Co-designing A Research Partnership

30 03 2021

The USAID LASER PULSE Network just released the short story below on how we implemented a co-design process with our partners – AgUnity and Egerton University in Kenya – for our project entitled “Exploring Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.”

The story talks about our desire to blend the research and translation process from the beginning of our proposal development for the following three reasons: 

(1) We expected research activities to bring up new questions that would need to be addressed to produce an impactful research translation product. The research team members are able to return to the field to get answers for the research translation team to continue to refine the app.

(2) Collaboration and partnership are essential for impact. Development in general must continue to break down silos between disciplines and professions in order to meet the needs of the individuals we are trying to serve through this research. Collaboration facilitates the rapid problem solving and creativity that impact generation requires. 

(3) Working collaboratively is a lot of fun! It stimulates passions and shared interests, facilitates out of the box thinking, and learning. So far, we have been able to provide training to each other, talk about new and innovative ways to address nutrition, discuss unique avenues to scale the project and ensure sustainability, and share our own passions and interests in travel, food, and family.

Source





Book Chapter – Completing the Cycle

22 03 2021

A new co-authored book chapter – with Prof. Shyam Ranganathan – entitled “Completing the Cycle: An Inclusive Capitalism Approach Linking Sustainable Consumption and Production,” has just been published in Sustainable Consumption and Production, Volume I: Challenges and Development.

Abstract

In this chapter, we present an inclusive capitalism approach, which completes the environmental-production-income and distribution-consumption cycle by treating sustainable consumption and production as two sides of the same coin. There are two divides that our approach to inclusive capitalism bridges—one between income earned from capital ownership and from wages, and the other between the human production of goods and services and the impact these activities have on the environment. We analyse different mechanisms to bridge these divides and show that our proposal—broadening the distribution of capital ownership using future earnings of capital and directing this income towards sustainable production and consumption—presents a holistic solution to growing environmental problems and income inequality. In addition, we also achieve the politically desirable goal of participatory economic life through this mechanism.





Future of Work – Recording of IIHCC Conversation

14 03 2021

If you missed our conversation on the Future of Work last week and would like to watch a recording of the session, it can now be accessed by clicking on the image below.

https://www.provost.vt.edu/destination_areas/areas_of_focus/da_iihcc/iihcc-forum.html




Talk on the Future of Work

24 02 2021

If you are interested in the Future of Work, please consider joining Prof. Sylvester Johnson, Prof. Suqin Ge, and I, from 12-1pm (EST), on Monday, March 1, for a discussion that will explore the following questions:

  • How is the digital economy affecting present and future labor opportunities?
  • Is AI replacing more jobs than it creates?
  • Are there gender disparities in the impact of automation?
  • What is the relationship between economic growth and real wages?
  • Should universal basic income play a role?

To register for the event click here.

This talk is part of Virginia Tech’s Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-Centered Communities (IIHCC) Destination Area.





Applying Blockchain Technology to Kenya’s AIV value chain

3 11 2020

The Center for International Research, Education, and Development recently published a short story on our USAID LASER (Long-Term Assistance and Services for Research) PULSE (Partners for University Led Solutions Engine) project entitled “Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya.”





Media Coverage of The Market of Virginia Tech

2 10 2020

Below are a few of the news articles that have been written on The Market of Virginia Tech.

New program puts fresh food in the hands of students




The Market of Virginia Tech

30 09 2020

Over the past several months, Dr. Jessica Agnew (Assistant Director, Research, Operations, and Program Management at Center for International Research, Education, and Development, Virginia Tech), Jesse Harden (a PhD student in Computer Science at Virginia Tech), and I have been running an impact evaluation of Phase 1 and 2 of Virginia Tech’s new food access program. The Market of Virginia Tech was officially announced today. In the coming weeks, we plan to release a platform that will share the results from our 2019 study of Food Access and Security at Virginia Tech and the insights we obtained from our impact evaluation of The Market of Virginia Tech. In the future, this new platform will also present the research we are currently undertaking on how blockchain technology can be used to improve food security through African indigenous vegetables in Kenya.





New Paper – Exploring Smart City Project Implementation Risks

4 09 2020

The final paper from Dr. Kushboo Gupta’s dissertation has been published in the Journal of Urban Technology. This new paper focuses on exploring smart city project implementation risks in the cities of Kakinada and Kanpur, India. The list below captures several other contributions by Dr. Gupta that stem from her PhD research:

Abstract

With an increasing number of smart city initiatives in developed as well as developing nations, smart cities are seen as a catalyst for improving the quality of life for city residents. However, the current understanding of the risks that may hamper the successful implementation of smart city projects remains limited. This research examines the risk landscape for implementing smart city projects in two Indian cities, Kakinada and Kanpur, by interviewing 20 professionals from industry and local government who were closely associated with implementing smart city projects. Seven risks are identified—namely resource management and partnership, institutional, scheduling and execution, social, financial, political, and technology—using thematic analysis. Further, the interrelationships between the risks are modelled using causal mapping techniques. The results suggest different risk priorities among the two types of professionals interviewed. Further, a number of risks were found to be closely connected. These findings suggest that risk mitigation strategies need to take a comprehensive view towards all risks and their interconnections instead of managing each risk in isolation.





New Paper on “Addressing Inequality”

9 07 2020

Our new paper entitled “Addressing Inequality: The First Step Beyond COVID-19 and Towards Sustainability” is now available. I will provide the story behind this paper in a subsequent post.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted billions of lives across the world and has revealed and worsened the social and economic inequalities that have emerged over the past several decades. As governments consider public health and economic strategies to respond to the crisis, it is critical they also address the weaknesses of their economic and social systems that inhibited their ability to respond comprehensively to the pandemic. These same weaknesses have also undermined efforts to advance equality and sustainability. This paper explores over 30 interventions across the following nine categories of change that hold the potential to address inequality, provide all citizens with access to essential goods and services, and advance progress towards sustainability: (1) Income and wealth transfers to facilitate an equitable increase in purchasing power/disposable income; (2) broadening worker and citizen ownership of the means of production and supply of services, allowing corporate profit-taking to be more equitably distributed; (3) changes in the supply of essential goods and services for more citizens; (4) changes in the demand for more sustainable goods and services desired by people; (5) stabilizing and securing employment and the workforce; (6) reducing the disproportionate power of corporations and the very wealthy on the market and political system through the expansion and enforcement of antitrust law such that the dominance of a few firms in critical sectors no longer prevails; (7) government provision of essential goods and services such as education, healthcare, housing, food, and mobility; (8) a reallocation of government spending between military operations and domestic social needs; and (9) suspending or restructuring debt from emerging and developing countries. Any interventions that focus on growing the economy must also be accompanied by those that offset the resulting compromises to health, safety, and the environment from increasing unsustainable consumption. This paper compares and identifies the interventions that should be considered as an important foundational first step in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and towards sustainability. In this regard, it provides a comprehensive set of strategies that could advance progress towards a component of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 to reduce inequality within countries. However, the candidate interventions are also contrasted with all 17 SDGs to reveal potential problem areas/tradeoffs that may need careful attention.




Congratulations Luis Camacho!

8 07 2020

Congratulations to Luis Camacho who successfully defended his PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization on Monday. Luis’s PhD dissertation was entitled “Technology, Participatory Management Practices (PMP), and Dignity at Work: Negotiating the Use of Technology in a Plastics Packaging Firm.” The abstract to his dissertation is provided below.

While every student’s PhD pathway is different, Luis’s accomplishment is particularly notable given the unexpected challenges he faced along the way. The most significant of these was the tragic loss of Prof. John Browder, the co-chair of his PhD committee. When I asked Luis to reflect on his journey, he provided the following remarks about Prof. Browder and gave me permission to share them:

“… my heart falls apart when remembering the inexhaustible kindness, love, joy, and passion Dr. John Browder had for his students. He supported me as I worked to overcome a rough first year of my graduate program and helped me progress to my second year and then on to the PhD. I still remember how excited he was to teach his planning theory class in Alexandria for the first time (a course he had taught for 15 years in Blacksburg). His energy and enthusiasm was contagious. When I transitioned to Blacksburg from Alexandria, he and his wife hosted me at their house and shared Blacksburg’s history with me. As a teacher and advisor, he always challenged us to discover our own pathways and calmed any anxieties we had about our research.”

Prof. Joyce Rothschild served as Luis’s second PhD committee chair until her retirement from Virginia Tech, at which point I became the chair. I am extremely grateful that Prof. Rothschild remained an active external committee member after her retirement. Dr. Daniel BreslauDr. John Provo, and Dr. David Bieri also served as key members of Luis’s PhD committee.

I would describe Luis as one of our most resilient students. Not only was he able to navigate multiple changes to his committee, he faced similar changes during his fieldwork as his position in the firm he was studying evolved, requiring time consuming changes to his research protocol. During his time at Virginia Tech, Luis served as a TA for multiple courses in SPIA and the Real Estate program, taught courses for the VT Honors Program, and worked as a graduate researcher for Dr. David Bieri and for the VT Office of Economic Development.

Luis now plans to return to Colombia, where he hopes to continue his research into the relationship between technology and dignity at work.

Abstract

Since the introduction of Toyota’s Production System, the deployment of lean production systems (or lean manufacturing) and more advanced technological developments, Participatory Management Practices (PMP) have been viewed as lying at the heart of successful manufacturing workplaces. Studies on technology and PMP have concluded that the state of technology in a company unequivocally shapes PMP and can open spaces to enhance the wellbeing of workers regardless of the PMP dynamics. However, these claims are contested by studies that question the positive effects from PMP, arguing that workplaces are organized in such a way that workers are viewed as mere resources to be deployed in the production process, without paying attention to their human morale and agency.

This research presents a case study of a food plastics packaging firm that contextualizes, describes, and analyzes: 1) PMP from a Socio-technical Systems Theory (SST) perspective to further our understanding of the role of participative dynamics in the wellbeing of workers; and 2) the dynamics of control-resistance in the workplace as a measure of dignity at work in the context of power relations. This research provides a rich exploration of a workplace that is facing and managing the challenge of automation and technological development.

Using an extended case study research method, data are collected by observing workers’ daily interactions with a combination of technologies. These observations reveal the importance of team dynamics in the production process. The observed PMP dynamics show conflictive, competitive, and cooperative behaviors that are negotiated through continuous human-machine, machine-machine, and human-human interactions in the production process. However, management is found to be indifferent to the impact that a combination of technologies and lean production approaches have on participation dynamics. This indifference inhibits managers from embracing and appreciating the value of PMP. All the identified expressions of what technology and PMP mean to workers, and their dynamics, show an ongoing negotiating process. This process comes from all types of participation in which a worker struggles for dignity. The organizational structure of the firm expects workers to display specific types of participation in team efforts, but workers are also provided with opportunities to negotiate their interests or struggle for dignity by changing their type of participation in team activities.

The work processes and findings described in this dissertation generally support the theory of Hodson (2001). Further, this research develops the concept of “combination of technologies,” which can be used to help observe workers’ understanding of technology and participative dynamics. The research also identifies various types of participation based on the interactions of workers in the technology process and how workers manage or safeguard their dignity based on their engagement with different types of participation in team-based situations or events. Finally, this research identified how participative engagement by workers can be used as a power mechanism to retain their dignity.