Our work includes program evaluations and data analysis related to government systems planning, processes, and communication. Related to Center public engagement and emergency response consultation, Center staff have facilitated multi-agency efforts to develop and present more effective messaging. Center projects focusing on civil and government systems include work with various agencies to improve processes and enhance accessibility.
Recent projects include: Homeland Security Planning Project, Problem-Solving Courts, and the National Center for State Courts.
Efforts in this area include:
- Training state agency staff on presenting technical information to the public more effectively and on using evidence-based communication strategies when interacting with the public.
- Evaluating the processes and outcomes of the Lancaster County Problem-Solving Courts to enhance program functioning and effectiveness.
- Assisting the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles with identifying information technology needs and options that resulted in new appropriations to assist with efficient and secure licensing procedures.
- Collecting data resulting in two legislative bills that created more efficient delivery of driver’s licenses across Nebraska.
- Assisting with planning for a statewide, integrated infrastructure for Department of Motor Vehicles’ credential enrollment and card production process resulting in streamlined and secure processes.
- Conducting a statewide staffing study related to shift coverage and manpower allocation for the Nebraska State Patrol.
- Conducting evaluations of surveillance systems operated by the Division of Public Health.
- Management consultation with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources in employee engagement and organizational design.
- Development of scope of work for new records system for the Nebraska State Patrol.
- Workforce needs assessment for Nebraska State Patrol.
- Facilitating staff strategic planning for major Nebraska public water and hydro power supplier.
- Participant in UNL’s National Science Foundation Research Training grant to establish a new graduate training program that focuses on understanding the resilience of agricultural systems.
- Facilitating a review committee evaluating a hazardous waste disposal process in Hall County Nebraska.
- Conducting a statewide study of recycling rates for communities throughout Nebraska.
- Evaluation of Nebraska’s Energy Loan Program through the Nebraska Energy Office.
- Evaluation of Nebraska’s Weatherization Program through the Nebraska Energy Office.
- Creating crisis response messaging to assist Nebraska state agency public information officers for coherent messaging to the public that is informed by behavioral expertise during emergency situations.
Public Health Surveillance Systems Evaluations
Center researchers, working closely with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Public Health, developed a Brief Evaluation Protocol for use in evaluating public health surveillance systems. Two systems were evaluated during the development of this protocol: the Nebraska State Immunization Information System (NESIIS) and the Adult Tobacco Survey (ATS). Public Health staff were also trained on use of the protocol.
To further build surveillance system evaluation capacity within the Division of Public Health, the Public Policy Center has provided coaching and evaluation training to Public Health staff who are leading their own surveillance system evaluations.
In addition, an evaluation of the Nebraska Birth Defects Registry (NBDR) has been conducted by the PPC using the Brief Evaluation Protocol. This evaluation was used as the basis for developing a five-year strategic plan for advancing birth defects surveillance in Nebraska.
Problem-Solving Courts Evaluation
The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center (NUPPC) often conducts program evaluations for problem solving courts, which differ from traditional courts in two important ways. First, they focus on one type of offense or offender. Second, their goal is to reduce criminal offending by diverting offenders from the prison system into courts that will prescribe interdisciplinary treatment and supervision to address the underlying issues involved in the participant’s offending without jeopardizing public safety and due process. Center researchers assess the effectiveness of these programs and assess whether these courts are admitting and serving participants without disparities.
National Center for State Courts Community Engagement Pilot Project
The “Community Engagement in the State Courts Initiative” is a joint collaboration of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. With funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) initiated six pilot projects to learn more about how courts can best engage the public to overcome social inequities and bias in the court system and build trust between various publics and the courts.
Following the completion of a national Listening Tour sponsored by the Initiative’s Advisory Board, the NCSC invited individual or aggregations of trial courts or court systems to submit letters of interest in participating in the pilots. Listening sessions were held in three cities and broadcast under the title “Courting Justice.” Eleven main issues surfaced from the listening sessions and through an online survey of court and civic leaders active in efforts to reduce racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other forms of bias in the courts. In their letters of interest in participation in the pilot community engagements, courts needed to express their willingness to design and implement a community engagement project designed to (a) improve trust between courts and minority or low-income communities, and (b) make progress on eliminating a disparity and its impact in a specific problem area.
The project is funded by the State Justice Institute and the National Center for State Courts as a strategic initiative carried out in collaboration with the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and the Conference of Chief Justices. Visit the National Center for State Courts website to learn more or read about the project.
City of Lincoln Resident Input Efforts
The PPC has worked with the City of Lincoln since 2008. As part of the City of Lincoln’s continuing initiative to assess community satisfaction, the Public Policy Center partners with the City of Lincoln mayor’s office to gather public opinions on particular issues of importance to Lincoln residents. In one such set of efforts, a random sample of Lincolnites is regularly surveyed by mail and an online survey is offered to residents who were not selected to take the random-sample survey. In the past, Lincolnites also engaged in community conversations about key issues, using processes implemented by the PPC. The resident satisfaction survey and community conversations address issues relating to future city priorities and inform city budget decisions.
As part of the PPC’s research on public engagement and trust, we have worked with the City of Lincoln to create unique interactive surveys which have allowed residents to choose city programs important to them, and see the impacts of funding on the city budget and property taxes. The PPC has investigated the impacts of asking residents to fund versus cut different programs, and the use of different decision rules in small group deliberations about city budgeting issues. The long-term goal of this research is to enable public managers and policymakers/elected officials to be intentional and evidence-based in selecting the components of their citizen involvement techniques for use in areas such as budgeting, performance measurement, and management processes.