Fels Institute of Government Hosts Final Round of Penn Public Policy Challenge

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Media Contact:Jacquie Posey | jposey@upenn.edu | 215-898-6460February 25, 2014

On March 2, five teams of University of Pennsylvania students with new public policy ideas for Philadelphia will compete in the final round of competition in the Fels Institute of Government’s annual Penn Public Policy Challenge. The winning team will receive a $5,000 grand prize and move on to the National Invitational Public Policy Challenge.

“Now in its fifth year, the Public Policy Challenge continues to provide a forum for students to develop high-quality, actionable policy ideas,” said David Thornburgh, Fels Institute executive director. “We ask students not only to generate a theoretically good idea that would have a positive impact on our city. The judges want to know, who will fund it? Who will support this? How can you make it happen?”

The teams will pitch their policy proposals to a panel of judges at Van Pelt Library at 3420 Walnut St. from 1:00-4:30 p.m. The winning team will be announced at 4:30 p.m. with a one-hour reception to follow. Individuals interested in attending can RSVP online at https://www.fels.upenn.edu/webform/public-policy-challenge-penn-finals or by email: thechallenge@sas.upenn.edu.

This year’s edition of the University-wide competition drew more than 40 students, representing seven of Penn’s 12 schools. The semi-final round in January winnowed the field of teams from 10 to the five finalists. In addition to the grand prize, two runners-up will receive $1,000 each to advance their proposals.

“In the lead-up to the final round, participants have been meeting with key stakeholders in the field to figure out how to strengthen their policy proposals,” said Elizabeth Tatum, Public Policy Challenge executive director. “The presentations students give at the finals represent many, many hours of collaboration, research, and preparation. The students are really passionate about their projects.”

The finalists are:

  • ARC, Algorithmic Care, with a proposal to improve the poor health conditions of high-cost Medicaid patients.
  • BetterBAIL, with a proposal to establish an online bail payment system for the Philadelphia prison system.
  • Fill Up Philly, with a proposal to utilize mobile recreation centers in high-need areas to increase participation in the federally funded summer meals program for children.
  • iCAN, with a proposal to increase college access for low-income students through mentorship and targeted communications during the summer between high school graduation and the first year of college. 
  • Philadelphia MVP, with a proposal to create an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy intervention program for at-risk youth.

Each team’s full proposal is available at https://www.fels.upenn.edu/penn-public-policy-challenge

The panel of judges includes Pennsylvania State representatives Dwight Evans and Madeleine Dean; Rich Negrin, Philadelphia managing director and deputy mayor for administration and coordination; Feather Houstoun, a member of the School Reform Commission; Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Philadelphia program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Mark Alan Hughes, a professor of practice, city and regional planning at the Penn School of Design.

“We are thankful for the participation of all the judges,” Tatum said. “Their insight, experience and pulse on Philadelphia’s policy issues are invaluable in the process of evaluating and advancing the teams’ proposals.”

The winner will advance to the National Invitational Public Policy Challenge on March 23 at the National Constitution Center and will compete with teams from 11 other top-tier public policy and public administration schools from across the country. This year’s field will include participants from Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, New York University, Princeton University, University of Chicago, University of Georgia, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern California and the University of Washington.

Details are available at www.fels.upenn.edu/penn-public-policy-challenge.