Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic header

Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic

The Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic is a first-of-its-kind program that immerses students in the policymaking process through both in-class instruction and hands-on engagement. It teaches students how to find policy solutions for social problems and then engages them in campaigns to advance those policies.

This one-year, two semester program includes (1) a fall semester seminar, where students study the policymaking process, including policy advocacy theories, the legislative process, administrative law, policy analysis process, campaign planning and political feasibility tests such as power-mapping; and (2) a spring semester policy advocacy project, where under the close supervision of the clinic professor, students work with external partners, whether lawmakers or advocates, to advance a public policy issue. Past clinic projects have included policy advocacy before the United Nations, Congress, and New Jersey Legislature.

Through readings, class discussions, fieldwork, research and writing, and policy partner interactions, students learn, in a non-partisan manner, how to move an issue through the policy cycle.

By the end of the year, students will have learned about the policymaking process, gained practical skillsets on how to advance public policy, and have an opportunity to apply these skills and knowledge to help advance an actual policy issue.

In the fall semester, students attend weekly seminar classes where they study a range of topics on the policymaking process, from theory to practice, including:

  • Introduction to public policy, including theories and frameworks of policy development and the policy cycle.
  • The legislative process and understanding the mechanics of the lawmaking powers of legislatures and the role of the executive.
  • Introduction to administrative law and the formal and informal rulemaking process.
  • Introduction to the role of social movements in advancing policy change, including reviewing examples from the right and left successfully setting a policy agenda and pushing for systemic change.
  • Review of the policy analysis process, including how to identify problems, develop potential policy solutions and evaluative criteria, and draw conclusions.
  • Campaign planning and development, including power-mapping as a feasibility analysis.
  • Tactics used to advance the policymaking process, including organizing models and the role of communications strategies, both old and new, to advance policy goals.
  • The limits of law and policy to drive social change, particularly when attempting to address systemic problems.
  • Advice on how to pursue a career in public policymaking and advocacy.

Throughout the seminar an emphasis is placed on the interaction of public policy with movements for social change, studying how movements on both the right and left have been able to influence policymaking. These discussions center issues of race, power and privilege to help understand the policymaking process and how an issue evolves from an idea to policy action.

Students continue their study through the spring semester, where they enroll in the field component of the Policy Advocacy Clinic and work on specific projects with outside partners, all under the close supervision of the clinic professor. Students are assigned partners who seek assistance on public policy matters on the international, federal, state or municipal/county levels. Partners may include nongovernmental organizations working to advance a particular public policy matter or local or federal lawmakers who need assistance with a specific policy goal.

Each year, students will work on different projects that are ripe for involvement. Specific projects may include:

  • Drafting policy analysis memos, which define and analyze a social problem, survey policy alternatives, apply evaluative criteria, and make policy recommendations.
  • Drafting legislation, rules, regulations, and executive orders for NGOs or policymakers.
  • Drafting public testimony, including for hearings before local, state, federal or international bodies, to support existing or future efforts.
  • Assisting in drafting campaign plans and engaging in power-mapping exercises.
  • Drafting and producing public education materials, such as reports, fact sheets, policy briefs, webinars and explanatory videos to support policy efforts.
  • Collecting and analyzing public opinion data, including producing original polling.
  • Creating legislative and communications advocacy tools, such as action alerts, talking points, social media toolkits, and more.
  • Organizing community meetings, public forums, briefing sessions and other events to advance the policy process.

Students will gain real-world experience through their field work, including by interacting with policymakers and their staff, attending hearings and coalition and community meetings, providing testimony, canvassing communities, engaging in media advocacy, meeting with lawmakers (in compliance with SPIA protocols) and more.

A 158-page report on the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on eight issue areas related to criminal justice matters, including felony disenfranchisement, solitary confinement, the death penalty, racial disparities in cash bail, facial recognition technology by law enforcement, police enforcement of drug laws, and more. The student report included 55 recommended questions for the United Nations Human Rights Committee to ask the United States and 46 policy recommendations for the UN to make to the US. The report was produced for the ACLU and a summary was jointly submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

A 140-page policy analysis memo for Congress Member Cori Bush evaluating eight issue areas related to juvenile justice and recommending concrete steps for the Congress Member to take on juvenile justice reform. Policy issues covered in the report included juvenile solitary confinement, juvenile life without parole sentences, police and disciplinary practices in schools, racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, and more.

A 101-page campaign advocacy plan on the issue of civilian oversight of police, including goals, strategies, tactics and assets to create strong and independent Civilian Complaint Review Boards in New Jersey. The campaign plan was developed following a power mapping session led by the students working with the ACLU of New Jersey and New Jersey Communities for Accountable Policing.

Students in front of the United Nations in Geneva

Policy Advocacy Clinic Team Formally Submits Report to U.N. Human Rights Committee

Two months after traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, to present before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (CCPR) regarding U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic team joined the American Civil Liberties Union in formally submitting their report on the matter to the Committee.
Students in Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic course

An Immersion in Policy Advocacy for SPIA Undergraduates

When the School of Public and International Affairs launched the Princeton Policy Advocacy Clinic last fall, nobody knew what to expect. The program, which was designed to teach undergraduates how to find policy solutions for social problems and then engage them in advocacy campaigns to advance those policies, was the first of its kind in higher education. If its inaugural year is any indication, SPIA has a smash hit on its hands.
Applications are open
The clinical experience connects the SPIA curriculum to pressing public policy matters while providing students with hands-on experience.