From the President

Gregory K. Ingram, July 1, 2005

Education, training, research, and dissemination have been the instruments used most frequently by the Lincoln Institute to achieve its goals of expanding and making available its knowledge of land policy and taxation. Recently the Institute has begun to combine these instruments in demonstration projects, which involve the application of knowledge, data collection, and expertise to the development and implementation of policy in specific circumstances.

Several ongoing projects provide expert advice and assistance to agencies that are considering new approaches to property taxation, planning, or development. Examples include the consideration of property and land tax reform in several states, the management of state-owned lands, land market monitoring, and support for new approaches to urbanization in Latin America.

Moving forward, the scope of Institute demonstration projects will expand to include the analysis of policies as they are being applied and to document their outcomes. The aim of this expansion is to improve our understanding of the effectiveness of new policy initiatives—what works and in what conditions it does so.

Whether a policy works or not is normally defined in terms of the achievement of the policy’s intended objectives. Thus, our approach would be limited to those policies that have well-defined objectives or intended outcomes. Assessing the achievement of outcomes will be based on performance indicators that measure attainment of the policy’s objectives as well as on the change in other relevant parameters.

Perhaps most important, these demonstration projects will require the collection of baseline data before policy implementation begins so that the analysis of policy effects has a valid benchmark for comparison. Many studies of the impact of policies are severely handicapped by a lack of a good baseline from which to measure change.

When a policy intervention is successful in one application, its results are sometimes readily transferable to other environments, but that is not always the case. For example, the effectiveness of property tax policies may vary with institutional factors such as the clarity of a country’s property rights regime or the independence of the assessment appeal process from political pressure. If institutional dimensions are important determinants of policy effectiveness, more than one assessment of a policy application is needed to determine the influence of those factors. The assumption that “one size fits all” is rarely true when institutional details are an important determinant of policy performance—as they often are in land policy and taxation.

Well-documented case studies of the impact of policies can be powerful instruments in the classroom and as evidence in policy debates. Policy makers and many students often find the results of rigorous case studies to be more accessible and compelling. We anticipate that the results of the Institute’s demonstration projects will contribute valuable new material to our education and research programs.