Our Mission
The Paul Douglas Institute is a nonpartisan student-run public policy think tank.

Founded and based at the University of Chicago, we empower students to independently influence public policy. We produce evidence-driven social science research that is rigorous, practical, and innovative. To ensure our research is impactful and relevant, we often work with nonprofits, government offices, and elected officials.

Our founders named the organization after Senator Paul H. Douglas, a University of Chicago economist and dedicated public servant. Inspired by his life and work, we enable students to make an impact on the legislative process by applying their education to real-world questions.

We are committed to fostering inclusivity and mutual respect.

The Paul Douglas Institute’s purpose is to empower students to produce meaningful and impactful policy research. To advance this aim, we believe strongly in attracting students diverse in talents, background, and experience of Chicago and America’s varied communities and landscapes. To this purpose, we are committed to building an institute that fosters inclusivity and mutual respect.

Our History

In 2017, our institute began when members of the University of Chicago Democracy Initiative saw an opportunity for students to make a real impact in the public discourse through research. UCDI is a civic organization on campus dedicated to improving the state of American democracy, and houses several initiatives including student political education, voter registration events, and the Citizen Bulletin, a nonpartisan weekly newsletter detailing the actions of local, state, and national elected officials.

In 2018, PDI became a federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

In 2019, PDI co-founded the Global Student Policy Alliance, a collective of student-run think tanks and policy organizations from around the world.


Today, PDI is comprised of 90 students who are actively involved in the organization as either researchers, leaders, or advisors.

Thus far, the organization has completed over 20 policy projects, and worked with governments, nonprofits, and legislators in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cambridge, U.K.

© 2020 by The Paul Douglas Institute.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization​.