A Summary of the Meeting of May 30-June 1, 2001. Introduction


Fred Wulczyn, Research Fellow, Chapin Hall

The challenge with indicator data is that it provides a lot of information about the past. As people in state agencies gather such data, the question becomes, what do these data tell us about the future? How can you best gather and use indicator data for guiding policy decision-making in the future? How can we engage the underlying policy-making processes proactively so that policy and programmatic decisions guide the future to a more desirable point?

This morning we will be discussing the challenges of creating that forward-looking view, the political challenges of selling that view, and the conceptual challenges of understanding the right policy lever for moving that view towards a conclusion that is desirable for families, children, and the community. To address these topics we have from Rhode Island "Ms. Inside" and "Ms. Outside." Christine Ferguson is director of Rhode Island's Department of Human Services. She has served in the highest levels of government for two decades. Her record reflects a clear commitment to using information indicators to make policy decisions. Elizabeth Burke Bryant is director of Rhode Island Kids Count. They're not exactly "Ms. Inside" and "Ms. Outside," though one looks in to and the other out from state government. One of the benefits of their respective positions is that they get to work together to create consensus around their viewpoints so that they can move forward together.

James Dimas will then speak with us on these issues. He has worked in public health in Washington, D.C., and for the Illinois Department of Public Aid in its welfare-to-work program. And he's now joining the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is in the process of forming a group that will provide technical assistance to states in this very area of technical information, with its links to public policy and practice.