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Alex Prats

Living in: Barcelona, Spain
Nationality: Spanish

 
 

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Inequality lead, Oxfam Intermón, Spain

Alex Prats has a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in Business Administration (ESADE Business School, Spain, and McGill University, Canada), Master in Development Studies (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) and MSc in Africa Politics (SOAS, United Kingdom).

He started his professional career in the private sector as a human resources manager in Asia-Pacific, based in Bangkok (Thailand). In 2003, he joined Oxfam, where he performed different roles until 2011, including Regional Director for West Africa and Maghreb. In 2011, he joined Christian Aid in the United Kingdom as Principal Economic Advisor, where he led the organisation’s global campaign for tax justice.

In 2014, Alex re-joined Oxfam as Deputy Regional Director in Horn, East and Central Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. Since September 2016, Alex is the Inequality Lead at Oxfam Spain. In this new position, Alex has led a process to define the organisation’s strategy against extreme inequality, and is currently collaborating with the LSE’s III to develop an Inequality Framework and toolkit for activists and practitioners.

 

Personal Statement

At Oxfam, we believe that the current levels of inequality are unfair, erode democracy and social cohesion, and undermine our efforts to eradicate poverty. In the past years, our global campaign Even It Up! has been effective in placing the inequality challenge in the public agenda and has defined specific policy recommendations to help build fairer societies where every person can live a decent life.

In order to improve Oxfam’s understanding of what is currently driving inequalities, and to identify the most effective solutions in countries where we work, we are partnering with LSE’s III through its Atlantic Fellows Programme to develop an Inequality Framework and Toolkit for Oxfam and other practitioners and activists. This project will make a meaningful contribution to our work on inequalities: it will bridge academic, activist and practitioner perspectives with the aim to support Oxfam in their ambition to design and implement relevant, solid and effective programmes for the reduction of inequalities at national and local levels.

Understanding inequalities properly in any given context -including their links to poverty dynamics, their main drivers, and the consequences for citizens- is a necessary condition for effective programming and policy-making. Yet, inequality is a complex multidimensional concept and phenomenon, and the lack of robust, but pragmatic frameworks and tools make it challenging for activists and practitioners to grasp inequalities with the width and depth required.

The Inequality Framework and Toolkit that we aim to develop from a collaboration between Oxfam and LSE will fill this gap and provide pragmatic conceptual and analytical guidance for activists and practitioners that seek to make a difference in tackling inequalities.

At Oxfam, we look forward to working together with other Fellows in the Atlantic Programme. We are convinced that this will help strengthen our capacity to fight inequality and contribute to putting an end to poverty.

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Ana Maria Munoz

Living in: Coruna, Spain
Nationality: Spanish

 
 

Researcher and Advocacy Officer, Oxfam Intermon, Spain

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Ana is a social researcher and advocacy practicioner with a degree in Law and development studies, specialised in participation, power, social and political change. She has 9 years’ experience working on advocacy and social mobilisation campaigns, exploring how ordinary people can influence and ‘do’ politics.

Her MA in participation, power and social change at the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex), helped Ana to better explore how social and political change happens. From a critical thinking and action learning approach, this MA deepened her previous experience as a practitioner and activist, linking it to her theoretical knowledge and academic skills.

Her action research project was awarded with the prize for the best dissertation of her year group. It focused on the processes of citizenship and empowerment that people affected by the mortgage crisis in Barcelona, Spain might have lived or not inside a social movement: the Spanish Platform of Mortgage-Affected People (PAH). It looked at the impact that the mortgage crisis and PAH might have had on people’s senses and practices of citizenship, which might contribute or not to building more critical active citizenship and equal and democratic societies.

Ana’s professional experience has mainly been developed with NGOs at national level; Oxfam, Amnesty International, Federations of NGOs - working on advocacy campaigns on human rights, social policies and Constitutional changes. Ana also gained some experience in the field of international consultancy, participating in monitoring and evaluation projects in advocacy.

Since 2016, she has worked for Oxfam, Spain doing research and advocacy on social policies, focused on income inequality and, particularly, wage inequality. Ana has co-authored the report ‘Wages fall, inequality grows’, which analyses the effects of wage inequality and low pay at a global level, and looks in detail at the Spanish situation before and after the economic crisis of 2008-2014. Furthermore, it considers concrete policy recommendations to reduce the pay gap.

Ana also works in Polétika -'politics + ethics'-, an alliance formed by 10 CSO networks, representing more than 500 organisations and social movements. This network analyses and monitors public political commitments on social policies against inequality and poverty, to hold politicians accountable.

 

Personal Statement

My interest in inequalities come from realising how different opportunities and access people have to basic needs and the exercise of their rights, depending on the nationality, race or ethnicity, gender and/or the economic power one has. My interest is mainly in 'other dimensions' of inequality - the social and political dimensions - beyond income and wealth, and the relationships among them. This project and the Atlantic Fellows programme will allow us to know better what social and political inequalities look like, deepening into how income and wealth distribution may affect the dynamics of politics and power.

As it has recently been acknowledged by the World Bank, reducing economic inequalities is crucial for economic growth to make a more effective contribution to poverty reduction. This proposal seeks to bridge academic, activist and practitioner perspectives to design and implement relevant, solid and effective programmes for the reduction of inequalities at national and local levels.

Understanding inequalities properly in any given context - including their links to poverty dynamics, their main drivers, and the consequences for citizens - is a necessary condition for effective programming and policy-making. Yet, inequality is a complex multidimensional concept and phenomenon, and the lack of robust, but pragmatic frameworks and tools make it challenging for activists and practitioners to grasp inequalities with the width and depth required.

The main aim of this project is to develop a robust and pragmatic Inequality Framework & Toolkit, that will help activists and practitioners improve their understanding of inequalities. The Framework & Toolkit will build on the latest academic research and integrates different perspectives and knowledges - theoretical and experiential - to produce a theoretically grounded yet practical product. We will pilot the inequality framework in Guatemala, so that we can identify what works and what does not, in a reflective action learning process.

My hope is that this project will help to understand the different dimensions of inequality and the relationships among them. Its practicality will shed some light on what policies might be the most effective against inequalities and under what conditions. Besides, my wish is that the diversity of approaches and backgrounds brought together in this team will contribute to bridge the gap between Academia and NGOs, having a broader vision of our complex reality.

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Claire Kumar

Living in: Rwanda
Nationality: Irish

 
 

Independent Consultant

Claire has over 20 years of experience working in international development, with a particular focus on social and economic policy issues. As policy advisor in Christian Aid for 7 years, she led work on economic justice – with a strong focus on inequality and fiscal policy - for the Latin America and Caribbean division. She produced many pieces of research during this time, including a regional inequality report, briefing papers on tax systems in Guatemala, Honduras and Brazil, a report on mineral taxation in Latin America and oil and gas taxation in Bolivia.

Since leaving Christian Aid and relocating to Rwanda Claire has worked for the last 5 years as a consultant. She has had a broad range of clients and have worked consistently with UNICEF and Save the Children on fiscal policy issues during this time. For UNICEF, she developed their ‘Public Finance for Children’ baseline analysis in relation to health and nutrition, education, social protection, water and sanitation and early childhood development. Two separate research reports were produced on national and district social sector budgets, as well as the production of a complete data set and tools to aid equity analysis in future monitoring efforts. Claire also worked with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in Rwanda to develop a national plan for the expansion of pre-primary education in Rwanda. Work included extensive costing of options to scale up investment in pre-primary education, with equitable targeting a key element of this work. With Save the Children her work has focused on producing research reports and briefing papers around the tax system and tax reform agenda, as well as the education and social protection budgets in Rwanda. This work has included district level education budget and progress analysis, which has fed into advocacy regarding alternative, more equitable, education financing formulas for the country.

Claire has also continued other work in the tax and development field, conducting research for Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network-Africa on tax and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa, and working with Transparency and Accountability Initiative (T/AI) to scope opportunities for US-based foundations interested in working on tax and illicit financial flows. Currently her client base includes Transparency and Accountability Initiative, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice – identifying options for their new strategic plan – and Oxfam. Her new work with Oxfam is in collaboration with LSE’s International Inequalities Institute, as part of their joint project: “Development, Testing and Publication of an Inequality Framework and Toolkit.”

Claire’s undergraduate degree was in European Law and French at Exeter University. After this Claire moved to Guatemala for 5 years and worked for an international development agency. She then returned to the UK and completed a master’s degree in Development Management at LSE, with a strong focus on economic development policy.

 

Personal Statement

I have worked consistently on inequality over the past decade. It has been a central issue for a lot of my economic and social policy work. Working in Rwanda directly on social policies and particularly the equitable financing aspect has really driven a strong interest in understanding much more about public policy design and evaluation from the perspective of inequalities. In addition the aspect of progressive taxation has also been a central focus of my work for many years. Being informed on the most recent research, thinking and debates regarding inequality reduction (or aggravation) as a result of tax systems, social policy design and public expenditure is of great personal and professional interest for me. This is why I am so excited to participate in Oxfam and III’s joint project ‘Development, Testing and Publication of an Inequality Framework and Toolkit’ and the Visiting Atlantic Fellows programme. I expect the development of this inequality framework and toolkit to contribute to a stronger understanding of the different dimensions of inequality and the main drivers of inequality in developing countries. Not only will this project advance understanding, it aims to provide easy-to-use tools and frameworks for developing country practitioners, assisting them to analyse inequalities and design appropriate programmes and policies in response.

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Dr Chiara Mariotti

Lives in: London, UK
Nationality: Italian

 
 

Inequality Policy Manager, Oxfam GB, UK

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Chiara Mariotti is a development economist trained at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Her PhD research looked at the involuntary resettlement of tribal people to be displaced by a mega-dam in Andhra Pradesh, India; extracts from her thesis have appeared in edited books and academic journals. She has taught economics and research methods at SOAS, Bath University and Greenwich University. After the PhD she joined the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network based at Overseas Development Institute, where she worked on policies to eradicate chronic poverty, especially social protection, private sector development, macroeconomic policies and pro-poor growth. She was one of the authors of the 2015 Chronic Poverty Report and has published research on Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Ecuador and Cambodia. In 2016, she joined Oxfam GB to be part of the Even It Up (inequality) campaign, which she supports leading the policy work on solutions to inequality.  Current areas of work include research and advocacy on the IMF’s inequality agenda and research and alliance-building around alternative economic paradigms as a solution to inequality..

Personal Statement

The Oxfam Inequality Framework & Toolkit Project sponsored by the Atlantic Fellowship puts together a unique combination of practitioners, prestigious academics and researchers with a vast and diverse range of expertise in development.

I am excited to be part of this project together with Oxfam colleagues and to see come together the world of academia and that of civil society. As an Atlantic Fellow, I will contribute to the project and to the programme by helping to establish connections and synergies between these two worlds. I will bring my understanding of the deep causes of poverty and inequalities at the micro level and of their macroeconomic drivers, and my experience of anti-poverty policies in different developing contexts. I will help to make sure that the framework deepens and at the same time simplifies our understanding of how inequality is produced and reproduced in different parts of the world and that the toolkit answers the research and analysis needs of Oxfam country partners.

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Prof Naila Kabeer

Nationality: Indian 

Lives in; London, UK

 

Naila Kabeer is Professor in Gender and International Development at the Gender Institute/Department of International Development at the London School of Economics.

She obtained her PhD at LSE and was a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, Professor at SOAS before returning to LSE.  Her main research interests are gender, poverty, livelihoods, social protection and citizenship and her work is largely focused on South Asia. She has published extensively on these topics: her recent publications include 'Organizing women in the informal economy: beyond the weapons of the weak' (Zed 2013), 'Paid work and women's empowerment: transforming the structures of constraint' (UN Women, 2013) and 'Can the MDGs provide a pathway to social justice: the challenge of intersecting inequalities' (2010, UN MDG Achievement Fund/IDS Sussex). She has  engaged in policy advisory work with various international and national organisations, including the World Bank, UN Women, SIDA, Oxfam, Action Aid, BRAC, PRADAN and DFID.  She is associated with a number of journals in her capacity as member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of Feminist Economics, Advisor Editor on Development and Change, on the Editorial Board of Gender and Development, the Editorial Board of Third World Quarterly and the International Advisory Board of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies. She is also on the Advisory Board, Women’s Rights Program, Open Society Foundations, the Advisory Board, International Centre for Research on Women and the Advisory Committee of the Better Works Programme at the ILO.     

 

Personal statement

My work has always focused on those who are marginaliszed within their societies and excluded from processes of development.  It has sought to understand and promote their perspectives, often drawing on their own testimonies but also combining this with statistics which help to quantify their unequal  position in relation to others.  It has therefore often meant challenging dominant views about these groups, who they are, what they value, and what motivates them. 

My very first independent piece of research was conducted as part of my dissertation: it sought to use primary data on fertility behaviour from a village in Bangladesh to challenge neo-Malthusian ideas that dominated the population establishment and regarded high fertility in Third World countries as the product of irrational, tradition-bound behaviour of poor and ignorant peasants. My later work has focused on gender inequalities from the perspective of men and women from poor and marginaliszed groups.  I have been particularly interested in understanding how change happens in the lives of those who are not only economically marginalizsed but cultural devalued. Any change that is to bring about progress in their lives must begin with changes in how they perceive themselves and are perceived by others because without a strengthened sense of selfhood and social worth, material progress is likely to be ephemeral. 

The project that I will be collaborating on with colleagues from PRADAN is very much along these lines.  PRADAN works with the poorest women in India’s poorest states.  Many of their members are drawn from tribal or Adivasi groups who have historically been consigned to the margins of Indian society. PRADAN helps them to organise into groups in order to promote collective reflection on the injustices that underpin their subordinate position and collective action to assert their rights as citizens. Our research will seek to explore women’s experiences of their membership of self-help groups, the subjective and cognitive changes that it may have brought about for them and for their families and the extent to which they have been able to improve their livelihoods and to equalise the terms on which they engage with the wider society.

Nivedita Narain

Nivedita Narain

Nationality: Indian

Lives in: New Delhi, India

 

Dr. Nivedita Narain works as an Integrator for PRADAN, and Indian-based NGO that works at grassroot level to remove mass poverty and challenge inequalities at multiple levels. She is also Senior Fellow at the Centre for Development Practice in Ambedkar University Delhi.

Nivedita joined PRADAN in 1987, and has held a variety of portfolios over the years. She began work in rural areas of Rajasthan as Executive in PRADAN, based in Kishangarh Bas in Rajasthan, organising the first self-help groups in the country. She has led PRADAN’s Human Resources Development Unit, and Research and Resource Centre. Since 2011 she has led PRADAN’s initiative to institutionalise development practice in the higher education sector, in collaboration with Ambedkar University Delhi. This entails working closely with field and university-based faculty; research and teaching; supervision of student dissertations; supporting graduates as they join the development sector; organising summer and winter courses blended with online webinars, with contributions from experienced practitioners undertaking action research; incubating new organisations; and overall programme development and management. Her current research projects include roles and competencies of social change professionals; unlocking the potential of non-timber forest produce, in particular lac and tasar; and intersecting inequalities in Adivasi communities.

Nivedita’s professional expertise includes rural development, organisation behaviour and human resource development, women’s empowerment, livelihoods development, and group processes. She has undertaken consulting assignments for organisation development.  She is a certified trainer in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, training of trainers, and entrepreneurial motivation trainer at NIESBUD (National Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development) and is currently undergoing certification as a group process facilitator.

Nivedita has a PhD in Management Studies from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi; a master’s in Professional Studies in International Development Policy from Cornell University in the USA; a Post-graduate Diploma in Rural Management from the Institute of Rural Management Anand; and a BA (honours) in Mathematics from the Lady Shriram College at Delhi University. 

She was an Erasmus Mundus (NAMASTE) Fellow at Gottingen University last year, and has been an INLAKS Scholar while at Cornell University.  She is on the boards of non-profits and scholar programmes, and a founder member of the Institute for Group Facilitators.

 

Personal statement

The focus of our team’s project is to explore PRADANs experience of engaging with rural communities.

I have been with PRADAN for 30 years now. Our emphasis has been on working with, and among, excluded and marginalised communities, with a concentration on the central Indian heartland. These regions and communities are characterised by deficiencies in material conditions, and unacceptable absolute poverty.  More invisible, and much less understood and attended to, are the interlinked processes of exclusion, marginalisation, and the many intersecting inequalities. These contribute to certain groups - like the Adivasi, Dalit, and women in particular - bearing a hugely disproportionate burden of poverty and discrimination. They are also deeply entrenched - historically, psychologically, socially - and in the functioning of public institutions. 

An alternative view has emerged over my years of practice, suggesting that bottom-up solutions may rest upon an enhanced sense of agency among poor people and their collectives. We also acknowledge that empathy and humility are necessary for such engagement to stimulate positive changes in people’s lives. Knowledge and intellectual resources are similarly essential. As practitioners and researchers engaged with Adivasi women and their contexts, we are thus faced with at least two broad challenges:

  • A first is of jointly finding ways to negotiate inequality with the women’s groups we work with.
  • A second challenge is to build new knowledge and practice through our praxis.  

The aims of this research project stem from the challenges faced by practice, and shifts in development discourse and policy, at this point of time. The present study is an effort to contribute to the growing consensus on the need to bring inequality and injustice to the forefront of interventions with marginalized communities. This has not been foregrounded adequately in development initiatives and interventions.

Our project is built on three pivots:

  • Firstly, it seeks to explore how Adivasi women experience, understand and negotiate intersecting inequalities in their everyday, and to review the extent to which current interventions around self-help groups (SHGs) of women address the same.
  • Second, it examines practices of a non-profit civil society organisation and that of a Government-operated society. 
  • Thirdly, it draws on literature and research and a survey of action by others in relevant areas. 

I believe that these questions are simultaneously relevant to the women’s groups involved and to practitioners, researchers and policy makers in the Atlantic Fellows community.

We aim, eventually, to indicate emergent pathways to engender processes of change, to address these intersecting inequalities.  I would hope to build on this research and opportunity to learn from other Atlantic Fellows, to work further with communities, practitioners and students, and to build a body of practice and knowledge around negotiating absolute poverty and intersecting inequalities in difficult regions.

Varnica Arora

Varnica Arora

Nationality: Indian

Lives in: Kanker, India

 

Varnica Arora is a Development Professional with a passion for working around issues of poverty in Rural India.

At present she is working with PRADAN, one of India’s largest non-profit organisations in the area of rural livelihoods. She completed her master’s in Psychology from the University of Delhi and is also a certified Art-Based Therapy (ABT) Practitioner. For the last eight years she has been working closely with institutions of poor women from marginalised Adivasi (tribal) communities across rural India. She continues to be passionate about engendering processes of social transformation in rural India through women’s self-help groups, particularly in the sphere of rural livelihoods, gender justice and governance. Previously, she has worked on an action research project on the psycho-social processes underlying the work of professionals engaged in the development sector and the communities of rural women they work with.

She has also been involved in the initiation of an MPhil in Development Practice collaboratively with the Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) and PRADAN. At present, she is based out of PRADAN’s team at Bhanupratappur in Upper Bastar Kanker, India, where this research will be conducted.

 

Personal statement

My interest in Inequalities stems from my own experience of growing up in India; a society that is diverse as well as deeply divided. These divisions - of rural-vs-urban, cast, and class - brought about a deep sense of indignation within me, which at some point prompted me to give up a corporate career and join PRADAN to work with the rural poor.

Unlike the West, absolute poverty continues to form an integral part of the inequality discourse in India. Intersecting identities (caste, class, gender, ethnicity) are pivotal in defining the quality of life of those at the very bottom of the income distribution, making them among the toughest groups to work with. This is a particularly true of the Adivasi Gond women who are among the poorest in India, presently residing in areas afflicted by conflict between the State and the left wing extremist groups.

PRADAN initiated work in this region in 2008-09 and, despite concerted efforts, the impacts of our work have been limited. Thus, the aims of our team’s research project stem from the challenges faced by practice and shifts in development discourse and policy at this point of time. The present study thus seeks to explore how Adivasi gond women understand and experience gender inequality and the extent to which current interventions around self-help groups (SHGs) of women address the same. It also aims to identify emergent pathways to engender processes of change. The underlying assumption is that processes of addressing the inequalities experienced by women would be accelerated if they were embedded in the everyday life of communities, as they negotiate normative changes based on critical reflection of their own societies (Green, 2012). These are remaining largely neglected in development discourse and practice that is still attempting a ‘one-size-fits- all’ approach.

As a practitioner, the fellowship offers a unique opportunity to critically reflect on my own practise and engage with it in an academic perspective. This will enable me not only sharpen my own analytic skills but also strengthen our existing work with communities in the Bastar region.

Vinitika Lal

Vinitika Lal

Nationality: Indian

Lives in: New Delhi, India
 

 

Vinitika is a psychologist by training and is currently part of the Resource Mobilization and Communications team in PRADAN.

She was born in Lucknow, India and is the youngest of 5 siblings. Her father being a public servant, the family moved around the country every couple of years through school years.  She has a master’s in Applied Psychology from the University of Delhi, South Campus with specialisation in Social Psychology. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. 

Having grown up in different towns across the country, Vinitika values diversity and change.  As the daughter of a police official, her experiences with conflict and violence at different levels have inspired a commitment to addressing conflict and violence and bringing healing and inner peace by working with individuals and communities. 

During her M.A, she joined Pravah, a start-up non-profit, working with young people on issues of discrimination and violence to create a more just and peaceful society. She continued to work with them for the next 8 years. During her time with Pravah she developed and facilitated a 62 hour curriculum for young people between the ages of 14-18 years that took them on a journey from ‘Self to Society’. It facilitated conversations and discussions on inner–awareness and leadership, challenged prejudices and stereotypes towards inspiring a deeper connection with oneself and the world. Over a period of 8 years, the team had grown to 15 facilitators working with approximately 400 young people annually across diverse schools.

Vinitika also led the first international youth exchange programme with VSO, UK. She lived and worked with rural communities in India and UK along with a team of 18 young people from both the countries. In the UK, the team worked on building awareness and harmony on the issue of racial discrimination.

In 2006, she moved to the U.S for a short period of time. There she volunteered with a non-profit focused on anti-oppression work with young people from the African American and Hispanic communities.

She joined PRADAN in 2007. PRADAN works with very poor, marginalised rural communities with a mission to end poverty and challenge inequalities at multiple levels.

At PRADAN , her work involves creating different avenues for educated young people to engage with issues of disparity and poverty. The initiative aims at cultivating an empathetic understanding amongst young people through hands- on exposure to very poor communities. The internships and apprenticeship programmes help to build a perspective on inequalities, poverty and development by living and working with very poor, marginalised rural communities in India.

Her portfolio includes bringing issues of rural poverty, sustainability to the educated urban young people as well as institutes of higher education. PRADAN believes that university education in India has a long way to go in terms of creating socially conscious and empathetic citizens with a sense of agency towards bringing transformation in society. Vinitika leads an initiative which aims to trigger conversations that question status quo; reflect on our understanding of structures that perpetuate power asymmetries, inequality, exclusion and discrimination. The programme equips young people with skills and knowledge that help them address gaps that prevent India from truly delivering the vision of equality and democracy as laid out in the constitution of the country.

She is passionate about building a world which is more inclusive and non-violent. As such, she volunteers for the India chapter for Creators of Peace (CoP), an international women’s initiative empowering women to be radical peace builders by:

  • building networks of friendship and forgiveness across racial, religious and social divides
  • sharing responsibility for their part in the perpetration of conflict and its resolution
  • breaking the chains of hate and revenge.

 

Personal statement

Growing up in India it is almost impossible to go through life without witnessing disparity and inequalities at various levels. I grew up as the youngest of 5 siblings. My father worked with the Indian Police Service while my mother worked outside the home as and when child rearing responsibilities allowed for it. As a child, I witnessed numerous situations that involved my father working with poor people who came looking for police interventions, looking for justice because their voices were not being heard in the ‘system’. Most times, it was because they were extremely poor, illiterate and belonged to socially disadvantaged communities because of their caste, gender and religion.

I remember one of the earliest conversations with my father about why some people were poorer than others when I was 5 years old. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t given an answer right away but instead, was asked to look around and think more about it.  That’s how I learnt that it was important to ask the question ‘why?’ when we tried to make sense of the world around us.  I think this is where the journey and constant attempt to ask questions and seek answers started and still continues.

PRADAN has visualised a just and equitable society to sustain the transformation of the human condition (in terms of physical, social, political, psychological and transcendental) that it wants to bring about. Instigating and sustaining such a change requires deliberate attention to the beliefs, values, norms and practices prevailing in society.  My work with PRADAN has strengthened my belief that poverty and exclusion in India continue to perpetuate as a result of unequal power distribution.  

Our team’s research project is focused on inequalities, especially intersecting inequalities and their relationship with absolute poverty. It is located in Bastar district in Chattisgarh, central India. The Adivasi communities in this region are at the bottom of the pyramid when we talk about access, opportunity, participation and choice.  I believe this research project on how Adivasi (tribal) Gond women experience and negotiate gender inequalities will contribute to the larger body of knowledge and understanding in the global community by bringing a different perspective and experience from this part of the world. This would be valuable to the larger discourse on absolute poverty and inequality especially in the arena of influencing policy and further research on the issue of intersecting inequalities. 

Inequality exists in all forms and at various levels. When we speak of structural inequality, poverty is only one of the many outcomes though a very hard hitting one. In India, we have been dealing with the challenge of addressing chronic and absolute poverty for many years now. The growing apathy to the human conditions as it exists today is very disturbing.

I hope to widen my perspective on Inequalities around the world and the different ways in which the Atlantic Fellows are working on the subject.

Michael McQuarrie

Dr Michael McQuarrie

Nationality: American

Lives in: London, UK

 

Dr Michael McQuarrie is particularly interested in the relationship between geography and inequality and politics and inequality.

He received his BA in history from Earlham College, his MA in history from Duke University, and his Ph.D in sociology from New York University. He studies governance, social movements, urban politics, community development, and non-profit organisations. He has spent considerable time working in the US Rust Belt as a labour organiser and a community organiser. He has also done considerable research on ‘Rust Belt’ cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Louisville, and St. Louis.

He has published in many scholarly outlets including Public Culture, Politics and Society, City and Community, and ANNALS. His public-facing work has appeared in New Politics, Public Books, Newsweek Online, Scroll.India, and Public Seminar. He recently edited the volume Democratizing Inequalities: The Promise and Pitfalls of the New Public Participation (with Caroline Lee and Edward Walker) and he recently appeared in the Al Jazeera English documentary "The Big Picture: The People vs. America”

 

Personal statement

The purpose of our team’s work on inequalities is to examine the ways in which inequalities become articulated in politics and, in particular, populist and ethnonationalist politics. This is tricky ground. Culturally, we have become quite used to imagining politics as a matter of connecting "messages" to individual attributes in ways that motivate support without requiring accountability. Even more disruptive to the analysis of populist and ethnonationalist politics is the ways in which scholars, journalists, and professionals are wholly invested in this struggle as opponents of the poorly-educated who challenge their authority. The combination of these factors has resulted in radically disconnected community experiences for people in different geographic regions and very little mutual understanding between them. We will demonstrate how this disconnection becomes mobilised in politics by populist and ethnonationalist candidates through the construction of temporal imaginaries that radically distinguish them from their mainstream competitors even if their policy agendas remain thin.

Lisa McKenzie

Dr Lisa McKenzie

Nationality: British

Lives in: London

 
Cassim Shepard

Cassim Shepard

Nationality: American

Lives in: New York City, USA

 

Cassim Shepard is an urbanist, filmmaker, and writer. As the founding editor-in-chief of Urban Omnibus, an online publication of The Architectural League of New York, he spent six years working with hundreds of local architects, designers, artists, writers, and public servants to share their stories of urban innovation. His video work has been screened at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Ford Foundation, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the United Nations, among many other venues around the world.

Shepard teaches in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and has been a guest lecturer in the Cities Programme of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University.

He studied filmmaking at Harvard University, urban geography and Kings College London, and city planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Personal statement

All of my work, in one way or another, is about creating expressive audio-visual and text-based narratives that assert the inextricability of the physical form and social experience of complex environments and the manifold ways that the built environment reflects cultural and political attitudes in particular places at particular points in time. As a scholar of urbanism, I am interested in asserting the importance of such narratives to the professional practice of urban planning and design as well as both social scientific and popular understanding of cities. As an artist and writer, I experiment with new modes of analysing and representing the relationship between form, location, and experience through research, writing, and filmmaking. I am particularly interested in exploring this relationship in urban environments: those places where the social possibilities that arise from forced confrontation with people unlike oneself are greatest, where what we build most affects how we live and interact, and where spatial inequalities are most explicit.

Harel Shapira

Dr Harel Shapira

Nationality: American

Lives in: Austin, USA

 

Dr Harel Shapira is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Waiting for José (Princeton 2013) and is currently completing a book on contemporary gun culture in the United States.

Shapira received his PhD, with distinction, from Columbia University, and his B.A., with honors, from the University of Chicago. His research has been supported by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.          

 

Personal statement

I use ethnographic methods to study political identity in contemporary America, with an emphasis on right wing politics. While our tendency has been to understand political identity by focusing on its ideological dimensions – that is, people’s beliefs and attitudes, I compliment this approach by focusing on practices. My interest is on the things that people do and the worlds that people create, when they engage in politics.

Although my research is based in America, it is clear – from the election of Donald Trump to Brexit to the recent successes of far-right parties across Europe – that we are witnessing a global transformation in terms of how people think about and engage in politics. These responses require that we think about inequality not only in terms of its various dimensions – economic, racial, gender -- but also as at once an objective and symbolic dimension of social life. That is, the current political moment requires that we think about how people subjectively make sense of inequality and how those definitions translate into political behaviour.

As an Atlantic Fellow I will seek to help advance our understanding of inequality through research that considers how contemporary inequality informs contemporary politics. 

Will Bartlett

Will Bartlett

Nationality: British

Lives in: London, UK and Belgrade, Serbia

 
 

Will Bartlett graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Economics in 1971 and from the University of London with a master’s degree in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1972. He gained his PhD at the University of Liverpool in 1978 on the theme of unemployment and migration in the former Yugoslavia. From 1978 to 2009 he worked as a Lecturer, Reader, and Professor at the Universities of Southampton, Bath and Bristol where he taught Development Economics, Comparative Economic Systems, and the Economics of European Enlargement.

His research has focused on the social economics of labour markets, migration, education systems and skill mismatches, the performance of cooperatives and small firms, and the reform of health systems, all through the prism of institutional economics, theories of quasi-markets, and perspectives of political economy. He held a Research Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence from 1983-1986 where he carried out research on cooperative enterprises in southern Europe. From 1995 to 2004 he was Deputy Director of the Centre for Mediterranean Studies at the University of Bristol.

From 2009-2015 he was Senior Research Fellow at the LSEE Research Unit on South East Europe at LSE and Coordinator of the LSEE Research Network on Social Cohesion in South East Europe. He is the author of Europe’s Troubled Region: Economic Development, Institutional Reform and Social Welfare in the Western Balkans (Routledge, 2008), and numerous articles in refereed journals such as the Journal of Development Economics, Small Business Economics, Social Policy & Administration, International Journal of Health Planning & Management, European Journal of Education, European Planning Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, and Southeast Europe and Black Sea Studies.

He has led or co-led four research projects funded by the UK ESRC, and has been involved in numerous other research projects funded by EU FP7, the Leverhulme Trust, the Rowntree Foundation, the King’s Fund, the British Academy and other funding bodies. He has carried out over forty consultancy projects for the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, European Training Foundation, OECD, UNDP, UNICEF and other international organisations.

He lives in London and Belgrade, and has in the past been a competitive swimmer. He is married and has five children.

 

Personal statement

I became interested in the issue of inequality after visiting Yugoslavia in the 1970s and observing a far more equal society than in the UK. As a student of development economics I was interested in the ways in which market systems could be combined with the social ownership of production to reconcile the potentially conflicting forces of efficiency and equity. The Yugoslav model of self-management socialism put this to the test. Indeed, international comparative research by development economists placed Yugoslavia among the group of middle-income countries with one of the most egalitarian income distributions.  Yet, critics suggested that the Yugoslav model had serious defects, including large intra-industry wage differentials (so one’s wage depended upon which firm one worked for rather than one’s performance or skill), and there were also high and persistent regional inequalities. Although Yugoslavia experienced rapid post-war industrialisation and growth, the 1980s saw a deterioration of macroeconomic performance, and tragically the regional income inequalities proved too great to enable the country to hold together. The wars of the 1990s led to the break-up of the state and the emergence of a handful of new countries, which began a programme of institutional reform designed to establish various forms of capitalism, each with different combinations of state and market elements. This evolution provides a fascinating laboratory for the study of the comparative economics of inequality in different varieties of capitalist economic systems. 

 

Broadly speaking, Slovenia has emerged as one of the most egalitarian countries in Europe, while Serbia has become one of the most unequal. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as far as we can tell, have landed somewhere in between. A variety of factors may explain these differences. Firstly, the effects of war and conflict had differential effects on the pace and type of economic development, while differences in the process of privatisation also left their mark. Yugoslavia was a highly industrialised country, and the successor states experienced deindustrialisation and a rapid development of the services sectors as well as the grey economy. Relationships to global value chains have also differed, with Slovenia being far more integrated into global business networks than the other three countries. The countries have also experienced different degrees of integration into the European economic space (Slovenia became an EU member state in 2004, Croatia in 2013, Serbia is a candidate for EU membership while Bosnia and Herzegovina has lagged behind in this respect).

 

All these factors and others have led to a differences in the type of economic systems that have emerged since the break-up of Yugoslavia and despite a common heritage and the strength of path dependency, has led to a strong divergence in income inequalities among them. The aim of our team’s research project is to map these differences in income inequality among these four countries and to account for the factors that have led to them.

Gorana Krstić

Gorana Krstić

Nationality: Serbian

Lives in: Belgrade, Serbia

 

Gorana Krstić graduated from the Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade in 1990 and finished her master’s studies in Statistics at the University of Belgrade in 1996. She obtained her PhD in Economics at School of Social Sciences, Sussex University in 2002.

She is Full Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade. Her main research interests are labour markets, inequality, informal economy, poverty and social policy. She has published (and edited) 12 books in these fields and has had more than 40 articles published in both national and international journals. She has published in refereed journals such as the Economic Systems, Economics of Transition and Panoeconomicus. She is co-author (and co-editor) of Formalizing the Shadow Economy in Serbia, Policy Measures and Growth Effects, (Springer, 2015).

She has been consulting for leading international agencies, including the World Bank, UNDP, ILO, EC and USAID. She has been World Bank consultant for the labour market, poverty and social policy for the regions of South Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia. She has won a few competitions for individual and institutional research for which she was the team leader (National Bank of Serbia, Vienna Institute for International Studies, UNDP, UN, USAID). She has also participated in a number of congresses, seminars and workshops in Serbia and abroad.

 

Personal statement

There is a huge literature on income inequality, but so far little of it has applied to countries of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia). Policymakers’ interest in the problem of inequality has been quite limited, despite Serbia and Bosnia facing very high, and still rising, income inequality. Both countries have the highest income inequality in Europe, as measured by the Gini coefficient.

Our team’s proposed research promises to provide in-depth analysis of the main drivers of inequality in these countries. Our objective is to establish whether weaker redistribution through taxes and social transfers is the main cause of much higher inequality of disposable income in Serbia and Bosnia compared to Slovenia and Croatia or is it due to more unequal market distribution of labour and capital incomes. The proposed research will provide new evidence for designing improved policies to reduce income inequality in these countries in relation to tax-benefit systems, labour market policies and education policies.

This project should in the first place help in putting this topic on the agenda of policymakers and also help general public in these countries to understand statistics on inequality, its drivers and consequences.

Jelena Zarkovic Rakic.jpg

Jelena Zarkovic Rakic

Nationality: Serbian

Lives in: Belgrade, Serbia

 
 

Jelena Zarkovic Rakic is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, Serbia and Director of the Foundation for the Advancement in Economics, one of the leading think tanks for economic and social policy research in Serbia and in the region. As a visiting student Jelena was at the George Mason University (USA) and European University Institute (Italy).  She received her PhD in Economics from the University of Belgrade.

Jelena’s main research interests are the labour markets, poverty and income inequality effects of tax and benefit policies. She has been involved as a project coordinator and/or researcher in a number of projects financed by the European Union, World Bank, Department for International Development and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. For several years she has held lectures for civil servants of the Government of Serbia on the preparation of public policy proposals and evaluation of public policies. She took active an role in a number of initiatives regarding a more active cooperation between policy makers and social science researchers. In this she participated in numerous conferences, seminars and workshops in Serbia and abroad and published articles in journals like Post-Communist Economies, International Journal of Micro-simulation and Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.

 

Personal statement

I firmly believe that inequality of opportunities, most importantly in terms of the unequal access to education and health services, is bad for economic prosperity of the country. Those with the inability to climb the social ladder are not about to utilise their full potential. Inequality is also bad for democracy and the stability of a nation, as the latest events of Brexit and the Trump election have shown.

My home country, Serbia, has the highest income inequality levels in Europe. However, research on the possible causes of such a situation is still very limited.  Our project intends to investigate this by comparing Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, which has a similarly high Gini coefficient as Serbia, Slovenia, which has one of the lowest inequality levels in the European space, and Croatia, which is at the average EU level of inequality. In the Yugoslav past, these countries shared generous and inclusive welfare state. After the breakup, these four countries took different welfare state trajectories alongside their experience of  war and conflict so, by investigating how this might have impacted today’s varying levels of income inequality, our project will provide a deeper insight into the “good” and the “bad” forces that affect inequality levels.

For the Atlantic Fellows community this project might offer interesting new observations into the powers and limitations of the welfare state that is being re-examined in many countries with the austerity rhetoric and discontent regarding its ability to protect from the perils of globalisation and technological progress.

Nermin Oruc

Dr Nermin Oruc

Nationality: Bosnian

Lives in: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 
 

Nermin Oruč, has a bachelor’s from Sarajevo University (Economics), an MSc (Hons) from Staffordshire University (Economics), and a PhD in Economics from Staffordshire University. Nermin is currently Director at the Centre for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has worked for eight years at the Universities SSST and International University of Sarajevo, where he taught Econometrics, Economic Development and Labour Economics. He was a Research Fellow at CERGE-EI, Prague (2012-2015). Nermin’s research focuses on social impact of migration and remittances in the Western Balkans. In addition, he is Team Leader of the BiHMOD team that develops a tax-benefits microsimulation model for Bosnia and Herzegovina based on EUROMOD.

 

Personal statement

I am member of a Visiting Atlantic Fellows team that will investigate the relationship between income inequality and different welfare state trajectories that the four countries of the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia. Slovenia) have chosen over the three decades since the country breakup. The project will examine how different reforms in the area of education and the labor market might have impacted the current diverging levels of income inequality in these four countries.

My particular interest is analysis of the effect of conflict on educational inequality, with a focus on ethnic and regional inequalities, which is of great relevance for all countries included in the study. The research will link my previous work on the effects of conflict and displacement on households in Bosnia including their educational outcomes, analysis of the effects of tax and benefits policies, and analysis of education and social mobility.