The Spring Consulting Project (SCP) pairs teams of 3-5 Master's in Public Policy (MPP) students with client organizations seeking to address a policy challenge related to their mission or operations.
During the spring semester, the student team will produce a detailed, professional-quality report advising the client on potential courses of action. The team will also brief the client on its findings.
The SCP Has Three Defining Characteristics:
A Public Policy Question
Client projects may relate to any issue, but there must be a nexus to federal, state, local, or international public policies.
Projects should involve a discrete question that can reasonably be answered within the project time frame.
Our goal is for projects to involve a mix of research, analysis, and decision-making.
We expect our student teams to engage in more than library or online research; many teams conduct interviews, collect and analyze original data, perform site visits, or explore analogous real-world situations.
The SCP is designed to help our students develop valuable skills in teamwork and client management.
Successful clients understand these educational objectives and provide feedback and mentorship to their team.
Frequently Asked Questions
SCP clients range from small non-profit organizations to large consultancies and federal, state, or local government agencies. The project can be especially valuable to organizations that are in need of additional research capacity, looking for a fresh perspective on a policy issue, or interested in cultivating future talent. There are no formal eligibility criteria or fees to participate.
Sanford MPP students are a talented, diverse, and experienced group of future public policy practitioners. Most students enter the program with at least two years of post-undergraduate work experience. The Sanford School ranks consistently among the top ten graduate public policy programs in the nation, with core strengths in policy analysis, environmental policy, social policy, and health policy.
SCP clients are expected to (1) designate a single point of contact to serve as the liaison for the project; (2) meet with their student team initially to discuss their policy question and agree on a scope of work; (3) facilitate access to people and resources (both internal and external to the organization) that will help their team answer their policy question; and (4) attend the team's client briefing in March/April. Clients are also expected to have a plan for using their team's work, such as briefing senior executives on the findings or publicizing the report online.
The SCP is led by a team of Sanford instructors who will provide general guidance and oversight of their students' work. Each team's instructor will review its strategy, provide feedback on its deliverables and presentations, troubleshoot challenges that arise, and evaluate its work. However, most communication will occur directly between students and their clients.
There is no fee to participate in the SCP. However, clients are expected to commit the staff time and resources needed for their team to answer their policy question successfully. Clients may also choose to cover the cost of travel, research, and other project expenses.
The SCP instructor team reviews every proposal received during the application period and selects around 20 projects each year, taking into consideration their quality, diversity, and relevance to student interests. We encourage organizations whose proposals are not selected to re-apply in future years. SCP instructors are also available to help refine clients' policy questions in advance of their submission.
Client application window
Client selection & notification
Initial Client-Team meeting
Late March-Early April
Late April-Early May
Final Client reports delivered
Sample SCP Projects
NC Health and Human Services
State Government Agency | Raleigh, NC
An SCP team helped this executive branch agency evaluate options for integrating foster care services with its state Medicaid program, identifying successful programs from other states.
The team's policy question was: "What best practices have been implemented for children in foster care in states with Medicaid managed care, and which are most appropriate for NC?"
Research Organization | Research Triangle Park, NC
In partnership with RTI International's Innovation-Led Economic Growth practice, an SCP team documented obstacles to equitable economic development in metropolitan areas.
The team's policy question was: "What challenges are keeping cities from successfully implementing economic equity and inclusion initiatives for economic development?"
Non-Profit Organization | Raleigh, NC
An SCP team analyzed the phenomenon of "summer melt," in which graduating high school students who intend to enroll in college fail to do so.
The team's policy question was: "Based on national best practices, what interventions would best reduce summer melt in the NC Community College System?"
NALEO Educational Fund
Non-Profit Advocacy Organization | Washington, DC
An SCP team studied the potential impact of natural disasters on census enumeration.
The team's policy questions were: "How can elected officials mitigate the effects of natural disasters on the accuracy of the U.S. Census, and how can they track displaced populations after a natural disaster to maintain the accuracy of the Census?"
Contact Us or Apply Now!
Contact Sanford-Consulting@duke.edu with any further questions you may have.