Four students, Briana Roberts and Phillip McAuley (Master of Public Administration students from the School of Public and International Affairs) and Nicole La Tournous and Paula Buchanan (Master of Public Health students from the College of Public Health) won the top prize in the National Public Policy Challenge sponsored by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania and Governing Magazine. The invitational-only competition was held in Philadelphia, PA, from March 20-22. Eleven teams were invited to participate this year, including (in addition to UGA) Georgetown University, the University of Washington, New York University, the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Brown University.
During the preliminary round, team members from each school were able to watch one another’s presentations and meet their competitors and the judges at a reception and dinner afterwards. The four top-scoring teams from Saturday were chosen to compete in the National Finals on Sunday at the National Constitution Center. As National winner the UGA SPIA/CPH team will receive a $10,000 prize, to implement their proposal.
The UGA’s team winning proposal was called (fem)me, and is a plan to distribute feminine hygiene product to homeless and transitional women in Athens and ultimately throughout the state of Georgia. In addition (fem)me will serve as an education and advocacy organization to raise awareness about the lack of access to feminine hygiene products that vulnerable women experience, and the mental and physical health problems that follow from that.
Speaking on behalf of the Competition judges before announcing the winning team, Director of the Governing Institute Julia Burrows conceded that the decision was not an easy one.“All the teams here were addressing a compelling public policy issue,” Burrows began, but the winning team “picked an issue that none of us had even thought about, [came] up with a solution that’s replicable and scalable…and had the courage to address an issue that might be uncomfortable to talk about.”
“We’ve already been approached by a number of organizations to present our proposal at various conferences,” said team member Philip McAuley, “so we’re ready to hit the ground running.”
The team is in the process of establishing a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and will move forward with implementing the program this summer, in collaboration with the Homeless Coalition of Northeast Georgia. They are already in talks with national governmental leaders and stakeholders to present the (fem)me framework in communities across the country with the hope of overcoming this important barrier to women’s health.
For more information about the (fem)me initiative, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Twitter @respectfem