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 UCLA Luskin Welcome Departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare, Urban Planning welcome six new faculty members

By Stan Paul

Six new members of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty were warmly welcomed at a reception held Oct. 18 and hosted by their new Luskin departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning. Interim Dean Lois Takahashi and the three department chairs were also on hand to welcome the new teachers and researchers.

This year, the School’s three departments strengthened their faculty teaching and research rosters with the additions of Darin Christensen and Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld (Public Policy), Leyla Karimli and Laura Wray-Lake (Social Welfare), and Michael Manville and Kian Goh (Urban Planning).

In Public Policy, Darin Christensen will be teaching three classes at Luskin this year. “The students are great, really engaged,” said Christensen, who recently received his Stanford Ph.D. in political science. Christensen said he will be showing his Master of Public Policy (MPP) students how to bring evidence to bear on policy decisions, teaching them tools for wrangling and exploring data, as well as statistical methods that generate credible claims about “what policies work.” In another course offered this quarter, he is discussing how political institutions and public policies affect why some countries are rich and peaceful while others with persistent poverty and instability.

Also joining the Public Policy department this year is Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld, who will begin teaching this winter quarter on topics including social networks and protest. “I study protest,” said Steinert-Threlkeld, who completed his Ph.D. in political science this year at UC San Diego. “Wherever there is a protest in the world, I go to Twitter and see what people say. Are they expressing political grievances because they’re mad about the economy?”

Steinert-Threlkeld, who studies social media as it relates to subnational conflict, teaches analysis of “big data.” “If anyone wants to learn with Twitter data,” he said, “they can reach out to me. I would love to be working with motivated students or faculty.”

In Social Welfare, Laura Wray-Lake, who comes to UCLA from the University of Rochester, will be teaching two classes in winter: research methods with children and youth, and development and resilience for the Master of Social Work (MSW) students. “I was really excited about the interdisciplinary environment” at Luskin, she said, explaining that her area of research is civic engagement. “I’m really interested in how to get young people interested in politics and the communities, and solving social issues.”

Leyla Karimli brings an international focus to Social Welfare on topics including child welfare, education and child labor. With more than a decade of international research and practice, her work has taken her to a number of countries in Africa as well as Colombia, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Krgyzstan. She will be teaching on program evaluation and topics including a multidisciplinary analysis of poverty and social exclusion, one of her main research interests.

Returning to UCLA, assistant professor Michael Manville said he is currently teaching courses on transportation and the environment and another on shared mobility. Manville, who earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Urban Planning at Luskin, most recently was an assistant professor at Cornell University in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Manville said the rest of the year he will be teaching transportation, land use and public finance, primarily for the Urban Planning Department’s master’s students.

Urban Planner Kian Goh plans to teach a winter quarter seminar titled “Urban Futures,” with a focus on space, ecology and society. In the spring, she will teach a studio course on site planning and a qualitative methods course.

“This year I am continuing my research broadly on the politics of urban climate change adaptation and research on the L.A. region,” said Goh, who comes to Luskin from Northeastern University. “It’s inevitable, not just because I am here but because it so interesting. I think the L.A. region is an example of urban form.”

Goh has focused her research on cities from New York to Jakarta.

“It is really helpful to look at other cities,” she said. “I think of the challenges we face here and all of the opportunities. We’ve learned a lot from other regions.”

UCLA Luskin Students Watch and Learn During Presidential Face-Off Debate sparks intense interest and frequent bemusement at gathering of Public Policy master's candidates

By Les Dunseith

The more than 50 Public Policy students who gathered Monday night at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to watch the first presidential debate had an opportunity to see their political studies play out in real time as an election that has repeatedly defied expectations again seized the public spotlight.  

With a reporting team from KTLA Channel 5 on hand to cover the students’ reactions, Public Policy chair Mark Peterson set the stage beforehand by noting the intense public interest in this debate and reminding students of Donald Trump’s recent dramatic surge in political polls. Peterson speculated about how the debate was likely to play out.

“Is Donald Trump going to get red-faced and throw insults at Hillary Clinton? Is she going to get defensive?” Peterson said. “Of all the single events that exist in the election process, we are watching tonight one that may — may — have the potential to move the numbers.”

Well-versed in policy issues, the students knew going in that Clinton would probably show a better grasp of details. Trump, on the other hand, was more likely to be bombastic and speak in generalities. Both would blame the other for the nation’s problems. It would get testy. Insults were likely.

The results did not disappoint. And, in the students’ minds, the debate had a clear winner.

“It was Hillary Clinton,” first-year MPP student Estafania Zavala told KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade after the debate had ended. “She was reasonable. She was skeptical of the things that Trump was saying. She never lost her cool.”

Tony Castelletto, a second-year MPP candidate, agreed that Clinton had the advantage. “Basically, she won it just by being the only adult on stage.”

That kind of skepticism about Trump and his debate performance was shared by other students during the viewing, which, at times, sounded more like a raucous Super Bowl party than a serious-minded political discussion. The room frequently filled with laughter — much of it derisive of Trump — as the candidates sparred around questions and traded quips.

The controversial and combative style that served the Republican candidate well in building fervent support among voters in the primaries did not play well with these Luskin students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It also didn’t win Trump favor with former Bernie Sanders supporters, who filled half the room, second-year student Reid Meadows speculated. Yet Meadows, a longtime Clinton supporter, was uncertain about how other voters might respond to the debate.

“I think to a lot of people who aren’t studying politics on a regular basis, it might come off like Donald Trump won it,” Meadows told KTLA.

Zavala, who described herself as less of a Clinton supporter and more of a Trump opponent, said she was surprised by how well Clinton handled herself in the debate. “Clinton was a lot more honest, more humorous, more human than I expected her to be,” she said.

Peterson saw the debate viewing as a valuable learning experience for Public Policy students. “Our MPP students are dedicating their professional lives to careers in public service informed by facts, evidence and analysis, but they know their opportunities for action will also be shaped by the contest of ideas, emotions and values in the political process, often most sharply drawn in the race for the White  House,” he said. “What better way for policy students to witness and assess these forces than to have the shared experience of watching and talking together about the crucible of a presidential debate?”

The prevailing conclusion of students milling about after the debate was that Clinton had successfully kept Trump on the defensive. Her air of mild exasperation in reaction to many of Trump’s statements was an effective approach for the setting, they said.

Regarding Trump, however, Peterson noted that it is a challenge for anyone, even political experts like himself, to judge Trump’s debate performance because his approach is so different from that of previous presidential candidates. “We just haven’t had this kind of candidate, or personality, as we have in Donald Trump.”

Overall, the debate held few surprises for Peterson.

“Some of it was what I expected in that it was pretty harsh,” he said. “Hillary Clinton, the longtime politician, was trying to stay within the boundaries of what had been established for the debate. And Donald Trump was trying to push those boundaries and be disruptive.”

Ultimately, it will take awhile before the debate’s results are fully understood.

“Donald Trump was the wild card going into this,” Peterson said. “He, on the one hand, showed somewhat more self-discipline than one might have imagined. At the same time, there was the real Donald Trump there — in your face, interrupting, making certain kinds of characterizations and comments that one would not normally see in a presidential debate. We’ll have to see how the American public reacts to that.”





Shining New Light on a ‘Red Light’ Profession Oxford handbook co-edited by UCLA Luskin researcher compiles latest economic research on prostitution

By Stan Paul

Although prostitution has been examined by various social scientists, the “world’s oldest profession” has received less attention from an economic standpoint. But that’s changing.

Thanks to the increasing availability of existing data sets on the internet, as well as new surveys that are being implemented, researchers have been able to gather valuable economic data that could help government officials in setting policy guidelines concerning prostitution.

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

These subjects and other topics dealing with the sex trade are part of the newly published “Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution,” co-edited by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researcher Manisha Shah and Scott Cunningham, associate professor of economics at Baylor University. A development economist and associate professor in the Department of Public Policy, Shah’s teaching and research interests focus on the intersection of applied microeconomics, health and development.

Researchers in fields from anthropology to sociology have looked at various facets of prostitution both qualitatively and quantitatively. The book’s co-editors cite the nature of economics as looking at problems in mostly quantitative terms, and the new data is yielding a wealth of useful — and often counterintuitive — information on this resilient underground economy.

“I think one of the things that always surprises me is how often the sex market looks like any other market that economists study,” said Shah, who has written on the topic in order to learn how more-effective policies and programs can be deployed to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.

“Most of the time, the predictions of economic theory play out in the sex market as well,” Shah said. “There are so many chapters that highlight this and illustrate that sex workers respond to incentives and prices in the same way that other market participants do.”

More than 40 researchers from around the world contributed to the book, divided into six parts: Supply and Demand, Sex Workers in Developing Countries, Men Who Have Sex With Men, Law and Policy, History of Prostitution Law, and Externalities: Sexually Transmitted Infections and Sexual Exploitation. Chapters include Economics of Sex Work in Bangladesh, Violence and Entry in Prostitution Markets and A Method for Determining the Size of the Underground Economy in in Seven U.S. Cities.

“We know that prostitution has important policy implications because of the effect that prostitution has on STI rates, risky behaviors, as well as its responsiveness to poverty,” Shah said. “But we don’t know as much about optimal policy design.” In addition, she said, most governments have not experimented with different strategies, so prohibition has been the most common policy.

The book also contains chapters that explain and use information collected directly from the web because prostitution continues to shift from the street to indoor sex work. Shah points out that the internet facilitates the functioning of illicit markets through free classified advertising, lower search costs and even client reviews of sex workers.

“Reviews create reputations for sex workers, much like eBay and Airbnb reviews create reputations for vendors,” said Shah, explaining that these “reputation mechanisms” are allowing illegal markets to function more like legal businesses. Shah said this is an important point because, in the illegal sector, providers and clients cannot access legal courts to enforce contracts.

“Reputation, in other words, is the mechanism by which contracts are enforced in illegal sex markets,” Shah said.

Policy makers need to understand the distinction between voluntary prostitution and sex trafficking, Shah said. “Too often these two get conflated. The social costs of sex trafficking are very high, whereas arguably the social costs of voluntary prostitution are lower.”

Pointing to recent government experiments in Sweden and New Zealand, for example, Shah said that policy makers should have a working understanding of how these markets function, as well as understanding theories of policies that can regulate these markets optimally.

“Policy makers can use this information to better design policies that can reduce sex trafficking as well as accompanying externalities,” Shah said, citing a detailed analysis of the Nevada brothel system, which, she said, “can help policy makers understand if there are elements of the Nevada policy that could be applied elsewhere.”

Shah said that with a better understanding of how these markets operate, optimal policies can be designed to reduce the harm associated with prostitution markets and lower the overall social costs.

“The book has explicit models to guide the design of prostitution laws,” Shah said. “We think these are one of the highlights of the handbook in general.”

A Guide to Turn the L.A. River Green UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation creates a toolkit to help communities navigate paths to improving the river’s greenbelt

By George Foulsham

If you’re looking for an example of what communities can do to take advantage of the land that adjoins the Los Angeles River, look no further than Marsh Park — 3.9 acres of greenway in the Elysian Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, not far from downtown.

The park features trees, green infrastructure, play and fitness equipment, a walking path, picnic tables and an open-air pavilion, all built around a large industrial building that houses a company that takes modular shipping containers and turns them into residences for the homeless.

The park also serves as a gateway to the L.A. River and is one of the case studies used by researchers from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in preparing a new Los Angeles River Greenway Guide. The guide is now available online.

“The L.A. River Greenway Guide consists of 14 case studies that highlight different parks, pathways, access points and bridges that have been constructed along the river,” J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, said. “What we have tried to do is to identify successful examples of improvements in the river greenway and then identify the challenges and the obstacles that those improvements faced so that other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and, sometimes, their failures.”

Marsh Park is one of the 14 case studies used by Luskin researchers to create the L.A. River Greenway Guide. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

The guide highlights four types of projects: bridges across the river, pathways along the river, community access points that connect communities to the river, and parks next to the river. It looks at the history of various efforts, identifies the challenges faced in each of those projects and spells out how those obstacles were overcome, leading to successful riverside gateways.

One example of useful information provided by the guide is a section on overcoming the hurdles associated with ownership and governance issues, with hints on how to deal with easement, maintenance and permit questions.

The guide will be unveiled at a free event, “A Night at the L.A. River,” on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., in Los Angeles. It is co-sponsored by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the Friends of the Los Angeles River. The event will include a panel discussion on the “L.A. River Greenway Through Public-Private Partnership,” featuring Michael Affeldt of the L.A. mayor’s office.

The L.A. River, which starts in the Simi Hills and meanders 51 miles to the Port of Long Beach, has been called one of Los Angeles’ most ill-used natural treasures but also a neglected eyesore that looks more like a deserted freeway than a river.

In recent decades, concerted efforts have sought to revitalize and repurpose the river and its adjoining greenbelt. Graduate student researchers and scholars at the Luskin Center, part of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, are working with stakeholders, communities and organizations in an attempt to create a new future for the river and its environs.

The Luskin students, guided by DeShazo, deputy director Colleen Callahan and project manager Kelsey Jessup, produced the toolkit after receiving feedback at a workshop hosted by the Luskin Center earlier this year. Participants included staff, advocates and leaders from the communities, as well as nonprofits, government agencies, elected officials, policymakers, business and business associations, and academics, researchers and students.

The Luskin students have met with representatives from the communities that border the L.A. River, seeking their input and concerns. The new guide reflects the Luskin team’s research and recommendations.

“We think about the L.A. River greenway as an opportunity to enhance a 51-mile stretch adjacent to the L.A. River,” said Andrew Pasillas, a Luskin researcher who graduated in June with a master’s degree in urban planning. “In choosing a range of focus for the guide, we first held a lower L.A. River workshop which over 100 community residents and organizations attended. We heard from them what would be most beneficial in their efforts to develop projects, talking about these specific development processes and where they stumbled in the past.”

According to DeShazo, the researchers studied examples of successful projects — often near the northern part of the river — and “we thought about how those opportunities could be realized in the lower parts of the river where there are fewer river amenities and the greenway is more incomplete.”

The guide, Jessup said, is also a nod to what has already been accomplished.

“The Luskin Center’s Greenway Guide aims to do two important things,” Jessup said. “The first is to document the incredible work that has already happened along the river. Organizations have been implementing projects along all 51 miles and there is no real way for anyone to learn about all the projects, the details and the incredible work that has happened.

“Our second goal,” she added, “is to provide a resource for community members, government agencies and anyone who wants to do a project — to better understand the challenges that come with doing a project along the river and to come up with solutions to overcome those challenges.”

The researchers studied the history of the river — why it was ignored for so many years and what helped transform the region’s approach from what had been nothing more than a flood-control mechanism.

“Revitalizing the river has been challenging because there has been a long history of isolating it from the public,” Pasillas said. “Stretching back to the early 1930s and ’40s, there was a series of devastating floods that led to the thought process that we have to place concrete on the river itself to protect people.”

“There’s been a disconnect between the people of Los Angeles and the river,” Jessup said. “A lot of people don’t even know there is a river, and if they do, they think it’s this concrete channel that is in the way and dividing communities.

“But there’s been a shift over the past few decades and a lot of communities are seeing the river as a resource and an opportunity, especially along the greenway, for health, transportation, environmental and economic benefits,” she added. “The Luskin Center started this guide because we saw an opportunity to complement some of the other efforts that are being made to help connect the community to the river.”

According to the researchers, the guide is an example of how the Luskin Center can help communities in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California overcome obstacles.

“We hope that this guide can serve to empower communities by bringing forth the voices of river-adjacent communities that have never been heard before,” Jessup said. “The idea of a complete river greenway is the equitable distribution of different project types for different communities and residents to enjoy.”

UCLA and the Luskin Center chose to take on the guide because of the university’s expertise in urban planning.

“We bring together skills — whether it be ecology, park design or financing expertise — needed to help bring these projects to fruition,” DeShazo said. “We are very committed to engaging with Los Angeles and the communities that make up Los Angeles and working with them to make sure their vision of their section of the greenway is realized.”

The L.A. River Greenway Guide was made possible by donations from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Bohnett Foundation and the California Endowment.

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

Bicycle paths are just one of the many recreational opportunities along the L.A. River. Photo by Andrew Pasillas

Examining Diversity ‘Between the Lines’ In year-end conference, UCLA Luskin D3 students view issues through a social justice lens

By Stan Paul

Students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs take the tools, methods and knowledge they acquire to solve problems, seek social justice and provide policy options for the world.

Luskin students are also examining their own university for insights into a number of issues, including what role UCLA’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office should play in creating, implementing and evaluating UCLA diversity programs. Also, students raised the concern that it may be possible to progress through their academic programs without ever critically engaging with social justice topics.

Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning graduate students were given the opportunity to discuss, present findings and offer recommendations on these issues at “Researching Between the Lines,” the school’s year-end D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities Initiative) student research conference held at UCLA Luskin.

“The conference gives a formal opportunity for students to present their research to other people in other cohorts,” said Edber Macedo, a second-year Master of Urban Planning (MURP) student and project manager for the D3 initiative. “Our work in the public affairs realm is highly intersectional and this conference aims to highlight those crossroads.”

The D3 Initiative was established by former UCLA Luskin Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., as the only student-led equity effort on campus.

Three students in the master of public policy (MPP) program dedicated the culmination of their studies — their applied policy project — to examining UCLA’s office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Group member Nisha Parekh, who is completing a law degree in conjunction with her MPP, pointed out that “pockets of diversity … have been doing the work already.” But, she said, “There is no communication between these folks,” and the challenge is how to leverage relationships.

“It is important to differentiate between being diverse in composition from having equitable and inclusive policies, practices and procedures,” Parekh said. She and her MPP colleagues, Kevin Medina, who also is in the Master of Social Welfare (MSW) program, and Elizabeth Calixtro, sought to find out what it means to have an office focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.

What became clear to the student researchers after gathering data and conducting interviews and focus groups with faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students is that diversity programming is not well-defined at UCLA. Students, faculty, and staff who supply diversity programming on campus also reported a lack of resources and institutional knowledge, Parekh said. “People are starting from scratch over and over.”

Among the group’s recommendations is that the EDI office clarify its jurisdiction and “brand,” which would improve stakeholder trust in the office, the students said. Based on the survey data gathered, Parekh said “we found that the majority of students surveyed think having a culturally competent campus is important.”

Two other projects examined diversity in their own department. Urban Planning MURP students examined both the curriculum and hiring practices.

Julia Heidelman, a first-year MURP, said her group conducted a critical analysis of the core curriculum to gauge content consistency with the department mission and whether social justice was integral to students’ understanding of the discipline.

“Students want more room for critical and well-facilitated discussions,” Heidelman said. “It has historically been the duty of students to advocate for improvement of the curriculum and incorporation of themes of diversity, social justice and race.”

Another group of MURP students focused on mentorship and how it can be both a help to students but also an added burden — taking time away from research and scholarship — especially for faculty of color. Recommendations made by student researchers included expanding the definition of scholarship to encompass questions of social justice and racial equality.

Finally, Joanna L Barreras MSW ’12, a doctoral student in the Department of Social Welfare, looked beyond the campus to a statewide concern. Her project, “Predictors of Having a Place for Care Among the Largest Ethnic Minority in California,” addressed the issue of more than 30 million Latinos of Mexican origin who face barriers when utilizing health care services in the state.

Barreras said she wanted the takeaway from her presentation to be that “we cannot have health without mental health.”

“By screening for serious psychological distress we are able to provide needed resources, prevent future chronic health illnesses, and ultimately help reduce physical and mental health disparities,” Barreras said. She found problematic that most research on Latinos does not differentiate among Latino subgroups, which “ignores cultural variation across Latino subgroups but it also ignores the heterogeneity within these groups.”

“These presentations signify the continuation of what Dean Gilliam started — to address EDI issues within Luskin,” said Gerardo Laviña MSW ’88. “We are grateful for Interim Dean Takahashi’s continued support,” added Laviña, who is director of field education for the Department of Social Welfare and faculty advisor for the Luskin D3 initiative.

Real-World Experience for Public Policy Students In Applied Policy Project presentations, Luskin students pitch policy solutions for clients and get feedback from faculty and peers

By Stan Paul

As graduation looms, Public Policy students from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs face an annual rite of passage — a culmination of two years of study known as the Applied Policy Project (APP). Getting a master’s degree hangs in the balance.

In teams of two or more, the students present their research to a gallery of policy experts from the Luskin School. Standing before wide-screen projections that illustrate the results of seemingly endless hours of study and investigation, the sharply dressed students review complex policy issues and present possible solutions. As fellow students cluster nearby to show support, Luskin faculty, project advisers and clients listen intently and evaluate each project’s effectiveness. Was there enough attention to detail? Is the concept logical? Is it relevant? Persuasive? And, most importantly, is it supported by evidence?

These challenging presentations are only part of the process. The Master of Public Policy (MPP) candidates also face follow-up questions from faculty and colleagues, who inquire about options researched but not presented, or merits of the solutions they have proposed.

Select main image below to start slide show:

This year, client projects ranged from local transportation, policing and social justice issues to international employment, education and the well-being of workers in developing countries. State issues such as high-speed rail and health care reform were addressed, as were the short-term rental market and electric vehicle charging options.

The clients included the Southern California Association of Governments, the Coalition for Engaged Education, the California High Speed Rail Authority and Covered CA, among others.

“Public Policy education isn’t about abstractions,” said Mark Peterson, chair of the Department of Public Policy. “It’s about deriving effective solutions to real problems and being able to communicate the value and efficacy of those solutions to decision makers. The Applied Policy Projects put our MPP students in that real-world arena. Their oral presentations and the probes from the faculty put their ideas and analysis to the test in real time, just the preparation our graduates need as they take up positions in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private firms striving to address the pressing issues of the day.”

The three-day APP program featured 62 students and 18 presentations, each lasting 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. Here are highlights of three of the students’ talks, which took place in May:

Medical Education for Future Leaders

What do medical students need to learn today to become leaders in medicine for the future?

Three MPPs — two of them also current UCLA medical students — devoted their project to finding an answer to this question. Their project is no mere thought experiment. The UCLA Geffen School of Medicine, which has already begun to address this issue, is the client for the project to determine the needs and direction of a modern, forward-looking medical school and the education it provides.

MD-MPP students Monica Boggs and Maggie Chen, and their project partner Jeffrey Lyu, an MBA-MPP student, presented their findings and made recommendations to their client-partner, Clarence J. Braddock III, the vice dean for education and chief medical education officer for the Geffen School of Medicine.

“Physicians need to have the understanding that they are part of something bigger,” Lyu said during the presentation. “What’s encouraging is that the school is already moving in that direction.”

Among the recommendations of the group:

  • Improving curricular tracking
  • Fine-tuning candidate selection, including attention to identified attributes and “character traits.”
  • Identifying faculty champions and growing grassroots communities to promote information-sharing among faculty to build knowledge among faculty and provide role models for students
  • Communicating a commitment to identified attributes such as awards for faculty and students that demonstrate “attributes essential to the physician of the future.”

“This one is going to hit the ground running,” said faculty adviser Wes Yin, associate professor of Public Policy. Yin said the students will present their project again for the medical school.

Filling Policy Gaps

For some students finding solutions to problems can arise from other new or existing policy solutions.

Take the newly opened Expo Line extension linking downtown to Santa Monica by light rail. While the new line provides a long-anticipated transportation solution between these two areas, the volume of ridership remains uncertain. In anticipation of this, the City of Santa Monica, as client, commissioned a group of MPPs to look at how to increase ridership given that West L.A. — and Los Angeles in general — is stubbornly “auto-centric.”

The students, Abdallah Daboussi, James Howe, Natalia Sifuentes and Takehiro Suzuki, looked at the question of how to create incentives for ridership to help Santa Monica toward development of a sustainable goal of “no net new vehicle trips.” The group recognized the barriers created by the cost of an entire round-trip and availability of first/last-mile connections, as well as built-environment limitations such as which stations are already in place, and a lack of interest by the City of Santa Monica in building new parking, Daboussi explained.

“Our job was to fill in those gaps,” Daboussi said, adding that the accompanying criteria included analyzing the impact of cost, the level of political acceptance and compatibility with the surrounding environment and existing infrastructure. To do this, the RIDERS (Ridership Increases by Developing Expo Line Solutions) team conducted on-site assessments and used GIS (Geographic Information System) data to gauge land use around the existing stations.

Possible solutions included creating public-private partnerships with commercial parking, incentives for the elderly and disabled, a public service announcement program that included free radio spots and an installation of “wayfinding” signs to help riders easily navigate to area stations. The students also recommended creating a means to connect with the Expo Line for those who use a bicycle as part of their daily transportation.

Worker Well-Being

Another MPP group looked at the challenge of increasing the well-being of urban workers in India. Availability of jobs in general is important, but other factors are just as necessary.

“It’s not just about job quantity but also about job quality” in the distribution of well-being and motivation, said team member Kurt Klein.

Second-year MPP student Wajenda Chambeshi discussed some of these factors, including jobs in which workers have the opportunity to move up. Strategies to bolster employment and the labor market are needed, as are ways to give a voice and representation to workers.

The client for the project was the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the adviser was Manisha Shah, associate professor of Public Policy and APP coordinator. Shah has studied anti-poverty programs and workfare schemes in India, as well as development around the world.

Yin provided some context about how much time the Luskin students spend working on the presentations. “Students have been working on the projects since the summer before their second year of the program,” said Yin. He added that students may start fully committed to an idea at the outset, but part of the process is narrowing their focus once they realize the scope of these issues.

Yin said he was impressed with this year’s students and that their hard work has materialized into “actionable” items for their clients.

Tae Kang, an MPP candidate who was part of an APP presentation to the Coalition for Engaged Education, said the process is stressful but provides valuable experience for UCLA Luskin Public Policy students.

“While I was a bit nervous to present in front of my brilliant professors and colleagues, I was more excited that this would be the culmination of all of our hard work, all the challenges we have overcome, and the relationships we have formed,” Kang said. “And as I took that first step forward and that next step, I could not have been more excited and honored to be in this program.”

Charitable Giving in L.A. County Down $1 Billion New study conducted by UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs finds decline in giving since 2006 amid urgent and rising need in Los Angeles

A study commissioned by the California Community Foundation (CCF) and conducted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs finds that local giving is on a decline, with Los Angeles County residents declaring $7.16 billion in 2006 charitable deductions compared to $6.03 billion in 2013.

“The Generosity Gap: Donating Less in Post-Recession Los Angeles County” shows that in many L.A. communities donations are ebbing as needs surge, particularly for families in poverty, youth, the elderly and the homeless. Released today at the Center for Nonprofit Management’s 501(c)onference, the report combines IRS data with a first-of-its-kind survey that asks Angelenos about their charitable giving to L.A. causes. It explores the current fiscal context for giving and offers a snapshot of the behaviors, patterns and motivations by Los Angeles County donors.

“Local nonprofit organizations form a powerful network dedicated to serving the county’s most vulnerable residents, but we know they are stretched for resources,” said Antonia Hernández, president & CEO of the California Community Foundation. “We as a collective region must tap into our talent and generosity of spirit to build stable organizations that can make a lasting difference in Los Angeles County.”

Some of the report’s major findings include:

  • Los Angeles County residents are donating less to charitable causes than they did in 2006. And those with greater capacity to give are giving a lower proportion of their household income overall.
  • Median nonprofit revenues continue to decline dramatically in Los Angeles County.
  • White, Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander, African American and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender donors in Los Angeles give at similar rates across most causes. They vary, however, in the proportion of their giving that goes mostly or entirely to locally focused organizations.
  • Given the opportunity to make a large gift to Los Angeles, donors’ highest priority would be ending homelessness. But, of their contributions to basic needs causes and combined-purpose organizations in 2015, only one-third went to locally focused nonprofits.
  • Planned giving is strongly connected with support for locally focused charitable causes, through both bequests and current contributions, especially among donors under 40.

“UCLA and CCF are local institutions that seek to transform donations from a few into opportunities for many,” said Bill Parent, project director and lecturer in the Department of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “It is our hope that a better understanding of charitable giving in the region can benefit donors and nonprofits alike, as we work together to build better futures for all Angelenos.”

Commemorating its 100th year, CCF has hosted a range of activities to inform and inspire L.A. residents to give back to their community, whether through volunteering their time, donating to their favorite causes or creating a legacy for future generations. CCF aims to draw attention to complexities, trigger dialogue and encourage solutions to Los Angeles County’s most pressing challenges with this study.

The Generosity Gap was drawn from a research project developed by Bill Parent, former director of the Center for Civil Society and lecturer in the UCLA Luskin Department of Public Policy, and Urban Planning professor Paul Ong. The primary authors of the report are Luskin Civil Society Fellow J. Shawn Landres and Shakari Byerly (MPP ’05). Luskin doctoral students Silvia Gonzales (MURP ’13) and Mindy Chen (MSW ’12), of the Luskin Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, provided research and data analysis support.

The full report is available here.

New Study Puts a Critical Lens on Sex Trafficking Report by Luskin Center researcher reveals large gaps in the collection of U.S. trafficking data

By George Foulsham

Sarah Godoy realized that she wanted to devote her life to fighting human trafficking when, during a trip to India, she overheard a pimp speaking to a 10-year-old girl. The pimp was questioning where another girl, a 5-year-old, had gone and when she would return to the brothel.

“Pedophilia was written all over this situation,” said Godoy, who was completing an international social work internship as a Social Welfare graduate student at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs at the time of the trip. “I just thought, ‘I cannot see this.’ I had to intervene. That was an eye-opening experience for me.”

Upon returning to the U.S., Godoy interned at the Los Angeles-based, nonprofit organization Saving Innocence where she worked directly with domestic-born survivors of sex trafficking. The internship was during her second year in Luskin’s social work program.

And she has now authored a new study, “Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking: Research, Data and Technologies With the Greatest Impact,” a comprehensive literature review of sex trafficking in the United States, with components of global human trafficking as well.

Godoy conducted the research while working as the lead researcher and content manager for this report and an accompanying database in the Luskin Center for Innovation. The website will provide users with pertinent literature and contact information for vetted service providers in the field. The site is expected to go live in the next month.

Godoy included more than 135 pieces of relevant literature on sex trafficking, dating from 1999 to 2016, and conducted about 70 qualitative interviews. While she found some enlightening and often horrific statistics on the subject, what she didn’t find was equally disturbing.

“Weak methodologies in empirical evidence, and small data sets that urge readers to not republish as a national representative,” she said. “That’s what we found. We don’t really have a comprehensive, representative sample of what sex trafficking in the U.S. really is.”

While Godoy did find data for trafficking in California, Los Angeles County, Washington state and Florida — among other high-intensity areas — she did not find adequate national numbers. “We don’t really see nationally what’s happening because there’s no representative sample, so we must rely on proxy sources,” she said. “That’s a really big problem.

“More recently, in certain states, there has been legislation that says the child welfare system has to collect data on suspected at-risk youth and confirmed sex-trafficked youth who are system-involved within their jurisdictions, which is really wonderful,” Godoy added. “But that’s not across the nation, so again we lose the opportunity to gain a national representation of sex-trafficked youth in the child welfare system. We don’t have any federal legislation that would allow for a national repository to input data on sex-trafficked individuals and that is a detriment to the movement because of the transient nature of this population.”

Nevertheless, the international numbers compiled by Godoy are daunting. According to the study, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is estimated that there are 21 million women, men, girls, boys and transgender individuals trafficked worldwide — roughly equivalent to 3 out of every 1,000 people. Women and girls are identified as the most-trafficked populations, comprising 11.4 million of the labor- and sex-trafficked victims.

Adults account for 74 percent (15.4 million) of the victims and children younger than 18 account for 26 percent (5.5 million). According to data collected by the International Labour Organization, exploitation occurs in myriad settings but the most notable and widespread industries are domestic servitude, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment.

“I think something that’s important to highlight is the critical lens that we use when looking at the literature,” Godoy said. “We’re not just republishing U.S. statistics. That’s something that we see over and over again in the anti-sex trafficking, anti-human trafficking movement. For example, 100,000-300,000 children are at risk of being sex-trafficked in the U.S. each year. But, we look at it and say, ‘OK, this is also a weak methodology and we need more comprehensive data.’ Or, ‘the average age of entry is between 12 and 14,’ but again it’s from that same data set. So, we really need to be more critical when we’re republishing statistics. I think it shows that not enough resources are being put into adequately capturing data.”

Equally frustrating is any attempt to profile the traffickers — both those who exploit the individuals and those who purchase sexual activity.

“We have information on what traffickers look like, but in every single capacity, there are a lot of gaps,” Godoy said. “For example, for traffickers, there tends to be a lot of law enforcement bias: Who is being policed, what neighborhoods are being policed? We know that in a massage parlor, sex trafficking happens. We know that on the street, on the internet, in escort services, trafficking happens. But law enforcement tends to focus on the most physical crimes. So, they’re going to the streets and they’re looking online because there’s been a lot of talk about the internet as a platform to buy and sell children and buy and sell sex. So, again, there is a dearth of information in the statistics.”

Godoy’s report includes a series of recommendations to address the gaps, including those that exist regarding technologies that might help with the anti-trafficking efforts around the world.

The recommendations include:

Establishing a national database for FBI and local law enforcement to input, access and share pertinent information on human trafficking cases across jurisdictions.

Enhancing social media platforms to include a space for survivor leaders, more recent survivors and service providers to be used as an empowerment tool and healthy communication outlet.

Expansion of existing mobile-based apps for survivors, social service providers and law enforcement that provide vital information on local services available for survivors.

Including an emergency function in newly developed or pre-existing mobile-based apps commonly used by youth that instantly notifies specified contacts (caregivers, social workers, etc.) and/or local law enforcement with an urgent text message, email, and/or phone call that indicates potential danger and includes geospatial information.

Creating a digital platform for vetted social service providers that bolsters safe and timely information sharing for multidisciplinary stakeholders providing rehabilitative services to survivors.

Offering internship and employment opportunities for human trafficking survivors that teach higher levels of skill (programming, coding, etc.).

Facilitating an app-based challenge for survivors to develop ways to prevent sex-trafficking with at-risk youth, intervene with victims, enhance after-care services and reduce recidivism for survivors through accessible technology.

And conducting further research on the interplay of technology with the following populations: at-risk youth in schools and the child welfare system; mental and physical health of human trafficked victims and survivors; child labor practices; labor trafficking of adults; and sex trafficking of adults.

Godoy will be in Washington, D.C., on April 29 for an event sponsored by Polaris Project, the nation’s largest anti-human trafficking organization. Polaris oversees the national human trafficking resource center hotline, which provided a lot of the data for her study. In Washington, she will be one of three people presenting research on the subject.

As she weighed how to approach the presentation of this study, Godoy was firm about one aspect.

“I said to the design and layout expert who worked with me on this report that I don’t want the same dark imagery on the cover,” Godoy said. “I don’t want chains. I don’t want blood. I don’t want any of this negativity.

“I want it to be light, to show that there is a hope at the end of this and that these survivors are very resilient and deserving of more.”

The Power of Public Radio Jennifer Ferro, president of KCRW, speaks to UCLA Luskin students about the role and integrity of her station

By Adrian Bijan White

As president of one of the Los Angeles area’s leading public radio stations, Jennifer Ferro wants to make KCRW, a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, a community institution and a continuing source of unbiased news.

The UCLA alumna recently spoke about the dynamics of politics and public radio in lecturer Michael Fleming’s Public Policy graduate course “Power, Politics and Philanthropy” at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Fleming is executive director of the Los Angeles-based David Bohnett Foundation, one of the region’s leading funders.

Upon assuming her new role as president, following a number of production roles since 1995 at the radio station, Ferro committed her efforts to establishing KCRW as a community center.

“We had spent the first 30 years creating incredible programming, but we didn’t have a relationship with the people on the other end,” says Ferro. “Our new mission is to concentrate on building relationships with the community.”

Among Ferro’s motivations is to protect the integrity of the radio station which serves the greater Southern California area on a number of FM outlets and sustains its presence online at and via mobile apps.

“It is really about credibility, being human and being striking,” says Ferro, describing the core values of KCRW. “We do not answer to any corporate concern or shareholders. We are dedicated as a community service.”

KCRW receives $1.3 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), created by Congress in 1967 as a private, nonprofit and noncommercial corporation.

“All of our funding comes from individuals, corporations and foundations,” Ferro said. “We have a firewall where programming decisions are disconnected from where the funding comes from.”

Ferro, who graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science and psychology, has made it a priority for KCRW to provide a truly public broadcasting system dedicated to local community engagement, going beyond the radio’s business and funding model. Currently, the radio attracts more than 200,000 people a year to station-sponsored events and concerts. And KCRW is finalizing plans to move the station’s headquarters to the new KCRW Media Center, tripling the company’s current studio, production and meeting space, which will be open to the public.

“We have authors, actors, directors and journalists who come through these studios every day,” she said. “With this space we will have an opportunity to host these as live events, invite the public in to watch us do this and be part of the event.”

The station, currently housed in the basement of the cafeteria on the campus of Santa Monica College, will soon open its doors to the public on an entirely new scale.

“We are much more than a radio station,” Ferro said. “We are part of the culture of Los Angeles and beyond.”