Toolbox: Research & Analysis
An important role of the Council is to help assess the progress being made towards long-term goals integral to Virginia's prosperity and well-being. Three of its key, high-level goals are to maintain and enhance a vibrant economy, to increase the educational attainment of Virginia's citizens, and to remain the best-managed state in the nation.
The Council's approach is to focus on the primary drivers of key outcomes related to these broad goals by conducting research and fostering dialogue with state and national thought leaders, and by partnering with specific organizations to explore important challenges. Its mission is not to develop specific policy or strategy, but to strengthen the framework for decision-making and to provide a flexible, accessible framework for assessment. Recently, this has included the development of priority-focused report cards that help identify and assess the major elements affecting performance in a specific area.
Virginia's commitment to economic growth is evidenced by recent successes in new business investments and job growth. But significant challenges – pressures on federal spending, an uncertain global economy, increasing competition – also exist, meaning that we cannot take future success for granted.
The foundations of economic competitiveness – the keys to long-term prosperity – are complex and include broad elements ranging from workforce quality to transportation infrastructure to the overall quality of life in a region. These basics can vary fairly significantly by geographic area, and understanding the multi-layered interrelationships among, within, and across regions can be difficult.
That's why the Council is particularly enthusiastic about a new partnership with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce: Joining in the Chamber's Blueprint Virginia initiative to develop a long-term plan to enhance regional competitiveness and economic growth across the Commonwealth. Blueprint Virginia envisions a dynamic, 8-year, business-focused strategic plan to raise the Commonwealth to new levels of economic success and statewide prosperity.
The Council has partnered with the Chamber on Blueprint Virginia by helping frame the data and performance landscape across the state's regions. Identifying priorities and action items has been an inclusive process that involves regional as well as industry leaders.
Although Virginia's education system and the educational attainment of its working-age adults are the envy of many, the picture for the future is somewhat uncertain. The rapid emergence of new economic powers and continued improvements in developed countries have significantly increased the level of competition faced by Virginia and the United States. Many analysts and industry leaders believe that the quality and educational attainment of the U.S. workforce are key to ensuring future competitiveness and prosperity.
Earlier research by the Council and others showed a "degree gap" in Virginia's educational pipeline: Too few of Virginia's high school students go on to successfully complete college. Yet having a college degree is one of the most reliable pathways to increased income and job security, as well as a marker for many other beneficial outcomes in health, civic activity, and so on. In addition, businesses increasingly demand such higher-skill workers, even in factory settings.
As a result, the state and its executive leadership have adopted the goal of producing an additional 100,000 college degrees in Virginia by 2025 to help the Commonwealth keep up with international benchmarks.
A report by the Council, Critical Outcomes in Virginia Education [pdf, 1.8 mb], presents an overview of the state's performance from pre-kindergarten to college attainment, with a focus on important areas such as 3rd- and 4th-grade reading, high school dropout rates, and college graduation. The report also discusses the disparity in educational success among Virginia's regions.
During 2010-2011, the Council on Virginia's Future completed an initial assessment of Virginia's regions and of regional efforts to strengthen efficiency, effectiveness, and economic growth. A resulting report, Issue Insight #6: Virginia Performs: A Regional Perspective (pdf, 2.88 mb) helps make clear that Virginia' economy is only as strong as each of its diverse regional economies.
Studying regional efficiency and effectiveness further underscored the understanding that government operations and funding relationships are multi-layered, complex, and challenging. Staff also produced Issue Insight #7: Government Funding and Service Relationships (pdf, 1.99 mb), to provide a high-level summary of funding and service delivery relationships between levels of government, including a series of charts that aim to disentangle the complexity inherent in today's current funding and service delivery structures.