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Arkansas Public Policy Panel

The Arkansas Public Policy Panel (APPP) is a statewide nonprofit organization based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The mission of the APPP is to “achieve social and economic justice by organizing citizen groups around the state, educating and supporting them to be more effective and powerful, and linking them with one another in coalitions and networks” and to “bring balance to the public policy process in Arkansas.”

The APPP grew out of an organization founded in 1963 as the Little Rock Panel of American Women (PAW). This group of volunteers, organized by Sara Murphy, spoke to community groups, relaying personal stories of the impact of discrimination on their lives in support of racial and religious diversity. As the organization grew, the scope of its activities expanded to include serving public schools, forming coalitions, and working for economic justice. One outgrowth of PAW (which changed its name to the Little Rock Panel, Inc., in 1980) was the Arkansas Public Policy Project, a group dedicated to increasing citizen participation in public policy. Embracing its changing mission, PAW merged with the Arkansas Public Policy Project in the 1980s and officially became the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Inc. Brownie Ledbetter, a member of the Little Rock Panel, Inc., board of directors and program chair for the Arkansas Public Policy Project, served as volunteer executive director until her retirement in 1999.

Throughout the 1990s, the APPP formally moved to add agricultural and environmental issues to their focus. One outward result of this expanded focus was the mid-1990s Delta Project, a network of citizens’ groups focused on environmental issues in Phillips, Lee, and Crittenden counties. The panel also focused on the training of grassroots organizations, such as the Wildlife Association in Newton County and Friends United to Save the Environment in Texarkana (Miller County). By training community groups, the panel hoped to reverse an underrepresentation of the local voice in policy matters, help potential leaders emerge, and set up an infrastructure capable of sustaining their work. In November 1998, ninety delegates from forty-three of these groups convened the first Arkansas Citizens First Congress. The congress formed a Citizen Lobby Corps and trained more than 100 citizen lobbyists for the next legislative session.

The APPP works to organize and train nonprofit organizations and other grassroots groups to work on six major Arkansas issues: agriculture, civil rights, economic justice and development, education, environment, and government and corporate accountability. Through their efforts, a network of Arkansas community groups began providing additional resources for groups working on local and statewide issues. This network allows local leaders and groups to expand their skills and knowledge of issues while supporting one another and the work of the APPP.

For additional information:
Arkansas Public Policy Panel. http://www.arpanel.org (accessed September 17, 2009).

Arkansas Public Policy Panel Records. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Stephanie Bayless
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 1/2/2010

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