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  • 00:11

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: So, as you guys know,I have been asked to do some analysis on increasingdiversity in STEM fields.And based on the work that you guys do,it seems like you'd be a good fit to kind of brainstorm,you know, is this a good policy to pursue?Is there interest in this in Illinois?So I'd really like to have from your perspectivethroughout the communities in Illinois.

  • 00:32

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: Where are other places we could be connecting with people?And working actively on getting these studentsinto the pipeline, and keeping them in the pipeline.

  • 00:39

    SPEAKER 1: Right.

  • 00:40

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: I'm Meegan Dugan Bassett,and I am the managing partner of Dugan Bassett Consulting.As a consultant, what I'm doing from a policy researchperspective, depending on the client,is often identifying what is the issuethat they want to work on.Framing those research questions and developing that researchdesign.Conducting the research, collecting the data,

  • 01:01

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: analyzing the data, cleaning the data,analyzing it, synthesizing it.And then packaging it in a way that is really conciseand to the point.My role really depends on what the organization's goals are,and also what type of organization they are.Some organizations have a tax status where they cannot engagein lobbying.

  • 01:22

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: And so, for those organizations, you know,it's very focused on policy analysis and policy evaluation,and not getting into the influencing side.But what most people don't know is that a lot of policywork-- a lot of times people who are doing the policy research,even if they're doing it for a public good,are actually registered lobbyists.

  • 01:42

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: If they're going to meet with legislatorsto try to get support for specific ideas,they're often registered lobbyists.Even if they're doing it on behalf of, say, low incomepeople, or on behalf of the public in general.

  • 01:54

    SPEAKER 1: So, as you're looking at other partners,have you reached out to different employer engagements?Whether it's the chambers, or trade unions, or a lot of timesit's the educators only that people look at.

  • 02:07

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: I think that's a really good point.Because that might be a good way, too,to get the internships and some of the applied learning.

  • 02:13

    SPEAKER 2: This is one of the big pointsthat we're really focused on, particularlyin the community-based sort of approach.Because what we find is that when you take a communityand you really have an impact in the community,you change an entire community, and not just bits and pieces.But it really has the big chance to sort of havethat ripple effect.

  • 02:32

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Policy evaluationshelp nonprofits meet their goals by allowingthem to substantially increase their impact.Instead of working with 100 or 200 people,they can actually impact thousands or millions of peoplebecause the policies reach much furtherthan the individual organization.A lot of times we work with non-profits

  • 02:53

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: to look at both policy solutions and program solutions.So a lot of times there are certain things that really makesense to do from a policy perspective.But once you get into the weeds, and get really nit pickyabout things that would have to be implementedin a certain way, then you're reallystarting to talk about program solutions.And so we work with non-profits to say,

  • 03:14

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: is this really something you wantto work on from a legislative perspectivewhere there's actually a bill that would be prescribing this?Or an agency perspective where a state or federal agencyis making rules about things?Or is this something that actuallyneeds to be worked on in the communityand at a programmatic level?And so crafting a solution that brings togetherboth is really ideal.

  • 03:35

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: We're doing some analysis to figure outwhere are students dropping out in Illinois.So where are the points at which they're kind of falling outof the STEM pipeline.And so, I wanted to make sure we talk with youguys and get really creative about who elsecould be talking to and what's next.Sometimes when we have a meeting wherewe are presenting a policy evaluationwe'll use research that we've done

  • 03:58

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: based on a lot of your standard research methods.So data analysis from existing data sources.We'll do interviews with the actual peoplewho would be using-- who would be affected by that policy.We may do document review.So, if you think back to your classic research methods class,

  • 04:18

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: a lit review is almost-- a literature reviewis almost always the first thing we do,where we're finding out who's already studied this, what'sout there, what do we already know about this problemand how to effectively address itso that we make sure we're not recreating the wheel if someoneelse has already done it.And, of course, you have to be-- as always, youhave to be really thoughtful about where was it researched.

  • 04:38

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: You know, is that applicable in this particular situation?Are there elements to that particular researchthat wouldn't apply in this situation?But then we're doing everything from-- we might do surveys.We might do interviews, specificallywith those people that would be impacted by this policy.We may do interviews also with the peoplewho might enact this policy, or might implement it.

  • 05:01

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: And this all really depends on what do we need to know.Just like any other research design,what are your research questions?What do you want to find out?What information do you already have?So we often do doc review, document review.Some people will go into much more detailed analysisof existing data sources, and try

  • 05:22

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: to estimate or get a sense of if you make this changehow will this affect different groups of people?And so all of that is part of policy evaluation.One of things we're trying to figure out is from-- you know,other work we're going to be doingis from a policies perspective.So how can we engage different partners

  • 05:43

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: on how they could be supporting this.And I know that it's a priority for people,but just kind of raising it to the next leveland getting it more on people's radar.We use these evaluations to form a starting pointfor policy interventions.This helps us understand what arethe challenges of this particular population, whatare the needs of this population, what

  • 06:04

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: are the probabilities.So for example, if a client comes to usand I have a very specific issue they want to fix.Like they have low income men who are just really strugglingand don't have anywhere to go, are having troublegetting their lives back on track.And, let's say, they're specificallyinterested in their housing.We would be able to say, OK, if you

  • 06:25

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: want to impact how many beds are available to homeless menin this specific place these are the policy waysthat you can deal with this.And you may, depending on the project, you may say,and here are other ways to make sure that they're more stable,and here are policy ways to do that.Then we also would be looking at who

  • 06:46

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: would implement this, are they on board with this,would they be supportive?And also running policy concepts between those people,because they will all experience that policy in a different way.It's very easy to pass bad policies.It's hard to pass good policies.So making sure that you're checking in with multiplestakeholders to find out how that policy would

  • 07:07

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: look in their location, and how they do things,and how they implement, if it would causeany other problems with other policiesor other aspects of the lives of the populationthat you're working with.Those are all part of designing that policy intervention,and making sure that you're reallytaking all the different factors that you can into account.

  • 07:29

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: Assessing the political environment is part of that.Checking in with policymakers to see is this feasible?Is this something people be interested in?Is there any political will to do this?If it's something you're already familiar with you alreadymay have, from years of experience,have a sense of this is not somethingthat would fly with this particular groupbased on what they've rejected or passed in the past.

  • 07:50

    SPEAKER 1: I think one of the things thatwould be most helpful, as we're tryingto bring these different sectors together,is to have some type of a document.You've given us a lot of good material,but it's almost too much.So it could put people off a little bit.So if we had more of an executive summarykind of connecting the dots to show why they should

  • 08:11

    SPEAKER 1 [continued]: be interested in this topic.

  • 08:13

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Yeah.So maybe a fact sheet.I think that's always a good idea.

  • 08:17

    SPEAKER 2: I think it enables us to carry a conversationand really make it relevant to whatever point they'retrying-- it's also a pressure point for them

  • 08:27

    SPEAKER 1: A lot of people like the data sothat's where a fact sheet or kind of a dashboarddocument that just gives the highlights whythis is so important to them.

  • 08:35

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Yeah.And really focus on the core message and the mostessential points that are most likely to engage people and getthem on board.

  • 08:43

    SPEAKER 2: And every community is different.And I think that's really the keyto identify the strong organization, that backboneorganization in the community.That would really serve as the hub.I think that's probably the most challenging pieceto begin with, but once that's identified,and once that collaboration is solidified,

  • 09:03

    SPEAKER 2 [continued]: I think it really takes us a long way.

  • 09:06

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Eventually, the policyevaluation may lead to a couple different projectswhich could help build support.So we may lead with a policy-- wemay end up with a policy brief.We may end up with a fact sheet.We may end up with both, because often for legislators youwant to be able to have a very, very brief fact sheet for them.

  • 09:29

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: It could lead to web content, it couldlead to social media content.There's a lot of different ways of getting those ideasout there and building support.At the next stage than, when you'dbe preparing your strategy, it's very importantto do analysis of the political environment.And that, a lot of times, is more qualitative.So a lot of times that's both internet and doc

  • 09:51

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: review and finding out what's already been done.But then also meeting with who arethe people who would either be implementing this,who might be stakeholders, or the peoplewho-- the legislators to see if there's evenan interest, if this would be somethingthat would be even feasible in this particular setting.We determine whether qualitative or quantitative is best

  • 10:14

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: depending on both the research questions and the stage.So, often if you are looking for a policy solutionand you don't know where to start,you often start with qualitative.So you're often starting with talking to people.Just getting out there and finding out whatchallenges are people running into.And sometimes you can actually find a lotfrom the on the ground, what are called

  • 10:36

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: street level, bureaucrats.So on the ground people who are serving this population, whoare working with, to find out what challengesare people running into?What do you hear from people about what's an issue for themor why they're not able to access this particular service?Or what they need to get back on their feet.

  • 10:55

    SPEAKER 3: This is Sophia.

  • 10:57

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Hi Sophia, how are you?So we do these interviews to make surethat we have a better sense of how the community healthclinics are working for people in the neighborhood.And it helps impact how the state createspolicies around health centers.To make sure that the clinics are helping peoplebeing as effective as possible.What have you liked about going to this particular clinic?

  • 11:19

    SPEAKER 3: I really like the doctors.I feel like they take time.

  • 11:23

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: You can actuallyget really valuable information at that stage about wheremight there be policy solutions and policy levers that couldimpact a particular issue.But really you're always going backto what's the specific population that you'relooking to help?What are larger collective problems, group problems

  • 11:45

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: that multiple people are consistently having?And then you're going to be designing your researchbasically to figure out how can we impact thatfrom a policy perspective, or is this more of a programmatic--This is where research integrity is extremely important,because you can easily design a studyto get the answers you want.

  • 12:05

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: But if you want to have a real impact,you have to be really careful about making surethat you're trying to eliminate bias in your research design,and that you're really honest about if we don't like whatwe hear, are we still going to follow-- you know,listen to that.So let's start with the health care center policy project.

  • 12:23

    SPEAKER 4: OK.In terms of collecting the data, wasthe client going to pass over their list of contactswith the existing health centers and just peoplewho we might be able to get in touch withto get more information?

  • 12:33

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: That's a good point.I think they were and I don't think they've sent that yet.

  • 12:36

    SPEAKER 4: OK.

  • 12:36

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: So, do you mind following up with themon that one?

  • 12:38

    SPEAKER 4: Sure, absolutely.

  • 12:39

    SPEAKER 5: Were we only consideringthe health care center's point of view?Or are we also considering the client's point of viewin collecting that data?

  • 12:45

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: I think we haveto do some kind of surveys or interviews.I mean, sometimes when you go directly through the centerthey provide the people that had the best experience--[INTERPOSING VOICES]

  • 12:56

    SPEAKER 4: And get some new peoplein, and we can get kind of a fresher perspective maybe,sort of like a mystery client.

  • 13:02

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: We use quantitativewhen we are talking more about who and what questions.So quantitative is often using existing data setsor collecting from surveys or other data.Who is affected by this?Who is receiving this service or who needs this service?

  • 13:23

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: What are the characteristics that they have?Are there commonalities in those populations?Are there common challenges they have?That helps you figure out, from policies perspective,how would this impact different populations,and who is it going to impact.

  • 13:39

    SPEAKER 3: We went on this morning for shots.

  • 13:40

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: Oh awesome.

  • 13:42

    SPEAKER 3: And, other than the actual shots,it was quite pleasant.The office staff was great.

  • 13:48

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: And then weoften end up using qualitative againfor both why questions, so why is this a problem for people?Or what would be most helpful to a particular population?Whether that's low income single mothers,or students who need health care,or elderly people who need health care.

  • 14:09

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: We also use qualitative when we are looking atis this a feasible policy solution?Because we don't want to suggest anything and publish thingsthat would suggest a policy solutionthat is completely unrealistic in the given setting.We perhaps meet with legislators or with agency staff

  • 14:31

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: and see how open they are to this concept,if this is something they would support.This is where, depending on the organization, if they can'tdo lobbying, this is where you would stop and find out moreabout who would support what.But there's a very fine line between lobbying and finding

  • 14:53

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: out this kind of information.Hi Representative Miller, how's it going?

  • 14:60

    MILLER: Good, how are you, Meegan?

  • 15:02

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: It's going OK.Thanks for taking some time to be with me justto chat a little bit more about how the budget is going.And I wanted to ask you about an idea that'scome up that I'm looking into and see what you thinkhow people might react to it.

  • 15:14

    MILLER: I appreciate [INAUDIBLE].I know that the issue that [INAUDIBLE] it'svery important that we make sure the legislatorsare engaged with it.

  • 15:23

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: So one of the thingsthat, if I have a client who this is their needand what they're looking for, I might get on a callor have a meeting with a legislatorand just hear from them.Just find out what is happening right now.You know, is there an appetite for this?Is this something people are interested in?And that just really depends on what the particular project

  • 15:44

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: is with that particular client.Some clients they would only be interested in nonpartisanresearch and analysis.And I might present at a hearing if I were asked as an experttestimony, but otherwise I wouldn't go outof my way to share that information,because that would be considered lobbying if it's

  • 16:06

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: talking about a specific bill.So that's a lot of times kind of the tension.I had mentioned that I wanted to talk to you a little bit moreabout this project to increase diversity in the STEM fields,and whether or not there's any policy lovers,any political appetite for working on that.

  • 16:23

    MILLER: You've got to have the university system investedin it.And that's where I think the governmentand governmental stakeholders can be more engaged.The real goal is to get out kids involvedin a global environment.And I think that's one of the big selling point.Non-minority groups become real attractive,because that becomes a win-win for everybody.

  • 16:41

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: How we identify stakeholders and buildsupport depends on our level of familiarity with the topic.So, in some cases we're already very familiar with the topicand we already know who are the big players in that area.In other cases it's a new topic and we haveto start from the ground up.Sometimes our client already knowswho are some of the stakeholders,and then we'll do additional research.We may look at who's publishing on this, who's putting out

  • 17:06

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: papers on this, who's organizing people around this topic area.Who will implement, that's a big stakeholder groupis the people who actually do it,the people who actually make it happen on the ground.Who could make this decision, who isgoing to impact this decision.And always, of course, the peoplewho are impacted by the policy are always a really important

  • 17:27

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: stakeholder group.When we already know that group who the stakeholders are,it's a lot easier but we may do some of that research justto see if there's any new players we didn't know about.Or it may be a slight tweak on an issuewe've worked on before.And so there may be different peoplewho would be involved with implementation.And that's where you get on to kind of more the advocacy

  • 17:48

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: and organizing side of things.So, depending on the client, we may or may notbe involved in that aspect of the work.

  • 17:55

    SPEAKER 5: And what about our STEM pipeline plan?Have we mapped out how we're going to collectthe data for that yet?

  • 18:00

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: No I want to do that in this meeting,and I think we can kind of anticipatesome of the challenges we might face,because I think they're pretty similar challengesto what we've seen on some other projects.So let's use the whiteboard and map it outso we can kind of see what [INAUDIBLE]

  • 18:11

    SPEAKER 5: Sounds great.

  • 18:11

    SPEAKER 4: Let's do it.

  • 18:12

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT: The most common challengesthat we find in public policy researchare really similar to challenges that other researchersare familiar with.Not having the right data, not having the informationwe need, handling partial data or information that'snot complete, privacy concerns.One of the challenges you run into, particularly

  • 18:33

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: in higher education policy, is that youhave a lot of different players who all have their own lawyersand have different interpretations of FERPA.And so that can be a challenge sometimes.Although we try to really work with as much existing data aspossible, so there's lots of public databases out therethat are aggregated and not specific to individuals.

  • 18:55

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: And so those can be really helpful.One of the things that's unique to policyis the speed with which sometimes you have to respond.So, sometimes policy decisions are happening very,very quickly.And you have to immediately be able to find out something.So, if you can do as much of your researchin the lull period, so you're really familiar with something

  • 19:16

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: and you really have a good sense of how it's goingto impact people, that's ideal.But often you find you have to respond to questions or issuesas the policy process moves forward very quickly that youdon't always have all the information you need for.So we've got middle school.I don't feel like the client wants

  • 19:36

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: to start earlier than that.One of the other big challenges whichI think is very common in research is projections.When you want to do some type of a correct projection,for example, everyone's heard datalike if this happens than this many people will drop outof school, or this many people will lose their houses.

  • 19:58

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: That kind of stuff takes-- I mean,it can be a lot of guesswork.And so you have to be really careful about makingsure you have as much historical dataand not make too many big assumptionsabout that as possible.And that can be really, really challenging,especially when you're respondingin a very, very rapid policy environment, because youmight not have the time to get all of those pieces.

  • 20:19

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: And you might just not be able to do that number.I would say to students who are interested in doingthis kind of work, get as much experienceworking with data as possible.Learn as many research methods as you can.But not just learn them in class,but if you can get practical experience,that is so important.

  • 20:40

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: There's things that I learned in class that I would love to use,but I haven't used on the ground.And so in those cases where thereis a very advanced statistical method that I haven't usedon the ground, I will often go to a think tank or a researchpartner who has a lot of people who are very, veryused to using that, because it's very easy to make mistakes.

  • 21:01

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: I would also say working in the policy arenaand writing in the policy arena istotally different than academic writing, it has to be.It has to be a lot more catchy, ithas to catch people's attention.It has to be much more succinct, a lot less pedantic.One of the things that we often dois we find other ways to build support for something.And so that may mean through social media,that may mean through media.

  • 21:22

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: And those are all different stylesof writing that will serve you wellif you know how to do those different styles of writing.And that can often lead to some of the productswe talked about, so fact sheets, policy briefs.But it can also lead to-- there'stimes where we might be requestedto come as expert witnesses at a state legislative hearing.

  • 21:44

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: Most people don't realize how manypolicy decisions are made at the state or federal agency level.So a lot of times those agencies areasking for comments on particular things,or asking for a testimony on those kind of things.So that could mean presenting at an agency board meeting,or doing written comments to a new proposedregulation for an agency.

  • 22:04

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: This is really a-- it's a sales job.But it's sales for something you believe in whenyou're on the advocacy side.So just build your skills in termsof how are you persuasive?How do you identify someone's self-interestand get them on board?

  • 22:25

    MEEGAN DUGAN BASSETT [continued]: So there's just a really wide breadthof what we're doing, depending on the clientand what their goals are.

Abstract

Meegan Dugan Bassett describes her work as a policy consultant and researcher for various nonprofit groups. She uses both qualitative and quantitative research to determine the appropriate level of intervention for a problem, to understand the context of the problem, and to gain insight into stakeholder perspectives.

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Policy Evaluation: Dugan Bassett Consulting

Meegan Dugan Bassett describes her work as a policy consultant and researcher for various nonprofit groups. She uses both qualitative and quantitative research to determine the appropriate level of intervention for a problem, to understand the context of the problem, and to gain insight into stakeholder perspectives.

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