February 26, 2018; The Highlander (UC Riverside)
In partnership with university researchers, three foundations have made seed donations to help establish the Center for Social Innovation at the University of California, Riverside. The Irvine Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation share a common mission: finding ways to serve the underserved. Now, thanks to their efforts, a new interdisciplinary center is being established to direct research efforts to that end.
The center will focus its research on four areas aimed at alleviating problems for Inland California, a region in which nearly one in four children under the age of six (23 percent) live in poverty. The center wants to focus on “investment in the area through collaborative research, policy innovation and a change of the narrative associated with Inland California.”
Research will focus on four areas integral to the success and livelihood of the Inland Empire. The areas are Civic Engagement, Economic Mobility, Immigration Research, and Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Heading the Civic Engagement group is Francisco Pedraza, a leading race and immigration scholar, and Loren Collingwood, a political scientists whose research focuses on Latinx voter mobilization. Directing the economic mobility group is sociologist Ellen Reese, whose research focuses on welfare activism. Public policy professor Cecilia Ayón directs the immigration group, while the associate dean of the public policy school, Karthick Ramakrishnan, will lead the workgroup that will focus on nonprofit leadership and entrepreneurship.
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The Civic Engagement Group will use surveys and other research to examine public opinion, political representation, voting, and other forms of civic participation. The Economic Mobility Group builds on the work of UCR’s Labor Studies program with worker centers and other similar organizations in the region. The Immigration Research Group will focus on policy and practice issues around immigration and immigrant integration. The Leadership and Entrepreneurial Group intends to sponsor conferences and fellowships for nonprofits, as well as provide a valuable network of peers.
Of course, the research among these groups overlaps. For instance, immigration is linked with higher levels of economic outcomes and entrepreneurship. The Center, by bringing these different themes under one roof, aims to encourage information sharing among the four.
The Center has set for itself an ambitious agenda. The group states that its central goal will be “to integrate researchers, community organizations, and civic stakeholders in collaborative projects and long-term partnerships that boost collective impact.” The Center also aims to employ an asset-based approach that shifts “away from a ‘problem’ narrative to an ‘opportunity’ narrative for marginalized communities and localities.”—Sean Watterson and Steve Dubb