McCormack Speaks

April 29, 2021
by jackli001
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New Book Release From MGS Faculty – Karen Ross

Check out Karen Ross‘s new book release, Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach


Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach, by Karen Ross, Pengfei Zhao, Peiwei Li, Barbara Dennis (SAGE Publications, 496 pages, $85.00 paperback)

Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach introduces students to research methods by illuminating the underlying assumptions of social science inquiry. Authors Pengfei Zhao, Karen Ross, Peiwei Li, and Barbara Dennis show how research concepts are often an integral part of everyday life through illustrative common scenarios, like looking for a recipe or going on a job interview. The authors extrapolate from these personal but ubiquitous experiences to further explain concepts, like gathering data or social context, so students develop a deeper understanding of research and its applications outside of the classroom. Students from across the social sciences can take this new understanding into their own research, their professional lives, and their personal lives with a new sense of relevancy and urgency.

This text is organized into clusters that center on major topics in social science research. The first cluster introduces concepts that are fundamental to all aspects and steps of the research process. These concepts include relationality, identity, ethics, epistemology, validity, and the sociopolitical context within which research occurs. The second and third clusters focus on data and inference. These clusters engage concretely with steps of the research process, including decisions about designing research, generating data, making inferences. Throughout the chapters, Pause and Reflect open-ended questions provide readers with the space for further inquiry into research concepts and how they apply to life. Research Scenario features in each chapter offer new perspectives on major research topics from leading and emerging voices in methods. Moving from this dialogic perspective to more actionable advice, You and Research features offer students concrete steps for engaging with research. Take your research into the world with Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student and Practitioner Centered Approach.

Karen Ross is Assistant Professor at the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance; McCormack Graduate School.

Register and Join the celebration of Karen Ross’s New Book Publication! May 6 (3pm – 4:30pm)!

April 29, 2021
by jackli001
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The Family-Led Stability Pilot: Community-Engaged Research to Address Family Homelessness

(Top Row: Jokaimy Caceres, LCSW Parent Organizer and Advocate; Brian Beauregard, Public Policy PhD Student & CSP Research Associate; Olanike Ojelabi, Public Policy PhD Student & CSP Research Associate) (Bottom Row: Bianca Ortiz-Wythe, Public Policy PhD student & CSP Research Associate; Candice Harding, Parent Organizer & Advocate at Boston’s Higher Ground; Susan Crandall, Director of CSP)

Written by: Center for Social Policy

There are over 4500 homeless students enrolled in Boston Public Schools each year, and many more families will be at-risk of homelessness even as the pandemic eases. In response to this growing challenge, which disproportionately impacts families of color and those with limited English proficiency, a collaboration of public and private partners launched the Family Led Stability Pilot (FLSP). This cross-sector collaboration is key to the FLSP approach to achieving housing stability for vulnerable families, which targets seven elementary schools in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhood.

The Center for Social Policy (CSP), based in UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School, is conducting a multi-year comprehensive evaluation of FLSP. The FLSP partners include Boston Public Schools (BPS), City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), Boston Housing Authority (BHA), City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), New Lease for Homeless Families, Project Hope, and Boston’s Higher Ground.

The frontline staff at local community-based organizations in Nubian Square play a critical role in the initiative, forging connections between families, BPS, essential services, and of course – permanent housing. In one case a grandmother had been the sole caregiver and provider for her two young granddaughters, students at BPS. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she and her granddaughters became homeless. For several months they lived in two shelters, and their lives were in a constant state of upheaval until Boston’s Higher Ground stepped in to give this family the help they needed through the FLSP collaboration. The grandmother noted:

“Kathy Drew from Higher Ground is so sweet. She came to visit me and my granddaughters where we were living. She helped me find a lawyer and she helped me complete paperwork that I did not understand. Now I have a Section 8 voucher and we are finally looking for permanent housing. I don’t know what I would have done without the help of Higher Ground.”

Jokaimy Caceres, LCSW, Parent Organizer and Advocate/Organizadora y Defensora de Padres and Boston’s Higher Ground summarized the underlying philosophy of FLSP: “The services I provide to homeless families are important because low-income families deserve to feel safe and secure in order to be able to achieve their highest potential. If individuals do not have their basic needs met, everything else will feel impossible to do.”

Paulette Mendes, Family Partner at Project Hope emphasized the importance of local partners working in tandem to help families: “This program is truly a reflection of “It takes a village.”  Through this wonderful collaboration, we have been able to house many families. Not only house them but provide them with a place to call home.  For many of our families, this is the first time that their children have their own room, not to mention their own beds.  This would not be possible without all of the partners believing that housing is a human right and it takes a village to make it happen.”

The staff at community-based organizations empathize with the clients they serve: “I serve homeless families because as a single mother myself, I understand the challenges that many of our families face day to day. To be able to assist a family with locating affordable housing and hearing how excited they are when they finally receive their keys, is so rewarding for me.” said Candice Harding, Parent Organizer and Advocate at Boston’s Higher Ground.

Public Policy doctoral student and CSP research associate Olanike Ojelabi, who conducts qualitative interviews with families, shared “I feel connected to this project because it aligns with my research goals to advance social and economic wellbeing for vulnerable and underserved populations. Working on this project as an interviewer is emotionally challenging but also inspiring as I listen to the difficult experiences of these families, as well as their strength and resilience to find shelter and a build a home for themselves and their children. “

Public Policy doctoral student and CSP research associate Brian Beauregard added: “CSP and the partners of FLSP are deeply committed to serving families that are experiencing financial and housing instability.  The qualitative research, which includes interviews with families that have been served by FLSP, is important to the success of the initiative. It gives families a much-needed voice and their perspectives are invaluable; it will give an in-depth view of how the initiative is working. This research greatly aligns with my own values and research interests to serve the greater community and to play a role in helping all families to thrive.”

CSP Director Susan Crandall summed up: “The FLSP is at the heart of what we do at the Center for Social Policy:  It is local community-engaged research focused on very low-income families, typically headed by women of color. It recognizes the complexity of family homelessness, crossing sectors and policy domains. It is a two-generation strategy that directly engages BPS families to help them connect with critical services and permanent housing. Our mixed-methods evaluation centers on hearing the voices of impacted women to develop policies to eliminate family homelessness.”

The evaluation is also staffed by Public Policy doctoral student and CSP research associate Bianca Ortiz-Wythe, Senior Research Fellow Susan Foley and Senior Research Associate Ngai Kwan, both based at the Institute for Community Inclusion.

March 8, 2021
by jackli001
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New Book Releases From MGS Faculty – Maria Ivanova and Jeff Pugh

MGS faculty book releases, Maria Ivanova and Jeff Pugh.

Photo Credits: Stacy D VanDeveer

Check out two new book releases from MGS faculty, Maria Ivanova and Jeff Pugh!


The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty, by Maria Ivanova (The MIT Press 20201, 384 pages, $30.00 paperback)

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) was founded in 1972 as a nimble, fast, and flexible entity at the core of the UN system – a subsidiary body rather than a specialized agency. In this book, Maria Ivanova offers a detailed account of UNEP’s origin and history and a vision for its future. Ivanova counters the common criticism that UNEP was deficient by design, arguing that UNEP has in fact delivered on much (though not all) of its mandate. UNEP’s fiftieth anniversary, Ivanova argues, presents an opportunity for reinvention. She envisions a future UNEP that is the go-to institution for information on the state of the planet, a normative vision of global environmental governance, and support for domestic environmental agendas.

Maria Ivanova is Associate Professor of Global Governance and Director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Ivanova is also a visiting scholar at the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT.

Learn about the story behind the book here: YouTube (The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution: UNEP at Fifty by Maria Ivanova)

 

The Invisibility Bargain: Governance Networks and Migrant Human Security, by Jeffrey D. Pugh (Oxford University Press, 296 pages, $29.95 paperback)

The world is currently struggling with social and political responses to massive refugee and immigration flows that sometimes include discriminatory and xenophobic rhetoric and policies, sanctioned by powerful social institutions and political figures. Much of the existing work on these responses, and the strategies used by migrants to achieve protection, rights, and social integration, focus on industrialized receiving countries in Europe and the United States, even as most migration occurs within the Global South, which also hosts 86% of refugees in the world. In the Global South in general, and Latin America in particular, personal relationships, informal institutions and networks, and non-state actors play an important role as sources of authority, enforcers of social norms, and channels of influence and power.

This book (Oxford University Press, 2021) seeks to understand how migrants negotiate their place in the receiving society, and adapt innovative strategies to coexist peacefully, establish livelihoods, and participate politically given their status as ‘guests’. Their acceptance is often contingent on the perception that they contribute economically to the host country while remaining politically and socially invisible. This unwritten expectation, which I call the ‘invisibility bargain’, produces a vulnerable status in which migrants’ visible differences or overt political demands on the state may be met with a hostile backlash from the host society that labels migrants as ungrateful, dangerous, or threatening. In a democratic state, the government has political incentives to prioritize citizens (who vote), not migrants, so the state is not the ideal provider of human security and peace in many migrant-receiving communities. Instead, governance networks, which link non-state actors, international institutions, and the state, form an institutional web that can provide access to rights, resources, and protection for migrants through informal channels that avoid the negative backlash against visible political activism.

Jeffrey D. Pugh is Assistant Professor in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the founding executive director of the Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC) in Quito, Ecuador. Pugh’s research focuses on peacebuilding and non-state actors in the Global South, and he is a past president of the Middle Atlantic Council on Latin American Studies (MACLAS).

Register and Join the celebration of Jeffrey Pugh’s New Book: The Invisibility Bargain! April 1 (3pm – 4:30pm)!

December 3, 2020
by jackli001
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Building Science Back Better: Renewing Trust in Science in Federal Agencies

By David W. Cash, Dean, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies University of Massachusetts Boston; +1-617-794-9431; david.cash@umb.edu

Healthcare Worker

The Biden-Harris Administration will need to re-construct the scientific infrastructure of federal agencies whose staff, processes and institutions are severely diminished. In order to address the four priorities of COVID-19, racial equity, climate change, and economic recovery, building science back better will be critical.

Traditional approaches applying science in policy making arenas focus on the credibility of the science – how well the science meets standards of technical adequacy driven by peer review and processes that evaluate methodology and evidence. Credibility is necessary, but not always sufficient in building trust in science, especially when working in areas that are characterized by political conflict. Two other characteristics of science may be equally important: salience and legitimacy. Salience is the relevance of the science to decision makers or stakeholders – is science asking the questions that matter to them? Legitimacy relates to whether the process of creating knowledge has been transparent, fair, inclusive of divergent views or values, and as unbiased as possible.

Building science back better will certainly mean re-establishing the credibility of government science. But a further focus by federal agencies on creating the right institutions and processes to advance the salience and legitimacy of science will increase the chance that government science will make a difference in solving the major challenges we face. Enhancing the relevance of science and assuring that it is legitimate will require intentional efforts that deliberately bridge the boundary between science and decision making and/or communities. Such mechanisms maintain participatory processes that support communication and translation across the boundary; engage stakeholders early and often in the scoping of analysis; disaggregate data by race, income, gender and other variables in ways that have particular resonance at local levels; and jointly create and own data, tools, maps or models that explore problems and test solutions.

A compelling example is the agricultural extension system in the United States, which, for over a century, has effectively linked agricultural research at land grant colleges to the everyday decisions of farmers. The system of county extension agents connects the concerns, questions, and innovations of farmers to scientists at land grant colleges, and supports iterated two-way communication that enhances credibility, salience, and legitimacy of the science. The result is a relatively high degree of trust between farmers and scientists and the deployment of science and technology that assists farmers at local levels. Through the bridging actions of the county extension office, farmers help scope research, are part of building and using agro-economic models, and become innovators of new technology and practices.

What are the prospects of using this kind of framework in addressing the four policy priorities of the early Biden-Harris Administration? The examples below simplify complex systems, but they highlight the kinds of efforts and organizations that can help build trust in science to solve these challenges.

  • COVID-19: As the COVID crisis hit in early 2020, the disaggregation of data that showed which communities by race were hit the hardest enabled such communities to mobilize, for example, with targeted distribution of PPE. Similarly, as vaccines become available, successful deployment will depend on local adoption, and designing processes so that communities trust that the vaccines will be safe and effective. Linking national systems of vaccine distribution to local trusted organizations (e.g., local community health care centers, houses of worship, etc.) may facilitate the ability for local community members to air concerns (ask the questions that are salient to them), and be part of the process of creating a distribution system that is transparent, accountable, and has local ownership.
  • Racial equity: Social sciences play a large part in understanding inequitable structures and biases in wealth, government, health care, housing, policing, and education. For example, by disaggregating wealth data by income, race, gender, and geography, analysts, decision makers, and communities can see disparities in economic variables. In addition, numerous academic institutions and even the Federal Reserve have launched a variety of different kinds of community-engaged action research programs, linking researchers to communities so that participatory engagement in the scoping and conducting of research establishes long-term trusted relationships with communities to both examine the root causes of inequities and propose, pilot, and implement solutions.
  • Climate change: There is now a long record of global through local systems that link science and decision making through robust organizations and processes that engage decision makers and scientists in iterated participatory networks that enhance trust in science through downscaling climate data and models, running state and local-scale risk assessments, and exploring locally driven policy scenarios. NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program is one such example.  Emerging renewable energy extension programs that piggy-back on the agricultural extension system is another.
  • Economic recovery: One part of economic recovery will be job training and workforce development. These are inherently local concerns driven by local industry, markets, and economic indicators, but are influenced by larger scale forces. As is already in place, federal-state-local integrated workforce development programs can be resourced to assure that solutions fit local conditions and are informed both by federal statistics and economic data from trusted local sources. The result of the use of such trusted data can drive growth in sectors that will generate long-term prosperity.

As government science is reconstituted in the Biden-Harris Administration, there is a window of opportunity to re-build better by focusing on all three of these attributes of science – credibility, salience and legitimacy.  Such focus will increase the chance that science will drive better decision making, especially in a complex and politically charged world.

 

For more reading:

Matson, P., W.C. Clark, and K. Andersson (2016) Pursuing Sustainability: A Guide to the Science and Practice, Princeton University Press.

Cash, D.W., W.C. Clark, F. Alcock, N.M. Dickson, N. Eckley, D. Guston, J. Jäger and R. Mitchell (2003). Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100: 8086-8091.

November 17, 2020
by jackli001
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An Emerging African Studies Program @ UMass Boston: Programs, Projects, Research, Scholarship, Faculty & Students

Written by: Associate Dean and Professor Rita Kiki Edozie, PhD; Balkissa Daouda Diallo, PhD Student; Ojemire Daniel Benjamin, PhD Student; Dennis Jjuuko, PhD Student

African Scholars Forum at UMass Boston Collage of faculty members and students.

Introduction

Unlike its peer institutions in Boston – Boston University, Harvard University – until May 2018, the UMass Boston had no formal African Studies program. This is true despite the fact that the university’s majority-minority student base also boasts of a vibrant African immigrant, African international, and Cape Verdes student population, several doctoral students engaged in advanced African studies research, and a dynamic cohort of teacher-scholar interdisciplinary Africanist faculty. Be that as it may, while the Africa Scholars Forum (ASF) at UMass Boston, whose goal it is to achieve a formal African Studies program for the university, is only two years old; African studies programming, research, and teaching at the university is deep and expansive across campus and spans more than three decades in existence.

Included among the study and research of Africa’s array of offerings are an Africana Studies department that offers introductory courses on African culture and literature, study abroad programs in South Africa, Cape Verdes, Togo, and Senegal; and a center of African, Caribbean, and Community Development (CACCD) that delivers dynamic collaborative research and projects in West Africa in collaboration with the Boston-based West African Research Association (WARA). There are also specialized research programs such as the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program, (IGERT) as well as a rich cohort of faculty Africanists and graduate students, including doctoral, students conducting advanced research and scholarship on critical topics of African affairs. These decentralized though rich and dynamic presences of African Studies at UMass Boston informally come together through the ASF to inform a strong, emergent African Studies program at the university for the benefit of students, faculty, and off-campus communities.

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