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Kristen Keely-Dinger and Jennifer Oldham

Why would a health foundation create a public policy research center? The Healing Trust, in Nashville, Tennessee, has funded a wide variety of health-related service and advocacy organizations in Middle Tennessee. But in 2014, we asked them what additional support we could give to these organizations engaged in policy and advocacy work. One priority quickly rose to the top: timely, high-quality, and nonpartisan research and analysis on public policy issues critical to our community. Tennessee has several prominent academic institutions with respected researchers in this field, but an independent and nonpartisan public policy research center simply did not exist. We began to explore this idea, using research to vet different business models for similar centers in other states. Ultimately, we decided to incubate this new policy center inside our foundation before spinning it off into a separate and independent nonprofit organization. ! Data-Driven Policy Making In An Age Of Anecdotes: What Happens When A Foundation Creates A Policy Center? 9/3/17, 8)11 AM…of-anecdotes-what-happens-when-a-foundation-creates-a-policy-center/ Page 2 of 3 Aiming to create a true community resource, The Healing Trust worked with the Nelson Andrews Leadership Center to engage eighty stakeholders in an intense, three-day, co-design process. A core group of participants then spent another three months hammering out the details. This collaborative process established community buy-in and developed the road map for everything from staffing needs and board composition to the policy center’s mission, name, and brand. Inspired and encouraged by the community’s engagement, The Healing Trust board committed $2.5 million over five years as seed funding to launch the Sycamore Institute.


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