Around the Institute

Norms, and Laws; Chickens, and Eggs

December 5, 2014  • David Devlin-Foltz

Put the soda down, Norm, and nobody gets hurt

We admire our former client Larry Cohen. This blog from his Prevention Institute touts Berkeley’s recent path-breaking passage of a soda tax. Larry cites his tobacco control experience to assert that laws drive normative change; as cities pass laws, people’s views about what is acceptable will change. But norms (or at least opinions about soda consumption) have to change before soda tax votes can succeed, right? Which comes first, gentle readers? The laws or the norms? It’s a tough, but crucial, question for advocates and evaluators alike – as is the key question of what impacts such taxes will ultimately have.


Perceptions matter – especially wrong ones!

Your APEP pals believe in listening to stakeholders. We admire efforts to gather constituent voice. Trusting members of the public to be good citizens is part of our Aspen Institute DNA as well. But what happens when the public believes things that just ain’t so? Check out the Ipsos Perils of Perception study. Consider the impact on electoral decisions of an American public that believed that 32% of us were unemployed – when in fact the actual figure was around 6%!


We are the champions

A recent Ideas Brief from the National Journal and Jennie Aylward’s recent post on the esteemed Better Evaluation blog both championed champion tracking. Read together, the two give a pretty good sense of how APEP has collaborated with our clients at CARE to refine (and apply) the scorecard methodology over the past (almost five) years. Thanks to our continued partnership with CARE, we’re deep in the weeds tackling new challenges as well as intriguing opportunities to track “champion-ness.” Stay tuned!