The Policy Institute - Montana's Progressive Think Tank - blends authoritative research and hands-on political engagement to create public policy based on economic justice, fair taxation, corporate accountability and environmental responsibility.
The Policy Institute works to change public policy to reflect social justice values. We accomplish our mission by developing and advocating for policy initiatives which frame public discussion in progressive terms like equality, opportunity, and economic justice and by providing leadership development training for social justice leaders in Montana.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: Each year The Policy Institute identifies emerging progressive leaders in Montana and invites them to participate in the Leadership Seminar Series. The program blends a comprehensive agenda with skilled instructors and a productive learning environment to enable participants to reach their full potential as Montana’s future progressive leaders.
ENERGY IN OUR STATE AND REGION: The Policy Institute advocates for the development of clean, renewable sources of power - and the transmission infrastructure to support that development - as a way to address the growing threat of global climate change.
ECONOMIC JUSTICE: The Policy Institute analyzes develops and supports economic policies which are progressive and provide for the basic needs of all Montanans, including increasing the minimum wage, providing health care, controlling energy prices and reforming corporate regulation.
FAIR TAXATION: The Policy Institute analyzes, develops and supports tax policies which are progressive, adequately fund public services, and take economic realities into account.
CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY: Our sister organization, Montanans for Corporate Accountability (MCA), seeks to strengthen democracy and local economies in Montana and to curb the excessive power of large corporations.
Leadership Development: The Policy Institute’s Leadership Seminar Series engages 15-20 emerging progressive leaders and activists in a structured program which creates a sense of community among the participants, provides knowledge and skills, and examines the philosophy of the progressive movement.
The program is comprised of four seminars held over the period of a year. Topics include examination and comparison of the conservative and progressive movements; discussion of issues which transcend normal progressive interest group activity; the mechanics of power-electoral skills, lobbying and advocacy; and planning for the future.
Coalition Building: The Policy Institute has demonstrated ability to create and work constructively with interest-based coalitions. These coalitions are formed around specific campaigns that have a narrowly defined goal which is achieved over a clearly defined time line. Coalition members typically come to the table in order to advance a very specific and clear self-interest. These campaigns focus on policy measures and issue campaigns such as Big Box Store tax, minimum wage increase, or healthcare reform.
Public Education: The Policy Institute organizes local events such as seminars, forums, and conferences around specific issue campaigns. The Policy Institute works with media outlets to place editorials, generate news coverage and develop programs on specific topics. The Policy Institute develops reports and white papers to provide detailed information to activists and policy-makers on specific issues.
According to Census data from 2000, Montana ranked 50th among the states in average annual pay, 2nd in the nation for percentage of children living in poverty and 3rd for percentage of people holding multiple jobs.
The unemployment rate on the seven Indian reservations dramatically exceeds the rest of the state with the highest unemployment at a rate of over 70%. The reservation communities rank at the bottom of virtually every measure of community well-being from unemployment and alcoholism rates to infant mortality.
The resentment and anger generated by the economic plight of many Montanans has been mobilized and organized by the right wing. Members of the ideological right have controlled the political debate and public discourse in Montana for the past 15 years. They used that control to erode the revenue stream of the state of Montana. The result has been tax shifting to residential property taxes, declining services and decaying of public infrastructure.
Too often social justice advocates devote the majority of their organizing efforts to responding to initiatives developed by the Right. At the same time, in an effort to maintain credibility in "mainstream" institutions, many progressive groups are fearful of policy stances which the Right has defined as outside the political mainstream.
Defensive postures and support for the status quo do not engage citizens in discussions about public policy. The result is erosion and atrophy of the progressive political base and a constant migration of the political center to the right.
Social justice advocates must match the conservative groups’ ability to produce and promote policy proposals. The Policy Institute fills this role in Montana by working on policy initiatives that build opportunities to promote progressive values.
The Policy Institute focuses its efforts on public policy initiatives that transcend issue/constituent/identity-based politics. The Policy Institute conducts research and develops campaigns to move these initiatives into the public square, shaping political discourse in a way which helps to build a larger base of support for progressive ideals.