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Current research for the department of International Development and Social Change - Clark University Clark IDCE Collaborative Research Projects

Putting Theory into Action

The collaborative research projects of IDCE graduate students and faculty reflect their interdisciplinary approach to issues of environment and development. Many projects build upon partnerships between IDCE and community or governmental organizations around the United States and the globe.

Locally, environmental and community groups often invite IDCE to undertake key community building projects, as well as data gathering and analysis. This allows IDCE faculty and students to put theory into practice right in the neighborhood. By helping to facilitate participatory sessions and building collaborations, students see Worcester neighbors taking action, setting priorities, and maximizing into their human capital and governmental resources. Students hone their analytical skills through GIS mapping of land parcels for development or preservation and through monitoring water quality.

For more ways to get involved locally, see the CDP Graduate Student Guide to Worcester. This document provides an overview of local organizations and initiatives going on in the city. You may also want to Marsh Institute page on current Clark research projects and initiatives.

Current IDCE Research Activities

Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire

The Long Trek from Bhutan to AmericaAn IDCE student/faculty team, led by research professor Richard Ford and IDCE director Ellen Foley, helped conduct workshops with the Bhutanese that provided tools and strategies to help them establish lives in the United States. The program springs from Ford's work in Kenya 25 years ago, where he and fellow Clark research professor Barbara Thomas-Slayter, working with several Kenyan colleagues, developed the process known as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), which uses community-based development and action to build stable, thriving communities. For the Concord project, he conducted a seven-week module course on PRA during the spring 2010 semester that's designed to be a "hands-on community-building experience for Clark students. As a result of the project, the group developed "The Long Trek from Bhutan to America: A Journey from the Foothills of the Himalayas to Concord, New Hampshire," which you can download at the link below.

Final Report [PDF] »
Read more about the project, and view a video »


aids2031: A Collaborative IDCE/UNAIDS Project

AIDS 2031aids2031 is an UNAIDS commissioned project hosted by Clark University. aids2031 aims to change the face of the pandemic by 2031, 50 years after the AIDS pandemic was first reported. The project brings together multi-disciplinary teams from all over the world — including economists, epidemiologists, and biomedical, social and political scientists — to question conventional wisdom, stimulate new research, encourage public debate, and uncover new evidence on HIV/AIDS. In addition to hosting the aids2031 coordination unit, Clark University is taking the lead on the Social Drivers Group, looking at the key social, political and economic factors that drive the epidemic.


National Children's Study

National Children's StudyES&P professor Tim Downs, GISDE professor Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, and ES&P research professor Rob Goble will participate in the National Children's Study: the largest and most ambitious long term study ever conducted on how environmental and genetic factors impact children's health and development in the U.S. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nationwide, it will follow a representative sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, seeking information on all aspects of their lives, including their genetic makeup, and their health. In Worcester County, 1,000 children will be followed. It is hoped that the study will lead to a better understanding, prevention and treatment of some of the nation's most pressing health problems among children and young adults, including autism, asthma, birth defects, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The National Children's Study »
Professor Tim Downs' page »
Professor Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger's page »
Professor Rob Goble's page »


Difficult Dialogues

National Children's StudyThe issue of climate change or global warming interweaves with all aspects of life on earth. Faced with this emerging planetary challenge, we are called urgently to become knowledgeable of its nature, uncertainties and stakes.

In the dialogue symposium this past spring, we considered climate change so that we may, as a community, deepen our factual knowledge of the issue, explore its multi-faceted sources and impacts, look into the risks and responsibilities ahead, and see from a range of perspectives (political, economic, scientific, aesthetic, ethical, literary, musical, spiritual) as we seek solutions.

Difficult Dialogues Homepage »


Urban Initiative Competition

National Children's StudyIn anticipation of the Congressional interest in new and creative urban initiatives and the need for the national administration's attention to the domestic agendas, Clark University, Community Development Training Institute (CDTI), Freddie Mac, the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Community Development Association are seeking proposals to an Urban Initiative Competition. An award of $20,000 will be given to the winner of each category. The categories are affordable and sustainable housing; neighborhood based economic development and financial services to low income communities.

PLEASE NOTE: The competition is now closed.


Engaging Vulnerable Neighborhoods

IDCE and the George Perkins Marsh Institute with their partners, the Worcester Youth Center, Regional Environmental Council, and Family Health Center received a prestigious award of $887,000 over four years (2005-2008) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).

ES&P Program Coordinator Professor Tim Downs and CDP Coordinator Professor Laurie Ross are the principal investigators of the project, "Strengthening Vulnerable Communities in the Worcester Built Environment." ES&P Professor Rob Goble, Dale Hattis, and Octavia Taylor of the Marsh Institute are also playing key roles. The project engages Clark students, faculty, community organizations, and residents of Worcester's Piedmont and Main South neighborhoods.

George Perkins Marsh Institute »
Professor Tim Downs' Homepage »
Professor Laurie Ross' Homepage »


CDP Research Gives Hope

Laurie Ross, professor of Community Development and Planning in the IDCE Department at Clark University, leads the Healthy Options for Prevention and Education (HOPE) Coalition, a youth-adult partnership in Worcester, Massachusetts formed to reduce youth violence, reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and promote positive adolescent mental health and youth voice. HOPE consists of 18 local organizations including city government, public schools, health and mental health organizations, as well as other community-based youth serving organizations and is built on the principle that youth must be leaders in efforts to address the issues that affect their lives. Currently HOPE's youth roster consists of twenty active Peer Leaders who are a group of urban teens of color who have a strong track record in completing social change projects.

HOPE recently engaged in community-based participatory research to promote the enforcement and strengthening of Worcester's local zoning regulations to reduce store-front advertising of tobacco as well as to limit the number of tobacco vendors in neighborhoods. The Coalition peer leaders drew on their knowledge of teen culture and the assistance from Clark University in using geographical information systems (GIS) to analyze and display data. The youth's research and action on this issue inspired key decision-makers to help them forge systemic change in local tobacco control efforts. Read more about the project here.

Worcester HOPE Coalition's Website »
Professor Laurie Ross' Homepage »


Income Generation for Youth in AIDS-afflicted Ghana

In 2007 , IDCE research professor Richard Ford received a grant of $25,000 from the Ocean Reef Foundation to conduct an experimental training and research program in the Dawa region of the Upper Manya District in Eastern Ghana. Working in cooperation with the Ghana Organization for Volunteer Assistance, the Center for Youth in International Development Programs, and with the aids2031 initiative, Ford and others focused on income generation programs for youth in an AIDS-afflicted region of Ghana. The "Growing Hope" program currently assists a youth cooperative and a women's cooperative with access to 200 acres of land to increase agricultural output and to process it locally to increase its market value.

The grant will provide loans for food processing equipment and farm buildings, and will fund training in management and prevention of AIDS. Ford states, "The rationale for the program is very simple. Solutions exist to reduce the spread of AIDS. While villages can do little to cure AIDS, they can provide new livelihoods that will encourage young people to stay away from the cities." So far, Clark has provided for the project a vehicle, a laptop with internet access, and a printer, and Ford has volunteered time to train the communities in conflict mediation, local planning, and fundraising.

Visit aids2031.org »
Visit Professor Dick Ford's Homepage »


Corporate Social Responsibility and the Global Reporting Initiative

During the past two decades the corporate social responsibility movement made the practice of issuing voluntary reports on sustainability performance by companies very popular. Created in1997 in Boston, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), through a partnership with The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and close links with International Standards Organization and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has become the best known and most prestigious set of guidelines for how such reports should be produced, with about a thousand adopters in 65 countries. This year ES&P professor Halina Brown will be completing a three year project, funded by a $320,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that examines the effectiveness of GRI in becoming a new type of global institution. Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands is Clark's partner in this research.

The Global Reporting Initiative »
Professor Halina Brown's Homepage »


Bridging Barriers: Meeting Youth Immigrant and Refugee Health Needs

IDSC professor Ellen Foley has won a grant from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts to fund the project "Bridging Barriers: Meeting Youth Immigrant and Refugee Health Needs in Worcester, MA." The funding is through the health foundation's activation fund, which, according to its president Jan B. Yost, is specifically designed to "attract proposals that will promote creative and innovative approaches to alleviating health problems in our community."

Approximately $60,000 was awarded to Clark University for its collaboration with the African Community Development Corporation, Fairbridge International, and the Southeast Asian Coalition Center to work with immigrant and refugee youth in Worcester who, because of cultural differences, are not comfortable with local youth service agencies. This project will begin with primary research that will form solutions in creating after-school programs to better suit the needs of the young population of refugees and immigrants in Worcester public schools.

Professor Ellen Foley's Homepage »


Climate Change Emerging Technologies

ES&P professor Jennie Stephens conducts research on diffusion of emerging energy technologies with potential to contribute to an energy system transformation and for climate change mitigation. The research is a collaborative effort between Clark, University of Minnesota and Texas A&M. It is funded by a three year $390,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Science and Society program.

The project examines the interconnected, state-level, socio-political influences on diffusion and deployment of emerging energy technologies. It focuses on two cases: wind power and carbon capture and storage (CCS), both of which have great potential to change the energy technology landscape and to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. By conducting a retrospective analysis of the diffusion history of wind power technology in six geographically and politically diverse states—Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Montana, New Mexico, and New York—the study seeks to identify the key factors in its diffusion so far. It then seeks to use the insights from that analysis to inform government policies related to future diffusion of wind and CCS technologies.