Who We Are
Hi! We’re the Western Massachusetts Policy Center (WMPC). We’re a grassroots, antiracist think tank that educates, trains and resources public policy designed by and for historically excluded people and communities in our region.
Instead of perpetuating problems or pitting people against each other for political gain or greed, we use a transparent, collaborative and holistic approach to solve problems at their root.
To strike directly at the heart of minority rule by amplifying the knowledge, expertise and experiences of those who have been historically or routinely excluded from access, power and authority in public policymaking.
WMPC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501c(3), tax exempt organization. As such, we are funded by the generous support of a wide range of community members, other nonprofits and well-aligned foundations.
WMPC’s mascot is the hooded peregrine falcon. Anyone who’s spent time in our region has probably seen one diving over the airspace of an open field or relaxing in a nest on one of the area’s falcon cams.
Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, reaching dive speeds of over 200 mph. But they’re also known for their impressive hunting skill, superior trainability, agility and versatility.
In falconry, juvenile birds are hooded to drown out all unnecessary sensory distraction as they learn to hunt–including the presence of the trainer herself.
Until recently, peregrine falcons were considered endangered in Massachusetts, but thanks to specific efforts to save them, their numbers are increasing both here and across the country.
Like our mascot, WMPC scholars are trained to be versatile, agile, and to cut past the distractions of politics to create targeted and uniquely effective public policy. Our business model is designed as a specific intervention to infuse the policy system with more of their number and unique abilities. We believe this is the best way to guarantee the ecosystem’s continued existence, integrity and financial sustainability.
Public policy works best when it’s made by those who have experience navigating the broken systems they aim to change. This design opens up policymaking and introduces long overdue accountability for its successes and failures.
We also believe in the radical idea that investing the bulk of our resources to develop and position a more representative, diverse, capable bench of future policy professionals is a superior strategy to the top-heavy, wasteful, laurel resting of the traditional approach.
Accordingly, WMPC inverts the traditional think tank model to resource, train, develop, build networks and provide career support to early-to-mid career, nontraditional policy scholars–instead of those already at the top of their fields and nearing the ends of their careers.
We seek to:
1. Expand the definition of policy expertise to include lived and practical experience with the policies or systems in question.
2. Work to infuse the system–at every level, as quickly as possible–with a wide range of diversity, especially Black and brown policy professionals. Then use our platform, relationships and reach to amplify these voices and place them in positions of decision-making authority more quickly.
3. Democratize the policy space and create a model of meaningful DEI investment by using the bulk of donor gifts to directly and generously resource early-career policy scholars from historically or routinely excluded backgrounds, including those community activists or legislative hopefuls who would benefit from policy training but do not have formal education.
4. Expand compensated access to combined academic and vocational training that’s designed specifically to better prepare the next generation of policy scholars, make them more responsive to community needs, and more competitive and capable candidates on the job market.
5. Prioritize partnering with and paying Western Massachusetts-based BIPOC owned and led vendors. When this is not possible, we commit to prioritize white-owned and led businesses that are committed to and making strides toward antiracist operations.
6. Create policy ‘from the ground up’ by engaging directly with any and all interested community members; using their feedback to drive our strategies and priorities, instead of the contrivances of wealthy corporate donors and other special interests.
7. Create a multi-pronged sustainable funding model that acts with integrity and allows our scholars the independence to create novel policy approaches that solve problems rather than contributing to them.
8. Build and maintain a robust professional network of colleagues, trainers, mentors and sponsors who represent the identities and experiences of our fellows and will guarantee them ongoing professional development, help them ascend the ranks of policymaking faster, and make sure they are safe and don’t have to fight to be heard and respected.
9. Partner and/or work with a wide range of other professionals, policy organization, academic institutions, direct service providers, legislators and media organizations to better translate sound policy solutions toward historically and routinely excluded audiences, augment their programmatic capacity and amplify their work; incorporate community-designed best practices into our policy solutions; and achieve greater impact for all residents of Western Mass on Beacon Hill.
Who We Serve
We serve all citizens of the four counties of Western Massachusetts, but our particular focus is public policy for people and groups who have been historically or routinely excluded from power and influence.
We also serve historically and routinely excluded or nontraditional early-career policy scholars, other nonprofits and advocacy groups seeking policy-focused, DEI-centered research and professional development training.
How We Measure Impact
Ultimately, we know we’re successful when we put ourselves out of business however unlikely that is to happen.
Working with and for people requires a mix of data (quantitative) and experiences (qualitative). Likewise, we measure impact with a mix of those measures.
Demonstrating the results of DEI investment broadly speaking or programmatic policy intervention at the federal level is notoriously inexact. One of the most promising parts of a regional model of think tank and vocational training school is that it can get past that problem.
Because our policies and interventions are informed directly by the people they affect and on a smaller, more local scale, we’re able to measure their successes or failures via a process of continuous data & feedback collection, community engagement and observation.
We don’t work for box-checking policy victories meant to benefit us. We build deeply organic, collaborative and meaningfully reciprocal relationships with real people and work together to make policy that benefits them.
And since we tackle root problems, we know we’ve succeeded when diseased roots are exposed and removed, and healthy, new ones are thriving in their place.
Likewise, the policy school will turn out numbers of historically excluded policy analysts that will then join the ranks of existing organizations, with the goal of getting them closer to saturation. But our corresponding ongoing commitment to career sponsorship and support will allow us to track hiring rates and salary levels after fellowship completion, as well as length of time to leadership promotion and quality of experience in job.
In this way, we organically collect the kind of quantitative and qualitative proof of real impact and return on investment that traditional organizations struggle to provide.
Ultimately, we expect our pipeline of scholars to become so effective and competitive on the open market that Western Massachusetts will quickly become a destination for vocational policy training that better prepares them for the actual job than traditional academic programs and exclusive internships can.
We also hope this model of think tank, which reduces political influence and places problem solving in the hands of those affected, will serve as a scalable model to protect the future sustainability and credibility of think tanks. It also engages historically and routinely excluded people in policymaking that advances their interests, secures their needs and gives them access to real power.
Bottom line: Our victories occur when the privileges of a few become the rights of everyone.
Why Western Mass?
When people imagine think tanks and public policy prestige, they automatically think of D.C. This is fair since the nation’s capital has the highest concentration of these organizations in the country–and the seat of federal power is there. In light of this, people often ask: why Western Mass?
The first answer to that question is easy: because it’s our home and we want to see it thrive. From the people to the scenery, to the history and culture, to the slower pace of life, there is so much to love and preserve in this region of the country.
But Western Massachusetts is actually a perfect location for this kind of ambitious project. It’s unique in its demographics, as the four counties range from deeply rural farming and land-based, blue-collar cultures in Franklin and Berkshire counties, to dense populations of highly educated intellectuals and finance and healthcare professionals in Hampshire and Hampden. Such diversity makes us a microcosm of the challenges that face the great divide in America today.
Massachusetts’s unique politics (a solidly liberal legislature, often balanced by a moderately conservative executive who enjoys broad popularity) also create a perfect proving ground to collaborate to find compromise on many of the major issues that face the larger nation. Meanwhile, the proximity afforded by a smaller sphere of influence allows us to measure and demonstrate impact more directly–and through a wider variety of community engagement mechanisms, like storytelling.
Not only that, there is a longstanding and well-established gap between the influence and resourcing levels enjoyed by the Eastern part of the state and us here out West. Our legislators often lament their inability to gain traction on issues that are unique to the everyday people in this less-populated, less-resourced area of the state.
Having sound, objective policy advice created from the ground up, by a more diverse and representative group of people, as well as an aggregator and packager of interdisciplinary best practices will help them tremendously to advocate for us and secure additional resources on our behalf.
We’re also fortunate because the concentration of colleges, universities, and technical and trade schools throughout the region give us direct access to subject matter experts, mentors, research and the students who will populate our first cohorts.
Relative to DC or Boston, the lower cost of living allows more of our funding to go directly toward scholar/fellow/staff benefits, and allows our people a less stressful, better quality of life while they’re here. This frees them to focus on building their portfolios and learning the landscape, rather than worrying about housing insecurity or exorbitant transportation costs.
Finally, the beauty and diversity of the natural and cultural environment offers myriad opportunities for recreation, nightlife and team building activities. This increases the value of the fellowship experience and helps our cohorts build camaraderie that will keep them tightly networked throughout their careers. This encourages future success for them & strong alumni participation for us.
Join Our Team
We are actively recruiting additional board and advisory committee members at this time.
If you’re interested, we’d love to hear from you.