First, we want to highlight CAPE summer academy attendee Sarah James, who won the Leonard D. White Award for the best dissertation in the field of public administration. The title of James’ dissertation is: “When is Hindsight 20/20?The Politics of Failed Social Policies.” James asks: what happens when a new state policy fails to accomplish its goals, or perhaps, more concerningly, exacerbates the very problems the policymakers claimed to be solving? Her dissertation examines this darker side of the push for devolution and state-level policy experimentation: failure. The dissertation moves beyond typical explanations—namely partisan politics—for the recognition and revision of policy failures. Instead, James shows the power of policy design and a state’s array of public and private institutions to impact what people learn and how they respond to the realities of state policy outcomes. Furthermore, the dissertation outlines how a state’s policy and institutional landscape can empower diffusely organized and disadvantaged policy advocates to overcome the political power of those benefitting from a policy’s failure. Understanding the institutional designs that encourage policy learning and responsiveness to real policy outcomes offers an opportunity to proactively incorporate these features into future institutions, regardless of the political and economic incentives motivating the original policies. These findings bolster the renewed calls from activists and scholars of racial and economic inequality to focus on policy design and systems as the key lever for addressing systemic inequality.
In addition, Margaret Weir, who has twice taught at the CAPE summer academy, won the Daniel Elazar Distinguished Federalism Scholar Award. And last, but certainly not least, The Divided Welfare State, written by our own Jacob Hacker, has won the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award, given by the APSA Public Policy Section to recognize a book that has made a lasting contribution to the study of public policy.
Congratulations to all!