Book Launch Focuses on Founder of Nonprofit BRAC

UCLA Luskin hosted a book launch for the biography “Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty” by Scott MacMillan. The book details the life of Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the nonprofit grassroots organization BRAC (originally called the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee), which has now grown into one of the world’s largest NGOs, reaching 100 million people in Asia and Africa. MacMillan, his speechwriter, spent a great amount of time working alongside Abed and shared stories at the Oct. 27 book launch, organized by Global Lab for Research in Action and Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin. His talk included details about the origins of BRAC and the stories of locals who benefited from the organization. Abed created BRAC in an effort to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh and provide more people with jobs to help sustain themselves. The organization focuses on microfinance, women’s healthcare and social enterprises, as well as providing life skills and livelihood training for girls in countries such as Bangladesh, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Sierra Leone. BRAC stands out from other NGOs because it takes an entrepreneurial approach to tackling poverty, and also because its roots are in Bangladesh, unlike other NGOs that originated outside the Global South. “The road ahead was actually really long, and actually giving people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty involved many other resources. But none of that would mean a thing if people did not first believe in the possibility or change,” MacMillan said. — Aminah Khan

View photos from the book talk


 

Faculty, Students United by Their International Interests  

A desire to bring about change in a world that sorely needs it drew three UCLA Luskin undergrads to the Global Lab for Research in Action.

Joey Lu, Karlinna Sanchez and Anjani Trivedi spent their senior year immersed in research aimed at improving the health of women and children around the world — the primary focus of the Global Lab, which was launched at UCLA Luskin in 2019. They translated scholarly texts into persuasive op-eds and policy briefs, and used their skills in digital media and design to increase the audience for the lab’s important work.

“I really like that the Global Lab focuses on under-researched, hard-to-reach populations and doesn’t treat them like people cast aside but like people we could learn from,” Sanchez said.

The Global Lab is one of several UCLA Luskin entities with a distinctly international focus. The Latin American Cities Initiative, established by Associate Professor Paavo Monkkonen in 2019, fosters cross-border collaboration among students, scholars and professionals in the planning and policy fields. Often referred to as Ciudades, the initiative puts an emphasis on discerning shared lessons from different urban cultures. 

Since 2014, Global Public Affairs has offered Luskin School graduate students a chance to study abroad, learn from top scholars from across the UCLA campus and earn certificates in any of several international concentrations. GPA is led by Professor Michael Storper, who was also instrumental in developing an Urban Planning dual-degree program that includes a year studying in Paris.

UCLA Luskin also broadened its geographic scope with two ventures helmed by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier: the transdisciplinary social sciences journal Global Perspectives, published by University of California Press, and the Berggruen Governance Index, a data-rich evaluation of the effectiveness of governments worldwide.

At the Global Lab, research on the well-being of vulnerable people around the world is led by Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah, the center’s director and an expert in microeconomics, health policy and international development. 

That research portfolio resonated with the trio of interns. 

Lu said a trip to Ghana after her freshman year opened her eyes to the powerful forces that keep some countries mired in poverty, and led her to triple major in public affairs, sociology and international development. 

Childhood trips back to her birthplace, India, exposed Trivedi to different lifestyles, heightening her interest in comparative economics and helping her think about her own place in the world.

Sanchez grew up in American Samoa, a U.S. territory that “everyone forgets about,” where their public school lacked tables and chairs and their classmates fell into apathy.

“I just see so much potential in my peers, in my population, but no one invests in them,” said Sanchez, who uses they/them pronouns.

The three were attracted to the Global Lab’s research but also its call to action. They worked closely with founding Deputy Director Janine N’jie David MPP ’14, and credited her with shaping a shared public affairs capstone project that would steep them in the research that intrigued them while tapping into their own talents to advance the lab’s mission.

The interns’ aim was to communicate the Global Lab’s work in compelling ways while refining its brand and digital presence. Over the year, the team revamped the lab’s website, stepped up its social media presence, created monthly newsletters and supported its events, taking care to measure the impact of each step of the communications strategy. 

In the end, Trivedi said, “it’s the people that have made this experience the most rewarding. This is a company culture where everyone is so passionate about what they do and they have this intrinsic motivation to create change.”

Lifting the Stigma of Sex Work

UCLA’s Global Lab for Research in Action, in collaboration with a coalition of advocacy organizations, activists and researchers, has launched a data-driven national social awareness campaign to address the dangers and stigma that sex workers face. The Red Umbrella Campaign will share extensive research and amplify voices of individuals with lived experience in the sex trade to inform the public about the harms created by the criminalization of sex work. “Decades of research from around the world shows that the criminalization of sex work is what makes the work fundamentally unsafe, and impacts the safety of the wider community, too,” said Janine N’jie David, co-founder and deputy director of the Global Lab, which is housed at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Sex workers have a 45% to 75% chance of experiencing workplace violence, according to research. However, it is not only physical and sexual violence that prevents sex workers from being safe, but also constraints accessing housing, health care, other forms of employment and a myriad of basic needs. “Sex work tends to be a taboo subject, despite being one of the oldest professions in the world, and public knowledge is understandably limited,” N’jie David said. “But we shouldn’t allow our lack of understanding — or quite frankly, discomfort — prevent us from tackling challenging issues.” The campaign, announced on June 2, International Sex Workers’ Day, is led by UCLA’s Global Lab in collaboration with Decriminalize Sex Work, the Woodhull Freedom FoundationOld Pros, and individual researchers and activists.


 

Luskin Summit Focuses on Advancing Gender Equality Through Sports

An April 1 Luskin Summit webinar focused on how sport can be used to engage boys and young men alongside girls to advance gender justice. “Sport for development is the use of sports for other outcomes related to education, learning, health, peace and financial empowerment,” said Jeff DeCelles, technical director of curriculum and training of the nonprofit Grassroots Soccer. Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah, director of UCLA’s Global Lab for Research in Action, partnered with Grassroots Soccer to conduct a study across Tanzania with the goal of improving the sexual health of females. In addition to female intervention programs in 150 communities, 50 locales were randomly chosen to also have the Grassroots Soccer intervention for young boys and men. In those locales, girls reported lower rates of intimate partner violence while boys reported improved attitudes about reproductive and sexual health outcomes. In the second half of the webinar, Adelphi University Associate Professor Meredith Whitley and Julia Menefield Lankford, director of operations of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation of America, spoke about sport development for adolescents in the United States. Lankford’s work supports sports development programs and aims to improve the lives of youth and unite communities. “A safe, stable climate that supports adults and young people in developing trusting relationships is critical,” Whitley noted. She highlighted the importance of listening to what participants are sharing about what they like, then designing curriculums that work best for them. The webinar was moderated by Stephen Commins, associate director of Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin. Board of Advisors member Stephen Cheung offered a closing statement and call to action.


Luskin Summit: Closing Sessions

Luskin Summit 2022 will wrap up at the Centennial Ballroom of the Luskin Conference Center on the UCLA campus.

QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX

Zev Yaroslavsky, a former elected official and current UCLA professor, will unveil the results of his seventh annual poll of Los Angeles County residents on their satisfaction with their lives across nine categories. ABC7 news anchor Phillip Palmer will moderate.


STATE OF CALIFORNIA

Luskin Summit 2022 will close with an in-person discussion featuring Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, former governors of California, led by UCLA’s Jim Newton. They will explore topics such as the economy and jobs, environmental issues, public safety and more.


Remote access: Those who cannot attend in person will be able to participate virtually at www.luskin.ucla.edu.

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED AND UCLA’S HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS FOR CAMPUS EVENTS WILL BE ENFORCED.

AGENDA

9:15 a.m. | Event Check-in and Breakfast

9:45 a.m. | Session 1: Quality of Life Index

11:00 a.m. | Session 2: State of California

12:00 p.m. | Event concludes

TRANSPORTATION

Public Transportation: Blue Bus and Metro

Ride-hailing Zones: Uber/Lyft designated locations available, for nearby locations and map visit bit.ly/uclaridehailing

PARKING

Self-parking is available underneath the Luskin Conference Center and in UCLA Parking Structure 8, Level 4, directly across the street from the center. There is a convenient pedestrian walkway/bridge connecting Parking Structure 8 (on Level 3) to the Luskin Conference Center property. Please note that there is a fee to park in either location.

Global Mini-Summit: Gender Equality Through Sport

LUSKIN SUMMIT 2022: Research in Action

This is the last of three sessions being organized by Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin as a Global Mini-Summit in cooperation with the UCLA International Institute to focus on policy issues from an international perspective.

FRIDAY, APRIL 1

Reimagining Gender Equality Through Sport

Sport is known to improve physical and mental health, promote well-being, and advance economic and societal goals. Sport for Development (S4D) is the use of sport to achieve these objectives at the individual, community, national and international levels, and the power of sport to address gender inequality has gained recent recognition. This online session led by professor Manisha Shah of the Global Lab for Research in Action at UCLA Luskin will feature conversations and a brief Q&A about both the global landscape of S4D and its implications for the United States. Panelists will discuss emerging research that demonstrates how sport can be used to advance gender justice around the world, offering lessons not only relevant to practitioners and policymakers, but also to parents, teachers and even adolescents themselves.

Faculty Hosts

 Panelists

  • Jeff DeCelles, technical director, Curriculum & Training, Grassroot Soccer
  • Julia Menefield Lankford, director of operations, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation of America
  • Meredith Whitley, associate professor, co-editor, Adelphi University & Journal of Sport for Development

Remarks

  • Stephen Cheung, LAEDC chief operating officer & president World Trade Center LA; Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation & LA World Trade Center

Also in the Luskin Summit

April 22: Presentation by Zev Yaroslavsky of the Luskin School about the results of the seventh annual Quality of Life Index.

Notes:

  • Details about participants in the various panel discussions are being released as sessions draw near and will also be posted on the Summit registration page.
  • All events will allow for remote access. Any in-person presentations that occur will be planned in full accordance with the latest UCLA and Los Angeles County COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
  • Visit the LUSKIN SUMMIT LANDING PAGE for more information on future Summit sessions.

Shah Outlines Consequences of Prohibiting Sex Work

Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah joined the Then & Now podcast to discuss the long history of policy approaches to sex work, including prohibition and regulation. “For many years, prostitution was a part of normal life, which is why we call it the oldest profession,” she said on the podcast, which is hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy. With the appearance of syphilis in the 1500s in Europe, prostitution became associated with sexually transmitted diseases. “Today, prohibition is the norm,” said Shah, who directs the Global Lab for Research in Action. Sex work is prohibited in all U.S. states, with the exception of a few counties in Nevada that allow regulated sex work. Shah explained that a growing body of research highlights the negative impacts of prohibition, including increased spread of sexually transmitted infections, increased violence against women, less trust of police and less empowerment of female sex workers.


Endowed Chair Awarded in Honor of Former Dean Gilliam New chair in social justice will benefit the research of Manisha Shah, a professor whose global policy focus includes child health and intimate partner violence

By Les Dunseith

The Luskin School of Public Affairs presented its newest endowed chair to Professor Manisha Shah on Nov. 9 with the chair’s namesake, former Dean Frank Gilliam, and its benefactors, Meyer and Renee Luskin, in attendance.

The Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. Chair in Social Justice, which was created by the Luskins as part of their naming gift to the Luskin School in 2011, will provide financial support for Shah’s research throughout a five-year term as holder of the chair. She is a professor of public policy who joined the UCLA Luskin faculty in 2013.

Gilliam’s long tenure at UCLA as a professor and then dean ended in 2015 when he became the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He said it is an honor to have his name attached to an award focusing on social justice.

“I am extremely humbled and honored that the Luskins have created an endowed professorship in my name,” Gilliam told an audience of about 75 invited guests who assembled on the festively redecorated third-floor rooftop of the Public Affairs Building.

The social justice focus of the endowment was particularly meaningful for Gilliam. “These are issues I’ve spent my entire professional and personal life working on and I continue to do so today,” he said.

As the holder of the endowed chair, Shah said she plans to further her attempts to understand the barriers that prevent women and girls around the world from living their best lives, an issue that led her to found the Global Lab for Research in Action at UCLA in 2019.

“What do we do at the lab? Through a gender lens, we focus on hard-to-reach populations, understudied populations, and we look at groups like adolescents and sex workers and low-income women. We study critical issues related to child health and intimate partner violence and sexual health,” Shah said during her remarks. “Ultimately, the idea is that we’d like to shift public conversation and eventually shift some of the social norms.”

Gilliam, who first hired Shah to join the faculty at UCLA, expressed pride and excitement that she had been chosen as the inaugural holder of the chair in his name.

“She is a remarkable person, a remarkable intellect,” Gilliam said. “Her work is so important. It spans disciplines like economics and public policy and really social welfare, quite frankly. She focuses on the most understudied topics and the most overlooked populations. … This is big stuff.”

Current Dean Gary Segura noted the pivotal role that Gilliam played in bringing social justice to the forefront during his time as dean, shaping the sometimes-disparate disciplines within the Luskin School into a unifying vision.

“Frank Gilliam, perhaps more than any single other leader in the School’s history, shaped the social justice mission and identity of the Luskin School of Public Affairs,” Segura said.

In his remarks, Meyer Luskin said his observations of Gilliam’s leadership and priorities helped lead him toward making the $50 million naming gift to the Luskin School a decade earlier.

“I saw dedication, courage, morality and ethics, empathy, much resourcefulness, strength and kindness, intelligence, hard-working, visionary, loyalty, a great sense of humor, and a man most devotedly committed to justice and equality,” he said.

Segura thanked the Luskins for their foresight and generosity in endowing the new chair, plus three other previously awarded chairs benefitting professors at UCLA Luskin.

Gilliam said their selflessness is well-represented among people associated with the professions of social work, public affairs and urban planning that are taught at the Luskin School.

“The people who work in your area often go unnoticed. They don’t do it for the fame, they don’t do it for the fortune,” he said. “This is hard work, it’s complicated work. It’s real work … on the ground, dealing with real-world policy problems that affect the society.”

Gilliam surveyed the crowd of family, friends and former colleagues who had gathered to celebrate Shah and recognize an endowment that will forever carry his name. Ultimately, said the former professor, dean and current chancellor, it’s about passion for the cause, the mission, embodied for Gilliam in the words spoken by Meyer Luskin when they first met:

“My goal in life is to make the world a better place.”

View additional photos:

Gilliam Endowed Chair

Shah on COVID-19 Vaccination Incentives That Backfire

Media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Marketplace and San Francisco Chronicle reported on research co-authored by Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah that found that incentive programs — including the offer of money — have little impact on COVID-19 vaccination rates. The researchers randomly offered study participants, all members of the Medicaid program in Contra Costa County, various incentives: public health messages, vaccination appointments and either $10 or $50. Vaccination rates did not rise, and in some cases the offer of cash may have made some vaccine-hesitant people more distrustful. Shah, director of the Global Lab for Research in Action at UCLA Luskin, told the Chronicle that the financial incentive may have sent a negative signal, leading participants to think, “ ‘If I should trust the vaccine and get it, why do you have to pay me for it?’ ” The findings by the research team from UCLA, USC and Contra Costa’s Health Services agency were published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.


 

Shah, Bau Investigate Lockdown Impact on Female Mental Health

Professor of Public Policy Manisha Shah and Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natalie Bau co-authored an article in Ideas for India about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in India. Researchers conducted a large-scale phone survey across six states in rural north India to better understand how lockdown measures contributed to economic instability, food insecurity, and declines in female mental health and well-being. Bau, Shah and their co-authors found that strict lockdown measures, while necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 infection, contributed to economic and mental distress, especially in low-income settings with limited safety nets. Gender norms and low availability of mental health services made females especially vulnerable. For example, roughly 30% of the female respondents reported that their feelings of depression, exhaustion, anxiety and perception of safety worsened over the course of the pandemic. The authors recommended that policymakers target aid, particularly access to food, to vulnerable households and women.