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Global Social Development Innovations Center to Launch in October

September 15, 2017
School of Social Work

More than 40 economic, nonprofit and policy leaders and practitioners from around the globe will gather in October for a three-day symposium to officially launch the opening of Global Social Development Innovations (GSDI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The new research center is based within the School of Social Work and aims to improve the lives of marginalized populations around the world.

Founded and directed by social work associate professor Gina Chowa, GSDI brings together a team of interdisciplinary scholars focused on social change in communities with limited economic, social and health resources. In addition, the center will collaborate with university, state, national and international researchers and partners to leverage expertise and to train the next generation of scholars so that they are better prepared to seek solutions to challenging problems in their countries and communities.

Gina Chowa

“We’re not just bringing all of these people together to collect data and research for the sake of it,” Chowa said. “We want to bring about social change. Our mission is to collaborate and build capacity for our partners and for scholars so that we’re improving opportunities for rolling out services, based on evidence, to ultra-poor people who need them.”

To celebrate the center’s launch, GSDI will host a series of lectures and panel discussions across campus Oct. 11-13. Panel sessions will focus on interventions that have worked to address daunting problems globally and discussion to identify gaps and plans for the next frontier in social development work. Sessions on the third day will focus on the link between research, policy and practice and will be held at the UNC School of Social Work. Sessions at the School are free and open to the public. Interested participants should register by Sept. 22.

GSDI will kick off its events with a dinner and inaugural lecture featuring Michael Sherraden, George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor and founding director of the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. Sherraden is known for his pioneering work on asset building for low-income people and has helped to influence policy development in the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Canada, Indonesia and other countries. In 2010, he was named to Time Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Other speakers and panelists will include:

•    Liz Kellison, deputy director of the Financial Services for the Poor with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kellison leads the team’s work to increase low-income women’s access to and usage of digital financial services.
•    Dennis Haraszko with the MasterCard Foundation. Haraszko manages the monitoring, evaluation and research activities within the foundation’s rural and agricultural finance and savings portfolios. Prior to joining the foundation, he worked at the University of Notre Dame, where he guided the Ford Family Program’s work in Kenya and Uganda, coordinating community engagement activities and research projects in health, youth entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.
•    Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa, an economist and the Lawrence I. Gilbert Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Handa’s research covers a wide range of human development and poverty-related topics, including food security and child nutrition and more recently, the psychology and behavioral effects of poverty. He is currently one of the principal investigators of a multi-country study by UNICEF on the impact of national cash transfer programs on households and children.
•    Swapnil Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of Samagra, which uses information and communications technologies, behavioral sciences and human-centered design to make sanitation services accessible and affordable for the poor. An Ashoka Fellow and Acumen Fellow, Chaturvedi’s company currently provides sanitation services to over 150,000 daily users across more than 100 slums in Pune, India.
•    Maggie West, co-director and co-founder of the Community Empowerment Fund, a student-powered nonprofit organization that provides matched savings accounts, financial education, workforce development and relationship-based support for individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness in Orange and Durham counties.


For more information, visit the GSDI website.

Media contact: Karen Kornegay, UNC School of Social Work director of external communications and marketing, or 919-962-1532

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