It’s been a surreal political year, but PPI has much to celebrate this holiday season. Throughout 2017, we expanded our productive capacity and the scope of our political and media outreach significantly. For example, PPI organized 150 meetings with prominent elected officials; visited 10 state capitals and 10 foreign capitals, published an influential book and more than 40 original research papers, and hosted nearly 30 private salon dinners on a variety of topical issues.
Best of all, we saw PPI’s research, analysis, and innovative ideas breaking through the political static and changing the way people think about some critical issues, including how to revive U.S. economic dynamism, spread innovation and jobs to people and places left behind by economic growth, and modernize the ways we prepare young people for work and citizenship.
Let me give you some highlights:
- This fall, David Osborne’s new book, Reinventing America’s Schools, was published on the 25th anniversary of the nation’s first charter school in Minnesota. David, who heads PPI’s Reinventing America’s Schools project, documents the emergence of a new “21st Century” model for organizing and modernizing our public school system around the principles of school autonomy, accountability, choice, and diversity. David is just winding up a remarkable 20-city book tour that drew wide attention from education, political, and civic leaders, as well as the media. Because David is a great storyteller, as well as analyst, it’s a highly readable book that offers a cogent picture of a K-12 school system geared to the demands of the knowledge economy. It makes a great holiday gift!
- Dr. Michael Mandel’s pioneering research on e-commerce and job creation also upended conventional wisdom and caught the attention of top economic commentators. Dr. Mandel, PPI’s chief economic strategist, found that online commerce has actually created more jobs in retail than it destroys, and that these new jobs (many in fulfillment centers in outlying areas) pay considerably better than traditional ones. His research buttresses the main premise of PPI’s progressive pro-growth agenda: that spreading digital innovation to the physical economy will create new jobs and businesses, raise labor productivity, and reduce inequality.
- PPI challenged the dubious panacea of “free college” and proposed a progressive alternative – a robust system of post-secondary learning and credentials for the roughly 70 percent of young Americans who don’t get college degrees. PPI Senior Fellow Harry Holzer developed a creative menu of ways to create more “hybrid learning” opportunities combining work-based and classroom instruction. And PPI Senior Fellow Anne Kim highlighted the inequity of current government policies that subsidize college-bound youth (e.g., Pell Grants), but provide no help for people earning credentials certifying skills that employers value.
- Building on last year’s opening of a PPI office in Brussels, we expanded our overseas work considerably in 2017. In January, I endeavored to explain the outcome of the U.S. election to shell-shocked audiences in London, Brussels, and Berlin. In April, we led our annual Congressional senior staff delegation to Paris, Brussels, and Berlin to engage European policymakers on the French presidential election and other U.S-E.U. issues, including international taxation, competition policy, and trade. PPI also took its message of data-driven innovation and growth to Australia, Brazil, Japan and a number of other countries.
Other 2017 highlights included a strategy retreat in February with two dozen top elected leaders to explore ideas for a new, radically pragmatic agenda for progressives; a Washington conference with our longtime friend Janet Napolitano (now President of the University of California system) on how to update and preserve NAFTA; public forums in Washington on pricing carbon, infrastructure, tax reform, and other pressing issues; creative policy reports on varied subjects; and a robust output of articles, op-eds, blogs, and social media activity.
I’m also happy to report many terrific additions to PPI in 2017. Rob Keast joined to manage our external relations and new policy development; Paul Bledsoe assumed a new role as Strategic Adviser as well as guiding our work on energy and climate policy; and Emily Langhorne joined as Education Policy Analyst. We will also be adding a fiscal project next year.
All this leaves us poised for a high-impact year in 2018. In this midterm-election year, our top priority will be crafting and building support for a new progressive platform — a radically pragmatic alternative to the political tribalism throttling America’s progress. That starts with new and better ideas for solving peoples’ problems that look forward, not backward, and that speak to their hopes and aspirations, not their anger and mistrust.
It’s a tall order, and we cannot succeed without your help and support. Thanks for all you have done over past years, and we look forward to working with you in 2018.
Happy holidays and New Year!