David Knutson
David Knutson
Senior Research Analyst
Washington State House of Representatives
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"My fellowship focused on the direction of welfare reform in New Zealand, comparing their approach with recent welfare-to-work initiatives in the United States. My work at the Social Policy Agency in Wellington allowed me to observe the interplay between New Zealand's government and Parliament, and to explore how another nation addresses issues related to poverty and welfare dependence. It was interesting to witness the New Zealand government's ability to radically change national policies and programs overnight. The processes for changing public policy were very different from what I had observed in the United States. The New Zealand government introduced and passed welfare reform through Parliament in a single day with little opportunity for public input into the process. In addition, the weakness of New Zealand's economy at the time and lack of available jobs provided a glimpse of how difficult it would be to operate a welfare-to-work approach in the United States in the event of an economic slowdown. Before returning to the United States, I had the great opportunity to discuss my findings with Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, several Cabinet Ministers, and members of Parliament. Since my return, I have presented the results of my work to members of the Children and Family Services Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives, Governor Gary Locke, and other parties interested in welfare reform. The ability to engage in a policy debate on both sides of the Pacific and witness how differently another country grapples with similar issues has the potential to benefit both New Zealand and the United States and has thoroughly enriched my career as a policymaker. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in an international perspective on public policy." Knutson_da@leg.wa.gov

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