What We Value

Understanding that all policy choices are based upon a set of values, we are vigilant about making those values explicit. At the People’s Policy Institute we believe in:
    All people have a right to understand and shape the policies that govern their lives.
    Collaboration benefits from valuing all participants' skills and experiences. At PPI, we facilitate relationships that are respectful, powerful, and sustainable.
    We commit to lower the barriers to participating in policy change work. Examining choices of inclusion and exclusion at every stage of collaboration, we engineer more equitable outcomes by emphasizing participation of those most impacted.


What We Do

PPI’s Collaborative Policy Design process brings together diverse stakeholders to review available evidence, conduct just-in-time research, develop policy alternatives, build constituencies, advocate for systems-level change, and evaluate implementation.

  • Evaluate

    Understanding the ways in which policies deeply affect our everyday lives, we challenge and change paradigms by questioning the status quo, examining history, and looking at other cultures and places.

  • Research

    We focus on the ways in which systems impact the lived experience in our communities, and examine the incentives for implementers and policymakers who govern those systems.

  • Guide

    Working together, we nurture the collective stamina necessary to guide implementation of our policy recommendations and to evaluate the changing policy landscape.

  • Advocate

    Combining clear policy recommendations with persuasive evidence and an organized constituency, we apply a range of advocacy tools to influence policymakers and gain momentum for policy change.

  • Design

    Our collaborative, values-based approach to policy design deepens the political power of impacted communities.

The work is relational, analytical, and values-based, sometimes awkward and frustrating, always risky and creative.


How PPI supports the work of policy change:

PPI’s Collaborative Policy Design (CPD) process brings together diverse stakeholders to examine and develop evidence, create a policy agenda, and advocate for systems-level change. Developed over the course of a decade, Collaborative Policy Design is both evolutionary, incorporating insights from each group that uses it, and tailored to meet current policy change goals. Ranging from 3 hours to 3 days, 10 to 200 people, the CPD curriculum covers a range of topics, including:


Developing policy alternatives

Projecting outcomes of policy alternatives

Weighing policy alternatives

Designing research to inform policy

Civics 101: how government works

Cost-benefit analysis

Unearthing policy history

Case studies of community-driven campaigns


Political analysis and political resource development

Media analysis and media strategies

Community organizing

Coalition building

Direct action planning

Legislative advocacy

Developing pilot programs

Running or backing candidates


Identifying shared values

World Cafe

Pro-Action Cafe

Open Space Technology

Negotiations analysis

Facilitating shared power

Developing stories and spokespeople

PPI provides ongoing analytical support to existing and developing partnerships seeking policy change. By presenting a range of policy alternatives, culled from present and past, domestic and abroad, PPI supports policy conversations in communities. PPI investigates the history and implementation of policies, and works with communities to document the impact of those policies on everyday life.

PPI provides a policy context and neutral space for diverse stakeholders to negotiate shared values, improve current practice, and identify needed policy change. Working with existing coalitions and community-academic partnerships, and disparate organizations and individuals, who share an issue focus, PPI hosts meaningful conversations that deepen understanding of policy impacts, cultivate trusting relationships, and lead to concrete action steps.

PPI’s collaborative approach provides professional analytic tools to clients while supporting a community-driven process that engages diverse stakeholders. Coaching seeks to keep the work focused on community-driven policy change. PPI coaching supports community-engagement throughout the life of a project, and a system’s change approach that means to influence policy and practice far beyond that.

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At the center of our work is the notion that policies, whether public or private, should be informed by the values of impacted communities. Our clients include community-based organizations, community groups, and coalitions. We also work with community partners who exhibit a strong commitment to community-driven policymaking, including foundation and government funders, city and state health departments, universities and other research institutions, and elected officials.



Founded in 2009, the People’s Policy Institute is an education and action company that supports communities striving for social, economic, and environmental justice. PPI provides trainings, workshops, coaching, and ongoing policy analytic support to communities working on issues ranging from health equity to mass incarceration.

PPI has a for-profit (don’t let the name fool you) business model that combines extremely low overhead costs with access to a national pool of community leaders and talented research, design, and policy professionals. Our sliding-scale, fee-for-service model enhances our ability to stay focused on the interests of communities rather than the interests of funders.

We contract nationally with individuals and organizations that can provide local knowledge and specialized analytic or artistic skills to bear on a specific project. Our business model allows us to provide just-in-time education, research and analytic support to communities and partnerships at a relatively low cost.

At the People’s Policy Institute, we do everything we can to make democracy happen.


In 2009, Cassandra Ritas started the People’s Policy Institute to facilitate the use of analytic tools by communities, to promote Collaborative Policy Design by diverse stakeholders, and to support community values in public policymaking. She continues to serve as PPI’s Principal Policy Advisor.

Prior to founding PPI, Cassandra spent several years developing and piloting policy analysis and advocacy workshops for communities and their partners around the US. Working for the New York State Senate in the office of a progressive legislator from 2003-2007, she pursued a stakeholder-based, policy-development process, soliciting input from advocates and scientists on a range of health and criminal justice policy issues. Cassandra served for three years (2000-2003) as the Chair of the Policy Work Group of the Harlem Urban Research Center’s Community Action Board, a collaborative of institutional and community partners that seeks to address the social determinants of health and health disparities in East and Central Harlem (now known as the Harlem Community Academic Partnership). She continues to be an active member of HCAP.

Cassandra is a graduate of Hunter College of the City University of New York. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Cassandra has a special interest in health, criminal justice, environmental, and aging policy. Cassandra’s work is represented in many of the recently edited volumes on community-based participatory research (CBPR). In 2003 she produced the popular toolkit, “Speaking Truth, Creating Power: A guide to policy work for CBPR practitioners,” as part of a fellowship from Community-Campus Partnerships for Health.

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