Institute of Politics

Active Programs

The Institute of Politics serves as a regional catalyst, bringing public and private sector leaders together in private sessions to focus on issues of significance to Western Pennsylvania. This role requires the development of seminars and other discussions which are regional, intergovernmental, interdisciplinary, non-partisan, and, off the record.

The Institute's programming strategy includes two criteria:

  1. Public and elected officials will assist with the development and implementation of all programs.
  2. All programs will be tailored to involve a policy impact or outcome.

The Institute is currently working on the follow intiatitves:

CTE and Project Based Learning

Although intended to be an update to the Institute’s 2011 report, which was workforce-based, the Institute's Moving Beyond 20th Century Education: Emerging Trends in CTE and Project-based Learning report attempts to highlight the connections between improving educational achievement and preparing students to take part in the workforce of tomorrow through the new methods of integrating career education and project-based learning that are occurring within our region. The report showcases these innovations to promote greater understanding of these practices among education and workforce stakeholders. Click here to learn more.

Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Improving Incarceration Policies and Practices in Allegheny County report examines the dramatic growth of national and local incarceration rates in recent decades even as crime rates have fallen, and highlights the large number of individuals detained prior to trial through the setting of monetary bonds, which often keep low-risk defendants behind bars. The Institute’s report also addresses the criminal justice system’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino populations and people living in poverty. Building upon improvements already achieved by criminal justice professionals in Allegheny County, the task force’s report advances recommendations to create a fairer and more equitable system that allocates taxpayer dollars efficiently, effectively, and humanely, without compromising public safety. Click here to learn more.

Elsie Hillman Civic Forum

The Elsie Hillman Civic Forum is designed to engage students in activities that prepare them to lead lives as engaged and contributing citizens. The forum brings community leaders and young people together for educational programs, research projects, and mentoring opportunities designed to foster student involvement and fuel civic progress in the Pittsburgh region.

The Elsie Hillman Civic Forum offers five student programs, each with its own unique design but with one common aim: honoring and advancing Elsie’s remarkable legacy of civic engagement. For more information on the Elsie Hillman Civic Forum, please visit its website

Opioid Overdose Epidemic

The Institute's A Continuum of Care Approach: Western Pennsylvania’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic report recognizes that the crisis is simultaneously one of public health and public safety, and identifies gaps in existing protocols and programs. To address these gaps and build upon Western Pennsylvania’s existing successes in combating the epidemic, the report advances recommendations for public health and public safety organizations across the region. The report also includes a series of immediate to long-term goals that are designed to stem the tide of opioids/heroin in regional communities, educate and engage professionals and the public to reduce overdose deaths, and provide substance-use disorder patients with quality treatment options and pathways to full recovery. Click here to learn more.


The Institute's Public Safety and Emergency Prepardness Policy Committee is developing a forum that will build consensus, collaboration, and mutual trust, between law enforcement officers, municipal leaders, and community leaders, around critical and emerging issues in policing to promote continuous improvement to our law enforcement environment for both officers and residents. The forum will address challenges and barriers to policing as identified by active police officers, and will offer presentations, discussion, and policy options based on national best practices. Click here to learn more.

Small Business Development

The Institute's Economic Development Committee is exploring how best to strengthen connections and collaboration between small businesses, entrepreneurs, and anchor institutions to drive business development, especially in distressed communties. Click here to learn more.

Suburban Poverty

In the summer of 2015, the Institute assembled a special advisory committee led by Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus Chair, Dan Frankel, and Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Dave Reed, to examine the issue of suburban poverty in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The committee’s work culminated in the development of a policy brief entitled Poverty: Beyond the Urban Core, which was released in September 2016. The goal of the policy brief is to educate regional leaders on the changing demographics and landscape of poverty in Southwestern Pennsylvania by examining the unique obstacles that municipalities, human service providers, and nonprofits face while addressing poverty-related issues in the suburbs. The policy brief addresses the issues of housing, transportation, income inequality, and education, and provides recommendations to public, private, and nonprofit entities in their efforts to improve community outreach and help those living in poverty move towards self-sufficiency. Click here to learn more.

Tom Murphy Case Study

The case study will examine Mayor Murphy’s qualities of character and leadership and the transformative initiatives and challenges that occurred during his tenure as Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. Furthermore, the case study will explore the impact and application of the outcomes of the Murphy administration on the current political, social, and economic atmosphere in the greater Pittsburgh region. Dr. Waverly Duck, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, will serve as the primary author for this initiative. Click here to learn more.

Urban Agriculture

In partnership with the Allegheny County Conservation District, the Institute has assembled the Urban Agriculture Special Committee, tasked with developing a model ordinance for municipalities in southwestern Pennsylvania. In completing this model ordinance, it is expected that municipalities interested in allowing urban agriculture practices can adopt the model ordinance (in whole or in pieces) and avoid the time and money that might otherwise have been spent researching and developing a comprehensive and effective ordinance. In addition, there will be an event held for municipal leaders to explain the purpose and scope of the ordinance and address the concerns they may have regarding it. Click here to learn more.

Voluntary Municipal Disincorporation

The Institute formed the Voluntary Municipal Disincorporation Task Force, a committee of local government experts, including former county and state elected officials, academics, and local and state administrators. The task force was cochaired by former Allegheny County Executives Dan Onorato and Jim Roddey. The deliberations and research of the task force have been captured in the report entitled Voluntary Municipal Disincorporation: Creative Solutions for Counties of the Second ClassClick here to learn more.