NYU Wagner Alumni Launch New Public Policy Wiki – PolicyAtlas

PolicyAtlas

In the U.S. alone, there are 90,056 distinct governmental entities. But nowhere on the Internet can a policy maker find information on how a policy solution has worked for jurisdictions beyond his or her own.

Enter Kevin Hansen, Matthew Lisiecki, and Neil Reilly, recent graduates of NYU Wagner.

The three, who received their Master of Public Administration degrees in 2013, initiated a soft launch in early 2016 of PolicyAtlas. The first of its kind, the website is a nonpartisan, wiki encyclopedia that crowdsources details on policies for — and from — government managers, office holders, candidates, students, researchers, and advocates.

The goal of PolicyAtlas, they explain, is to improve the information on public policies available to all levels of government policymakers. The website will encourage the design and adoption of superior public policies, and ultimately improve the lives of those governed. If met with sufficient adoption, its creators envision it will become one of the world’s most useful and widely accessible references on public policy.

 “In the policymaking arena, there is a great need for an objective, trusted source of ideas—and how well they’re working—that can be used by the myriad policymakers around the world who are all struggling to solve common societal problems.”
– Kevin Hansen (MPA 2013)

“There is tremendous, untapped potential for governments to harness each other’s policy ideas and systematically learn from successes and failures everywhere,” the PolicyAtlas mission statement asserts. “Yet this does not effectively happen, to the detriment of society.”

Mr. Hansen (MPA 2013) is the Vice President for Strategy, Operations and Policy at Empire State Development, an arm of the New York State government. Mr. Reilly (MPA 2013) is Senior Policy Analyst with the Citizens Housing and Planning Council; and Mr. Lisiecki (MPA 2013) is Senior Methods Manager at Evidence in Governance and Politics. Their experiences in each role have shaped the design of PolicyAtlas, which they continue to develop in their personal time, and unaffiliated with their professional work.

Their project was inspired not only by their careers in public service, but also by Professor Beth Simone Noveck, Co-founder and Director of The GovLab, and her popular class on the future of transparency and civic engagement, Gov 3.0.

As they look ahead, they are seeking to add instructors of master-level public policy courses who participate in their Student Learning Module to their ranks.

When partnering with instructors, PolicyAtlas prepares all assignment materials, hosts the assignment online, and even offers feedback directly to students. With the aid of this infrastructure, professors assign students to produce a well-researched website entry about a policy solution. In formulating their entry, the students will address questions such as: “What is the policy?”; “What are the tradeoffs?”; “Who are its supporters and opponents?”; and “What does research say about how and when the policy is effective?”

Policy Atlas Logo

Over time, PolicyAtlas will grow to be an organized gateway through which public policymakers will be able to identify policy solutions that meet their objectives, and find links to more information. The wiki has been organized by public policy area (e.g., "Education policy") as well as objectives within that policy area (e.g., "Policies to increase student attendance rates.”) Example policy pages include “Driverless car allowances” and “Criminal background check restrictions.” Initial categories of policy slated for further development include: Criminal Justice; Education; Governance; Health; Public Finance; and Transportation. More categories will come.

 “In the policymaking arena, there is a great need for an objective, trusted source of ideas—and how well they’re working—that can be used by the myriad policymakers around the world who are all struggling to solve common societal problems,” sums up Mr. Hansen.

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Interested instructors and students of master-level courses in public policy can contact and follow PolicyAtlas via TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Email.