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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. Nomination deadlines the next awards cycle will be posted in early 2023.

Awards are presented in four categories:

  • Most Influential Research: Recognizes the organization whose original research achieved a high level of influence in academia, media, or policy-making arenas.
  • Best Issue Campaign: Recognizes the organization that ran the highest quality issue education campaign.
  • 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.
  • Biggest Win for Freedom: Recognizes the organization(s) 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.

Congratulations to the 2022 Bob Williams Award Winners

2022 Most Influential Research:
Georgia Center for Opportunity highlights the harm of COVID restrictions

The Georgia Center for Opportunity released an analysis of governmental actions to shut down the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on employment. The study showed statistically significant correlations between how severe state governmental actions were in shutting down their economies due to the pandemic and negative impacts on employment more than a year after the COVID-19 began in America. This research has already been used to work with several state legislators on model legislation that prepares Georgia to respond to future health crises more appropriately—without jeopardizing people’s economic wellbeing.

2022 Best Issue Campaign:
Commonwealth Foundation gives thousands of Pennsylvania students more education options

Commonwealth Foundation has worked for years to advance school choice reforms in Pennsylvania by seeking to overcome partisan divides that hamper positive school choice reforms. Due to their efforts, this year—for the first time in its history—the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide education scholarships to students. The Lifeline Scholarship Program, which would give nearly $7,000 to parents to spend on approved education expenses, passed the State House with bipartisan support. The scholarship later passed the Senate Education Committee and is now up for debate in Pennsylvania Senate.

2022 Biggest Home State Win:
John Locke Foundation advances a bipartisan budget that helps North Carolina residents thrive

Through research and data analysis, John Locke Foundation equipped policymakers with the tools they needed to make significant policy pivots leading to wiser, more effective spending. In addition to educating policymakers, Locke informed North Carolinians about the benefits of spending reforms and played a critical role in passing the 2021 First in Freedom Budget. The tax reforms in this budget will allow North Carolinians to keep more of what they earn, which will help them manage the inflation crisis sweeping our nation. These reforms will also make the state more attractive to businesses, which will bring more jobs and opportunity to the Tar Heel State.

2022 Biggest Win for Freedom:
Empower Mississippi and Mississippi Center for Public Policy help lawmakers pass the biggest tax cut in state history

In 2022, two state think tanks in Mississippi—Empower Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Public Policy—formed a coalition with additional state partners to champion the Mississippi Tax Freedom Act of 2022. Through the combination of their strengths, the coalition equipped policymakers with research and data on the benefits of lowering the income tax, provided model legislation for those lawmakers, cultivated a consistent public message through media outlets, and empowered public audiences to voice their support for the reforms. Because of their efforts, Mississippi not only passed a historic income tax cut, but they did so with the type of overwhelming and bipartisan support that makes further tax reform far more likely in the future.  

Millions of Americans across the country are coping with historic inflation that has increased the prices of gas, food, furniture, and everything in between. This new tax cut will allow Mississippi workers to keep more of the money in their paychecks so they can pay for these basic goods.


Past Winners

2020

2019

2018

Past Finalists

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.

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 SPN.org 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.


About Bob Williams

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.