"FolkloRican" Exhibit Draws Attention
"Iluminado" by Pepe Villegas
With "FolkloRican," the latest—and current—exhibit showing in the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner, renowned multi-media artist Pepe Villegas presents a 10-piece collection of oil paintings that delve into an intriguing archive of personal and cultural memories referencing his Puerto Rican upbringing. Ranging from striking representational and semi-representational portraiture to abstract and symbolism-rich canvases, this highly evocative and criollista sampling is deeply rooted in cultural pride, introspective contemplation, and national nostalgia.
"FolkloRican," which opened Nov. 17, 2010, and continues through January 31, 2011, commemorates Latino Heritage Month at New York University and is co-presented by NYU Wagner, the Latino Studies Program, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and NYU Steinhardt. Curated by Wagner's Frank Crescioni-Santoni, the exhibition drew extensive coverage in New York City's El Diario newspaper (November 28, 2010).
Please note: the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner - at 295 Lafayette Street, 2nd Floor, will be closed Dec. 24th through Jan. 3rd. For more information, such as hours and directions, please call 212.998.7400.
Urban Design is a Matter of Public Health [Video]
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley was the keynoter at the "Speeding Summit" held at NYU Wagner on November 19, 2010 -- and he pledged a major new public health emphasis on urban design.
"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," said Dr. Farley. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "
The event, sponsored by the nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives, examined a proposal by cycling and other traffic safety advocates to reduce the side-street speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph, and was hosted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU Wagner.
Furman Center Presents New Data on NYC Mortgage Lending
State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods 2009
The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint research center between NYU Wagner and NYU Law, recently released its fourth annual analysis of FFIEC’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, called Mortgage Lending in the Great Recession: HMDA 2009.
The analysis reflects several surprises in a tumultuous year. While home purchase mortgage lending declined throughout the recession, the study found that lending to low and moderate income home buyers increased in 2009, as did the number of new mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veteran’s Administration (VA). In 2009, 16 percent of New York City home purchase mortgages were FHA/VA-backed loans, compared to less than one percent of loans issued from 2005 to 2007.
The study also found, in contrast to home purchase lending, that mortgage refinancing increased substantially in 2009. The increase in refinancing activity, however, was not uniform across New York City’s different racial and ethnic communities. Black and Hispanic homeowners did not refinance at the same rates as white and Asian borrowers, which suggests that not all New York homeowners were equally able to take advantage of lower interest rates and reduce their monthly payments.
Impact of 2010 midterm elections debated at NYU Wagner [Audio]
Senior Fellow Shrum sizes up 2010 midterm elections with Prof. Kersh and National Review's Williamson.
The struggling economy offers the most basic explanation for why voters heavily rewarded Republican candidates at the polls in the 2010 midterm elections, two years after a very different set of results.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are likely to push through a series of targeted spending cuts over the next two years, but with little or no effect on the national deficit or overall government performance. And the Obama administration will be constrained as it navigates the partisan divide as well as stepped-up congressional subpoena activity.
These were the main points of agreement that emerged during a lively, hour-long discussion [audio] about the 2010 midterm elections on Nov. 8 at NYU Wagner. The forum featured National Review deputy managing editor Kevin Williamson, veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum, and Paul Light, a noted critic of the federal service.
Rogan Kersh, associate dean and professor at Wagner, moderated the discussion and question and answer session. The analyses of the historic election and its potential ramifications in policy and politics brought out dozens of students.
"Actually we've had three extraordinary national elections in a row - 2006, 2008, and 2010," began Bob Shrum, who teaches at Wagner. "In each case, they were a rebellion against the status quo, and they were a rebellion against two very different status quo's."
The panelists sought to make sense of it.
The 2010 midterms, said Williamson, do not represent a national mandate for Republicans, as conservatives "haven't done anything to earn back the trust they frittered away over the course of eight years during the Bush Administration."
What is more, the editor said, "there's always a danger that they're going to do something dumb, and I think that they're right on the cusp of doing it" -- such as maintaining federal spending levels at thigh levels while cutting taxes. The combination would only make a dangerously troubled economy even shakier, he said
Still, a bad economy would hardly be bad news for Republicans come the 2012 presidential election.
"Barack Obama would love it if unemployment were at 7 percent in 2012, but I think we're looking ahead to 11 percent unemployment, or even higher," said Williamson. "We are in for some rougher times than even those we've experienced economically, and there's no easy way out of it."
No easy way indeed, Shrum agreed.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure from Tea Party Republicans to deliver on this promise of a 'smaller government' and to achieve some of these cuts," Shrum said. "They'll succeed in some places, but overall we're not going to get to this dream, in part because there's not much reality behind the dream." For when Republicans begin selecting programs to cut - be they aid for education, or aircraft safety - a public backlash is likely to arise.
"We're headed for a train wreck on all sorts of things because the newly elected Republicans simultaneously want to extend the tax cuts and cut the deficit," Shrum warned. "It's what Ronald Reagan said he was going to do in the early 1990's. If Reagan, who I think was a masterful president, couldn't pull that off, then I don't think we are going to see it done very well here."
Light, a professor at Wagner, cautioned against another new flurry of "micro-oversight" of the federal government. He called instead for aggressive oversight of troubled agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, and, moreover, an overarching plan to create a productive, accountable and effective national government, a true overhaul that could save taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years.
"It takes a lot to do that, and it would take a Democratic Party that actually steps up to the plate. President Obama has had virtually no interest in big-ticket federal reform; Republicans continue to argue for pay freezes, hiring freeze and pay cuts, which is small potatoes," said Light.
One audience member asked whether New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg could become president in 2012. Shrum replied that an Independent Bloomberg candidacy could be viable, but only in a three-way race in which the main Republican nominee had a polarizing effect -- and if the economy was still suffering.
"His claim to fame is being a billionaire and telling you how much salt to put on your French fries. I don't suppose that's going to be something that's going to catapult him to the White House," he said.
Students taking it straight to the media
NYU Wagner students are making their points of view and observations known through the news media by publishing their own articles.
Dave Algoso, a second-year Wagner student specializing in international development policy, wrote a piece Oct. 26, 2010, for the influential Foreign Policy website, entitled "Don't Try This Abroad." The article is a thoughtful retort to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof's tribute in the Sunday Magazine to the rise of "the fix-the-world-on-your-own generation."
"Unfortunately," Algoso writes, "such stories don't reflect reality. Spend a little time in any community in the world, and you'll see people from that community finding ways to improve it - not outsiders....Yet these people are absent from Kristof's stories."
Algoso, who in his spare time keeps up an interesting blog, Find What Works, also had some words of praise for the Times columnist's account of international aid workers and the organizations that support them. He wrote that "Kristof's article does some good if it convinces more people to pursue international development as a career. We all start as amateurs. The difference is whether we seek to learn more or assume that we can just start doing something, muddling through as we go."
Kristof posted a response to Algoso's and others' reactions, citing his Times article.
The future of international development aid also caught the attention of Barbara Kiviat, a David Bohnett Fellow at NYU Wagner. Kiviat covered the October 21-23 Microfinance Innovation & Impact Conference organized by Professor Jonathan Morduch and the Financial Access Institute, of which Morduch is managing director. The research-based conference was held at the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation, where Kiviat filed two pieces for Reuters: The Real Revolution in Microfinance and The Less You Know About Finance, the Better.
Kiviat worked as a journalist for the better part of a decade, mainly as a staff writer at Time magazine. There, she covered business and economics and wrote cover stories on topics such as job creation and the housing market.
Meanwhile, Wagner first-year student Ruthie Warshenbrot coauthored a recent article for e-Jewish Philanthopy flagging the puzzling absence of women in one major organization's recent listing of "Jewish Community Heroes."
Warshenbrot is the Lisa Goldberg Fellow of Jewish Professional Leadership at NYU Wagner/Skirball Dual Degree program, and a Wexner Graduate Fellow.
"In our Jewish tradition, women are revered, respected and valued in so many ways. What is different about contemporary Jewish life that regards female leadership as less heroic?" she asks in the piece, coauthored by Shannon Sarna, external relations coordinator at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
Global Experts Offer First Look at New Research on Microfinance
More than 200 researchers, practitioners and business leaders convened in New York City for a first look at research results on the impact of microfinance. The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010, co-hosted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at NYU Wagner and other leading research and financial institutions, was held Thursday, October 21st; 22nd; and 23rd at headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation.
The research presented at the Conference follows on the heels of an initial report, released in 2009, about the first-ever randomized evaluations of microfinance, which sparked a debate over whether and how much microfinance is helping the poor. The results of several follow-up studies presented at the latest Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference offer fresh insights on how and to what degree microfinance affects the lives of poor households around the world.
"The results of the first microfinance impact evaluations were controversial because the world was eager to find that one magic bullet that will finally "solve" poverty," said Esther Duflo, co-author of one of the first-ever impact evaluations of microfinance in India, and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The studies showed that microfinance is not magic. But while we didn't discover that microfinance launches people out of poverty, we did discover that it's making a very real difference to some people. The new, forthcoming research will help us discover more about who benefits from microfinance and help us design financial products that work better for the poor."
The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010 attracted senior researchers, policymakers, practitioners and investors committed to preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in microfinance, and to the global expansion of financial markets in poor communities. The event was hosted by not only the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), but also by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Moody's Corporation, Deutsche Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
Important new impact results from a randomized evaluation of a microfinance program in Morocco were aired, along with evaluations of microsavings and microinsurance, and livelihood programs for the "ultra poor." Conference sessions were devoted to the presentation of new research on microfinance product design, social performance measurement, and consumer protection. Additionally, illuminating sessions were dedicated to bringing together researchers and practitioners to design future research on product design and financial inclusion that will help usher in the next generation of services for the "bottom billion."
Getting Out the Vote, Innovatively
A fascinating article in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times describes how techniques developed by behavioral science researchers are at the forefront of a dramatic change in how politicians and parties get out the vote. The emerging data-driven approach to moving voters was co-pioneered by Don Green, currently Visiting Distinguished Professor at NYU Wagner & NYU Abu Dhabi.
"As the 1998 elections approached, Green [and fellow Yale professor of political science Alan Gerber] partnered with the League of Women Voters to split 30,000 New Haven voters into four groups," the article explains. "Some received an oversize postcard encouraging them to vote, others the same message via a phone call or in-person visit. One control group received no contact whatsoever. After the election, Gerber and Green examined Connecticut records to see who actually voted. The in-person canvass yielded turnout 9.8 percent higher than for voters who were not contacted. Each piece of mail led to a turnout increase of only 0.6 percent. Telephone calls, Gerber and Green concluded, had no effect at all."
The Times article goes on to describe why the results have proven so seminal.
As it happens, the article appeared just a few days after Professor Green spoke at Wagner's doctoral colloquium October 28.
Green has written extensively on a range of topics, including voter turnout, campaign finance, perceptual bias, rational learning, experimental methods, and rational choice theory. He is currently writing a book on field experiments in the social sciences. His resume and other materials can be found here.
"Forward 50" honors Berman Jewish Policy Archive's director
Steven M. Cohen
"The Forward 50" consists of "people whose religious and cultural values propelled them to engage, create and lead in a decidedly Jewish voice." Among the newly announced honorees: GOP congressman Eric Cantor, Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, Google co-founder Sergey Brin - and sociologist Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.
BJBA recently collaborated on a case study of the Jewish community in the U.S., entitled "Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities."
Kristof responds! NYT columnist answers critique from Wagner's own Dave Algoso
On Friday, 10/29, Nicholas Kristof responded to some critiques of his column in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, including one penned by Wagner student Dave Algoso for Foreign Policy. Kristof writes, "My Sunday magazine piece a week ago on young Americans engaging in do-it-yourself foreign aid projects sparked a good bit of reaction, including some thoughtful criticisms. You can read the comments below the previous blog post to get a flavor. Let me try to address some of the complaints."
Read the rest of his response.
Conversation Starter: Mayor Bloomberg's Bid to Ban Soda Purchases with Food Stamps
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long made it a paramount goal to rid New York City of unhealthful foods, and he recently asked the Federal government for permission to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from using stamps to buy soda and other sugared beverages in the city.
Supporters are cheering Bloomberg’s stance, saying he’s striking a blow for better dietary habits and ultimately lower public health costs and consequences such as obesity. But critics question the move, seeing it as an example of big government, even patronizing toward the poor.
Research can be a valuable guidepost for public officials. In 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg required restaurant franchises to put calories counts on their menus, NYU Wagner professors Rogan Kersh and Brian Elbel sought to measure the impact of the calorie labeling initiative on consumer habits at fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Their survey of 1,156 adult found little direct evidence to support the Mayor’s view that the posting of calorie counts causes fast-food patrons to buy items containing fewer calories. Elbel’s and Kersh’s widely discussed study, published in the journal Health Affairs, emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to determine the value and effectiveness of menu labeling and other obesity-related policies.
Professor Elbel describes the Mayor’s current proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and sugary drinks as “an extremely innovative policy approach to tackle the complicated and multifaceted problem of obesity. It deserves a rigorous assessment, to evaluate its overall impact on healthy food choice and obesity,” says Professor Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy. “The rest of the nation can then learn from the New York City experience as these and other policies to fight obesity are considered across the country.”
What’s your opinion of the Mayor’s food stamp initiative? Is it good public policy? Or should it just be allowed to fizzle out? Visit Wagner’s Public Service Today blog to post your comment today.
NYU Wagner Student Dave Algoso Not Convinced by Kristof's DIY Foreign-Aid Revolution
Dave Algoso, a second-year student at NYU Wagner, studying international development, sees problems with New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof's D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution and makes his own case for why amateurs are not the future of foreign aid in Foreign Policy.
Encore Careers Panel Discussion Opens NYU Alumni Day
Encore Careers Panel at NYU Alumni Day
On Saturday, October 23, NYU Wagner hosted a panel discussion called “Encore Careers: Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life,” as part of NYU Alumni Day. The panel comprised Lorraine Cortés-Vásques, the EVP of Multi-cultural Strategy and Public Engagement at AARP; Mark Freedman, CEO and founder of Civic Ventures; Gara LaMarche, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies; and Dean Ellen Schall, and was moderated by Marci Alboher, vice president of Civic Ventures. The panelists spoke of the emerging “encore career” phenomenon, and provided practical advice for how NYU alumni can launch their own encores. Check back later this week for a video of the panel discussion.
Rudin Center's director reframes NYC subway map
A new subway map showing popular destinations like NYU Wagner would make life easier, especially for tourists, says Professor Mitchell Moss.
The New York Times invited notable New Yorkers to personalize the iconic subway map. A concept submitted Mitchell L. Moss, professor of urban policy and planning at NYU Wagner, and Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, was featured Oct. 22, 2010 -- including a stop named for Wagner itself.
Former Mayor Ed Koch hails public service careers in NYU Wagner discussion
Former Mayor Ed Koch at NYU Wagner, with author Jonathan Soffer.
Former Mayor Edward I. Koch visited NYU Wagner on October 14, 2010, for an informative and engaging hour of discussion [audio] about his eventful years at City Hall -- years that generated a remarkable turnaround in the condition and character of New York City, visible to this day. Joining Koch was Jonathan Soffer, NYU Polytechnic Institute associate professor of history and author of the critically acclaimed new biography "Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City." [View video.]
More than 150 people, including many former senior officials of the Koch administration, listened as the distinguished public leader described several watershed moments involving his dealings with fiscal policy, striking unions, the private sector, HIV/AIDS, and the homeless.
Has the city been left too dependent on its finance, real estate and insurance industries, asked moderator Rob Polner, public affairs director at Wagner? No, Koch replied emphatically. He noted, as did Soffer, that while he actively encouraged private development in real estate, and makes no apologies for it, he also took advantage of growth in the city's tax base to provide social services.
"Private sector money doesn't build housing for poor people - it doesn't pay," Koch said. "That's the job of government and, regrettably, city government, because the federal government got out of the business of doing it."
One of the most prominent examples of Koch's enduring imprint on urban America was his administration's construction of 252,000 affordable housing units in the arson- and poverty-devastated South Bronx. The monumental, successful project was financed solely through the sale of previously shunned New York City general-obligation bonds.
In part because of such programs, Soffer said he views Mayor Koch not as a conservative -- as some have sought to characterize him -- but as a liberal leader, as "he basically believes in using government for public purposes." Piped up Koch: "I am a liberal -- with sanity!"
"Now when you say, 'Oh, you don't want to depend on development' -- well, that's what New York City's all about!" Koch declared. "In Pittsburgh it was steel. In some other town, it's coal -- whatever it is they have that's available. With us [New York], it's because everyone wants to live here."
Koch said a career devoted to public service is beyond compare -- something that he and hundreds of his former appointees have found true. Most have gone on to senior-level positions, representing all sectors.
"Public service," Koch said, "is the noblest of professions if it's done honorably, if it's done right...It's an aphrodisiac, in a way. Once you've done it, there's nothing comparable."
The former mayor was welcomed by Wagner dean Ellen Schall, and Dianne Rekow, Polytechnic Institute provost and NYU senior vice provost for science and technology.
Professor Ingrid Ellen shares findings at White House rental housing conference
Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of urban planning and public policy at NYU Wagner, joined with leading government officials, stakeholders and researchers in a White House conference October 13, 2010, devoted to the "Next Generation" of federal policy on rental housing.
Professor Ellen, whose expertise on the issue on home foreclosures was tapped previously by the Obama Administration, participated in a panel on the rental housing market and current federal policies, along with Richard Green (University of Southern California, School of Policy, Planning and Development, and Marshall School of Business), and Raphael Bostic (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).
The panels were established to discuss the next generation of housing policy needed to more effectively combat poverty, address social inequity issues, and create new incentives for wealth building in urban and rural America. Panels across the day also discussed the kinds of policy recommendations that could further community revitalization, sustainability, and fair housing goals if implemented.
And finally, discussions focused on the recommendations necessary to allow housing policy to better finance the new construction, preservation and /or sustainability of rental housing.
Keynote speakers included Melody Barnes, director, White House Domestic Policy Council, and Larry Summers, director, White House National Economic Council. Additional remarks were delivered by such heavy hitters as Shaun Donovan, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development; and Neal Wolin, deputy secretary, U.S. Treasury.
Professor Ellen is co-director of the Furman Center on Real Estate and Urban Policy, a research center jointly created by NYU Wagner and NYU School of Law. She is co-editor most recently of the book "How to House the Homeless" (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010).
"Best Book" on public administration
Congratulations to NYU Wagner Professor Paul Light. He is the recipient of the American Political Science Association's 2010 Herbert A. Simon Best Book Award for his brilliant and insightful study, "A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It" (Harvard University Press, 2008). According to the Association, Light's work constitutes the best book on public administration in the last 3 to 5 years that has made a significant contribution to public administration. The award is conferred annually.
Dr. Light is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School for Public Service, and founding principal investigator of the Organizational Performance Initiative based at the school. Among his current activities, he writes an influential column on the federal service for The Washington Post, entitled "Light on Leadership."
Wagner professors publish new report on kids and foreclosures in NYC
While researchers have noted the deleterious effects of foreclosure on surrounding properties and neighborhoods, little is known about the effects of foreclosure on children. A new report, Kids and Foreclosure: New York City, just released by researchers at NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP) and Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy begins to address the issue by estimating the number of students in New York City affected by the current foreclosure crisis.“
Few researchers have explored the human costs of foreclosure, and virtually no one has considered the collateral costs on children,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, faculty co-director of the Furman Center and a professor at NYU Wagner. “This study shows that the number of children living in foreclosed buildings in New York City is large and growing, and the impact falls disproportionately on black children.”
RCLA Scholars Contribute to Definitive Volume on Political and Civic Leadership
RCLA scholars have contributed a chapter on "Popular Education" to a new reference book on political and civic leadership.
Popular education, an approach to critical education developed by the Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire, is gaining currency within the field of social change in the US owing to its roots in the civil rights movement in the United States and various farm workers' movements in Latin America.
Initially an approach to mass adult literacy, popular education has been increasingly seen as a useful approach to organizing because it is inherently political, seeking social transformation rather than Band-Aid solutions. Thanks to the work of Latino immigrant social change organizations and drawing on their experiences in Latin America, popular education is now seen as an important part of the organizing toolkit in the US, with leadership development at its core.
In the chapter "Popular Education" in the just-published Sage book Political and Civic Leadership, RCLA scholars Waad El Hadidy, Sonia Ospina, and Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla discuss how Latino social change organizations use popular education to nurture learning and leadership for action within their communities. The authors draw important lessons about leadership development from on-the-ground applications of popular education and share implications for a new trend in the leadership field that views leadership as collective achievement.
Edited by Richard A. Couto, PhD, the book provides undergraduate students with an authoritative reference resource on political and civic leadership, offering detailed but accessible discussions of 100 of the most important topics, issues, questions and debates related to politics and civic society.
Waad El Hadidy is Senior Associate at NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action, which builds knowledge and capacity for excellence in public service leadership. Sonia Ospina is Associate Professor of Public Management & Policy at NYU Wagner and Faculty Director of RCLA, and Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla is Deputy Director of RCLA.
Prof. Rodwin compares American, French healthcare systems in new book
Victor Rodwin, a professor of health policy and management at NYU Wagner, compares healthcare in France and the U.S. in his latest book (coauthored by Didier Tabuteau).
NYU Wagner Professor Victor Rodwin is the coauthor of a new book comparing the American and French health care systems - A La Sante De L'Oncle Sam (To Uncle Sam's Health: Cross Perspectives on the American and French Health Systems).
Victor Rodwin, professor of health policy and management at NYU Wagner, and his colleague Didier Tabuteau, counselor of state and professor of health policy at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques and the University of Paris Descartes, have published a new book (published by Editions Jacob Duvernet) in which they challenge the conventional wisdom that the French health care system is a government-managed, public and collective enterprise and the American system a private, market-oriented and individualist system. Based on six months of debates in Paris while Professor Rodwin held the Fulbright-Toqueville Chair (spring semester, 2010), this book compares public health, health insurance, the power of physicians, health care reform, and the silent revolution that is transforming health care organization in both France and the United States.
Special Event Celebrates 'Creative State' by NYU Wagner's Natasha Iskander
Craig Calhoun, Jorge Casteneda, Natasha Iskander and Ruth Milkman
About 100 people attended an informative discussion of NYU Wagner Assistant Professor of Public Policy Natasha Iskander's fascinating new book, Creative State: Forty Years of Migration and Development Policy in Morocco and Mexico. The presentation was held September 27, marking the launch of the book.
As the evening's lively dialogue reflected, Prof. Iskander's work constitutes an essential resource for scholars and students interested in public policy, government and international development. Her account reveals the unexpected process of contestation and agreement that gave rise to successful policies by which national governments bring migrants into their banking systems, capture remittances for national development projects, and foster partnerships for the design and provision of infrastructure.
Wagner Dean Ellen Schall offered introductory remarks, noting that Professor Iskander's book "draws our attention to the murky, unruly ambiguity that is the prologue to policy innovation."
The author also greeted the standing-room-only audience, describing her wide-ranging, three-year journey of research, which included extensive interviews with migrants, policy planners, and government officials in several countries. She outlined her findings and potential areas for future research.
Craig Calhoun, a sociology professor at NYU and president of the Social Science Research Council, hailed the book as a significant achievement, terming it an inspiring "account of innovation in which the state is unpacked and opened up," and the evolution of what have come to be called best practices are compellingly portrayed.
Jorge Casteneda, global distinguished professor of politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU, weighed the book's implications against his experience as former Foreign Minister of Mexico and the Mexican government's attempts to gain a path to a legal foothold for millions of undocumented migrants in the U.S. Ruth Milkman, associate director of the Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies at CUNY, described the active role of immigrants in pushing for decent pay and working conditions in construction sites and factories here.
"Natasha's book shows how migrant workers are shaped by both the desire to get ahead economically, but also by political situations in the countries from which they are migrating," she said.
Suitably, the event concluded with a buffet of Mexican and Moroccan foods, and Professor Iskander inscribing copies of her book for the mingling guests.