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About Leadership Candidate Development

Our Proposal

In 2017, Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) applied for a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant to establish a pioneering investigation into the nation’s political leadership training programs. That grant called for a number of products, academic and popular, and most importantly a first-ever conference of statewide political leadership programs. Leadership programs were invited on the basis of their similarity – bipartisanship and encouraging candidacy – to MSU’s Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP.) IPPSR has been the historic and academic home for MPLP. The conference took place at the Foundation’s offices in Menlo Park, California on Monday, May 21, 2018.

The Project

Through the generosity of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative and the vision of IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann, leaders from six different programs, in Delaware, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia, gathered for an intense, single day of introductions to each other and to programming, debate and discussion of differences and similarities and brainstorming focused around the group’s future. Leaders from national programs with roots in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. also attended, broadening perspectives of statewide groups.

The proposal called for a number of specialized, and pioneering, initiatives. Essentially, those initiatives were aimed at surveying and developing best practices in state candidate leadership programs. Additionally, the initiative’s goals were to enable information sharing and dissemination, connecting practitioners, develop new assessment tools and metrics, and, overall improve legislative problem-solving and aim candidate expectations at national office holding.

The goals were ambitious: creating a comprehensive information sharing opportunity and a full effort to develop best practices. This website was designed to meet the goals for infusing a comprehensive information sharing opportunity – not just within MSU and its leadership projects – but also for those states which initially came together and those programs which will follow into the future.

Our mission, most simply, is to network, share and spread information, best practices and the extraordinary accomplishments of individual programs across the country. Our ultimate outcome is this guides and improves the best bipartisan statewide training programs and to develop a package of start-up materials to proliferate successful new programs.


We are excited to share this leadership and candidate development toolkit.

Michigan State University’s Michigan Political Leadership Program has grown through exceptional times -- of economic riches and recessions and political cohesion and disruption.

We have demonstrated the effectiveness of MPLP in stimulating candidacies, helping participants obtain and prepare for elected and appointed positions, diversifying the pool of officials, and encouraging bipartisan cooperation and problem solving in state government. Graduates are less steeped in partisan conventions and more open to bipartisan working relationships because they have learned how to make politics and policymaking work from the start of their political careers.

We have designed this toolkit to build on these experiences and to stand as a set of fundamental best practices and potential guidelines to help emerging programs develop and initiate successful leadership training practices. Our journey has taken us from an initial proosal, to research programs and finally -- to a summit bringing six programs together for a day-long session of presentations, discussion and brainstorming.

These programs differed in a number of ways, yet were similar in core values: each is aligned around offerings that are bipartisan in nature and stress good public service in practice.

This website includes documents, photos, audio, advertising, forms and curriculum, in effect a multi-media package of elements and examples. We hope this toolkit is helpful as we invite you to join us on this journey.






Matt Grossmann, Director
Institute for Public Policy and Social Research
Michigan State University