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GSDI to partner on multi-million award, multi-country project

UNC’s Global Social Development Innovations (GSDI) was awarded a $1 million contract in 2022 to participate in a multi-million-dollar, multi-country project that aims to assess the needs of and strengthen support for marginalized and underrepresented groups around the world.

The contract is part of a five-year, $19 million project that will support the mission and work of the United States Agency for International Development or USAID, a federally funded organization that administers aid and development assistance around the world. GSDI, which is housed within the School of Social Work and focuses on improving the lives of young people, and Mathematica, a company that uses data and technology to improve well-being, are collaborating as research partners on the global initiative. The entire project will be overseen by Making Cents, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that promotes evidence-based, market driven approaches to support those in need.

Together, GSDI and Mathematica will conduct multiple research activities to understand how marginalizing individuals, such as women, youth, LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities and non-dominate racial and ethnic groups, and preventing them from fully participating in social, economic, political and cultural life impacts development in lower- and middle-income countries. The partners will work to better understand how the inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented communities impacts development, while also ensuring that these same groups are invited to participate in the design of programs and interventions that are meant to help them.

“GSDI and Mathematica will work with USAID to make recommendations on how to include marginalized and vulnerable populations in designing projects that combat stigma and discrimination, promote empowerment and inclusion, and improve the lives of underrepresented communities,” explained Gina Chowa, GSDI founding director and the School of Social Work’s associate dean for global engagement. Chowa will serve as UNC’s principal investigator on the project. Associate Professor Rainier Masa, GSDI’s lead researcher, will serve as UNC’s co-principal investigator, with School of Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor Neil Bilotta, UNC Executive Vice Provost and School of Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor Amy Locklear Hertel, and GSDI Research Consultant Miranda Manzanares serving as co-investigators.

In addition, the research partners will conduct different types of evaluations, such as implementation, outcomes and impact evaluations, to understand the specific needs, services, and opportunities for marginalized and vulnerable populations.

Long-term, the research team will focus on advancing research and practice to improve programming in USAID missions and to help the organization integrate new policies and resources into programming that supports all communities, Chowa said.

“This project will benefit from GSDI’s focus on positive youth development and our emphasis on strengthening youth economic security, and it will also strengthen GSDI’s global research footprint and partnerships,” she said.