Samuel Gebru, managing director of Black Lion Strategies, was recently named a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for State Policy Analysis within the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. As cSPA’s first nonresident senior fellow, Gebru will help state lawmakers who do not have the tools to conduct state-level policy analysis on their own.
Gebru comes to the post with a host of social and economic policy experience. He directed public policy and affairs at the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, where he analyzed and proposed key state-level policies to help Black business statewide. He also founded Black Lion Strategies, a Cambridge-based consulting firm specializing in social impact, advocacy and policy work, where he is currently the managing director.
CSPA is a relatively new branch of Tisch College, having launched in 2020, that serves as a nonpartisan analysis and research hub to break down important details in state policy and legislation.
“Our state lawmakers don’t have the actual internal staff capacity to do this work, and so an organization like cSPA has the unique opportunity to leverage the tools of a major university like Tufts … to be able to provide independent, original, nonpartisan research,” Gebru said.
Gebru’s responsibilities at cSPA will involve analyzing legislation, evaluating key ballot initiatives and working with nonprofit organizations to conduct research.
Evan Horowitz, executive director of cSPA, described the talent and experience Gebru brings to his new role.
“Sam brings a range of incredible skills including a richness of policy and advocacy ideas and a tremendous energy to sell those ideas,”' Horowitz said.
Horowitz cited Massachusetts’ new millionaire’s tax proposal, which is currently being debated by lawmakers in Boston, as a prime example of a cSPA research project. The product of a collaborative effort between senior Bridget Wall and Associate Professor of Economics Thomas Downes, cSPA’s new report on the Fair Share Amendment analyzes the economic, social and political ramifications of the bill.
Horowitz explained the need for an organization like cSPA within Massachusetts’ political landscape.
“[Massachusetts legislators] have no dedicated independent research agency they can turn to and say, ‘Hey, what’s the impact going to be?’” Horowitz said.
Though many of his initiatives are still in their early stages, Gebru joined cSPA with his own agenda, according to Horowitz.
“I hope that I will be able to add value to these conversations about what the new normal should look like,” Gebru said of his goals. “How do we make sure that we have an equitable future for everybody?”
Gebru highlighted the timeliness of cSPA’s work.
“CSPA is not looking at things that happened ten years ago … It’s not looking at things that are going to happen in thirty years,” Gebru said, “It’s looking at what’s happening right now and what is the feedback that [cSPA] can give to lawmakers on the different bills … that they are proposing.”
While many national-scale think tanks focus on similar issues, Horowitz said cSPA distinguishes itself by focusing on nonpartisan policy analysis at the state level. In the past, cSPA has studied policies ranging from the proposed millionaire’s tax to President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to the efficacy of using the COVID-19 test-and-trace strategy in Massachusetts.
Tisch College and cSPA are looking to increase student engagement with their output. With the creation of Gebru’s fellowship, both Gebru and Horowitz expressed interest in creating new opportunities for Tufts students to engage in policy research and advocacy efforts.
Horowitz emphasized involving students in research projects, adding that Gebru hopes to engage students through events and gatherings.
Gebru expressed his excitement to increase the accessibility of cSPA’s policy research work.
“I think it’s important that we build bridges that allow cSPA … to collaborate with the wider community on different issues … to bring community to Tufts, but also to bring Tufts to the community,” Gebru said.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Samuel Gebru is a nonresident research fellow at cSPA. Gebru’s title is nonresident senior fellow.