By Benita M. Dodd
Kelly McCutchen, the Big Guy at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, came into my office this morning to show me the Google Analytics for the Foundation’s Web site.
For those who don’t know Google Analytics, it’s Google’s breakdown of where people alight on the Foundation Web site. (For those who don’t know the Foundation’s Web site, it’s www.georgiapolicy.org!)
The page with the most visits? “Who We Are.”
I’m not surprised. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle read us and heed us – or not. Georgia State Senator Fran Millar, for example, says, “The ability to call on the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and its network of experts for research and feedback on public policy is our security blanket. We understand that the Foundation’s only agenda is a better Georgia.”
So why am I not surprised? Because average Georgians don’t stop and wonder, “What does a think tank do?” until policy affects them personally.
It explains the page with the most visits. Some of the best calls I get are the ones that start out, “I Googled XYZ and y’all’s name came up. What do y’all do?”
And we’re always ready to respond: My office number rings my cellphone as well. I was at home, just one day back from my December visit to South Africa, when my cellphone rang.
“I Googled civil asset forfeiture and your article came up. What do y’all do? I need advice. My brother’s girlfriend’s car was confiscated and we don’t know what to do …”
I was one of the thousands stuck at home in the midst of Atlanta’s recent icy shutdown when my cellphone rang.
“I’m not sure you’re the right person to talk to. I’m a nurse and I am applying for jobs. I have a misdemeanor conviction and no employer will look past it. I can’t get anyone to help me navigate this.”
Just this morning, a woman called Kelly.
“I just bought a car. The dealer refuses to do anything about the damage. Who do I talk to?”
While Kelly was in my office showing me Google Analytics, Foundation editor Mike Klein was counseling a caller on where to find information about child advocacy issues.
We are well aware none of these Georgians will ever send a penny our way. But many other Georgians understand our value … and they do support our mission. These calls and outreach are constant reminders to us that our existence makes a difference, not just in the halls of power but at Georgia’s kitchen tables.
As my friend Jeff Dickerson said a long time ago, the Foundation is “no ivory tower.”
It’s comforting when elected officials DO listen to us. But Georgia’s voters, taxpayers and citizens who seek us out, who “cold call” us, highlight our motto: We are “Changing Georgia Policy, Changing Georgians’ Lives.”
What do we do? I’m proud to say this: We are a public policy organization. And, in so many ways, we work to make Georgia a better place … for YOU.
The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people; the politicians and political parties change with them.