History of The Research Bureau
In the early 1980s, Worcester's civic leaders felt the need for an organization to conduct independent, non-partisan public policy research, and to assist Worcester's City Manager by making recommendations about more effective and efficient municipal government. The intended model was the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, established by Boston's civic leaders in 1932.
With pledges of $40,000 and a commitment by Assumption College to house the new organization at a cost of $1.00 a year, the Worcester Municipal Research Bureau was born. Roberta Schaefer was unanimously chosen as Executive Director from a national pool of over 50 applicants. She served in that position until January 2008, when she was appointed President & CEO.
In 1987, when Tom Green, former Vice President of Norton Company, and a founder of The Research Bureau passed away, we honored his memory by establishing the Thomas S. Green Public Service Awards for outstanding public service by municipal employees. Through this annual awards series, The Research Bureau has recognized the distinguished service of over 80 "unsung heroes" of municipal government.
By the late 80s, it became clear that Worcester's business community, like that of many other cities, was changing. Banks were consolidating, some local businesses had been bought by national or multi-national corporations, and others had closed or moved away. The Research Bureau's Executive Committee became concerned about the strength of the organization's financial support. We therefore established an endowment to support the public forums that had been initiated during the first year of operations. The endowment fund is maintained by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and the yearly interest plus corporate sponsorships provide support for The Research Bureau's forum.
The Research Bureau has grown gradually in size and stature from a one-person operation to a four-person staff with offices in the heart of downtown at Mechanics Hall. Our studies, which initially focused solely on the City of Worcester, have broadened in scope to include issues of concern to the Central Massachusetts Region. Accordingly, in 2000, the board voted to change the name of the organization to The Worcester Regional Research Bureau.
Our work has been recognized by awards from the Governmental Research Association and Pioneer Institute's Better Government Competition. In 2000, the Research Bureau received a seven-year, million-dollar-plus grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for benchmarking municipal government in Worcester. Many publications have covered our research, including the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Boston Globe, and Governing Magazine.
In 2010, The Research Bureau celebrated its 25th anniversary. To mark this occasion, we invited six nationally known speakers to Worcester to address the theme of "Cities: Mapping the Road to Success." See also the timeline that we prepared marking major events in the Research Bureau's history.