Laura D’Andrea Tyson on Social Impact at Cal

Laura D’Andrea Tyson on Social Impact at Cal

By Tamara Straus

tysonlauraucberkeley-500Laura D’Andrea Tyson likes to see herself as a communicator and translator of complex economic ideas. But the world tends to see her as one of the most accomplished female economists of her generation. From 1993 to 1995, Tyson was the first female chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors under President Clinton. From 2002 to 2006, she served as the first female dean of the London Business School. Otherwise, she has worn multiple top hats at Cal: as dean of the Haas School of Business, S. K. and Angela Chan Chair in Global Management, chair of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and professor of Business Administration and Economics—while also serving as a board member for more than two dozen governmental agencies, private foundations, and multinational corporations.

Tyson has sharp, informed opinions on many issues: world trade, international markets, minimum wage, supply chains, underemployment, income inequality, and educational opportunity. One of the subjects that allows her to combine all these threads is “social innovation,” a catchall term for finding societal solutions through multiple and often market-based methods. Tyson believes social innovation and social impact are having their heyday at Cal. Never before have there been so many courses, research projects, and student and faculty efforts devoted to projects aiming to spur social and economic improvement. To point to this phenomenon, the university is launching a campaign this fall called “Innovation for Greater Good: What Can Berkeley Change in One Generation.” The Blum Center sat down with Professor Tyson to talk about the history of social innovation at Cal and where it is moving.

Why did you start the Global Social Venture Competition back in 1999? What in the campus or general environment prompted you to create a social innovation contest for MBA students?

Berkeley was really ahead of its time in supporting socially minded entrepreneurs. This makes sense because the university has always been a progressive place that attracts forward-thinking, diverse students—students with backgrounds that enable them to see societal challenges that aren’t being effectively addressed by either the government or business sector. The impetus for the competition really came from the students. Remember, these were the days of the anti-globalization movement and the beginning of triple bottom line investing. Our MBA students were really fascinated by the new spate of companies that aimed to sustainably support people, environment, and profit. The very name of the competition made the students’ intentions clear. “Global” was used because students wanted their solutions to have international application. “Venture” connoted something new, something risky and creative. And “social” indicated challenges unaddressed by government or the private marketplace. Goldman Sachs had just gone public and had created a foundation, which liked our competition idea and agreed to fund it. Sixteen years later, the Global Social Venture Competition is global itself. The competition brings together a significant network that receives about 600 entries annually from close to 40 countries. Finalists have included social enterprise stars like Husk Power, Revolution Foods, and d.light design.

What has changed in the environment and among the students since the contest began?

I think there’s more emphasis on technological innovations and solutions. The rapid growth of digital technologies and mobile phones has made it easier for organizations to get to the populations they want to serve. The students who are coming to Cal today really get this and want to use technology for social impact. There are also more students coming into the social impact area with engineering backgrounds. They want to be innovators and they want to team up with students from other disciplines—from business, computer science, data analytics, behavioral economics, and social psychology—to form their own organizations while still at Cal. What we’re seeing is the startup culture blossoming and bearing fruit at the university. It’s very exciting to think about where all of this will lead. The other thing that has changed in the last 15 years is the increase in funding options for the research and development of social impact projects. Social innovation students today need more knowledge about financing and the availability of contests, foundations, and venture capital sources. We are working to give them that knowledge.

Why do business schools like Haas make a distinction between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship? Isn’t all entrepreneurship social in that it creates jobs?

Social entrepreneurs are motivated by the desire to create new approaches to addressing unmet needs and to solving social problems.  They may form a nonprofit enterprise or a for-profit enterprise to realize their goals, but even when they choose a for-profit approach, they place priority on purpose rather than on profits—or on “profits with purpose.” Traditional entrepreneurs focus on for-profit business opportunities and place priority on the profits generated by them. For-profit businesses always have the purpose of serving customers—and profitable companies also serve to employ people and generate returns for their owners. Indeed, many profitable companies make contributions to their communities and some even establish their own foundations to do so. But if a “social purpose” isn’t the original intent of a for-profit business, it is usually not considered a social enterprise. For-profit enterprises produce goods and services to satisfy market demand and demand is based on income. So markets and for-profit enterprises cannot meet the needs of those who do not have adequate incomes to buy the goods and services they need. Governments can address their needs either by raising their incomes or by providing the goods and services they need at subsidized low prices. Social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and social enterprises also play this role and are essential when governments lack the resources or the political capital to do so.

You’ve called social entrepreneurs a “new kind of business hero.” Is it because entrepreneurs need to distinguish themselves from unethical or anti-egalitarian business practices?

No. What distinguishes social entrepreneurs is their desire to find new ways to address needs that are not met by markets and to address social challenges that sometimes result from negative market externalities, such as pollution, or from positive market externalities, such as the society-wide benefits of an educated population. Broadly speaking, the “social sector” is defined by these broad purposes and includes nonprofits, governments, social enterprises, and for-profit businesses, often working in collaboration with one another. In the U.S., the social sector includes a new form of for-profit business, called a “B” or benefits corporation that embraces both explicit profitability and sustainability goals.

You’ve been involved in the Blum Center for Developing Economies since its creation in 2006. What attracted you to the mission of the Blum Center and how has it supported social innovation at UC Berkeley?

My initial fields of study were economic development, international trade, and what used to be called comparative economics and is now called political economy. So I have always been interested in how societies try to develop and provide rising living standards for their citizens—what is today called inclusive growth. These interests very much align with those of the Blum Center. The center has made three key contributions to social innovation at Cal: through its Global Poverty & Practice undergraduate minor, through its Big Ideas @ Berkeley competition, and most recently through the PhD minor Development Engineering. The GPP minor has been an important contribution not just for Berkeley but also as a model for other colleges and universities seeking to teach students about the causes of global poverty and ways to alleviate it. Big Ideas has provided motivation and support to thousands of students seeking new new ways to address social challenges and have social impact both on and off campus and around the world. And Development Engineering is designed to help graduate-level engineers and social science students who want to use their time at the university to focus on technology for development. Through these educational programs and through the numerous research projects it supports in conjunction with its work with USAID, the Blum Center is fostering the creation of new technological solutions for inclusive economic development.

What can Cal do for its social innovation programs over the next 10 years?

UC Berkeley is a public institution with a long history of community engagement and progressive causes. Support for education and research that fosters positive social impact is deeply embedded in Berkeley’s culture, and there is strong student and faculty interest. There are numerous courses, research projects and activities that focus on social impact across the campus—at the Haas School of Business, the School of Public Health, the Engineering School, the College of Natural Resources, the Blum Center, and several other schools and departments. The Blum Center serves as an interdisciplinary hub bringing together students and faculty from many disciplines with a shared interest in poverty alleviation and economic development. Over the next decade the campus should build on the success of the Blum Center, providing support for interdisciplinary programs that allow students and faculty to design, test, and scale technological and organizational innovations that address unmet needs and social challenges. These programs should take advantage of new modes of education and collaboration made possible by online learning and online social networks.

Alice Agogino: Trailblazer in Mechanical Engineering

Alice Agogino: Trailblazer in Mechanical Engineering

By Tamara Straus

When historians get around to investigating the trials and triumphs of women scientists in the late 20th century, they would do well to spend some time looking at the career of Alice Merner Agogino.

Agogino, the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley, was the only female mechanical engineering student in her 1975 graduating class at the University of New Mexico and the first woman to receive tenure in her field at UC Berkeley. She said before she joined the faculty in the mid 1980s, the mechanical engineering department decided to vote on whether a woman professor could teach mostly male students. The department seems to have voted yes, because for 30 years running Agogino has taught a majority of men.

In a meandering interview covering women in science, the new discipline of Development Engineering, and the interests of Millennial students, Agogino, an affiliated faculty member of the Blum Center, admitted that for years she insisted engineering was gender neutral. “Until it just hit me in the head: everything is gendered,” she explained with a peal of laughter. “It wasn’t until I started reading Why So Slow, for example, and did the “Beyond Bias and Barriers” study for the National Academy of Engineering and read all the surrounding literature, which was so scary and shocking, that I realized everything is gendered: what problems you select to work on; who makes the technology decisions; who benefits. There’s hardly anything we do that doesn’t have a gendered and social justice component. Now that my eyes have been opened, I can’t go back. I see it everywhere.”

Agogino explains that not thinking about gender was simply a means for survival—“so that whenever something went wrong, I didn’t internalize what happened and say, ‘It’s because I’m a woman.’” As for her academic interests, she credits her parents. Her father was a professor of anthropology and her mother occupied the rarest of 1950s female professions: physics professor. Agogino grew up in New Mexico and spent a lot of time accompanying her dad on archeological digs, ethnographic studies, and academic meetings. Meanwhile, her mother went about her career duties largely childless, lest she appear unprofessional. “My mother got paid half the wages of the people she supervised when she worked in industry,” recounted Agogino. “She thought that was okay or at least she didn’t complain. That’s how she survived.”

Looking back at her mother’s career trajectory and her own, Agogino joked that a caveat should be made to the logic-based field of decision analysis. Decision analysis stipulates that information always has some value. It can have zero value, but never negative value. In the case of being a lone female in a competitive, male-dominated field, Agogino said, again with laughter, “I’m wondering if that’s always true.” Indeed, she and many women of her generation have gotten ahead by blindly ignoring the evidence of sexism around them.

But that is changing. With ever-quickening pace, educational institutions, tech companies, and government and private funders are starting to worry about the low numbers of women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—the mighty STEM of 21st-century progress and high paying jobs.  The National Science Foundation has been launching various programs to improve the standing of women in sciences after confirming, in a recent study, that men hold 70 percent of jobs in science and engineering professions. An equally pressing concern is the paucity of minorities in STEM fields. African Americans hold only 5 percent of jobs, according to the 2013 NSF report, and Latinos hold a mere 6 percent.

Agogino said the physical manifestations of these percentages have been sitting in her classroom for years. “When I started at Berkeley,” she said, “I would occasionally have classes in which there not a single woman. In required classes, there were about 5 percent women. It went up to 10 percent, and now I think it’s at about 20 percent. I kept thinking: This is crazy!” To see if she could reach greater gender equity, Agogino conducted a pedagogical experiment. In 2003, she developed a freshman and sophomore course called Designing Technology for Girls and Women. The reading and coursework were solid product design for engineering; the only twist was the intended users—females. The central question was: Would you design differently for women and girls? Agogino’s course attracted 90 percent women. She knew she was onto something.

A few years later, she taught the same course, but widened the scope to emphasize diversity. Lo and behold, almost all of the under-represented minorities in the College of Engineering enrolled, as well as many women. That was also when Agogino started to involve herself and her students more in off-campus social impact classes, like the Seguro Pesticide Protection Project, a system of products to protect Central Californian farmworkers from pesticide exposure, and the Pinoleville Pomo Nation renewable energy and sustainability collaboration, in which Cal students and faculty worked with a local Native American tribe to create green housing.

In these efforts, she found numerous interests coming together: projects for social justice and impact; increasing the ranks of female and minorities in her field; and helping to mainstream “design thinking” and “human-centered design”—two product design approaches that focus on the needs of users or consumers to create more innovative, effective, and sustainable products and solutions.

For these efforts, Agogino has been widely recognized. She just won the 2015 ASME Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award “for tireless efforts in furthering engineering design education.” She has been named Professor of the Year, and received Chancellor Awards for Public Service, a Chancellor’s Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence, and a Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring. She was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, has won many best paper awards, been honored with a National Science Foundation Distinguished Teaching Award and a AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award, the latter for increasing the number of women and African- and Hispanic-American doctorates in mechanical engineering. Her work in decision-analytic approaches to engineering design led to a whole new field of research, and her research in mass customization became a patent-buster for licenses in database-driven Internet commerce. So thank her when you don’t pay a licensing fee to purchase something on the Web.

When asked what she would have done differently, Agogino quipped: “I would have avoided administrative positions and assignments that were not valued. I would have asked for maternity benefits.”

These days, Agogino is focusing some of her energies on creating a new field, Development Engineering, whose mission is to reframe development and the alleviation of poverty by educating engineering and social science students to create, test, apply, and scale technologies for societal benefit. Agogino said Development Engineering students are learning “21st century skills”—interdisciplinary, team-based methods that are oriented to seeing problems from multiple viewpoints (quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic) and applying them through entrepreneurial pathways. The first year of courses, which Agogino co-taught with Business Professor David Levine with support from the Blum Center, attracted record numbers of women and minority graduate students. The reasons, said Agogino, are not mysterious. “They want to use technology for good.”

Agogino added that students and faculty are embracing Development Engineering for a host of other reasons. For faculty, there is now an academic infrastructure for work that had been relegated to weekend projects—work in developing regions that was neither recognized or supported by their specific fields. “We now have a dozen departments represented,” she said. “And there is real joy in working with faculty who care about these issues and want to move forward by learning from each other.”

Yet the greatest push for the Development Engineering PhD minor, said Agogino, has come from graduate students who want the university to create a clearer academic trajectory for interdisciplinary research for social impact. “I have had PhD students who have felt they were demeaned because their research did not fit into traditional engineering pathways,” said Agogino. “This will be changing, due to the scholarship of Development Engineering.”

Yet Agogino does not expect Development Engineering students to have traditional career pathways. They will work for startups, government agencies, nonprofits, universities, and multinational companies, she said, and probably jump around a lot. This risk-taking outlook coheres with what Agogino sees among her other UC Berkeley students. “The climate and push for innovation is coming from the Millennials,” she said. “They’re willing to take risks. They’re willing to forgo instant gratification to do other things that they find exciting, and some of that happens to be in the social arena.”

Agogino explained that she gets behind these students because they want to fight the status quo. They also likely remind the trailblazing professor of herself.

Moving Beyond Benevolence and Cynicism: The Global Poverty & Practice Minor (A Graduation Speech)

Moving Beyond Benevolence and Cynicism:  The Global Poverty & Practice Minor (A Graduation Speech)

By Danielle Puretz

Danielle PuretzGood afternoon friends, family, faculty, and graduates. For many of us the Global Poverty courses we have taken together have been our most intimate. In this room alone, I am surrounded by mentors and peers among whom I have not only found meaningful inspiration but also deep camaraderie. So it is truly an honor and a privilege to be here addressing you today.

The Global Poverty & Practice minor is set up as a journey, and through our coursework we begin what becomes a recursive practice of questioning and critiquing strategies of poverty alleviation, the ethics of “global citizenship,” and where we lie within those discourses ourselves.

What makes our minor unique is our Practice Experience: the main requirement of which is time, a simultaneously minuscule and yet inconceivably large 240 hours.

For my Practice Experience, I focused on arts education and New Orleans.

Looking back, my Practice Experience was one of the most formative experiences of my time at Cal. Although upon returning to Berkeley, it didn’t feel formative, it felt incredibly unsettling, and I felt lost. I was unsure if I had made the right decision by going to New Orleans in the first place and I was feeling equally uneasy about then having to leave and come back to school.

Within the minor, we are taught to challenge the problems and ethics of voluntourism—destination-volunteering that benefits tourist volunteers more than “beneficiary” hosts. In critiquing this increasingly common phenomenon of service trips, we have to ask ourselves if this is also what we are setting ourselves up for with our practice experiences—doing “more harm than good.”

A number of times within my own Global Poverty journey, I’ve been required to read Ivan Illich’s “To Hell With Good Intentions.” As a speech he gave to Peace Corps volunteers almost 60 years ago, Illich’s words are as acerbic as ever: “The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the blated insight that they shouldn’t have been volunteers in the first place…I am here to challenge you [he explained] to recognize your inability, your powerlessness and your incapacity to do the ‘good’ which you intended to do.”

As Global Poverty & Practice Minors, I believe that we have the best intentions.

However, we have surely put our fingers in our ears if, at any moment, we felt as if our benign intentions are enough. As we’ve all learned, the world does not begin the day we set out to do good. We are predated by centuries of systemic exploitation, which created the very poverty we so benevolently seek to eradicate. The courses we take in Global Poverty are meant to help us understand this history and our own positionality, as we set out to do social justice related work.

Along this journey, I have had quite a few moments of self-doubt, many of which somehow coincided with reading articles such as Illich’s. In these moments, I have found some distraction by mulling over a paradox Professor Ananya Roy shared with us Global Poverty 115: “To find ourselves in the space between the hubris of benevolence and the paralysis of cynicism.”

I remember initially hearing Professor Roy say these words in lecture, and it felt like a prophecy that would define the rest of my time within the minor. I arrived at Global Poverty, because I had such arrogant dreams of wanting to fight inequality and end poverty. I wanted personal fulfillment and the affirmation that I was indeed doing good work while contributing in some way to global change.

When Professor Roy’s words set in, I felt like a mirror had been held up to my ambition. I realized that this was my hubris—to think that with my good intentions, nothing I did could be conceived as anything other than altruism. In my will to change, I began to fear a trajectory where I would learn more and more about a world filled with greed, cruelty, and despair, only to be left in a psychosomatic paralysis. I was no longer just afraid of doing more harm than good; I was also afraid of becoming someone who would do nothing. As my fellow GPP student Shrey Goel mentioned, ignorance is ethically indefensible, but so too is choosing inaction. Thinking that neutrality might not be a political decision in itself is an expression of complicity in systems of exclusion.

Feeling pulled in different directions, motivated toward public service, but afraid of doing more harm than good, and terrified of doing nothing, I decided to let my curiosity get the better of me. Thus I proceeded to plan my practice experience in New Orleans.

Part of this planning is guided by the minor curriculum—thorough education and significant time commitment, we aim to set ourselves apart from volunteers who are more visibly in it for themselves. The minor facilitates “praxis”—the combination of theory and practice. We believe that sustained commitment and thorough education allow for us to build better relationships with the people we are working with. That these efforts may substantiate our presence where we are not solely putting more work on their plates. In New Orleans, I felt my own expectations to test myself, my knowledge, and my character—and have the depth and richness of the relationships I was building act as the metric for my achievement.

But when I returned to Berkeley, I felt ripped from all of the people I had been working with.

Fortunately, as Shrey so beautifully laid out, we are taught a self-reflective praxis, and experience this firsthand through our shared catharsis in the capstone course. I arrived on the first day of Global Poverty 196 not looking to be validated, but searching for some resolution and justification for the work that we did. I believe that all of us will remember Professor Khalid Kadir’s extravagant metaphor about climbing hills and mountains, building to his point that “there is no Mount Everest.” There is no end to the work we do; there is no closure or final affirmation that should ever go un-critiqued.

In looking at the Global Poverty journey as an educational experience, I want to suggest that there is value to this feeling of being unsettled. As Professor Clare Talwalker quoted Paulo Freire in our Methods course, “Those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly.” I think that this practice of constant critiquing, questioning, and challenging is exhausting, but the unsettled feeling that comes with it is a discomfort that comes from learning, and it is necessary if we want to “do good” or at the very least learn from our mistakes.

Yet despite this realization, my anxiety about my hubris and potential to become paralyzed by cynicism lingered throughout my time in the capstone course. I was hanging onto the hope that I could grow out of my hubris without tumulting into such an opposite extreme. And on the very last day of this class, as I was still searching for my place along the spectrum of hubristic benevolence and paralyzing cynicism—I became critical of the dichotomy this analysis suggests.

I realized that another state to be wary of is the hubris of cynicism.

As we learn to constantly critique ourselves, it becomes easy to lapse into cynicism. And as we develop an association of cynicism to intellect, we learn that in playing pessimist, we may seem smarter or more well seasoned, an expert even. Cynicism acts as a shortcut, providing the guise of experience—that we’ve seen a lot and it doesn’t look good. I have learned that if I am cynical as I describe myself, I seem well versed in criticism, somehow more keenly aware of myself and the world around me. But how conceited is that? To think that we could ever know so much that we may be above the people that we work with and learn from, that their efforts aren’t enough, that our skepticism is superior to a tenacious perseverance of hope—makes me feel that cynicism is fundamentally twofold with a dangerous hubris.

To me, conflating hope with naiveté and cynicism with intellect demonstrates an arrogance that may need more than reflection to eradicate. As we hear “to hell with good intentions,” we need to be able to feel the discomfort that we may be doing the wrong thing, without using cynicism as a coping mechanism.

As I share with you one of my newfound fears of cynicism, I want to also reassure you of my faith in us to overcome it. Our minor has encouraged us to explore ourselves and given us theory to understand the space we occupy. And while our practice experiences were the climax of our journey, the core of our minor is community. It is no coincidence that we go through the different stages of this minor together, we are reflecting together, we are asking deeply personal and difficult questions together. Social justice work is difficult, but we share this responsibility, and take on these challenges in community.

Now we’re graduating, which is scary in and of itself. We must take with us our ability to understand complexity. My mom is an elementary school teacher, and when she takes her class outside to play softball she doesn’t keep score—she tells them that they are just out there to exercise. She has worked with children longer than anyone I know. Her expertise comes from her lived experience, and it is so visible when I go to her school and see how loved she is by her students, their families, and her colleagues. My mother has been my main teacher my whole life. The classroom she cultivates is a space free from failure, which I think is especially important for her second graders, so that they can learn to keep trying without fear of some ultimate failure. And in my understanding of complexity, education is a point of stability, where our failures are somewhat cushioned. So as we depart from that, we need to work on cultivating within ourselves an acceptance of failure as well as metrics of success where we do not find validation within the failures of others. We need to be able to dish out criticism as well as take it; we need to be understanding of unease, and comfortable with failure. We need to recognize that these are challenges that we need to work with, learn from, and find motivation to try again.

We now occupy a space of “educatedness”—able to understand that problems are more complex than meets the eye, that narratives are shrouded with hegemony, and that we must challenge the notion of expertise, while also doing justice to our educations. Recognizing that our degrees bring power and we are on some level experts ourselves. We are brave and we are curious; we are arrogant and we are fearful. Still, I am confident that our education and lived experiences have taught us the strength and humility to push back against injustice as well as the ability to receive the personal criticisms we undoubtedly will encounter. To do nothing is to accept the world as it is. To challenge and critique our world is ultimately an expression of hope: that while we will never reach Utopia, we can still work toward a better tomorrow.

At the very least, I hope we have learned that we are not alone. It has been an honor and a privilege learning with and from all of you. Thank you, and congratulations.

Danielle Puretz is a recent graduate with degrees in Theater and Performance Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies as well as a minor in Global Poverty & Practice. She has been selected for the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, and will be spending the next year continuing her exploration of theater and social justice-related work.

For Cal Students Looking to “Do Good”: The Global Poverty and Practice Minor (A Graduation Speech)

For Cal Students Looking to “Do Good”: The Global Poverty and Practice Minor (A Graduation Speech)

By Shrey Goel

Shrey Goel with Prof. Ananya Roy
Shrey Goel with Prof. Ananya Roy

The pre-Global Poverty & Practice Minor student is a particular, but not unique, sub-species of the Berkeley undergraduate. Often, these students come to Berkeley impassioned but without direction. They want to challenge the status quo, advocate for those in need, and represent a cause that is being ignored. Deep down, they just want to do something meaningful. I know I certainly did—I had a desire to “do good,” and maybe a bit of me even believed that desire set me apart from others. You see, my parents taught my siblings and me to always recognize our privilege and value the idea of “giving back” to those in need. In high school, I began to tap into that social consciousness, exploring issues like social welfare, affirmative action, and inequality. So perhaps you can understand that for many in my cohort, myself included, when we first heard about the Global Poverty & Practice Minor, there was no question about it – this was our mission, what we came to Cal to do. GPP was our calling because we cared about poverty and inequality. What we may not have realized then is that we were late to the game; GPP was already one of the largest minors on campus and the debates about how to address poverty had already been raging long before we even arrived at Berkeley.

But perhaps it’s a good thing we didn’t realize it at the time. Our naiveté made us ideal candidates for what GPP can offer. I must confess, I had never cared enough about course material to take notes the way I took them in GPP 115, the inaugural class into the minor. Sitting in Wheeler Auditorium, I found my hand scribbling away, racing to capture the nuance of every point of Professor Ananya Roy’s impeccably delivered lectures. Those lectures were riddled with ethical dilemmas, forcing us to confront ideas like the savior complex, simplistic notions of the poor as victims without agency, and the development industrial complex. And at the end of the day, the message was this: you are guilty. We are all inextricably implicated in systems of power. There’s no silver bullet but ignorance is ethically indefensible. So what will you do?

At it’s best, what GPP does is lure us in, with our fledgling social consciousnesses, and throw us into debates raging in the world of poverty and development. In doing so, the minor presents students with an opportunity to contribute to those debates. Then, through the help of our GPP 105 Methods Course taught by Clare Talwalker and Khalid Kadir, we are taught to engage in a form of scholarship that is simultaneously nuanced, critical, and self-aware, as we learn to contextualize our looming Practice Experiences in the “real world” of development work.

Our Practice Experiences cannot be summarized through any one anecdote. Some of us worked for local organizations, others abroad. Some of us worked in offices, others in the field, some of us performed administrative tasks, others labored to build things. But more importantly, some of us worked for organizations that pursued “Band-Aid” solutions, and some of us for orgs that sought to tackle the causes of poverty at a deeper, more structural level. It wasn’t always something we had control over, and the work was sometimes frustrating for many of us, but in all cases, there was plenty to take in.

Although our Practice Experiences varied, returning from them and taking the GPP 196 Capstone Reflection Course was, for many of us, a cathartic experience. Our instructors Khalid Kadir and Cecilia Lucas pushed us to take our experiences and actually engage in the iterative process of reflection, never allowing us to become complacent in our critical assessment of our organizations or our roles in them. The reflection course provided us with a setting to connect to our peers in the minor—the few other people who could understand what it meant to wrestle with the ethical dilemmas presented by our practicums—and the course facilitators helped us to find support in one another. We came to see that the empathy and perspectives of our classmates were as indispensible to the learning that took place as the mentorship we received from our instructors and the support we received from our program coordinators, Sean Burns and Chetan Chowdhry, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to hone and improve the minor.

GPP seeks to mold us into citizens who will advocate for the rights of the marginalized to be heard in the dominant narratives of the global political economy. The irony of pursuing a minor like this at an institution like Cal, however, is that even public education is expensive these days; thus the rising cost of public higher education is excluding many voices from discussions of the very systems which affect them most. Yet another irony of pursuing a minor like GPP is this: if it weren’t for the depth and richness of the GPP curricula, with its focus on teaching us to critique and challenge everything, including our very education, I might not have felt my education was worthwhile. For me, the heart of what GPP offers is all about self-reflexivity. Self-reflexive scholarship, to me, is about never letting yourself off the hook. It’s about challenging yourself, your ethos, and your motivations, as well as the motivations of the people and organizations around you to demand better.

Today we are here to share—to share with you all, our friends, family, and faculty who have supported us, this celebration of all that we have accomplished. But I believe we are also here to share with you our challenge: our mandate as global citizens and graduates of the Global Poverty & Practice Minor. It’s a challenge that I believe is fundamentally about remaining self-reflexive. Holding on to a social consciousness and having social-welfare-aligned political views are simply not enough. Rather self-reflexivity necessitates that we never stagnate in our pursuit of praxis—in the endless oscillation between action and reflection, which inform one another and lead to true learning. Self-reflexivity asks us to never become complacent in self-congratulation and always be willing to point the magnifying glass inwards; as anthropologist Laura Nader encouraged us to do, to be willing to “study up” and critique the power structures of the institutions within which we operate; and also, most importantly, to seek out and always remain accountable to those whom we purport to help, never allowing our voices to speak over those who are being ignored and helping to carve out spaces and build platforms for them to be heard.

Graduating as a GPP Minor comes with a responsibility, and that responsibility is to recognize that the job is never complete, but is also constantly evolving. That job cannot be done alone. So as much as today is about celebration, it is also a call to action. What we students have learned and experienced through the minor is a window into how we all can push ourselves to engage in the discussions and processes of change taking place in communities around the world. So on that note, I’d like to end by recalling the prompt I left GPP 115 with: we are all inextricably implicated in systems of power. There’s no silver bullet but ignorance is ethically indefensible. So what will you do? But more importantly, what will we do together?

Shrey Goel graduated with a minor in Global Poverty & Practice and a BS in Environmental Science, for which he wrote an honors thesis based on his GPP Practice Experience. After graduation, he plans to work in the Bay Area and apply to medical school.

Scroll to top

Host and Fellow Responsibilities

Host Organizations

  • Identify staff supervisor to manage I&E Climate Action Fellow
  • Submit fellowship description and tasks
  • Engage in the matching process
  • Mentor and advise students
  • Communicate with Berkeley program director and give feedback on the program.

Berkeley Program Director​

  • Communicate with host organizations, students, and other university departments to ensure smooth program operations

Student Fellows

  • Complete application and cohort activities
  • Communicate with staff and host organizations
  • Successfully complete assignments from host organization during summer practicum
  • Summarize and report summer experience activities post-fellowship