The Impact Factor. Issue 45 March 2019
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out interdisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


Research moves in mysterious ways its impact to perform, to paraphrase a poem which some readers may be familiar with (and a U2 song). We heard recently about a research monograph published by UNRISD which had somehow, in the untrackable non-linear ways of research, come to the attention of a museum worker tasked with re-defining the social impact of her workplace. Thanks to research from an UNRISD project, and its part in a long process of consultation and soul-searching, the Oakland Museum of California now has a new take on what it can do for the local community and a strategy to operationalize their insights.

When Jane Jenson wrote her paper Defining and Measuring Social Cohesion in 2010, no one could have planned for this to happen, or reasonably expected this particular outcome. It’s one of the beauties of research that such serendipitous, long-term impacts occur, yet as research impact measurement becomes more and more of an accounting exercise, we think it’s important not to lose sight of the value of impact like this that can’t be foreseen, or measured with some kind of metric. And even if it could, whose time horizon allows nearly a decade to demonstrate impact?

At the same time, there are things that UNRISD can and does do to actively enhance the impact of its work. Our research getting onto the agendas of the events mentioned in this eBulletin can certainly hope to have a rather direct impact, and work commissioned by operational UN agencies—like our report with UNICEF on transformative change for children and youth in the 2030 Agenda; or the assessments of SDG implementation commissioned by UN ECE and UNDP—is positioned for immediate uptake. Also, being intentional in the choice of research topic helps, as we have seen with the Valueworks project that we participated in. By exploring the relationship between Swiss activities and the copper value chain, the research findings have a relevance to local politics which has led to some media exposure in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, as the findings speak directly to issues being debated and voted on in the country’s parliament.

If you happen to spot any UNRISD research in unusual places, do let us know so we can share some more impact stories. In the meantime, there’s plenty of research and activities to browse through in this eBulletin; we’ll be back with more in about two months’ time.


UNRISD Research Inspiring New Ways of Thinking

We were really happy to be alerted to a great impact story recently which we'd like to share with you. The Oakland Museum of California found itself at a crossroads trying to understand how it changes lives in the community, and made good use of some UNRISD research to figure out how to define its social impact. Find out more in this account by the Museum's Associate Director of Evaluation and Visitor Insights.

Research Uptake in the Swiss Media

The Valueworks project in which we participated has been receiving some media coverage in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, thanks to its relevance to Swiss political debates on possible new accountability measures for companies in the commodities sector. Read Das Lamm's take on it here (in German), and a good discussion of the issues in the Afrika-Bulletin (in English).

Internship: Climate Justice and Tackling Climate Change

UNRISD is looking for support for its work on climate justice, in particular on climate change response in cities. The ideal candidate will also have some communications savvy to provide some support for outreach. So if you are studying, or have recently studied, geography, development studies, sociology, public policy or a related field at an accredited university, and have some academic and/or professional experience in issues related to climate change and disaster risk reduction, please get in touch. We are especially interested in candidates with strong expertise in social aspects of climate change and climate policy (e.g. environmental/climate justice, adaptation and development, disaster risk reduction).
Deadline: 7 April 2019


New Seminar Series Insights into Inequalities

Income Inequality Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa: Explaining Divergence, Determinants and Consequences
3 May 2019
The first speaker in our new series of seminars Insights into Inequalities will be Professor Giovanni Andrea Cornia, who will provide insights into income inequality levels and trends in sub-Saharan Africa and explain why these insights are essential to design better policy responses that would allow growth to be shared more equally in sub-Saharan Africa. Our thanks the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Geneva for their support for this series.

Save the Date! SSE x 3 in June

We have three major events related to social and solidarity economy coming up in June this year. Mark them down in your diary:

Recent Events

World Social Work Day 2019: Social Work, Gender and Sexuality—Towards Empowerment, Equality and Inclusion
20 March 2019, CICG, Geneva
For the third year in a row, UNRISD marked World Social Work Day with a group of partners from the world of social work and social work education. The event was a success, with excellent turnout and engaged discussions in the five break-out sessions. You can still view the Facebook Live recordings of our distinguished keynote speakers:
- Mavis Dako-Gyeke from the University of Ghana, and
- Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Moving Beyond Exposure: Addressing Climate-Related Risks in Informal Coastal Settlements

26 February 2019, online world-wide
This webinar was well-attended and generated such lively discusion that it had to be continued off-line after the event. We will be making additional responses to comments and questions kindly provided by the speakers available soon; in the mean time you can view their slides and a video recording of the webinar itself on our event page, in case you want to follow the event in detail.

Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy? Asia Edition

24 February 2019, Yonsei University, Republic of Korea
This event was the Asian edition of a series of conferences resulting from the Call for Papers "Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?" which was launched by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) in 2018 and organized by UNRISD. With the Call for Papers, the UNTFSSE aimed to identify and mobilize research from different regions and territories which, by critically examining the role of SSE, can contribute to the Task Force's efforts to scale up and promote SSE as means of implementation of the SDGs.

Recent Side Events at Intergovernmental Meetings

At the Commission on the Status of Women, New York
At the Human Rights Council, Geneva
  • New Technologies and Human Rights: The Gender Dimension in Education and Work
    7 March 2019
    How can we ensure that new technologies do not lead to widespread job loss or increasingly precarious jobs? What needs to be done to ensure these new technologies do not reinforce existing gender inequalities? This event brought together experts from government, civil society and international organizations to discuss solutions to the gendered challenges posed by new technologies.


Transformative Change for Children and Youth in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Katja Hujo and Maggie Carter This paper, written by UNRISD researchers and published as a UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti Working Paper, develops a conceptual framework assessing the transformative potential of policies, understood as approaches that target the underlying generative framework of social injustice. It looks in particular at policies' impact on children and youth, and whether this group is meaningfully integrated and represented in decision-making processes. The paper applies the framework to a selection of policy areas that are of high relevance for child development, such as social policy and care policy, assessing necessary means of implementation such as resource mobilization and governance systems and looking at economic and environmental impacts in a cross-cutting way.

Stabilizing Networks? Social Organizations and Old Age Services in Urban Communities in China

Bingqin Li, Lijie Fang, Bo Hu This paper shows that delivering social services, in particular old-age services, involves a complex system of coordination between multiple stakeholders. The system, which is a network of actors in both the formal and informal sectors, must adapt as participants join and the network changes. The paper analyzes six cities in China to examine which factors help a system adapt to new arrivals more effectively. This research contributes to understanding network transition and demonstrates what role community features play in this process.

Policy Process Diffusion: Transforming the Governance Model in Chinese Cities

Bingqin Li, Lijie Fang In its attempts to relieve the pressure of rural-urban migration on cities, the Chinese central government is moving towards a strategy of addressing the causes of dissatisfaction, rather than control efforts or compensation. However, an idea from the top may not necessarily be taken up willingly at the local level. This paper focuses on how the idea of community governance is pushed downwards along the administrative hierarchy, and horizontally at different levels of government. Through this policy process, the paper examines the relationship between multiple stakeholders and how social organizations and civil society become involved in the provision of social services and in facilitating community building.

Social Organizations and Community Service Delivery in China

Bingqin Li, Lijie Fang In 2010, the Chinese government started adopting measures to encourage social organizations (SOs) to initiate social service provision, in a radical change from its previous position. The government not only provided funding for SOs but also offered in-kind support to improve the capacity of SOs so they could offer more social services. This change in the state–SO relationship has had serious implications for China’s social policy development. This report provides an overview of the status of SO development in China and aims to answer three important questions (i) Is the Chinese government serious about allowing SOs to thrive? (ii) What added value have SOs brought to China’s social service provision? (iii) Is there a promising future for SO social service provision in China?

Incorporating Informal Workers into Twenty-First Century Social Contracts

Rina Agarwala This paper draws from an ongoing cross-national comparative project of informal workers' movements across eight countries of the global North and South to offer an initial framework of contemporary trends in informal workers' movements. The findings suggest that present-day informal workers are mobilizing populations that were often excluded from 20th century labour movements, such as contract-based construction workers and self-employed domestic workers, often working in non-standard workspaces (such as private homes) and many from socially vulnerable groups (such as women, ethnic and racial minorities, and immigrants). By mobilizing these groups along class and social identity lines, informal workers are fighting to expand the definitions of “workers” and “employers” to include a larger and more diverse range of people, relationships, and occupations.

New Book Series on Urban Political Economy Being Launched

Former UNRISD Visiting Scholar, Franklin Obeng-Odoom has recently taken on the role of series editor for a new book series, the Edinburgh Studies in Urban Political Economy. The series, which will be available on Platinum Open Access, provides a platform for marginalized voices to critically engage with, and ultimately transcend, conventional urban economics. If you have a book proposal, either a monograph or coherent edited collection, find out how to submit here.


Acting Against Their Own Interests: Why Elites Should Be More Progressive Than They Typically Are

Matias López Could social policies to redistribute wealth and shore up democracy be in the interests of powerful and wealthy elites? According to interdisciplinary research, the answer is yes, as inequality entails several negative consequences that affect elite security. Yet as inequality increases, we are not seeing many changes in elites’ largely negative attitudes to such policies. This think piece argues that the way elites perceive inequality, not their actual material interest, is getting in the way of progress.

Part of the think piece series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

La promoción de cooperativas como política de inclusión por el trabajo en Argentina. Desafíos en el escenario socio-económico y político actual

Malena Victoria Hopp Desde 2003 se implementaron en Argentina programas de generación de cooperativas como estrategia de inclusión por el trabajo. Este ensayo analiza las potencialidades de estos programas y explora qué sucede cuando se les elimina, como ocurrió luego del cambio de gobierno en 2015. La nueva orientación de política pública debilitó el apoyo al trabajo cooperativo y favoreció la concentración de poder, derivada de la unificación de la elite política y económica. El reemplazo de cooperativas por transferencias de ingresos rompe con los espacios colectivos de trabajo y contribuye a profundizar desigualdades, mediante la individualización y asistencialización de las intervenciones sobre el desempleo y la pobreza.

Part of the think piece series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

Human Rights and New Technologies: Setting the Agenda for Human Rights-Centred Innovation

Molly K. Land For technology to have a transformative effect on human relations, we must be far more mindful of who builds it, for what purposes, and what kinds of power and privilege are embedded within it. This think piece looks at a case study in South Africa where technology and harms to rights went hand in hand.


Climate Change in Coastal Cities

This YouTube playlist features the five presentations which made up our seminar on transformative adaptation, understood as change that can overcome inequalities and root causes of vulnerability, in two coastal cities in Asia. The speakers introduce this concept, and then assess its potential to inform policy making for urban climate resilience and social development in coastal cities with a particular focus on Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.

Playlist: Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization

We've selected some of the presentations from our major international conference Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization which took place last November. You can view them in our playlist here. Don't miss our keynote with Vandana Shiva!

Podcast: We Want Equal Access! Austerity Politics vs. Feminist Activism

If you couldn't be in New York for our excellent side event at the Commission on the Status of Women in April, here's your chance to catch up on the panellists' discussions on austerity and its impacts on gender inequality. Listen to the podcast here.


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