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Policy Engagement

The Sanford School is committed to having an impact in our region, the nation and the world through ongoing meaningful engagement with public policy practitioners and thought leaders.

Here are some sample programs:

Duke Center for Child & Family Policy

The Duke Center for Child and Family Policy emphasizes a practical connection between research, policy and practice. The Center’s work focuses on the life-long impact of early poverty, the development of risky behaviors and a wide range of education policy issues, including school truancy, early childhood programs, teacher training and education reform efforts.

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  • Durham city managers talking in workshop

    The Policy Bridge

    The Policy Bridge is a powerful project that connects the worlds of research and policy. We get scholarly research into the hands of policymakers and seek to transmit their real-world knowledge back to scholars to inform and strengthen research.


    Are you a Duke researcher? Are you a policy official or other practitioner? Please contact Jenni Owen for more information.


    Find out more about The Policy Bridge here.

Work from the Center has led to the development of numerous programs that aim to improve outcomes for children and are used in communities in North Carolina and nationwide. For example, Family Connects is a universal nurse home visiting program for families of newborns that connects parents with community resources. Originally launched in Durham, N.C., this research-based program has been found to improve parent behaviors and reduce the need for infant emergency medical care. It is currently expanding throughout the U.S.

The Center has also presented educational seminars for North Carolina legislators on issues such as childhood obesity, school suspension and juvenile justice, provides program evaluation services for many nonprofit and government agencies, and links schools and other organizations with Duke students and faculty through the School Research Partnership.

Find out more about the Duke Center for Child & Family Policy.

North Carolina Leadership Forum

In 2016, Sanford welcomed civic, business and political leaders from across North Carolina for a yearlong series of discussions related to issues central to the future of our state.  For some, the project provided a rare chance to have meaningful conversations with someone on the opposite side of the political aisle. 

Listen to some of the participants discuss the project:

Find out more about the North Carolina Leadership Forum.

Tackling Gerrymandering in North Carolina

map with county lines visibleIn 2016, Sanford convened a nonpartisan panel of retired N.C. justices and judges who created a new, but unofficial, congressional map for North Carolina to demonstrate how independent redistricting can work in the state. The panel was founded by Tom Ross, former UNC system president and the Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy and was led by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justices Rhoda Billings and Henry Frye.

Find out more about the Gerrymandering Project.

The Developing World

Assistant Professor Manoj Mohanan’s work in rural India was cited by Bill Gates. Mohanan evaluated a program in western India which paid private doctors to offer hospital births to poor women. But the program failed to increase the number of hospital deliveries or reduce related complications in part because it never reached the poorest mothers.

"What this case showed is that good intentions need effective, targeted delivery systems to make a real difference,” commented Gates in the forward to the book Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health. "There is as much to learn from a health program that did not reach its goals as from one that did."

Read more about the Gujarat project.