Price Students Participate in Bay Area Policy Forum

by Justine Dodgen

Originally posted on the BAPF: Bay Area Policy Forum Website, March 12, 2015

Last week, the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy hosted the Bay Area Policy Forum (BAPF) in San Francisco. BAPF, an annual conference for Price students in the Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy programs, is an opportunity for students to visit the Bay Area, discuss policy issues relevant to the region, and learn from current practitioners.

Members of the CSR panel with moderator Sean Angst, MPP 2016
Photo by Aisha Siddiqui. Members of the CSR panel with moderator Sean Angst, MPP 2016

The day started with an engaging presentation from Ted Egan, San Francisco’s Chief Economist, who highlighted trends in San Francisco’s development as an economic center beyond the tech industry and the implications of these changes for housing and other quality of life factors. The forum also included two-panel discussions about non-profit advocacy and corporate social responsibility.

The first panel included three advocates who have spent decades advocating on behalf of Bay Area communities. These advocates were Eddy Zheng, a youth and minority advocate and Director with the Community Youth Center of San Francisco, Cissie Bonini, who advocates for homeless and to end hunger in San Francisco with the St. Anthony Foundation, and Vien Truong, a distinguished environmental equity advocate at the Greenlining Institute.

These panelists highlighted the importance of understanding your target community and collaborating with others to have the most impact with advocacy efforts and urged students to use passion to drive their work.

Price students at the BAPF reception.
Photo by Aisha Siddiqui. Price students at the BAPF reception.

The second panel represented a diverse range of organizations involved in corporate social responsibility, including Jonathan Beauford, the San Francisco Director of College Track, a college access nonprofit that works with several corporations to implement its programs. Other panelists were Catherine Lyons of FWD.us, a tech industry-sponsored advocacy organization, and Nathan Springer from Business for Social Responsibility, an organization that helps companies develop programs with a social mission.

This panel emphasized the importance of designing CSR projects that fill a need within the community and of developing meaningful relationships that help further the goals of all partners, rather than projects that could be perceived as “window dressing.”

Dr. Peter Robertson, Director of the MPA program, noted the emphasis that members of both panels put on the importance of collaboration and passion: “If you’re doing what you love, you can change the world!”

Many students expressed their appreciation for this unique occasion to learn about policy. “[BAPF] was a great opportunity to think about public policy challenges in a new space and in a new context,” said Cliff Massey, MPA.

“It was really interesting to hear from such a variety of different types of panelists, especially from people who are working with industries or sectors that I am not personally [familiar with], and to hear their take on larger-scale issues that affect everyone,” added Alex Nguyen, MPA. “With that new information, we can each now go back and really look at what we do know and apply these lessons to it.”

The forum was followed by a networking reception for current students, Price alumni, prospective students, and faculty. The day’s events were one of the first opportunities for many Price students from Los Angeles to meet students from the Sacramento campus and online MPA program. “[BAPF] was a great chance to get together and have an opportunity to mingle with other [Price] students, because we don’t often have these kinds of opportunities,” said Susannah Silva, an online MPA student.

Mark your calendars now! Next year’s Bay Area Policy Forum will take place on March 4, 2016. If you are interested in joining the planning committee, please contact Anja Gullerfelt at gullerfe@usc.edu.