Committee on Public Policy

Committee on Public Policy Mission

The EB believes the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) has, during its time as an elected AAA committee, helped to communicate to the AAA membership and beyond the importance of contributions by anthropologists to public policy, including research, intervention, and the employment of anthropologists in institutions that focus on policy-related issues. One of the measures of this success is the organization and stunning growth of the AAA Interest Group for the Anthropology of Public Policy (IGAPP), the emergence of policy-centered bodies in a number of sections, and the activities undertaken by the Public Affairs Office of AAA. The EB affirms its continuing support for COPP and its expectation that the Committee will continue to lead the AAA in shaping the Association’s and its members' involvement within the broad domain of public policy. At the same time, the EB recognizes that the expansion of policy-related activity within other AAA units has led to the need to rethink the role of COPP and to revise its charter statement in order to avoid potential redundancy in objectives and activities and to enhance its effectiveness.

COPP and IGAPP have developed complementary roles, such that the former focuses on public policy interventions while the latter centers on anthropological research on public policy. In spite of its growing membership, IGAPP, as an interest group, has a very different mission than COPP, which forms part of the AAA leadership. Similarly, sections that have organized policy-centered committees or other entities draw on their strengths in particular areas, such as health policy in the case of the Society for Medical Anthropology Policy Committee. The Public Affairs Office plays a number of important roles, which mainly center on creating professional training activities to enable anthropologists to gain skills helpful in making policy interventions and in supporting the work of COPP, IGAPP, sections, and other units. Thus, a number of vital functions remain for COPP.

Additional Items for COPP:
In addition, the EB would like to offer a number of suggestions regarding activities that might be undertaken by COPP, by way of complementing its past and on-going efforts:

  • To create a Web-based directory of anthropologists who are engaged in particular policy arenas; this effort has long been needed and would serve as a centralized, publicly available directory which members could update and which would link to other policy-related lists maintained by sections and interest groups. There could also be links to lists maintained by related associations (such as SfAA and SAA). The EB understands that such a directory would involve substantial costs and thus might require external funding;
  • To explore the public policy-related-activities of other professional associations;
  • To create an annual or biennial, non-monetary prize to be given to a AAA member who has made particularly meritorious contributions to public policy; by focusing specifically on public policy and opening the prize to anthropologists without regard to their primary site of professional activity, it would complement the Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology;
  • To organize one or more sessions, in addition to the allotted policy fora, that point to the importance of public policy historically to the AAA, its members, and anthropology in the United States and elsewhere, exploring how policy issues and interventions are not peripheral but played an important role in the constitution of anthropological research and pedagogy (such as the work of Franz Boas).

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