One Great Idea: The Public Policy Challenge
Developed and run by the Fels Institute of Government, the Penn Public Policy Challenge provides students with a collaborative, innovative, and pragmatic opportunity unlike any other. Participants apply both their skills and education in a hands-on competition geared towards the development of local projects with an immediate impact. University of Pennsylvania undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines are divided into three to five member teams and tackle a public policy issue in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Last year’s winners, Team Virtual Market Philly proposed a plan to make online grocery stores available in “food deserts.” Virtual Market Philly earned $5,000 for their well-crafted proposal. This year, not only have the stakes been doubled for the Penn competition, but the Challenge has expanded to the national level, where the winning Penn team will face teams from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago . After the teams finish the competition they are encouraged to follow through with their projects and turn them into reality. After all, these are the leaders who will take the reins of public policy in the future.
Each of this year’s five Penn finalists has an innovative perspective on projects that can improve the greater Philadelphia region and aid the implementation of effective and collaborative public policy. One team, with a project entitled “Empower!,” focuses on the creation of a Spanish language radio program that will inform parents of events and happenings in the area and provide them with the tools and knowledge necessary for more involved participation in their children’s education. Another team, called “Liberty Bike Share,” plans to create a bike share program in Philadelphia. A third team named “Closing Schools, Opening Opportunities”, proposes to counter the adverse economic and social effects of school closures by redeveloping nine vacant school properties into community centers. The last two finalists focus on aid access for high poverty neighborhoods. “Philly Benefits Bus,” advocates for a mobile center to increase accessibility of public benefits, and “Medical Home Model,” aims to improve the ambulatory healthcare services provided by the City of Philadelphia.
The most practical and personal program in public management in the Ivy League, the Fels Institute of Government embodies the core attributes of The Public Policy Challenge. By encouraging students to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in their academic studies to real world problems, the Challenge equips students with the tools to craft their vision for a greater city. As the Challenge continues follow these five incredible teams on their exciting journey to improve public policy throughout the Philadelphia region and the country.