert their own priorities and rights through mechanisms like public planning processes or participatory budgeting. Similarly, marginalized communities can self-organize and even form common cause with broader interests to create more just public policies.

In this course, we will examine the essential concepts of power – what it is, how it is used, how groups and communities can expand and strengthen their political power, and how public officials can share theirs.  We will explore strategies for initiating participatory policymaking from above (e.g., government/ policymakers initiating participatory approaches to decision-making, the opening of previously hidden datasets to the public) and below (e.g., grassroots communities mobilizing to influence policy), and the democratic tradition of challenging traditional power structures.  Case studies will include a landmark set of laws passed in 2013 in New York City to advance oversight of the Police Department, the global expansion of Participatory Budgeting, grassroots campaigns to improve public transit, and the effect of "open data" laws on policy formation. Students will learn about the mechanisms often used to advance community-driven efforts such as public planning processes, public hearings, meeting with elected officials, public information campaigns, and mass mobilizations.

Download Syllabus

This course serves as an introduction to those evaluation tools most commonly used to assess the performance of publicly funded programs, in both the public and private sector. Topics include developing and assessing program theory, implementation and process assessment, methods of impact evaluation, and efficiency analysis (cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis). The focus is on critical analysis and understanding of both the underlying programs and their evaluations.

Download Syllabus

Though the policy-making process is complex, with a host of actors and competing interests, public policy is traditionally shaped by elected officials, administrative agencies and organized interest groups. There are many avenues for policies to be informed by the lived experience of members of low-income and marginalized communities, however, their participation is often hidden and/or undervalued. Public servants and policy-makers can provide proactive opportunities for communities to assert their own priorities and rights through mechanisms like public planning processes or participatory budgeting. Similarly, marginalized communities can self-organize and even form common cause with broader interests to create more just public policies.

In this course, we will examine the essential concepts of power – what it is, how it is used, how groups and communities can expand and strengthen their political power, and how public officials can share theirs.  We will explore strategies for initiating participatory policymaking from above (e.g., government/ policymakers initiating participatory approaches to decision-making, the opening of previously hidden datasets to the public) and below (e.g., grassroots communities mobilizing to influence policy), and the democratic tradition of challenging traditional power structures.  Case studies will include a landmark set of laws passed in 2013 in New York City to advance oversight of the Police Department, the global expansion of Participatory Budgeting, grassroots campaigns to improve public transit, and the effect of "open data" laws on policy formation. Students will learn about the mechanisms often used to advance community-driven efforts such as public planning processes, public hearings, meeting with elected officials, public information campaigns, and mass mobilizations.

Download Syllabus

This course serves as an introduction to those evaluation tools most commonly used to assess the performance of publicly funded programs, in both the public and private sector. Topics include developing and assessing program theory, implementation and process assessment, methods of impact evaluation, and efficiency analysis (cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis). The focus is on critical analysis and understanding of both the underlying programs and their evaluations.

Download Syllabus

This course examines the nature and extent of poverty primarily in the U.S. but with a comparative perspective (developed countries in Europe). To start, this course will focus on how poverty is defined and measured. It will proceed to explore how conceptions of poverty are socially constructed and historically bounded; examine what the causes and consequences of poverty are and discuss how these are complex and interwoven; and show how people can experience poverty at different points in their life course—some groups experiencing poverty more so than others. This course will discuss the role of labor markets, family structure and social organization in shaping poverty. And finally, it will explore how social policies seek to ameliorate poverty and other forms of social disadvantage throughout the life course. But when thinking about how ‘successful’ social policies are at alleviating poverty, this course will demonstrate that ‘success’ is actually influenced by the conceptions of poverty adopted by policymakers in the first place.

Download Syllabus

This course serves as an introduction to those evaluation tools most commonly used to assess the performance of publicly funded programs, in both the public and private sector. Topics include developing and assessing program theory, implementation and process assessment, methods of impact evaluation, and efficiency analysis (cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis). The focus is on critical analysis and understanding of both the underlying programs and their evaluations.

Download Syllabus

Though the policy-making process is complex, with a host of actors and competing interests, public policy is traditionally shaped by elected officials, administrative agencies and organized interest groups. There are many avenues for policies to be informed by the lived experience of members of low-income and marginalized communities, however, their participation is often hidden and/or undervalued. Public servants and policy-makers can provide proactive opportunities for communities to assert their own priorities and rights through mechanisms like public planning processes or participatory budgeting. Similarly, marginalized communities can self-organize and even form common cause with broader interests to create more just public policies.

In this course, we will examine the essential concepts of power – what it is, how it is used, how groups and communities can expand and strengthen their political power, and how public officials can share theirs.  We will explore strategies for initiating participatory policymaking from above (e.g., government/ policymakers initiating participatory approaches to decision-making, the opening of previously hidden datasets to the public) and below (e.g., grassroots communities mobilizing to influence policy), and the democratic tradition of challenging traditional power structures.  Case studies will include a landmark set of laws passed in 2013 in New York City to advance oversight of the Police Department, the global expansion of Participatory Budgeting, grassroots campaigns to improve public transit, and the effect of "open data" laws on policy formation. Students will learn about the mechanisms often used to advance community-driven efforts such as public planning processes, public hearings, meeting with elected officials, public information campaigns, and mass mobilizations.

Download Syllabus