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.





2020 Beyster Symposium

18 06 2020

On Tuesday, June 23, from 9:00 to 10:30am (EDT), I will be participating in the online (and open access) 2020 Beyster Symposium. The purpose of the symposium is to study broad-based forms of capital ownership and capital income such as employee stock ownership, equity compensation, profit sharing, gain sharing, and worker cooperatives in the corporation.

During my session at the symposium – which focuses on “UBI, Taxation, and the Environment,” a recording of my presentation will be released and the panelists in the session will be available in the chat feature of the conference platform to answer any questions you might have on our presentations or papers.

To join my session, go to https://beystersymposium.org/ and select Room 2 at 9:00am on June 23.

All of the material prepared for the symposium can be accessed via this dropbox site.

I will be presenting a co-authored paper entailed “Universal Basic Income and Inclusive Capitalism: Consequences for Sustainability.” My Prezi presentation can be accessed via this link.





New Paper on the Commercialization of Smallholder Farming in Nepal

4 05 2020

The second paper by Raj GC, SPIA PGG PhD candidate, was recently published in Agriculture. This paper was originally accepted for the World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference 2020: Institutions for Equity and Resilience that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final version of the paper focuses on the policies and initiatives the Government of Nepal and other actors could advance to promote the commercialization of smallholder farming in the rural western middle hills of Nepal.

Abstract

A vast majority of farmers in the rural middle hills of Nepal are smallholders who often use family labor and follow traditional agricultural and water management practices. This study examines a range of perspectives (from rural farmers to development experts) on the limited commercialization of rural agriculture in this region of Nepal and the potential approaches to promoting agricultural growth and commercialization among small landholders. An analysis of household surveys, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions in three wards of Kaski, Syangja, and Palpa districts of Nepal revealed that nearly one-third of farmers left their agricultural lands barren or only partly cultivated, and more than one-third were not motivated to engage in agricultural activities. This lack of motivation was found to be connected with limited or no access to irrigation water, poor production systems, a lack of access to markets, a low return on investment in agriculture, the low social status of farm-work, the incidence of crop infestations, and fear of production risks due to extreme climatic factors (such as low/high rainfall, droughts, etc.). Remittances related to outmigration were also found to be important factors limiting a farmer’s involvement in agriculture, which also creates labor shortages. This research confirms that, for agricultural production to be profitable and commercial, households need to receive qualified technical support to introduce new technologies, engage in markets, access input suppliers and service providers, and adopt high-value production crops and related techniques. Households that receive an income from government jobs, private sources, and remittances reported agriculture being a laborious and difficult task. Addressing these mediating factors along with the provision of effective crop insurance and subsides for the lower-income segments of the population, has the potential to (re)engage rural households in farming activities. Such an approach could provide a way to realize the government’s plans to commercialize smallholder farming.





The What, Why, and How of Becoming a Smart City

30 04 2020

The second paper from Dr. Khushboo Gupta’s dissertation has been published in Smart Cities. The full paper can be accessed by clicking on the image below.

Abstract

Rapid urbanization can result in challenges, such as overcrowding, congestion, and a lack of urban services. To address these challenges, an increasing number of communities are exploring the concept of a smart city (SC). Although rapid urbanization is a problem for cities around the world, its consequences can be severe for those located in developing nations. While previous studies have focused on SCs that were built from the ground up, there is a critical need for studies that focus on how to advance SC initiatives in developing regions faced with limited land and resources. This study identified two proposed SCs in India—Kakinada and Kanpur—which are currently implementing SC projects to explore their SC transformation. This case study aims to explore how “smartness” is understood in these cities and examines the local conditions shaping SC objectives by studying the existing issues in the cities, the proposed projects, and the perception of SC experts on a) what they understand by “smartness”; b) why cities want to become smart; and c) how they will become smart. The study findings indicate that although the high-level goals of the proposed SCs in India are similar to those of existing SCs in developed nations, the underlying objectives and strategies vary and are shaped by the urbanization challenges facing the Indian cities. This research also highlights the key questions a SC planning effort should address, especially in a developing nation context.




SuperStudio Session with Grace Blakeley

16 04 2020

On Thursday, April 15, we had the pleasure of speaking with Grace Blakeley – author of Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialisation – during the VT Honors College SuperStudio. Rather than posting an hour-long/unedited video, I thought it would be more helpful to break our conversation into parts. The first video below captures Grace’s introductory remarks. After this, students were able to ask questions ranging from how to “hack” financialization to advice on where to study heterodox economics.

For some context, the SuperStudio combines five advanced undergraduate courses – focused on Environmental Policy and Social Change, Data Analysis for Health Reform, “Drone-Age” Innovation for the Public Good, the Future of Higher Education, and the Future of Employment – that collaborate to examine the potentials and challenges of the Green New Deal. The SuperStudio is designed to engage students in transdisciplinary and collaborative work and provide a space where they can develop critical skills and knowledge that are applied to group or individual capstone projects.

Student Questions

Payton Green to Grace Blakeley – How to build a “populist narrative”?

Lonnie Hamilton III to Grace Blakeley – Thoughts on democratic socialism in Nordic countries?

Lorena Beltran to Grace Blakeley – Impacts of COVID-19 on efforts to advance the Green New Deal?

McKenna Magoffin to Grace Blakeley – Is there a way to “hack” financialization?

Caitlín Adams to Grace Blakeley – Where to study heterodox economics?

Natalie Serio to Grace Blakeley – How to create an influential social media platform?

My Question

Ralph Hall to Grace Blakeley – Will automation/AI undermine efforts to strengthen unions/labor?