State Policy Network

Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement

SPN's Bob Williams Awards celebrate state think tanks doing exceptional work to develop and advance policy solutions that strengthen communities and improve lives.

The Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement celebrate state think tanks doing exceptional work to develop and disseminate credible policy research and ideas that can help states implement free-market solutions that will have national impact. The awards were named in honor of our Network’s most iconic policy maven and a friend to many, Bob Williams, and are presented yearly at SPN’s Annual Meeting.

2022 Award Information

Voting for the 2022 Bob Williams Awards has closed. Winners will be announced at SPN’s 30th Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.

See the 2022 Finalists here.

Changes in 2022 Voting

In previous years the Bob Williams Award voting has been open to the public. This year, based on Network feedback, we have shifted to a peer-vote for the award winners. In 2022, voting for the Bob Williams Awards was a benefit of SPN Annual Meeting registration, and the opportunity was available only to current registrants.

Finalist Selection: Finalists in each category were be selected by a committee of SPN staff led by SPN’s Director of Policy Advancement, Chantal Lovell. Nominations were judged based on each category’s specific criteria. Consideration was also given to the difficulty level of each state’s policymaking environment and each success’s contribution to multi-state impact (i.e. does the project and its outcomes make future wins elsewhere more likely).

Award Categories

Best Issue Campaign

Recognizes the organization that ran the highest quality issue education campaign. Submissions will be judged based on measures of execution not necessarily if a win was ultimately achieved. Measure of execution include strategic thinking, exemplary use of outreach tactics, ability to reach target audiences, and team alignment.

Most Influential Research

Recognizes the organization whose original research achieved a high level of influence in academia, media, or policy-making arenas. Submissions should describe one piece of research which is either a single publication or a closely related series of research publications (for example, one white paper, a collection of essays on a single topic, or a book). Submissions should also include information about the impact that the research publication made and clearly communicate the measured outcomes and results.

Biggest Home State Win

Recognizes the organization that achieved a significant policy win in their home state. Your win can come from any jurisdiction in your home state, local government, executive, judicial, legislative, or etc. Submissions will be judged on the significance of the victory and how important the organization’s contribution was to the victory. Submissions for Biggest Home State Win can also be considered for Biggest Win for Freedom.

Biggest Win for Freedom

Recognizes the organization whose effort was instrumental toward securing a significant policy victory this year. Wins can be one state or a multi-state effort; offense or defense; state or national. Submissions will be judged on the significance of the victory and how important the organization’s contribution was to the victory. Submissions for Biggest Win for Freedom can also be considered for Biggest Home State Win.

2021 Bob Williams Award Recipients

Past Winners




Past Finalists

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for the awards?

Any affiliate state think tank can apply for any of the four award categories.

  • Only state think tanks are eligible to receive these awards.
  • Nominations can be submitted by any staffer within a state think tank.
  • SPN members are welcome to nominate each other, provided they can fully complete the nomination details.
  • State think tanks can submit nominations in multiple categories. State think tanks can also submit multiple projects/wins in the same category, provided the submissions are for separate, distinct projects or successes.

What is required in order to nominate a think tank?

In preparation for your nominations, you may find it helpful to gather the following information prior to filling out each nomination form. You do not have to provide information in every category, but providing as much information as possible will improve the quality of the nomination.

  • Your contact information & contact information of organization (if you’re nominating another state think tank)
  • What problem or opportunity the campaign/research successfully addressed and who was helped. 
  • Details about specific objectives and how specific departments helped contribute to the effort.
  • Links to or copies of campaign collateral – videos, ads, publications, infographics, etc.
  • Information about the impact this success has had on the organization and/or the Network.

Can I nominate more than one organization?

Yes! We’re excited to see the impact so many state think tanks are having in their communities, their state, and even the nation. You are welcome to nominate every  state think tank you believe should be recognized.

Although only one think tank will be selected as the winner in each category, the impressive work of every nominee will be featured on and through other SPN channels.

Can I submit nominations in more than one category?

Please do! You are encouraged to submit nominations for different projects from one state think tank or submit nominations for multiple think tanks. If you’re unsure whether a project should be considered for “Biggest Win” or “Biggest State Impact,” feel free to indicate on your nomination form that you would like the nomination to be considered for both.

Can I nominate my own organization?

Absolutely. State think tanks are encouraged to let us (and the Network) know about your influential achievements.

Can I nominate an organization even if I don’t have all the requested information?

The more information in the nomination we have, the better. If your knowledge of a project is limited to basic facts, consider encouraging the state think tank to nominate themselves. You’ll have an opportunity to vote your support once the nominees are announced.

What types of think tank projects or successes have been finalists in the past?

Finalists have spanned a wide range of issues and outcomes. Check out these past finalists for inspiration.

About Bob Williams

Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Public Policy

Bob founded the Washington Freedom Foundation and was a nationally recognized expert in the areas of fiscal and tax policies, election reform, and disaster preparedness. Bob was also the Director of State Budget Solutions, a project of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Bob held a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Penn State and was a Certified Public Accountant. In that capacity, he served as an auditor at the Pentagon and Post Office for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He served five terms in the Washington State Legislature and was the 1988 Republican nominee for governor of Washington State.