Public Policy Associates has created a new strategic partnership agreement with Research to Practice Consulting (R2P). The two Lansing-based consulting firms are confident the partnership will lead to new opportunities for the companies and bring greater value to clients. We talked to R2P President Emily Houk about herself, her company, and the new strategic partnership.

Tell us a little about your background and experience in public policy.

I’ve worked with state government for almost 35 years. My first experience in the State Capitol was as a teenager, where I had my first job doing constituent relations for the Michigan State Legislature. My work in the legislative and executive branches continued after my graduation from James Madison College at Michigan State University, which led to later work in the tech community serving government clients. I also spent several years with Public Sector Consultants before setting up my own company in 2014.

What are R2Ps core values?

R2P’s staff culture and climate is at the center of everything we do. One of my favorite things about working in state government was that every day, I found myself surrounded by smart, interesting, talented people who loved their state and loved their work. Public policy lets you cast a wide net in terms of people’s interests and backgrounds. In founding R2P, I wanted to build a group of curious problem-solvers who would be committed not only to their work, but also to their own success and growth. And I think by intentionally building around work-life integration, I’ve been able to develop a team that comes ready to work hard and focus when it’s needed.

R2P is women-owned with a staff of six consultants, all women. How does that affect your work?

It’s been a great six years for “Those Women from Michigan!” But there is always more work to do in bringing balance to the public policy field. As newly elected leaders take up causes that have historically been seen as “women’s issues,” there’s a clear need to bring faces and voices to the table who have lived the challenges we are trying to solve. The pandemic brought work that was historically underfunded or undervalued—like education, child care, and access to health care—under a microscope.  It created a pivotal moment for these issues, shining light on system inequities that often affect women who have the primary responsibility for those issues in a family.  Having women’s voices centered at R2P is core to how we think and operate and often drives our interest in improving the system.

What policy areas do you focus on?

R2P works primarily in education and human services. Our goal, broadly, is to help make the world a better place. More specifically, the goal is to ensure that people who need access to services, particularly governmental services, can access them easily and efficiently.

How did the strategic partnership with PPA come about?

I have known about PPA my entire career. They are an amazing research shop doing fantastic work. I worked with Rob Fowler (CEO of PPA) when he was at the Small Business Association of Michigan and later at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. When he took the helm at PPA, I had the opportunity to get to know him better and learn more about the firm’s goals moving into the future.

The strategic partnership came about after a series of conversations with Rob about how we could complement each other’s work. Most recently, we had a chance to collaborate on transition work for the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). With PPA’s strength in conducting very rigorous research and my team’s strengths on the implementation side, it made sense to join those resources together to support our clients.

I am excited about the new opportunities for R2P and PPA to help our clients turn research and ideas into action, and I am optimistic about the future of a Michigan we will help create.