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Director's Corner

Message from the Director

Gina Chowa, PhD, MSW

Looking Back on 2020

As we embark on a new year, it would be remiss not to reflect on how far we’ve come. On March 12, over the University holiday, we were given an extended break; little did we know that would be the last time we’d return to our offices for the foreseeable future. However, our team and our partners have managed to pivot, adjust, and continue to make a lasting impact despite navigating the realities and challenges of systemic racism, remote work, and the looming uncertainty of the global pandemic. As political protests erupt in Uganda, farmers’ fight for their rights  in India, and youth economic livelihoods continue to change across the globe, the necessity of social development work has never been clearer.

Despite the challenges, we have many things to be proud of.

Our team has grown.

Our core team has grown from three members to five and each have continued to navigate today’s realities with commitment and determination. Team members Dr’s Ansong and Chowa, received University distinctions for their achievements being named the Wallace Kuralt Early Career Distinguished Scholar and Johnson-Howard-Adair Distinguished Professor of Social Work, respectively. Dr. Rainier Masa has continued to advance in his career being recognized with the Stigma Research Training award through the Center for Global Health Studies at Fogarty International Center/National Institutes of Health. Last, Dr. Neil Bilotta and Ms. Manzanares were instrumental in assisting the team complete a project under USAID’s YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation (YP2LE) initiative designed to better understand the definition and experiences of vulnerable and marginalized youth in low- and middle-income countries and the impacts of programs targeted at this population.

Our partners remain dedicated to their missions.

Without our partners, our work would not thrive. Our partners in Zambia, South Africa, Kenya, and India continue to serve those who are most vulnerable and remain diligent to ensuring that their livelihoods improve. Each has adapted to the unique challenges within their countries context to continue to provide services and support with the hope of changing lives.

Our opportunities for research have expanded.

Along with faculty affiliate partners, Dr’s Chowa and Masa have been instrumental in the pursual of opportunities to ensure GSDI’s research continues to flourish. In 2020, GSDI became an integral part of two consortiums led by Making Cents International and overseen by USAID: YouthPower2: Learning and Evaluation and EVAL ME II Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Contracts. The YP2LE grant is designed to support USAID’s Youth in Development Policy by enabling investments in Positive Youth Development (PYD) research and evaluation within and across multiple sectors. The EVAL ME II IDIQ contracts will be used to implement various projects that emphasize monitoring, evaluation research design, data collection, analysis, and synthesis, and planning for USAID’s Office of Policy, Planning and Learning, Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research.

Our mission, vision, and values are clearer.

As an organization, our core Team has invested extra time and effort in communicating our work and crafting opportunities for connection with researchers, practioners, faculty, students, funders and community members. In line with our values, we have launched a bi-monthly webinar and learning lunch series to cultivate a community that is willing to discuss prominent topics and take new learnings into practice. At GSDI, we will continue to pursue opportunities that enable us to infuse equity and justice into our work, ensuring that we become a premier Center for evidence, models and best practices that advance youth well-being, globally.