WHAT IS A POLICY PROJECT?
Policy Projects are year-long workgroups that bring together students with similar policy interests. Together, Policy Project members identify local issues, research policy solutions, and work toward implementing them. Through our four phases––education, service, outreach, and implementation––members take their policy ideas a step further and engage hands-on. Policy Projects teach students how to talk with stakeholders, educate others, perform direct service, write policy, and advocate for their solutions.
Issue areas can range from education to homelessness and criminal justice to healthcare policy. While the issue area may vary, the goal of policy projects remains the same: to craft a well-researched policy that is digestible for Athens's policymakers and can be published in the Arch Policy Journal.
Before developing solutions and promoting change, one must first understand the current efforts and complexities of an issue area. Policy Project members will engage in stakeholder conversations and research to better inform their policy proposals.
The purpose of service in policy projects is three-fold; it helps members interact with the population they are trying to serve, build connections with stakeholder organizations, and tangibly combat the issue at hand. Each policy project team will be responsible for engaging in service and/or creating service opportunities for Roosevelt members.
We help bridge the gap between UGA and the community through outreach. This means raising awareness, educating others, and making information about issue areas digestible and accessible. For policy projects, this phase can take many forms– whether it's writing blog posts, organizing discussions, creating an informational campaign, or hosting panels with area experts.
Implementation––the most difficult phase––is the ultimate goal of researching and crafting policy. In this phase, project members will identify the best contacts and appropriate processes for implementing their policy solution. Examples include emailing commissioners, attending city hall, discussing ideas with government agencies, or sending proposals to the mayor's office.
'22- '23 PROJECTS
The Homelessness Policy Project spent the first few months of October and November identifying a policy issue facing the homeless community in Athens. As homelessness is a multifaceted issue, the team spent weeks discussing and meeting with stakeholders like Athens-Clarke County Director of Elections Charlotte Sosbee; Athens-Clarke County Community Development coordinator Paisley Stewart; Ryan Hersch from Bigger Vision of Athens; and several county commissioners to identify an issue that most impacts the community. After much research and discussion, the team decided to focus its proposal on eliminating anti-homeless architecture in Athens. While the mayor and the commission addressed this issue in the city’s downtown (i.e. removing benches with mid-arm rests), the team identified neighborhoods in proximity to downtown Athens with infrastructure that prevent the homeless community from utilizing public spaces. Continuing with research and stakeholder outreach, they hope to begin drafting their policy proposal in December and prepare for a launch of a photovoice project for Spring 2023.
The Healthcare Policy Project has two goals for this year: increasing access to medical resources in Athens-Clarke County and moving patient education to the forefront of health treatment. After meeting with stakeholders, the healthcare team has identified a shortage of durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, canes, etc.) in the Athens-Clarke County area. They are currently researching policy solutions to help address this shortage. In the long-term, they are exploring methods to increase health awareness in the community and are also planning an event for uninsured/underinsured Athens-Clarke County residents to receive free medical and dental check-ups while also getting an opportunity to speak with nutritionists about their diets.
The Food Insecurity Policy Project spent weeks researching food insecurity in Athens, collecting information from community partners and academic sources. They chose to focus on transportation and the availability of fresh produce, as these issues have proven especially relevant in Athens-Clarke County. In addition to reviewing literature on food insecurity, the team met with community partners, including Campus Kitchen and Envision Athens, to discuss how they fight food insecurity through service and collaborative governance. Because of these interactions, the team has identified that Athens-Clarke County SNAP/WIC enrollment is suboptimal and that there is room for expansion within community gardens. They are currently finalizing their policy idea and drafting a policy proposal for the Arch Policy Journal.
This semester, the Education Policy Project attended town hall meetings, met with numerous stakeholders, and conducted extensive research on education inequities in Athens-Clarke County. Through collaboration with the District Attorney, the Clarke County School District Superintendent, CCSD School Board members, various non-profits, and teachers, they are pursuing a policy to address low literacy rates in Athens-Clarke County Schools and close the achievement gap that was exacerbated by COVID-19. They are in the process of narrowing their policy idea and drafting a policy proposal for the Arch Policy Journal.