About The Sycamore Institute

We are committed to building a stronger Tennessee through data and research.

Our History

Founded in 2015, The Sycamore Institute is an independent, statewide, nonpartisan public policy research center for Tennessee. The Institute was the bold vision of a diverse group of community leaders from across the state representing a broad range of professions, political views, and personal experiences.  Leaning on the strength of that diversity, together they identified and surfaced the need for the creation of such an organization.

In the summer of 2015, with the leadership and support of the Baptist Healing Trust, approximately 80 of these leaders came together for three days at the Nelson Andrews Leadership Lodge in Nashville to engage in a collaborative design process. The goal of their time together was to challenge one another to think deeply, dream big, and then design an organization that would address the identified need: reliable, accessible data and research to inform and support the creation of sound, sustainable public policy for Tennessee.

The Institute launched with two key areas of focus: state budget and health policy. The selection of these two areas reflects the organization’s commitment to a vision of a thriving Tennessee whose top priority is the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Why focus on the state budget?
A state’s annual budget is its spending plan and a reflection of its values and priorities. State budget decisions are important because they determine the tax structure and directly influence the return on investment taxpayers receive.

Why health policy?
Policymakers, employers, healthcare professionals, and ordinary citizens all agree that improving the health of Tennesseans is good for everyone. Children, families, businesses, state government, and our economy all thrive when people enjoy good health, function effectively, and make positive contributions to society. We also know that health means more than just physical health. True health includes mental and emotional health, social well-being, and economic viability. These are complicated, nuanced issues that require innovative thought and analysis, as sheltered as possible from the pressures of partisan politics and the demands of the fast-paced news cycle.

Where do state budget and health policy meet?
Health and well-being are complex issues that demand significant public and private resources to build and maintain. In Tennessee, healthcare and education are the state’s top two budget priorities, meaning they are two issues Tennessean policy makers take very seriously when designing and approving the state’s annual budget. The Sycamore Institute is dedicated to understanding and explaining the state budget and existing and proposed laws that impact the health and well-being of Tennesseans. This information will enable citizens, policymakers, non-profit agencies, foundations, media outlets, service providers and others to better understand the fiscal and human impact of pending policies, giving them a non-partisan and informed stake in the process and the outcomes.

We welcome your participation and input in our process.  Please connect with us to learn more and help get involved. To review our official Code of Ethics, click here.

Mission Statement

To provide accessible, reliable data and research in pursuit of sound, sustainable policies that improve the lives of all Tennesseans.


A thriving Tennessee whose top priority is the health and well-being of each citizen.

Why The Sycamore Tree?

The sycamore is a beautiful tree indigenous to the State of Tennessee.

  • They grow tall and quickly thanks to their strong, deep root structure – much like we hope the Institute will grow strong and always be rooted in the community’s needs.
  • Sycamores are highly resistant to pollution – much like the community can trust that our data and analysis will be unbiased.
  • Sycamores stand up well in inclement weather- just as the Institute will remain committed to nonpartisanship, no matter which way the wind is blowing.
  • As it grows, a sycamore tree sloughs off its old bark to make room for new growth – much like we must challenge ourselves to peel back old ideas to make room for new growth in a changing world.
  • Lastly, sycamore seeds are unusually light, enabling them to travel long distances on wind and water to grow trees in new places – much like we hope the Institute’s research will travel far and wide, building a stronger Tennessee through data and research.

Our Values

Bedrock Beliefs

  • We believe that all Tennesseans are worthy of the opportunity to achieve their optimal health and well-being.
  • We believe that effective public policies provide the foundation for improving the lives of Tennesseans.
  • We believe in data-driven decision making and evidence based research as the foundation for the development of effective policy.
  • We believe that robust discussion, collective wisdom and debate among people with different perspectives are necessary and important.

Core Behavioral Values

  • We exist to enhance the well-being of all Tennesseans.
  • We are compelled to interact with respect, humility, integrity, and deep empathy.
  • We are a nonpartisan organization unbeholden to constituencies or preconceived conclusions.
  • We are committed to transparency.
  • We will be a trusted source for reliable information.
  • We will engage diverse stakeholders to foster dialogue and elevate discourse.
  • We will produce materials that are relevant, timely, accessible, and understandable.