Our Impact

Reduce Waste – Add Value – Capture and Share the Benefit of Both Locally – Repeat

For more than 30 years, High Road Strategy Center has promoted, tested, and demonstrated the attractiveness of “high road” development in places. This development strategy assumes both competitive markets and popular interest in social equity and fairness, environmental sustainability, and competent democratic government. It then, iteratively, uses better democratic organization, inside and outside the state, to reduce waste, add value, and capture and share, locally, the net increase in social value. Competent and capable democratic organization is essential to each step of this process, and the broadly productive democracy it may power. Democracy here is understood as a factor of production, it is essential not only to fairness and popular sovereignty, but social wealth creation. Our “natural capital” of environmental services is understood as another factor.  

When we started High Road Strategy Center, this view that social equity, environmental sustainability, and popular accountability are necessary complements in long run development, and compatible with market competition, was heretic. It lacked commonly accepted economic and other behavioral foundations. Now, in part because of our work, it is very widely accepted, at least in theory. 

Practice, or course, is another matter. And that’s another area of High Road Strategy Center’s impact.

Building the High Road Starts in Cities

In 1999, Metro Futures put High Road Strategy Center on the map as a thought leader on cities. Soon after, since 2005, our Mayors Innovation Project has provided ongoing support for policy learning and practical application for hundreds of high-roading U.S. mayors. 

With the release of Cities at Work (2014), we produced our most comprehensive city policy guide to date, arming local leaders with policies that make a significant difference in the lives of their constituents.

"The future of America is the future of our cities. Restoring their health and wealth is the key to advancing racial justice, to raising and equalizing wages, to promoting equal opportunity, to saving our environment....I urge you to read and consider Metro Futures."

The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., from the Foreword

An Economy that Works for All

Building a high road economy means rooting out the systemic inequities that have consistently hurt marginalized communities, in particular women and people of color. 

High Road Strategy Center’s first truly public project, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP) (1994) has become a national model for sensible local industrial policy.  Worker centered, community focused, and industry driven, the WRTP demonstrates a high-road approach that makes jobs more secure, provides community access to high wage jobs, and responds directly to industry needs. 

This project continues to impact training partnerships across the country, as High Road Strategy Center has advised and supported partnerships and state policy leaders across the nation including in Wisconsin, California, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Partnerships also make equity in good jobs possible. The Milwaukee Jobs Initiative (1997) and Equity in Apprenticeship (2018) show how to extend opportunity to workers – often women and people of color – who have been too often excluded in the past.

View Workers & Economy Publications


WRTP/BIG STEP Welcomes President Barack Obama to Highlight Successful Workforce Development Partnership with GE Energy. Source: https://www.goiam.org/news/obama-lauds-wisconsin-local-1377-worker-training-at-ge-energy/


"The country can take a page from the Badger State’s book. It includes creating more manufacturing jobs, training more Americans with the skills to fill those jobs, and making sure the hard work pays off with good wages."

President Obama, 2014

Smarter Transportation

Building the high road also means reimagining a transportation system that promotes equitable economic development and environmental sustainability. Our State Smart Transportation Initiative provides research, technical assistance, and information-sharing for transportation officials and the communities they serve. Our work in this space has contributed to:

  • The reduction of (and in some cases, the cancellation of) many wasteful, environmentally damaging highway projects, including the so-called NAFTA Highway.
  • The adoption of an accessibility performance measure designed to inform project funding and support multimodal transportation options for projects large and small. 
  • The development of a new approach to assessing and responding to land use-driven transportation impacts by focusing on transportation demand management (TDM) to make traffic reduction the priority. Reducing barriers imposed on infill development in order to create a more compact and accessible downtown.

The Roots of the Green New Deal

We have been on the front line of energy policy since our inception, identifying the most effective financing mechanisms and governance structures to not only satisfy energy demand in greener ways, but to share the benefits of doing so more equitably.

Co-founded at High Road Strategy Center, the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency (Me2) critically demonstrated how energy efficiency financing was possible. It also laid important groundwork for future projects

High Road Strategy Center helped found the Apollo Alliance (1997), to which the Green New Deal can trace its roots.

The nationally recognized Green Jobs series (Greener Pathways, 2008; Greener Skills, 2010; Greener Reality, 2012) established and defined the concept of green jobs, recognizing the enormous opportunity to integrate this concept into the current job landscape. 

View the Green Jobs Series

View Green Jobs & Energy Publications

Co-founded by High Road Strategy Center, the Emerald Cities Collaborative is developing energy, green infrastructure and other sustainable development projects that not only contribute to the resilience of our metropolitan regions but also ensure an equity stake for low-income communities of color in the green economy.

Home State Advantage

Based at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, High Road Strategy Center has always been passionate about building the high road in our home state. 

State of Working Wisconsin

For more than two decades, our State of Working Wisconsin report has presented the workers’ perspective on the economy: who is winning; who is being left out; and where is disparity growing. 

View Wisconsin Economy Publications

UniverCity Alliance

Co-founded by and housed at High Road Strategy Center, the UniverCity Alliance connects education, service and research activities across UW-Madison with partner cities, furthering the practice of sustainability. UniverCity Year is a three-year partnership between UW-Madison and Wisconsin communities. 

Health in All Policies

The Legacy Community Alliance for Health (LCAH) increases the capacity of Wisconsin municipalities to consider the health implications in all policies.

Progressive State and Local Policy 

In 2003, High Road Strategy Center designed and founded the American Legislative and Issue Campaign (ALICE), which became the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) in 2010. SiX is an independent national resource and strategy center that collaborates with state legislators and provides legislative coordination across states. 

Co-founded by High Road Strategy Center, the Economic Analysis and Research Network (1997) coalesces research, policy, and public engagement organizations in order to fight state by state, for an economy that works for everyone.

In 2020, High Road Strategy Center initiated, with EARN and others, ProGov21, a curated, regularly updated, and fully searchable digital library, sorted by substantive area of more than 1500 recommended high-road laws and practices.  

Ready to join us on the high road? Let’s talk.