Giving Microeconomics a Human Face Public Policy professor Manisha Shah’s research bridges a worldwide gap between health, economics and education

By Stan Paul

At age 16, Manisha Shah went to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador — her first chance to dig into “real development work.” The task after a year of fundraising and training? Building latrines in rural communities. Soon after arrival, however, she realized that everyone there “already knew how” to build latrines.

What they actually needed was financing and supplies. “That is what we helped facilitate — paying for and transporting supplies to this faraway town in the middle of the mountains.”

The experience in Ecuador was transformative for Shah, now an associate professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. It enhanced a developing global view nurtured as a child during family visits to see her grandparents in India, where she saw “poverty all around her.”

Her youthful travels helped put Shah on the path to her career in academia and research around the world — from Mexico to India, Tanzania to Indonesia — and eventually to the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Never in a million years would I have predicted that I would be a tenured professor at UCLA,” Shah said. “I feel so lucky to be doing what I love at one of the best universities in the world.”

Getting There

Today, Shah focuses her teaching and research on the intersection of applied microeconomics, health and development. She is supported by organizations that include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the World Bank.

An example of her work is a recent study, “Investing in Human Capital Production: Evidence from India,” that fills a substantial gap in development literature related to whether early-life investments encourage more educational investments later on, whether low-skill wages in rural India increase school dropouts, and whether rural schools produce gains in consumption later in life. The results have widespread implications for family and individual well-being, economic growth and national competitiveness for the country of over a billion people.

Her research affiliations and teaching might suggest otherwise, but Shah’s path was not exactly a straight one. “I don’t think I had a direct route. In fact, it was very indirect,” said Shah, who sought work abroad after earning undergraduate degrees in economics and development
at Berkeley.

“I quickly learned how difficult it is to find a job that will actually pay you to do international work,” she said.

She wound up in a one-year program at the London School of Economics where her master’s thesis in development economics examined HIV/AIDS issues in India and how NGOs were working to fill gaps in countries that were slow to react to potential epidemics.

“This was 1996-97. Getting HIV in a developing country was a death sentence, and so many countries were doing little to publicly acknowledge they even had an HIV problem,” Shah said.

Next was Mexico, and work at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Shah is fluent in Spanish, and at the time thought she was “done with school and would never come back,” having achieved her goal of working in international development. “I loved the job.”

But there was a catch.

“I knew I wanted to keep doing this type of work, but I also started to realize that the people calling the shots, raising the money, directing things, all had Ph.D.s,” Shah said. So she spent a year doing the math — literally, taking the calculus, statistics and real analysis coursework she needed for a doctoral program at UC Berkeley. “There was almost no literature in economics on HIV/AIDS,” Shah said of her ongoing interest in the intersection of HIV and economics. “I learned that most interventions in development related to HIV/AIDS often targeted sex workers, as they tend to have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS than the general adult population in most developing countries.”

Shah’s eyes were opened when she learned how many women in developing countries are employed in the sex sector. She saw the implications for public health and noted a lack of serious empirical study, which “began an important area of research for me.”

She recently co-edited the “Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution,” in which more than 40 researchers from around the world compiled and interpreted valuable economic data and research that may help lawmakers and government officials set policy guidelines concerning prostitution worldwide.

“A number of factors, including the proliferation of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations, have created the need to look at prostitution through an economic lens,” she said.

And yes, like the teenager who traveled to Ecuador decades ago, Shah is still interested in sanitation, a core issue at the intersection of human health and economics
in developing countries.

Research and Public Policy

Shah refers to herself as an applied microeconomist interested in development economics, health and education. “Most of my research fits into those bins,” Shah said.

She has written papers on the long-term impacts of positive rainfall shocks as well as drought in India on human capital outcomes of young children and adolescents, and risk-taking behaviors in the wake of natural disasters, as well as the effects of cash transfer programs on criminal behavior in Indonesia. Behind each are human stories of how policies affect large populations.

Shah’s research on HIV and the sex industry has wide-ranging implications for the health and well-being of not only adults but also vulnerable young people caught up in prostitution around the world.

“These days most of my work is either related to children or adolescents,” Shah said. “I often joke that my switch to research about children perfectly coincides with my becoming a mother. I remember researching questions about child development when I was pregnant and being surprised about how little we know about many important issues related to child cognitive/health and development.”

Shah is the principal investigator of a randomized controlled trial in Tanzania attempting to understand how to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for teenage girls. “I am really excited about this work,” said Shah, who was also recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant to better understand education outcomes for children in rural India.

After teaching stints at the University of Melbourne, Princeton University and UC Irvine, she joined the Luskin faculty in 2013. Today, she teaches microeconomics, development economics and serves as a faculty adviser for the Applied Policy Project (APP), a challenging yearlong requirement for master of public policy students at Luskin.

“Ironically, I learned in grad school that I actually enjoy teaching, and I was sort of good at it,” she said of her classroom duties. Her research topics are heavy, which could lead to frustration about things that should be happening but don’t. “But spend some time with our students and it will put you in a good mood,” she said.

“Our students make me optimistic, and that optimism can be infectious. I love how our students care so deeply about issues that matter to them.”

 

Proud to be Part of the Luskin Community International students share their experiences, dreams and awareness of anxiety in an uncertain world

By George Foulsham

Eri Suzuki, a Public Policy master’s student from Japan; JianChao Lai, a Social Welfare PhD student from China; and Jorge Loor, an Urban Planning master’s student from Ecuador — described the challenges faced by international students and their families in a world filled with anxiety.

What led you as an international scholar to choose California and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?

Suzuki: I worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. The Japanese government has a program that provides for government officials who have several years of work experience to study abroad. I was in charge of the Japanese National University division and my job was mainly to interpret the law of Japanese National Universities. And through working at the Higher Education Bureau in Japan I realized that there are so many problems in Japanese higher education policy, like tuition, scholarships, finance and budget at universities, especially since the Japanese economy is shrinking right now. So I started getting interested in studying in the U.S. because there are so many world-famous universities here. And I thought maybe as being a grad student I can learn hints or key factors that can be applied to Japanese universities. So I decided to apply to this program through the Japanese government.

Lai: I did my undergrad in social work in China. Social work is a newly developed major — we did not have it 30 years ago. It is fairly new and it’s not complete. So I went to America to study social work. I went to Wisconsin for my MSW. I love to come to large cities like New York and L.A., a more vibrant city feel, and also because of the reputation of UCLA. And I did some stalking online for professors and I found my adviser, Todd Franke. He really matches with my interests, and he is such a great mentor. So I decided to come here, and it’s been a great decision so far.

Loor: I was at a grad school fair when I was at the University of Texas — this was back in 2008 or 2009 — and this school (Luskin) was there. I was toying with this idea to go into urban studies at Texas. My degree is in civil engineering and I wanted something else so I added on history. While I was fulfilling the major I got into an urban studies class and I liked it. I always wanted to come back to L.A. and since I knew this school existed and this program existed, and I knew I wanted to come back to L.A., so I only applied to UCLA. I didn’t apply anywhere else because I know there is a certain prestige to the name. This was just a really good program.

There’s been a lot of talk about travel bans being instituted by our new president. Has that impacted your life in any way? What kinds of things are you hearing from family, friends and other international students about this issue?

Suzuki: As a government official at Japan’s Ministry of Education, I am really concerned about the ban’s effect in the near future on the interaction between Japanese and American students or researchers, or the number of Japanese people who want to study abroad here. They may decide not to come here because they realize maybe that the ban will affect getting a visa to come here.

Lai: The travel ban hasn’t impacted me or my family that much, but the new president’s attitude and actions toward women — cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and Violence Against Women Act, and science education and the EPA — some of my friends are directly influenced by those actions. As a female and a student researcher, that concerns me a lot — together with the travel ban. The globalization process is inevitable, and only through cooperation between countries can we make win-win situations. These actions may only cause hatred and discrimination, but can’t bring the good side of humankind.

Loor: Just tangentially because my mom went to Jordan a few weeks ago for a vacation with her sister. I was just worried about it, though there was no real problem. It is a bummer that you have to think about this. The ICE (Immigrant and Customs Enforcement) crackdowns are a big deal here in L.A. I haven’t been directly affected by it, but still I am just hyper aware because of the nature of what I am studying and the nature of the social consciousness of the cohort as a whole.

How has Luskin prepared you to deal with the challenges you may face upon graduation?

Suzuki: I have to return to the ministry of education so I have to continue working. I still am interested in higher education policy. So I really want to work in the higher education policy division but also at the same time my ministry is in charge of sports policy. In 2020 the Olympics Games are coming to Japan and we have the sports agency in the education ministry. So I want to help the city of Tokyo host the Olympic games in 2020. One thing that I learned here is a lot of quantitative analysis skill that I never learned in Japan. It was a really great opportunity for me to learn that skill. I really want to emphasize the importance of data when making education policies once I return to Japan.

Lai: I’m thinking about being a professor or researcher. I used to focus on the clinical side, but then I thought that is really limited, doing just therapy and counseling. I hope one day, using my research, I can actually advocate for those people who have been ignored in research or in services.

I think the resources that Luskin has provided are great: mentorship, the classes, the connections with other schools and other researchers that are related to my interests. That also helped prepare for my research and just doing independent work. And my social skills. And the supportive platform is really important. I felt really welcome here.

Loor: I will more than likely have to go into the private sector. I’ve taken Joan Ling’s three housing courses. For me, at least with my background in engineering, I’m well-suited to go into real estate development, hopefully with some affordable housing development component. Luskin really prepares you a lot. I was looking at jobs earlier this week, and I realized that I am qualified for real estate financial analyst, and I’d never thought about doing this for a career.

Paper on Nature of Cities Earns Accolades UCLA Luskin scholars Michael Storper and Allen Scott are recognized for their agenda-setting critical assessment of current urban theory

By Stan Paul

The majority of the world’s people live in cities, and numerous theoretical approaches from diverse fields have suggested frameworks for thinking about urbanization and the complexity of the urban form.

Now, two UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs scholars are being recognized for seeking to frame those approaches as a common language, or foundational concept, for the study of urbanization, an effort that has further enlivened and deepened an ongoing debate. It has also sparked a bit of controversy.

Michael Storper of the Department of Urban Planning and his longtime colleague and collaborator Allen J. Scott have been selected by the journal Urban Studies as recipients of the Best Article award for 2016’s “Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment.”

The journal’s website explains that the Urban Studies Best Article designation is awarded by the editors and authors to the most innovative and agenda-setting article published in a given year. Mark Stephens is editor of the international journal, which was established in 1964 and is published by SAGE. The winning article was selected in a process that narrowed a field of 20 initial candidates to five before the final selection was made.

Storper is a distinguished professor of regional and international development at UCLA Luskin, and Scott is a distinguished professor emeritus of public policy and geography. Their article proposed an analytical framework for urban studies while strongly critiquing three existing and influential perspectives: postcolonial urban theory, assemblage theory and planetary urbanism.

Storper, who also holds academic appointments at the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris and the London School of Economics, noted that this was the second paper on this subject in collaboration with Scott. In the earlier paper, the two UCLA professors had argued for a different approach, generating vigorous debate that led proponents of competing theories to offer their own critiques in response.

The newest paper addresses those critiques and offers further explanation by Storper and Scott. In the journal article, they wrote: “We claim that there are fundamental common genetic factors underlying urban patterns, and a robust set of conceptual categories within which urbanisation processes and urban experiences can be analysed, wherever they may occur in the world.”

Storper and Scott considered high levels of diversity and disagreement over the last century, writing “we asked if a coherent, stable theory of the city could be constructed.” Such a theory would need to accomplish all of the following: “account for the genesis of cities in general, capture the essence of cities as concrete social phenomena, and make it possible to shed light on the observable empirical cities over time and space.”

The authors identify and put forth five basic variables, or forces, that shape what they refer to as the “urban land nexus” at different times and places. These include:

  • the overall level and mode of economic development;
  • prevailing resource allocation rules;
  • forms of social stratification;
  • cultural norms and traditions;
  • and relations of political authority and power.

In refuting other theoretical formulations of what defines urban, Storper and Scott further conclude: “Not only does our analysis provide us with the tools for distinguishing between the general and the particular in urban outcomes, but also for separating out that which is distinctively and inherently urban from the rest of social reality.

“We must distinguish between phenomena that occur in cities but are not generated by urbanization processes as such, and phenomena that are legitimately elements of cities in the sense that they play an active role in defining the shape and logic of urban outcomes.”

The full article and lists of other finalists and previous winners are available online, as is a video explanation by Storper.

Policy vs. Political Reality Former Michigan Congressman Bob Carr shares his insights with UCLA Luskin students, faculty and fellows during a week as a Regents Lecturer

By Zev Hurwitz and Stan Paul

Public policy students at UCLA frequently study the goings-on in Congress as a matter of historical fact, but the learning really comes to life when a Capitol Hill veteran makes his way to the Public Affairs Building in person.

That’s exactly what happened when M. Robert “Bob” Carr, a former longtime congressman from Michigan, spent several days at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, lecturing and meeting with Public Policy students. Carr, a former Luskin Senior Fellow, visited Luskin May 15-19, 2017, as a Regents Lecturer — part of the University of California’s Regents Professors and Lecturers Program.

During a busy week at UCLA Luskin, Carr spoke to public policy graduate students over lunch, participated in a Senior Fellows conversation, lectured to intimate groups of students and faculty, spoke to students in a first-year public policy course, and held a series of one-on-one office meetings with Luskin students.

Carr served 18 years in Congress between 1975 and 1995 in a district that includes Michigan’s capital, Lansing. He currently serves as adjunct professor of ethics and congress at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Public Policy Department Chair and Professor Mark Peterson introduced Carr during a May 17 lecture, noting that the former congressman was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat in an otherwise heavily Republican district in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

“As we know, Congress goes on to experience all kinds of periods of time, including the current one,” Peterson said. “Few people have more insight on that than Bob Carr.”

Wednesday’s talk was titled “Congress: A Political Institution, Not a Policy Shop” and focused on the nuances of policy pursuits in a highly politically charged governmental body.

“In most languages, ‘policy’ and ‘politics’ are the same word,” Carr said. “I’ve wondered out loud how this affects our thinking about these areas. We tend to categorize — that’s how we communicate. In English, ‘politics’ and ‘policy’ are related, but have two very different meanings.”

Carr discussed how different branches of the government interact with policy, noting that the rules of the House of Representatives tend to mandate a focus on procedure over policy-formation.

“If I have all the right arguments, I’ve got the best policy prescription, I’ve done critical thinking, and everyone agrees with me — but I don’t know the rule book — I’m not going to win,” he said. “Procedure will win every time over policy and politics.”

In the Senate, however, policy and procedure are secondary to the political environment.

“Senators are very important people. If you don’t know that, just ask them,” he joked.

Because the Senate places less emphasis on rules, every Senator has the ability to hold up legislation. “Every Senator, regardless of where they’re from or their party, is essentially equal, and they cling to that equality,” he said.

Because both chambers of Congress vary on their priorities and operations, policymaking is strained when the two chambers need to work together to pass bills, that arise from differing priorities. The executive branch, by contrast, lays out a policy agenda but is powerless to act unilaterally to introduce new laws.

A more productive form of government, he said, is one where the executive branch is not operating in a manner inherently at odds with the legislature.

“It’s relatively efficient,” he said of parliamentary democracies such as in the United Kingdom. “Parliamentary systems are designed to make things happen.”

Carr’s talk to UCLA Luskin Senior Fellows, “Can This Divided Congress Govern?” was moderated by Bill Parent, lecturer in the Department of Public Policy.

Carr provided a bit of U.S. history, discussing the political environment of the late 1700s. Carr said that at that time the framers of the Constitution did not want another Parliament, which he said was making life in the colonies “miserable,” citing the passage of the Stamp Act as one example.

In addition to making laws, budgets and playing a key role in the balance of power, “what’s the job of Congress?” Carr asked the audience. “Congress is about politics. Congress is about the struggle, not the policy,” he said.

“Can you have democracy in America if you don’t have democracy in the House?” he asked. “No, you can’t. And we don’t have democracy in the House today.”

Asked what a run for Congress in a state like Michigan would look like in today’s environment, Carr said it would not consist of a single message. Considering the makeup of the state, “It just wouldn’t work. You have to make a connection, find out what their story is. The message has to speak to the people’s story.”

When asked what things he would like to see change, Carr listed:

  • Gerrymandering, especially in an age of computers and big data. “Members of Congress are selecting their constituency and not the other way around,” he said.
  • Campaign finance, which he said is a corrupted system, citing super PACS and the “terrorism of money.”
  • And getting rid of the filibuster and a “return to a majoritarian body,” Carr said. “I know people on my side of the aisle go nuts about that, but long-term we have to transact with the American people.”

 

Save Every Drop While We Still Can International water expert Brian Richter joins California government officials for a panel at UCLA Luskin that stresses urgent need to conserve in an increasingly drought-plagued world

By Aaron Julian

“Every Californian should think about water the same way they think about electricity — you just don’t waste it.”

This sentiment expressed by Debbie Franco of the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is typical of the conservation advice offered by a panel of water experts during a Feb. 22, 2017, presentation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Spearheading the discussion was Brian Richter, an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Chasing Water.” Richter outlined the historical relationship between humanity and water. He also explained his ideas to formulate a “water market” that would monetarily encourage responsible water usage on the personal, industrial and governmental levels.

“Disruption needs to happen more on the governmental level,” said Richter about the best approach to lessen overuse and foster more cooperation between city, local and state governments regarding an ongoing world water crisis. An example of intergovernmental partnerships is San Diego’s annual $60-million investment to encourage smarter water use by farmers in the Imperial Irrigation District in return for access to a third of the city’s water supply.

The Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce led a question and answer session with the panelists regarding water conservation policy. Photo by Les Dunseith

Water is especially important for California governments and residents in light of the historic drought affecting the region. During a question and answer session led by the Luskin Center for Innovation’s Greg Pierce MA U.P. ’11 UP PhD ’15, panelists discussed how to keep momentum toward sustainable water systems despite recent downpours estimated at about 19 total inches of rain — equal to about 27 billion gallons of water.

Franco argued that the solution to the water issue needs to go beyond collaborative government — it has to become a way of life.

“One of the key elements that we are missing in California are folks that understand water,” she said. “We need people to feel like they are water managers in their own home. That’s an important first step toward a thriving and active participation in local government.”

She said such participation helps propel effective action at all levels. Richter added that “77 percent of all Americans have absolutely no idea where their water comes from.”

He noted a core argument of his book, that in order to have a fully active and informed citizenry, the science and policy communities need to fully understand water themselves.

Panelist Liz Crosson from the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office told the large crowd that attended the session that Los Angeles has instituted a Save the Drop campaign in partnership with the mayor’s fund, working to reach a 20 percent reduction from the 103 gallon per day of water usage per capita in the city. Even if successful, that mark is well short of Australia’s average of 50 gallons per day as noted by Richter in his book and lecture.

The city’s plan involves combating water illiteracy in combination with incentives and restrictions on water use. The city has also updated its rate structure to be more compatible with different socioeconomic brackets.

Still, Crosson warned, “Here in L.A., just because it is raining does not mean our water supply is in much better shape. We are trying to change that, but that’s a long time coming. This is now about a Californian way of life.”

Panelist Angela George of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works said she believes the most effective methodology would be a campaign to instill in children the techniques and habits of water conservation. “It is important to get into our schools and educate where our water comes from — a local perspective.”

Amid a crowd that included UCLA Luskin students and faculty as well as interested members of the community, passions sometimes ran high, with some questioning whether current efforts and ideas are sufficient to truly improve water conservation.

Panelists noted the importance of individuals working closely with local government in order to push for reforms they want to see.

“You have to find out how to mobilize the political wherewithal,” Franco said. “Show up and know what’s going on, and keep telling what you want.”

The lecture and panel discussion were put together by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in partnership with Island Press as part of a speaker series known as Luskin Innovators.

Global Change Should Stem from Local Leadership Author and academic Benjamin Barber says cities present the best hope of solving the world’s problems

By Zev Hurwitz

While voters weigh the prospects of which presidential contender is best suited to address the big issues in 2016, one academic thinks the real change-makers are at city halls — not the White House.

During an Oct. 26 lecture at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Benjamin Barber, a noted political theorist and author who holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, lectured on his philosophy that the key to addressing major global problems is tackling those challenges from the local level.

“Common sense problem-solving pragmatism makes cities the most useful governing institutions in the world as compared to the 19th Century ideologically based national politics of … countries all over the world,” Barber said.

Speaking in front of a crowd of more than 50 students, faculty and community members, Barber asserted that cities are uniquely positioned to address every major challenge facing the international community because these issues are no longer specific to individual nation states.

“Every problem we face is a problem without borders,” said Barber, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and founder of the Global Parliament of Mayors. “Cities are positioned to address every major problem we have globally.”

The lecture’s title, “How Cities Trump Trump: Urban Pragmatism vs. Toxic Campaign Demagoguery,” was meant “to draw you in, the same way MSNBC does: with Trump,” Barber said, noting that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric claiming an international conspiracy to undermine American sovereignty is flawed and “toxic.”

“Trump is right in pointing to the loss of sovereignty, but where he’s wrong is thinking that it is due to stupidity,” Barber said. “We need to learn how to accommodate, not how to scapegoat.”

Nationalized global power, the way Trump describes it, started disappearing after World War II and hasn’t existed since, Barber said.

“Sovereignty, the jurisdiction of a national government over all of the issues its people face, doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, in any country claiming to be sovereign,” Barber said. “We are still responding to these global, borderless problems with sovereign nationally based governments.”

Because the power spheres are organized differently in the 21st Century, the real power — and driving force for change — lies in cities, which Barber said is euphemistic for all regional and local governance, not necessarily individual municipalities.

Cities have a unique interest in driving solutions to global issues because “the problems of cities and the problems of the globe are very much the same.” To illustrate this point, Barber pointed to two major issues: climate change and terrorism.

Most of the world’s population, in the 21st Century, lives in cities, and most cities are within proximity to bodies of water, meaning that much of the world’s population has a vested interest in combating climate change and rising sea levels. In addition, Barber said, 80 percent of greenhouse gases are generated from cities. Because the cause and the effect are both specific to cities, cities are best suited to address that challenge.

About terrorism, Barber said that problem-solving must come from local leadership because terrorists almost exclusively target cities.

“Nobody has attacked a pecan farm in Sacramento,” he said. “They come after cities because that’s where the people are. Terrorism is aimed at cities because cities represent everything that terrorism rejects.”

In order to address major global challenges, Barber said, cities, and their leaders, need to practice collaboration with interlocutors locally and with other cities.

“Cities work by consensus, by collaboration, by building bridges and working with everybody,” he said.

Barber spoke about his involvement with the Global Parliament of Mayors, an international body of local leaders that convened for the first time in September. There was a need for “enacting common urban legislation, not just best practices.” According to Barber, the United Nations’ model of organizing nation-states based on their sovereignty has stymied opportunities for problem-solving. The Global Parliament of Mayors has potential to be a unifying force beyond international borders.

“This is a founding seedling for what, in time, can become a genuine governance organization — a kind of U.N. body,” he said, calling the ideal for the organization to be a body that is “defined by the natural collaborativeness of cities” and their capacity to work with one another.”

The Department of Urban Planning organized the lecture and the Department of Public Policy co-sponsored it, with assistance by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA departments of History, Philosophy and Political Science.

Mark A. Peterson, chair of the Luskin School’s Department of Public Policy, introduced the speaker, saying that the lecture “couldn’t be more timely.”

“Much of the American public, and our own faculty and students in the Luskin School, have felt intense frustration over the years of policy stalemate at the national level,” Peterson said after the event. “Dr. Barber presented the possibility of a different pathway for addressing major issues — problems for which there seems little prospect of making progress through congressional and presidential action, regardless of the results of the 2016 elections.”

Peterson also noted the application of Baker’s philosophy in Luskin’s curriculum.

“The motto of the Public Policy Department is ‘advancing knowledge in the public interest’ — an essential requirement for understanding the causes of societal problems and identifying interventions that mitigate those causes,” Peterson said.

“However, the actions to be taken, whether by national governments or subnational institutions, are necessarily determined by governing institutions embedded in political processes, ideally with full opportunities for democratic choice and accountability. All of these elements are features of the Public Policy MPP curriculum and prominent in Dr. Barber’s scholarship and public engagement.”

Barber has authored 18 books, including 1995’s best-selling “Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World” and 2013’s “If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

Soham Dhesi, a first-year Master in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student attended the event. Like Peterson, Dhesi said she found parallels between Barber’s lecture and her Luskin coursework in urban planning.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is urban planning — haven’t cities already been built?’” Dhesi said. “This is an answer to how cities can be important tools to address these global problems.”

Dhesi referenced the histories and theories of urban planning and course discussions on grassroots movements and individual participation in change-making, saying she found application of Barber’s views on the potential for cities to lead the way.

“Citizens, through their participation in the city, can bring about change,” she said. “Cities are a way for people to participate, which is harder to do at a national level. This goes in line with what we were learning in class about community development.”

A Summer Spent Tackling Global Challenges International Practice Pathway blogs provide a look at life abroad for UCLA Luskin’s Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning students

By Stan Paul

From the sun-bleached poor neighborhoods on the edge of Bengaluru, India, to the traffic-choked streets of Mexico City, students from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have been tackling global urban challenges this summer as they participate in a unique fellowship program.

Through the International Practice Pathway (IPP) fellowships sponsored by the Luskin School’s Global Public Affairs Program and the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative, master’s students from all three of Luskin’s departments (Public Policy, Social Welfare, and Urban Planning) received placements with recognized international organizations.

“These are not ‘trips.’ They are professional-level placements in low- and middle-income countries that provide students with a hands-on experience in different areas of global public affairs,” said Stephen Commins, associate director of Global Public Affairs at Luskin. Commins, also a lecturer in Regional and International Development in the School’s Department of Urban Planning, said that students can link their required second-year research and policy projects (requirements for their respective master’s programs at Luskin) with these placements.

IPP, an integral part of the Global Public Affairs Initiative at Luskin, is a global gateway for students from all three Luskin departments to work with local and international communities negatively affected by various political, economic and environmental processes within the context of international development.

As part of the program, all Luskin IPP fellows have been blogging about their experiences this summer on the Global Public Affairs website.

Gus Wendel’s IPP placement took him to Mexico City. For the Urban and Regional Studies master’s (MURP) student, the joy on a child’s face in the simple act of play says it all — even from behind the mask of a luchador, a Mexican wrestler.

But in Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous urban centers, the streets are choked with cars and relentless traffic. It’s no place for children to play freely without worry and constant danger.

That may be changing, if only two hours at a time. But it is a start for Wendel who is focusing on creating safe, temporary play spaces for children to run, jump rope or enjoy crafts and other activities. Wendel worked on a project called Peatoniños, developed in collaboration with the Urban Humanities Initiative and Laboratorio Para La Ciudad.

Peatoniños is a project that aims to liberate and recuperate the streets of Mexico City so that kids can use them to participate in activities such as playing freely, conversing with neighbors, learning new things, imagining different worlds, or making new friends,” Wendel said in an interview. The name of the project is a combination of the words peatón (pedestrian) and niños (children).

He said the collaboration began after a visit to UCLA by Laboratorio founder and director Gabriella Gómez-Mont, who took part in a conversation on issues of youth mobility, mortality and playfulness in Mexico City. The conversation focused on changing public consciousness through changes in public narrative.

Part of that narrative, Wendel explained, includes the following statistics: In Mexico City, 56 percent of the population is under 26 and the number one preventable cause of death for youth is pedestrian-automobile accidents.

“This stark condition implicates a range of current practices surrounding cars, traffic, pedestrian mobility, youth mobility, multi-modal access to the street,” he said.

While it is still early to draw conclusions from the experience, “it is hard not to see the ways that Los Angeles can learn from Mexico City’s example — specifically the relationship between community members and local government,” Wendel said.

“But each play street intervention is only successful as far as local community members are willing to get involved,” he added. For example, those who informally operate public parking, known as “viene vienes,” voluntarily helped to close down streets to traffic for two hours during the first intervention, making it possible to ensure kids are playing in a safe place.

Wendel said that establishing trust between community stakeholders and government and planning for a certain degree of uncertainty seem to be critical elements to ensuring that these types of interventions work.

“Cars and the culture that supports them are relentless, both here and in L.A., so establishing different tactics for slowing traffic and shutting down streets in a civil manner is crucial,” he said.

* * *

Upon landing in Zambia in southern Africa, Corina Post, a master of social welfare (MSW) student at Luskin, said her first impression was that everything seemed “normal” and similar to Los Angeles. “The streets are paved; traffic laws are abided,” she blogged.

But Post, who was placed with World Vision, said she soon noticed small differences. “I felt not too far from home initially, until subtleties reminded me of the privileges the western world holds,” Post said.

As an example, she recounted an early experience from her time in Zambia. During her ride from the airport, she noticed an advertisement for a bank sweepstakes with an unusual prize: 1,000 bags of concrete. She said that “knowing concrete is its own commodity” was one of the first reminders that she “was no longer in Kansas; I was in Africa.”

Other small differences included her interactions with the people in her host country. “People seem to be quite kind to me — honestly, kinder than I have ever been received abroad.” For example, when Post said she went to an exercise class the teacher offered to drive her home. And when asking for directions she said she was not only given directions but people offered to walk with her, a “change of pace from the ‘time is money’” culture she said is used to in the U.S.

A major takeaway for Post was “the gross disservice we as global citizens practice in the homogenization of whole continents.” But, she continued, “This drives me to gain as much exposure as possible to share back home.”

* * *

Master of Public Policy (MPP) student Diego De La Peza traveled to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. There he was paired with the Instituto de Sexualidad Humana, a sexual and family health clinic at the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, which focuses on educating the Dominican population on sexual abuse and health issues.

“My project has been conducting quantitative research on victims of sexual abuse and analyzing patterns of services solicited, common diagnostics, and social behaviors of these patients,” De La Peza wrote in his blog. He said that his goal is to combine his findings with procedures set by the ministry of public health. He explained that the purpose is to make recommendations on how primary health doctors should respond when a sexual abuse victim seeks medical attention.

“Working on this project in a country whose sexual health beliefs are highly influenced by patriarchy and religion has been an eye-opening experience,” he wrote. “I found it unbelievable the difference that being with a male figure has when walking the streets of the city. Through my research, I have also learned about men’s perspective on women sexuality, and I cannot help but think about all the work that needs to be done in order to break down these barriers that are blocking the country from reducing such high levels of sexual violence.”

De La Peza said that this experience has been educational and inspiring.

“My work environment serves a constant reminder that there are people working hard to improve the issues of the country, advocating for policy changes and better government interventions,” he said. When asked if he would do it again, he wrote: “Without even processing the question, I couldn’t help but answer: in a heartbeat.”

To read all of the IPP fellow blogs from around the world please visit http://global.luskin.ucla.edu/blog/

What is ‘Post” About “Post-Conflict’?

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By Steve Commins, Associate Director of GPA@UCLA Luskin, and Urban Planning Lecturer

Nepal is a country that is currently labeled ‘post-conflict’. But after two civil wars, one driven by an armed insurgency which later allied with a non-violent democratic movement, and the second spurred on by ethnic tensions in communities bordering India, the Nepalese still struggle with the daily tasks of building a new political system. The label ‘post-conflict’ is a designation that belies the complexities of the country’s status and what is required for a long term, peaceful, political settlement.

Nepal currently faces both deeply rooted forms of poverty and economic exclusion. India, which borders the country, has had a major hand in its economic options, and the country receives a significant amount of international ‘aid.’

Nepal occupies a particular niche in the “aid business”, as it is not a ‘strategic’ conflict like Afghanistan, it is not an aid orphan like the Central African Republic nor is it an aid darling like South Sudan recently. As a result, Nepal exists within the broad sweep of countries that have been labeled ‘post-conflict’ by the United Nations and other agencies, and, in the current jargon, a ‘Fragile and Conflict Affected State’.

In the late 1990s, chastened by the failure of the UN and major political powers to effectively address the human catastrophes of the civil wars in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as the limits of ‘democratization’ and ‘good governance’, a number of international agencies began to give more serious attention to what eventually became labeled ‘Fragile and Conflict Affected States’.

The premise of this approach is that there are complex, historic reasons why states have different forms of violent political conflict and political fragmentation, and there are also situations where states may experience the decay of public institutions even without overt violent conflict. This means that the UN and donor agencies have to address the underlying causes of ‘fragility’ rather than just provide humanitarian (neutral) aid – or as one observer put it, a ‘humanitarian fig leaf’.

Much literature has been devoted to debating ‘fragile’, ‘failed’ and ‘failing states’.  Frequently it misses the mark by not delving into the historic specifics of a country or region, or descending into superficial explanations like ‘these communities never got along’ or the government was doomed from the start’ – explanations that lack depth or insight into the nuances of the specific reasons and dynamics of fragility.

At the same time, the role of international agencies, which sometimes (but not always, hence the term ‘aid orphans’) provide large amounts of finance for both short-term ‘humanitarian’ assistance and longer-term ‘post-conflict’ reconstruction, poses another challenge. The problem with this approach is that donor agencies are making decisions on what to label a specific situation rather than the messy realities of politics (again, sadly, South Sudan’s collapsed political settlement comes to mind). Donor time frames and real politics rarely cohere.

As part of a four-country study on the impact of Community Driven Development projects on livelihoods in FCAS (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal), I worked with the lead Nepalese researcher on the initial interviews and inception for the country study.

Landing in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu provides no haunting images of war or political turmoil. On appearance the country is back in business. Indeed, fortunately for the country, the Maoists involved in the first civil war did not engage in the level of violence or social destruction found in some other countries (up to 20,000 people died, so ‘level’ is a sadly relative term). The Maoists currently function as a political party similar to the FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) in El Salvador or FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front), which moved into the political process after the peace agreements in their countries.

But talk for any amount of time with Nepalese and a complex picture of hopes and aspirations as well as uncertainties about a very nascent political system emerges. The politics of geography, as it were (Mountains, Hills, Terai), the debates about federalism (too much or too little depending on the individual) and the problematic aspects of nation state building and agreeing on the ‘imagined community’ that remain unresolved.

In the end, whatever label is applied by international donors, Nepal remains a country that has an evolving, contentious and sometimes fraught political process. Perhaps the label should be changed to ‘post-violent conflict’ (though different forms of violence frequently morph into criminality after the overt political violence has been reduced) as in reality all effective political settlements do not end conflict, rather they provide mechanisms that at best may achieve general acceptance for ways of addressing inevitable disagreements in non-violent, democratic and equitable ways.

This can only be seen from the ground up, as each violent conflict or manifestation of state fragility has its own history, meaning and narratives.

‘Post’ is a label of hopefulness about a better future, a short-hand for donors to change how they give aid, and, perhaps, a step towards a political settlement that works better for more people than the previous one.

Original post at http://global.luskin.ucla.edu/

Revitalizing Cities with ‘Urban Acupuncture’ Renowned planner Jaime Lerner shared his views on building cities in Brazil at the inaugural Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin lecture.

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You could feel the collective breath in the room hold for a brief moment as Jaime Lerner leaned in to the podium and began to speak.

In his calm even tone, Lerner the acclaimed architect, urban planner, and former mayor and governor of Curitaba, Brazil and Parana State credited for fathering a type of planning that is utilized by cities worldwide, gave a short presentation that was equal parts inspirational and educational.

At one moment Jaime waxed poetically on the beauty of cities in the lives of people. The next moment he was encouraging the audience of UCLA students from across campus that their ideas are good enough to be executed now. And another moment, in a review of some of the ways he revitalized areas of Curitaba, Brazil when he was mayor, he revealed the innovative mind of one who is far above the norm. It is no wonder he is the recipient of numerous international awards, and the list of his accomplishments – creating a subway system, building a theater in two months, coming up with a solution for city waste to where it achieved the highest rate of garbage separation in the world in 1989, and much more —  make for very chunky sentences.

Such is the heft that Lerner brought to the evening. It explains the enthusiasm with which his appearance on UCLA campus was received. The event on Oct. 28 titled “Urban Acupuncture & Sustainable L.A.” was co-sponsored by Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin, the Department of Urban Planning, the Healthy Campus Initiative, the Center for Brazilian Studies, the Lewis Center, and Island Press.

Lerner began his presentation by noting that in order to make a change in a city, there will need to be political will, solidarity, strategy, and good equation of co-responsibility – knowing how to transform a problem into a solution.

When it comes to building smart cities, Lerner said plans need to respect the identity and socio-diversity of the city.

“For me a city is a structure of living, working, moving, and leisure together,” he said. “When we separate urban functions, when we separate people by income, by ages, by religions, every time we want a more human city we’ll need to mix. Mix functions, uses, ages. Then it becomes more human.”

He explained that the city is the family portrait for the inhabitants, and just because one aspect is unseemly, it can’t just be cut off. Urban acupuncture – making focal pinpricks that revitalize cities quickly – help to provide new energy to cities during the long process of city planning.

Lerner encouraged the audience to reinvigorate their cities by putting their ideas into action.

“Innovation is starting,” he said. “If you try to have all the answers, you will never start.”

He added: “If you want creativity, cut one zero from your budget. If you want sustainability, cut two zeros. If you want solidarity, keep your own identity and respect other’s diversity.”

As for how those ideas can be used in Los Angeles, Lerner said his first innovation would be to start with simple demonstrative effects – building new transportation lines here and there, giving examples of improvements that citizens can grasp on to.

He noted that local planners and students probably already have great ideas for how to improve Los Angeles, but the question is how to organize the ideas

“First of all, I think it’s important to create a scenario – a broad view of the city that everyone or the large majority understands is desirable,” he said. “If they understand, then they will help you to make it happen.”

Lerner emphasized that communication is key to getting inhabitants of a city on board with a collective vision. He recommended starting by teaching children about their city

“Try to have them design their own city. Then they’ll understand their city and respect it better,” he said, adding that teaching children how to live in a city, such as educating them on how to cross streets safely, are only teaching them the rules of automobiles – not about the city itself.

He repeated again that city planning just need to be about starting.

“Planning is not magic…We have to understand we don’t have all the answers. Planning a city is like a trajectory where you start and then you have to leave some room for people to correct you if you’re not on the right track,” he said.

Panelist Seleta Reynolds, the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, noted that Lerner’s concept of urban acupuncture is used in Los Angeles today. In an interview in the Washington Post, Mayor Eric Garcetti referenced the concept when promoting the “Great Streets” program to improve defined areas of Los Angeles.

Though the projects developed for the Great Streets initiative were conceived of my LADOT members, Reynolds noted that Lerner’s planning concepts are “inherent, embedded in a lot of the ideas that flow through the strategic plan.”

“Those ideas were so powerful that they really have spread so quickly and they’re not bleeding edge anymore,” Reynolds added. “They are the playbook for urban streets and big cities. There’s not really a question of if we should do those things, but how we should do those things.”

When asked about the level of traffic in Los Angeles hampering reliable bus schedules, Reynolds said that buses are impacted when in mixed flow with cars. While it is not a big cost issue to develop bus lanes, it is a design issue that is mired in problems of process, political will, and environmental review, she said.

In the meantime, Reynolds said she expects to see more shared-ride models to be created to provide flexible on-demand transit. However, she said government has a role in making sure there is not too much privatization of public transit.

Paula Daniels, former Senior Advisor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current senior fellow on Food Systems, Water, and Climate for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, said delegations of Los Angeles officials visited Curitiba to see how the city had been revitalized.

“The concept of thinking of things more physiologically, which I think originated in Curitiba, is an important design construct. I do see how that pinprick in Curitiba is already radiating in other ways,” she said. She cited the improvements to the city’s storm water system as an example of a system developed from Lerner’s concepts.

Fernando Torres-Gil Confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a Member of the National Council on Disability

Associate Dean Fernando Torres-Gil has been named to an Obama administration post as a member and vice chair of the National Council on Disability.  This marks the third term of national service in a
presidential administration for Professor Torres-Gil, who previously served under President Bill Clinton and President Jimmy Carter.
Prior to his roles at UCLA, he served as a professor of gerontology and public administration at the
University of Southern California, where he is still an adjunct professor of gerontology. Before serving in academia, Prof. Torres-Gil was the first assistant secretary for aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging.  Prof. Torres-Gil also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992.

Prof. Torres-Gil holds appointments as professor of social welfare and public policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs and is the director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging.  Professor Torres-Gil is an expert in the fields of health and long-term care, the politics of aging, social policy, ethnicity and disability.

He is the author of six books and more than 80 articles and book chapters, including The New Aging: Politics and Change in America (1992), and Lessons From Three Nations, Volumes I and II (2007).  In recognition of his many academic accomplishments, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 1985 and the National Academy of Public Administration in 1995.  He also served as President of the American Society on Aging from 1989 to 1992 and is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.  He is currently a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Polio Survivors, the National Academy of Social Insurance and of the board of directors of Elderhostel, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the AARP Foundation, the Los Angeles Airport Commission, and The California Endowment.