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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. Sample projects:

Duke Center for Child & Family Policy

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  • Ken Dodge standing next to a stylized stoplight

    Practical Ideas for Preventing Violence

    Professor Kenneth A. Dodge has devoted his 40-year career to helping kids. The question that shapes all his work is, “How can we prevent children from growing up to kill each other?” Dodge researches the causes of aggression in children and develops and tests interventions to prevent aggressive behavior throughout their lives. Dodge joined the Sanford faculty in 1998. The next year, he founded the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, which promotes research, teaching, policy engagement and service. Read an overview of Ken Dodge and his work here.

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.

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.

North Carolina Leadership Forum

The North Carolina Leadership Forum is an opportunity for civic, business and political leaders from across North Carolina to discuss issues central to the future of the state. The forum provides a venue to discuss the nature of the challenges, to understand different points of view about how to address them, and to advance mutually acceptable solutions that improve the lives of North Carolinians.

Tackling Gerrymandering in North Carolina

In 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.

The Gujarat Project

Faculty member Manoj Mohanan often conducts research in rural India. For example, he evaluated a program 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.

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


Sanford has an extensive network of alumni who live and work in Washington, DC. Watch: