The IGPA Idea
The University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) has a unique and valuable role to play in Illinois’ public policy discussions.
Other actors involved in the policymaking process––government officials, voters, lobbyists, journalists, and others––frequently view policy problems through the lens of a particular financial interest or ideology. The cornerstone of the IGPA Idea is that evidence-based and objective information, generated using the most advanced and appropriate social scientific techniques in disciplines including economics, sociology, psychology, and political science, should have an important place in all policy debates.
IGPA takes a long and broad view of the challenges facing Illinois, considering historical, national and international comparisons to provide context for Illinois.
Contributing to policy debates involves more than just the generation of information; it requires clear and consistent communication with a variety of audiences. For example, IGPA communicates regularly with state legislators and executive branch policymakers. But these are not the only consumers of our work.
Our audience also includes those who synthesize and provide information to policymakers, especially staff and advocates. The people of Illinois are an important audience for IGPA, since they need to know about the problems facing the state to make informed voting decisions. And journalists are a central part of our communication strategy since their job it is to seek out and translate information for all of our audiences. As a source of unique policy-relevant information, IGPA works to inform each of these audiences directly and indirectly.
The information that IGPA contributes to the public policy discussion is vital as Illinois works to address its major policy challenges. IGPA stands ready to contribute its intellectual resources to benefit the commonweal of the Prairie State.
Since its creation in 1947 by the Illinois General Assembly, the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) has played an important role in connecting decision makers in Illinois with scholarly research and analysis. In the university’s founding documents of IGPA, the authors sought to create a space to "investigate specific, practical problems that arise at all levels of government.”
IGPA evolved as the Illinois state government changed over the 1960s and 1970s. Early in its history, IGPA often acted in a staff role, advising and providing research to the General Assembly. At the time, a conversation was occurring across the state about reforming government to meet the needs of a modern, diverse, and industrial state. To this end, Illinois established the Commission on the Organization of the General Assembly, in which IGPA played a direct role. Following the many recommendations made by this commission, Illinois embarked on a Constitutional Convention in 1969. Again, IGPA played a central role in preparing for, staffing, and documenting this “Con Con,” at which the above photo was taken. By 1970, the new Illinois constitution was ratified by voters, and the state government began to take a shape more recognizable by us today, with professional staffers, researchers, and support agencies.
During this period, IGPA also played a central role in the debate among American universities about their role in, and responsibility for, public service. Leaders in higher education agreed that public universities were no longer “isolated institutions for student elite," but that they also had a role to play in democracy. As universities across the country began to explore ways to inform democratic processes effectively, IGPA took on a larger, and more independent, role in public policy in Illinois. IGPA began to set its own research agenda, guided by the best available scholarship and national models, seeking funding for research on Illinois’ most pressing issues, and distributing its research widely. The organization also continued to maintain its roots as a facilitator of education for elected leaders throughout the state.
Important political institutions in Illinois have often been incubated at IGPA and later spun off to grow and focus their missions. Other such programs included the Illinois Legislative Internship Program, the Illinois Resource Network, and Illinois Issues magazine, many of which continue to foster leadership and dialogue in the state today.
IGPA has also long played an essential role in attracting nationally renowned scholars to the University of Illinois with the purpose of providing scholarly-based analysis of current policy questions. IGPA grew from a small organization with one faculty member and a few graduate students in the 1940s to a research institute at times with dozens of faculty from all three campuses in diverse fields. IGPA is an all-campus unit with a statewide focus, capitalizing on the talent of scholars from the entire university system.
IGPA has also played the role of convener, bringing groups and individuals together to discuss important issues of the day. IGPA has facilitated these important conversations for more than 60 years: from the early Illinois Assemblies that brought powerful stakeholders together for closed-door decision making sessions; to conferences convening national thought leaders on local topics; to fostering a strong reputation with journalists as a source of nonpartisan analysis in order to make timely contributions to current debates. In this way, IGPA has provided a clear framework for elevated dialogue based in nonpartisan research rather than ideology.
IGPA’s experts have contributed to the Illinois policy debate on a wide range of subjects. Since the early 2000s, Illinois has struggled with economic and political challenges, and IGPA has been at the forefront of the discussion of these by providing original research on fiscal and economic policy and on government reforms. IGPA has also informed the debate around public ethics, racial inequality, early childhood education, and health care. As questions arise in both the public sphere and academia, IGPA scholars use the latest research methods to evaluate current affairs, ask tough questions, and pinpoint possible solutions.
IGPA will continue to inform the policy discussion in Illinois through the provision of non-partisan, evidence-based information. As such, IGPA remains a central part of the University of Illinois’ land grant mission to serve the Prairie State.
Christopher Z. Mooney (2013-2017)
J. Fred Giertz (2012-2013)
Robert F. Rich (2005-2012)
Jack K. Knott (1997-2004)
Robert F. Rich (1986-1997)
Samuel K. Gove (1967-1984)
Gilbert Y. Steiner (1957-1967)
Royden J. Dangerfield (1950-1957)
The IGPA faculty are composed of world-class economists, sociologists, political scientists, and other scholars assisted by highly qualified professional staff. Our faculty use cutting edge social science research methods to analyze policy problems facing Illinois.
To this end, we use both specific, targeted research protocols and the most up-to-date published scholarship from around the world. IGPA staff assist our faculty in translating and communicating this policy-relevant, social science information for non-academic audiences as they work with the mass media, write for the popular press, speak to groups around the state, and consult with and testify before public officials.
IGPA does not take positions on issues. IGPA experts are independent scholars who provide nonpartisan, data-driven analysis and commentary.
The Advisory Board provides expert advice to help expand the contributions, effectiveness, and visibility of IGPA. The board advises IGPA leadership about the relevance of current initiatives, the types of research and public service programs the institute should be sponsoring, and new opportunities to inform discussion and debate about public policy issues important to Illinois and the nation. The board also provides advice for strengthening the institute's external relationships and partnerships with governmental, civic and business leaders.
Illinois Senator John Cullerton
D-Chicago, Senate President
Illinois Representative Barbara Flynn Currie
D-Chicago, House Majority Leader
U.S. Representative Danny Davis D-Ill.
U.S. Representative Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
Illinois Representative Jim Durkin
R-Western Springs, House Minority Leader
Cook County State's Attorney
Downstate Director, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
Professor of Law, John Marshall Law School
Executive Director, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31
Kim Clarke Maisch
State Government Relations Director, Cigna Health Insurance
Comptroller of Illinois
President Emeritus, University of Illinois Foundation, Urbana
President, The Civic Federation, Chicago
James D. Nowlan
President, Stark County Communications, Toulon
National Director, Local Government Relations, Walgreens, Deerfield
Former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois