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California Policy Research Initiative (CAPRI)

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The California Policy Research Initiative (CAPRI) at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) is intended to help state and local officials access policy-relevant research from Stanford, and help Stanford researchers ground their work in the California context.

California is the world’s fifth-largest economy and the source for ideas that shape our collective future. Continuing to nurture innovation requires adaptation, and institutions like SIEPR can help policymakers understand problems we face and how to address them. With technology changing how society operates, the COVID pandemic fueling inequality and climate change threatening our environment, sustainability will require all our efforts — including a close examination of how economic policies shape these issues.

Under the direction of Faculty Director Bruce Cain and Managing Director Preeti Hehmeyer, CAPRI’s will produce California-specific policy briefs for lawmakers and government officials, introduce Stanford researchers to the budget and administrative context in which policymakers operate, and explore ways to grow connections between policymakers and Stanford researchers.

Immediate Goals

  1. Produce four policy briefs directed at California-specific issues (such as unemployment insurance funding or Prop. 13 impacts on fiscal sustainability.
  2. Pilot a training program for Stanford researchers on the budget and administrative perspective of policymakers.
  3. Explore existing training programs for state and local public servants, and identify gaps the CAPRI could potentially fill.

Future Goals

Deepen research connections with state and local government

During the past 10 years, there has been a revolution in how the private sector uses data in decision-making. Very few government entities have the knowledge to adapt to this new world, especially given budget cuts following the 2009 financial crisis. The current wave of retirements in civil service could be an opportunity to revamp processes, including instituting new monitoring and assessment functions. Stanford researchers can partner with state government agencies to create, analyze, and measure the effectiveness of new systems.

Implement a training program for public servants on evidence-based policymaking processes

Unless data and analysis are integrated into decision-making processes, research partnerships will have limited impact. There can be a timing mismatch between political processes – where tradeoffs coalesce during negotiations lasting hours – and research processes that can stretch over years. The only way to meet the needs of policymakers is to anticipate potential issues and answer them in advance. This requires a constant feedback loop between policymakers and researchers. Public servants need support in defining questions far in advance, making choices under uncertainty, and building in opportunities for future analysis and updates as more data becomes available. Ideally, the training would be offered at least annually to state and local government officials and civil servants.

Expand opportunities for Stanford students to explore careers in public service in California

CAPRI has potential to create more opportunities for Stanford students to participate in research projects under faculty sponsors during summers or semesters in Sacramento, or to intern with policymakers who have taken evidence-based policymaking training.