Center on Wisconsin Strategy
The Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) is a progressive policy institute housed on the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It was founded in 1991 by UW Professor Joel Rogers as a center organized around the concept of "high road" economic development: a path to decent jobs, stronger communities, environmental sustainability, and public accountability. Its work includes research, policy, and projects, generally falling into the major categories of work and wages, energy, and government innovation.
The earliest efforts of COWS were directed at workforce development in Wisconsin and rust-belt states that were losing manufacturing jobs. Since 1996, the center has published a biennial report, The State of Working Wisconsin, that quantifies and analyzes trends in that state's workforce. The work and wages focus continues, but has grown national and has evolved to include "green jobs" that provide family-sustaining wages, for instance in energy efficiency retrofitting.
The focus of COWS has expanded to include a number of separate projects aimed at government leaders across the nation who can affect policy in their regions. With Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, COWS co-founded the Mayors Innovation Project. It later added the Center for State Innovation. Both projects are aimed at helping elected officials pursue progressive policies.
COWS also helped launch organizations like the Apollo Alliance and the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN). In 2012 it started the American Legislative and Issue Campaign to write and promote model legislation from a liberal perspective.
The Center on Wisconsin Strategy is funded primarily through grants from foundations including: the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Carolyn Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Garfield Foundation, Living Cities, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. It receives formal support from the university in the form of tax status and from non-university government grants.