McCormack Speaks

November 19, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Bob Turner, McCormack Research Fellow, Shares His Perspectives as One of Key Debate Organizers

 

Over the last three years, the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies has returned to its role as a sponsor of political debates. Since this past summer, McCormack has collaborated with The Boston Globe and WBUR to provide a platform for political candidates running for office to have discussions with each other and the public. The team organizing these debates is led by Dean Cash, Research Fellow Bob Turner and Rashelle Brown, McCormack’s events planner. McCormack Speaks sat down with Bob Turner to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work.

 

SA: What kind of reactions have you received regarding these debates from the public, candidates, UMass Boston, and the city of Boston?

BT: It is very satisfying, in particular, that all of the candidates I talked with spoke positively about the professional way the debates were run. All said they were the most substantive of their campaigns. Our last debate, between the candidates for governor on November 1, was the last of that campaign but still produced lively dialogue and fresh information. It had a large audience, as it was telecast live by Channel 5. There has been much comment from within UMass Boston about the public service that the debates gave, and the positive message this sent about our school as a substantive and productive member of the community.

SA: What has been surprising about sponsoring these debates?

BT: The partnership among MGS, The Boston Globe, and WBUR has developed over three years into a very strong and mutually supportive group. We look forward to more years of this collaboration. Also, all of the 10 debates we co-sponsored were broadcast live. The degree of technical skill and experience needed to bring this off – on radio and television – was really impressive. Equally impressive, always, is the so-calm and so-effective preparation of our own events planner, Rashelle Brown.

SA: What have been the challenges and the rewards of sponsoring these debates?

BT: A major reward: the MGS participation. In several of the debates, questions from McCormack students or faculty that had been prepared beforehand were posed to the candidates, either by the MGS questioner in person, or by a panelist. Helping prepare the questions, and then witnessing their inclusion in the debates, was very gratifying. It was terrific positive publicity for the school. A challenge will be to make sure this kind of questioning by MGS people will be included in all future debates.

SA: How do you see sponsorship of these debates as connecting to the values and mission of the McCormack Graduate School?

BT: The Supreme Court seems to think corporations are citizens that can make political contributions. This is questionable. Not questionable is the fact that the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, while prohibited from making cash contributions to candidates, is without question a citizen of our city, state, and nation. Anything we can do to further the health of our democracy is at the core of our very being.

SA: Are there plans for future debates? How do you envision McCormack continuing and expanding these forums?

BT: We look forward to more action next year, and are talking with our partners about what that might look like. One thought: we just had the mid-term elections, but the New Hampshire presidential primary is only 14 or 15 months away, and swarms of presidential candidates usually start arriving in these parts with the first snowflakes.

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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What’s Cooking at the Center for Social Policy

by Susan Crandall

As the leaves tumble faster and the weather grows ever cooler, the mounting darkness seems to exacerbate the onslaught of tragedies that befall us. I’ve often wondered how people go on in times of upheaval, conducting their daily business as the world is shattering. But I am frequently reminded that tragedies like gun violence and homelessness have been part of the fabric of everyday life for many communities like our neighbors in Dorchester and Roxbury. If they can on, I can go on: deriving purpose through the Center for Social Policy’s dedication to shine a light on the root causes of economic hardship through our community-engaged research.

Aside from voting, to find comfort elsewhere, I cook soups and stews. With my multi-function Instant Pot, I saute, mix ingredients, simmer, walk away and return to a ready-to-serve meal – usually in less than an hour. It’s quick and easy! In contrast, our projects at the Center for Social Policy are more like cooking in an old-fashioned kitchen. We juggle multiple projects at a time, moving the simmering pots and pans from the back to front burners, sneaking a taste here and there, all while keeping some ideas warm in the oven. Here’s a sample of what’s cooking at CSP on cliff effects:

Cliff Effects

Our cliff effects research agenda, guided by CSP Senior Fellow and Professor of Economics Randy Albelda, tackles the dilemma of losing public benefits in response to working more. Now ready to serve is our new chart pack which analyzes more family types and benefit packages and spotlights the impact of housing assistance and universal childcare.

Next up, we are washing, slicing, and dicing the data to prepare our next set of cliff simulations based on our recent report on benefit packages authored by Research Associate Caitlin Carey. We are also analyzing the impact of the new minimum wage law on cliff effects, led by Professor of Economics Michael Carr in partnership with Mass Budget and Policy Center.

We provide technical assistance on public benefits and cliff effects for UTEC in Lowell and for the City of Boston Office of Financial Empowerment. These organizations are grantees in Learn to Earn, Governor Baker’s initiative to mitigate cliff effects for job seekers enrolled in workforce development programs to help them advance in their careers. Our cliff effect research also informs the work of On Solid Ground, a family-engaged statewide coalition with over 45 members that advocates for housing stability and economic mobility for vulnerable families.

Early Education and Care

Cliff effects are especially detrimental for very low-paid workers, such as early childhood educators. Thus the Center for Social Policy, along with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, launched a study on Massachusetts’ early care and education workforce. Our interdisciplinary research team is examining compensation and benefits, public benefits and cliff effects, debt load, and professional development in order to provide in-depth data to inform future policymaking for the early care workforce.

Workforce Development and Employment

Our CSP team, spearheaded by Senior Research Associate Brandynn Holgate, is partnering with the City of Boston Office of Workforce Development to map career pathways in the creative economy for non-traditional adult learners. This project is in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute, with whom we are also embarking on a study with the City of Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to expand job training and employment to more underserved Cambridge residents.

Meanwhile, Research Director Francoise Carre, with co-investigators Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz and Chris Tilly of UCLA, is examining the workplace impacts of changing retail technologies, like automation. And through her work with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Dr. Carre lends statistical expertise on job classification for organizations such as the International Labor Organization to improve policies for informal work, such as domestic workers.

Student Homelessness

Workers and their families need stable housing to thrive. This is why the Center for Social Policy is proud to be selected as the evaluation partner for a cross-sector partnership to address the crisis of 4000 homeless students who attend Boston Public Schools. The collaborative is working together on a pilot program in seven schools to coordinate across housing, education, and health sectors to reduce homelessness and improve educational outcomes. Partners include the Chair of the Boston City Council’s Homelessness and Education Committee, Boston’s Chiefs of Housing and Education, Higher Ground, DSNI, Project Hope, New Lease for Homeless Families, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Housing Authority.

In the Community

When we are not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, we are out and about in the community. Recently, I served on a panel of experts to speak to business leaders on the Modern Workforce, highlighting the need for tuition assistance and debt counseling to attract and retain today’s financially-burdened millennial workforce. I was also an invited speaker on cliff effects and workforce policy at the Department of Labor Employment and Training and Administration Region I Administrators meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Topol Grant Research Team Publishes First Article on Scaling Up Grassroots Nonviolent Movements

The Topol Peace Data Initiative seeks to explore the ways in which grassroots peace initiatives and nonviolent movements for social change can be scaled up and applied at an international scale. Members of the research team recently published its first article with Sage Journals, entitled: “Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter.”

According to the abstract, the article explores the potential role of social media in helping movements expand and strengthen their impact, utilizing a case study of the Black Lives Matter movement to present the possibilities of social media to build connections, mobilize participants and resources, build coalitions, and amplify alternative narratives.

The article was co-authored by Marcia Mundt, a public policy doctoral student, along with Dr. Karen Ross, assistant professor of conflict resolution, and Charla Burnett, a global governance and human security doctoral student.

The publication is available as an open access article here.

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