Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Student projects benefit LIFT Dane, Movin' Out

Student projects benefit LIFT Dane, Movin' Out

La Follette School students collaborated with two community groups – Movin’ Out and Legal Interventions for Transforming (LIFT) Dane – as part of their culminating Workshop in Public Affairs (PA 869) projects during the Spring 2020 semester.

LIFT Dane, which received $1.1 million through DreamUp Wisconsin, sought the students’ assistance with its development of a mobile application (app) to assist emerging middle-class households with civil legal barriers, particularly in the reinstatement of suspended driver’s licenses. The students provided a preliminary implementation analysis of the app and recommended tools for assessing and improving the app’s performance.

“Because LIFT Dane’s model is centered on collaboration among several partners, we explore the frame of collective impact, which provides a model for involving multiple partners to create social change,” the report said. “We recommend LIFT Dane utilize the collective impact framework for organizing the work among its partners by continuing to develop the Economic Justice Institute as the backbone organization and developing a common agenda for policy change among the partners.”

Allison Couture, Fiona Montie, Diana Pavon, Eleanor Pratt, Maureen Purcell, and Michael Wieczorek conducted the research and analysis for LIFT Dane, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and the Employment and Training Association of Dane County.

La Follette School alumni Sarah Davis (MPA, JD ’02) of the Center for Patient Partnerships and Hilary Shager (MPA ’05, PhD ’12) of the Institute for Research on Poverty guided the students’ work. Professor Tim Smeeding served as the students’ advisor.

Another group of students collaborated with Movin’ Out, which requested a study on the social and economic benefits of affordable housing developments, particularly those that house people with disabilities. The students conducted an analysis of administrative data as well as interviews and other research, and they investigated the barriers facing affordable housing developers and people with people with disabilities in the housing market.

After completing their research and analysis, the students offered five policy recommendations: permit more multifamily buildings to be considered by-right developments, eliminate single-family zoning, ease expensive parking requirements, develop a statewide affordable housing rust, and make Wisconsin’s Open Housing Law substantially equivalent to federal Fair Housing laws.

“This analysis suggests the construction of affordable housing is associated with broad benefits that yield hundreds of jobs, generate millions of dollars in economic activity, and improve life outcomes for Movin’ Out’s tenants,” the report said. “Movin’ Out is well-positioned to lead efforts to change policies in Wisconsin that promote the construction of more accessible, affordable housing.”

The report also includes best practices for community engagement and an advocacy agenda for state and local policy.

Michael Caniglia, Amy Fottrell, Will Henkes, Benjamin Olneck-Brown, and Sarah Osborn collaborated with Movin’ Out, with Professor J. Michael Collins as their advisor.

The required Workshop in Public Affairs course matches student groups with public, nonprofit, and private organizations to address real-world challenges. While completing these client-based projects, students gain practical experience applying the tools of political, economic, and statistical analysis and evaluation they acquired during three semesters of coursework.

Students work interactively with the client to develop the project and final report over the course of the spring semester. These projects are the equivalent of the thesis for a master’s degree from the La Follette School of Public Affairs.