Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some questions often asked about the Institute:
What is the Rockefeller Institute?
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is a national, independent organization that researches and publishes on public policy issues, with a particular focus on the 50 states and the local governments within them. A public policy “think tank” that seeks to educate rather than advocate, the Institute focuses on: state fiscal issues, education, federalism, intergovernmental relations, urban issues, health care reform and social welfare policies. Founded in 1982 and based in Albany, New York, the Institute operates within the State University of New York System Administration and draws on the many strengths of SUNY’s 64 campuses. The primary goal of the Institute is to develop findings that state and local governments can use to become more effective.
In addition to producing research on state and local governments, what else does the Institute do?
All of the Institute’s research, papers, and reports are made available for public use on the Institute’s Web site (www.rockinst.org). Also, the Institute regularly conducts Public Policy Forums, during which invited experts and panelists deliver presentations on critical and topical public policy issues. Guest speakers include top elected and appointed leaders from New York and other states, as well as academic experts. Through its Web site (www.rockinst.org) the Institute makes audio and video of our forums available so that those unable to attend in person can listen. Finally, the Institute publishes books on various public policy issues through the Rockefeller Institute Press, including New York State Government: Second Edition, the leading text on the subject for students, government officials, and citizens. The Rockefeller Institute also each year publishes the New York State Statistical Yearbook, containing a vast array of data about the state of New York.
Is the Institute just about New York State?
Absolutely not. The Institute gets important perspective from its location in the capital city of New York — and it pays special attention to the research needs of New York State government. But its overall focus is on comparative analysis of policy, capacity, and governance in multiple states. The goal is to help each state learn from its peers, and help national policymakers learn from the states as our federalist government was designed to do.
Who conducts the Institute’s work?
The Institute deploys a wide range of researchers, senior fellows, executive management, and support staff to research and publish an array of information about state and local governments and our federalist system. It works both with fulltime staff, and with specialists brought in for specific projects. Currently the Institute employs about 40 researchers, managers, and staff members. For a list of researchers and senior fellows, visit: www.rockinst.org/about_us/staff/researchers/.
How is the Institute financially supported?
The Rockefeller Institute receives some funding from New York State appropriations through the State University of New York. A majority of the Institute’s funding comes from grants and contracts from a variety of foundations and federal and state government agencies to conduct specific research projects. For example, The Ford Foundation provided the initial funding for the Institute’s research on Gulf Coast recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has supported our research into states’ spending on programs for children. The health policy research team at the Institute received funding from the New York State Health Foundation to conduct ongoing research on health policy reform in the state. The federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis contracts with the Rockefeller Institute to study expenditures by local governments. These are just some examples of project funding awarded on the basis of the Institute’s expertise and independence.
Does the Rockefeller Institute “lean” in one political direction or another, in terms of advocating for a particular point of view –— as do many other think tanks?
No. The Institute employs an empirical, academic approach to deliver unbiased, independent research that in turn can be used by various government organizations to help them improve their capacity, make smart decisions, and become more effective. A particular specialty is field network research, which involves working with experts in individual states across the country. The success of such studies relies on good working relationships with elected policymakers from both major political parties. The Institute also maintains excellent relationships with such bipartisan and nonpartisan organizations as the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
If the Institute’s goal is not to advocate, how is your work helpful?
Striving to be independent and objective, the Rockefeller Institute’s primary goal relates to educating the public, as well as elected and appointed government officials. We want to enhance the understanding of how state and local governments work, with the ultimate mission of improving the formulation of public policies, the operations of governments, and the accountability of the public sector.
Where does the Institute conduct its ongoing work?
The Institute is housed in three historic, refurbished turn-of-the-20th-century buildings in downtown Albany, a short walk from the State Capitol. For more information, visit: www.rockinst.org/about_us/our_facilities/.