Nancy McCrohan, Ph.D., leads Public Policy Associates, Inc. teams that help support healthier lives and stronger communities. Whether it’s working with food banks or philanthropies or workforce development agencies, she helps clients devise effective strategies for achieving their goals. Dr. McCrohan is a senior project manager with over 12 years at PPA and over 10 years in public health research and evaluation. She has also worked on projects related to sustainable agriculture and food systems at Michigan State University.
What drove you to focus on healthy communities and food policy?
I believe in maximizing everyone’s quality of life, which to me means being as healthy as you can. I came to understand that eating healthy and being physically active are the most important behaviors that I can immediately control. I realized that this has helped me to be a healthier person and I want that for the whole community.
What is keeping you in this policy area?
What drives me now is trying to figure out how to make a healthy environment more available to more people. We need a community environment that makes it easy to engage in healthy behaviors. For example, having a useable, clean, and safe trail system means it’s easier for everyone to go out and exercise without requiring the level of motivation that athletes have to just go and do it.
How do your experiences shape the way you do your work?
Even as a tiny kid, I was really aware of certain injustices in the world and as I grew older I was aware of the discriminations that I faced as a female. Eventually my lens broadened to see other forms of injustice. Once you become aware of the many injustices in the world, you cannot unsee them.
In addition, I’m an introverted person. I value listening and observing. I find that as a researcher, a really critical part of my work is listening. Listening in interviews, listening to what the numbers are trying to tell me, and listening for the unexpected. When engaged with a person, my goal is to listen to gain understanding.
Which one of PPA’s values do you think you represent most in your work? The core values are creativity, diversity, excellence, inclusion, integrity, learning, and teamwork.
Definitely diversity, inclusion, and creativity. The problems we’re trying to help solve are incredibly complex. If they weren’t so complex they’d be fixed already. My job is to look at problems creatively and think of solutions with an open mind; we’re in the business of seeing new possibilities.
Diversity and inclusion are also critical in the work that I do. For instance, there is no conversation about food without talking about food sovereignty, equity, and justice. They’re intimately connected and so you cannot do this work effectively without having that focus.
How do you think you’ve had an impact in your field of work?
I am improving the collective capacity to determine if and how people and communities are being impacted. Our clients are doing incredible programming, and they often struggle with how to produce the metrics and narrative that help to tell their story. I provide partnership and mentoring so that we can better define and measure their impacts. It is critical to build the evidence base of what is working and what is not working. How else can we replicate and scale up what works?