Family Impact Seminars named Bright Idea; Mass. program directed by Clark University

The Family Impact Seminars were recently named a Bright Idea by the Innovations in American Government Awards Program at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. The Massachusetts Family Impact Seminars are organized and presented by the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise at Clark University and directed by Denise Hines, research assistant professor of psychology at Clark.

The Seminars are a series of presentations, discussion sessions, and briefing reports that provide state policymakers with objective, high-quality research on timely topics. This proven, replicable, and cost-effective model advances evidence-based policy and overcomes partisan paralysis.

To date, Clark has been instrumental in presenting three seminars at the State House in Boston.

“When someone learns something from their research about how to better nurture, protect, educate and ultimately empower our young people, it does little good if that knowledge only appears in journals that are only read by specialists.” ~ Mosakowski Institute Director James R. Gomes

The first of the annual presentation of findings to state legislators and their aides was titled, “The Great Recession and Its Impact on Families,” and took place in March 2010. Speakers from Clark were Hines, on “The Great Recession’s Impact on Family Violence and Implications for Policy,” and sociology Professor Robert J.S. Ross, who presented “Structure, Stress, and Families in the Great Recession.”

In March 2011, the Family Impact Seminar forum was titled “Mass Men: Men at Risk, The Physical, Mental and Social Health of Men in Massachusetts.” Clark psychology Professor Michael Addis presented his research on men’s help-seeking and well-being at the event in March 2011.

At “Youth at Risk: Part I” on April 4, 2012, Ramon Borges-Mendez, associate professor of community development and planning at Clark, spoke about the recession and how it will affect young people for decades — in their ability to own a home, raise children, and transfer generational wealth. A fourth Clark Family Impact Seminar, “Youth at Risk II,” is planned for the Spring of 2013.

“When someone learns something from their research about how to better nurture, protect, educate and ultimately empower our young people, it does little good if that knowledge only appears in journals that are only read by specialists,” said Mosakowski Institute Director James R. Gomes in his introductory remarks at the most recent seminar. “And that’s why we at the Mosakowski Institute are so delighted to have the opportunity to come to the State House and make these presentations.”

Massachusetts Family Impact Seminars are affiliated with the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars located at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison and UW-Extension, Cooperative Extension. The entire network includes 20 other states and the District of Columbia ( To date, these sites have conducted over 165 seminars on family issues, broadly defined to include family poverty, growing the state economy, health issues and health care, jobs, long-term care, prisoner reentry, school finance, welfare reform, and workforce development. The Institute provides training and technical assistance to 16 sites currently convening seminars and 6 planning them. Every site is sponsored by a university including 18 public universities (12 that are land-grant institutions), and 4 private universities. Current FIS states include the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Seminar goals are to (a) build respect for and use of research in policy decisions, (b) encourage policymakers to view policies through the family impact lens, and (c) provide opportunities for policymakers to develop relationships across party lines that can overcome polarization and build common ground. In evaluations, policymakers report that the Seminars increase knowledge of research in ways that are useful in their jobs, shape policy decisions, and change attitudes about how valuable research is in policy decisions.

The Bright Idea selections by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation  were made by a panel of policy experts to “recognize and promote creative government initiatives and partnerships.”

Founded in 1887 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Clark University is a small, liberal arts-based research university addressing social and human imperatives on a global scale. Nationally renowned as a college that changes lives, Clark is emerging as a transformative force in higher education today. LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) is Clark’s pioneering model of education that combines a robust liberal arts curriculum with life-changing world and workplace experiences. Clark’s faculty and students work across boundaries to develop solutions to contemporary challenges in the areas of psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. The Clark educational experience embodies the University’s motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.