Scholarly Works, Institute for Policy and Governance

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  • Building agroecological traction: Engaging discourse, the imaginary, and critical praxis for food system transformation
    Kelinsky-Jones, Lia R.; Niewolny, Kimberly L.; Stephenson, Max O. Jr. (Frontiers, 2023-04)
    Shifting the current food system toward a more sustainable and equitable model requires an alternative imaginary. Agroecology represents such an approach, but despite the construct's promise, policy and academic communities alike continue to maintain the current system. We contend that shifting away from the existing, dominant food system requires researchers to engage stakeholders with discourses that give meaning to an agroecological imaginary. We provide a methodological case study for how interested analysts may build agroecological traction through critical praxis. We advance our argument theoretically, methodologically, and empirically. Theoretically, we draw on scholarship arguing that food system transformation requires a discursive imaginary. Methodologically, we outline how Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as both a theoretical and methodological framework, illuminates the discursive power that shapes the future of food. We first used CDA to analyze United States Agency for International Development (USAID) policy, and subsequently presented those results to focus groups comprised of USAID-funded university-based research-practitioners. Empirically, we suggest that our methodology represents one possible mechanism or strategy to encourage the dialogue necessary to secure a new critical food system praxis. We conclude by offering recommendations for future inquiry.
  • Tapping into community expertise: stakeholder engagement in the design process
    Morshedzadeh, Elham; Dunkenberger, Mary Beth; Nagle, Lara; Ghasemi, Shiva; York, Laura; Horn, Kimberly (Taylor & Francis, 2022-10)
    The Connection to Care (C2C) project, a transdisciplinary work-in-progress, employs community-engaged participatory research and design methods at the nexus of policy adaptation and product innovations. C2C aims to advance practices that identify and leverage the critical junctures at which people with substance use disorder (SUD) seek lifesaving services and treatment, utilizing stakeholder input in all stages of design and development. Beginning in the Fall of 2018, members of our research team engaged with those at the forefront of the addiction crisis, including first responders, harm reduction and peer specialists, treatment providers, and individuals in recovery and in active substance use in a community greatly impacted by SUD. Through this engagement, the concept for programs and products representing a connection to care emerged, including the design of a backpack to meet the needs of individuals with SUD and those experiencing homelessness. From 2020 to 2022, more than 1,200 backpacks with lifesaving and self-care supplies have been distributed in local communities, as one component of the overall C2C initiative. The backpack is a recognized symbol of the program and has served as an impetus for further program and policy explorations, including as a lens to better understand the role of ongoing stigma. Though addiction science has evolved significantly in the wake of the opioid epidemic, artifacts of policies and practices that criminalize and stigmatize SUD remain as key challenges. This paper explains the steps that C2C has taken to address these challenges, and to empower a community that cares.
  • Exploring Syrian Refugees' Access to Medical and Social Support Services Using a Trauma-Informed Analytic Framework
    Moayerian, Neda; Stephenson, Max O. Jr.; Abu Karaki, Muddather; Abbadi, Renad (MDPI, 2023-01-22)
    Even after arrival in new countries, refugees may be exposed to traumatic events. This state is exacerbated by contextual stressors, including the resettlement process, asylum proceedings and threats of deportation. This paper is rooted in a trauma-informed framework. We interviewed 16 male Syrian refugee migrant workers employed on a Jordanian farm during crop harvesting season to explore the quality and level of medical care and mental health services they received in light of the framework’s principal dimensions (e.g., safety, trust, intersectionality). We found that this vulnerable group of individuals is living a marginal and marginalized existence and depends on the goodwill of the growers for whom they work to treat them with a modicum of dignity and respect. Second, their itinerancy makes it difficult for this population to take advantage of available medical and mental health services at the nation’s major refugee camps. Finally, our interlocutors preferred their current lives, as isolating and limiting as they are, as superior to full-time residence in the camps, because they perceive their present way of life as according a measure of dignity, self-direction and autonomy they could not enjoy in the camps.
  • Promoting sustainable responses to the US opioid epidemic with community-academic partnerships: qualitative outcomes from a statewide program
    Driscoll, David L.; Cuellar, Alison E.; Agarwal, Vinod; Jones, Debra; Dunkenberger, Mary B.; Hosig, Kathy L. (2022-04-07)
    Background Drug overdose deaths in the United States have continued to increase at an alarming rate. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) distributed more than $7 billion between January 2016 and June 2020 to address the drug overdose crisis. The funds support evidence-based responses, including medications for opioid use disorder, and other prevention, treatment and recovery activities. Although the State Opioid Response (SOR) grants finance much-needed community level interventions, many of the services they support may not be sustainable, without ongoing assessment, evaluation and planning for continuation. Methods This paper describes a statewide effort to support local entities through SAMHSA’s SOR grants in Virginia. Community agencies across the state participated in detailed needs assessment exercises with VHEOC investigators, and developed requests for proposals (RFPs) to sustain their SOR programs. The RFPs were then distributed to prospective academic partners at the five VHEOC universities, based on the required subject matter expertise identified in the RFP. All responsive proposals were then provided to the local agencies who selected the proposal most likely to meet their needs. VHEOC investigators also conducted an inductive, three-phase content analysis approach to examine the RFPs submitted to the VHEOC to identify nominal categories of support requested of the VHEOC investigators. Results VHEOC Investigators received and coded 27 RFPs from ten community agencies representing four of five regions of the state. We identified six nominal categories of academic assistance with high inter-coder agreement. The six categories of support requested of the academic partners were program development and support, literature review and best practices, outreach and education, data analysis and interpretation, program evaluation, and grant writing assistance. Several RFPs requested up to three categories of support in a single project. Conclusions Our analysis of the requests received by the consortium identified several categories of academic support for SOR-grantees addressing the drug overdose crisis. The most common requests related to development and maintenance of supportive collaborations, which existing research has demonstrated is necessary for the long-term sustainability of SOR-funded services. In this way, the academic partners reinforced sustainable SOR-funded programs. As the state opioid response program is implemented nationally, we hope that other states will consider similar models in response to the opioid crisis.
  • Challenging Gender and Disability Stereotypes: Narrative Identities of Brazilian Female Paralympians
    Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (MDPI, 2021-11-04)
    The purpose of this narrative inquiry is two-fold: first, to illuminate the views and experiences of Brazilian female Paralympians that helped shape their narrative identities, and second, to develop a better understanding of the reasons behind the gender inequality in Paralympic sports. According to the International Paralympic Committee, 1671 female athletes competed in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, representing almost 40 percent of the participating Paralympians. In Rio, Brazil had the largest Paralympic delegation in its history, with 287 Paralympians, of which only 102 were women (about 35 percent). The reasons why there is a significant discrepancy between male and female Paralympic participation are highly complex and little researched, particularly in Latin American contexts. In examining the complexities of these women’s narrative identities and their relationship with social norms, I draw on the insights from disability feminism, identity theory, and disability sport to analyze and interpret the Paralympic sportswomen’s narrative accounts. Individual interviews with 20 Brazilian female Paralympians from nine different sports revealed the intricate relationships each has with social norms regarding gender, disability, sport, and the body.
  • Maré from the Inside: Art, Culture and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    (Virginia Tech Publishing, 2021-04-15)
    Complexo da Maré is a group of 16 contiguous favelas and housing projects in the northern zone of Rio de Janeiro. Home to an estimated 140,000 individuals, Maré is Brazil's largest agglomeration of favelas. Often depicted in a negative light, these favelas are in fact vibrant and diverse communities, as revealed in this remarkable book. Maré from the Inside: Art, Culture and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is a companion to the exhibition of the same name (Portuguese: Maré de Dentro), which was developed by an international team of Brazilian and US academics, activists and artists. The exhibition documents the lives of residents of Complexo da Maré through family portraits, street photographs, documentary films and written works. Featured in this book is a selection of the exhibition's photographs by Italian photojournalist Antonello Veneri, who worked closely with Maré resident and activist Henrique Gomes over the period from 2013 to 2019, during which Rio was home to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. These photographs, simultaneously personal and deeply humane, counter long-standing and powerful stigmatizing narratives, demonstrating instead the diversity and resilience of these communities and exposing the barriers residents confront in their everyday lives. Providing context to the photographs are essays by the exhibition's creators, curators and collaborators, including Maré resident and scholar Andreza Jorge, who asks what it is about the Maré de Dentro exhibition that has made it so compelling for so many people from very different parts of the world. The answer lies in the power of art to make us rethink prevailing social frames and, in turn, embrace fresh political and cultural strategies for integrating previously marginalized communities more fully into political and social life.
  • Conversations in Community Change: Voices from the Field
    (Virginia Tech Publishing, 2021-03-30)
    The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance launched an experiment in 2011 called the Community Voices initiative. Community Voices was a student-led group devoted to bringing graduate students and faculty from diverse backgrounds into thoughtful dialogue with leaders who have devoted their professional lives to spurring or assisting with community change. This book is the product of those conversations. Conversations in Community Change features 12 interviews conducted by members of Community Voices, since renamed the Community Change Collaborative (CCC). The interviewees are leaders who have worked in many different contexts across the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors to instigate meaningful change (democratic social, political and economic) in their communities. The animating idea behind these interviews is that those in search of peaceful democratic social change, especially amidst ongoing economic and social dislocation, have much to learn from one another within the United States and internationally, and at all levels of governance. Among the topics and initiatives discussed in the book: - Efforts to secure civil and human rights for groups that have historically experienced discrimination, - How food system pioneers are seeking to make alternatives to the present corporate-dominated food production framework real for growers and consumers alike, - How the arts can open up new public and private spaces to permit reconsideration of otherwise dominant assumptions and thinking, - The social exigencies created by capitalism’s constant economic dislocation and roiling, Ultimately, readers will come away from the book with a fuller appreciation for the complexities of democratic change—and the need for modesty, patience, and perseverance among those who would seek to lead or encourage such efforts.
  • Maré de Dentro: Arte, Cultura e Política no Rio de Janeiro
    (Virginia Tech Publishing, 2021-09-27)
    O Complexo da Maré, localizado na Zona Norte do Rio de Janeiro e com cerca de 140 mil moradores, é o maior aglomerado de favelas do Brasil. Como este livro demonstra, as 16 comunidades que compõem a Maré são vibrantes e diversas, apesar de serem frequentemente representadas de maneira pejorativa. Maré de Dentro: Arte, Cultura e Política no Rio de Janeiro acompanha a exibição de mesmo nome, criada por um time internacional de acadêmicos, organizadores comunitários e artistas brasileiros e estadunidenses. Por meio de retratos de família, fotografias de rua, documentários e textos, a exibição documenta as vidas dos moradores da Maré. Este livro apresenta uma seleção das fotografias que fazem parte do acervo da exibição, tiradas pelo fotojornalista Antonello Veneri em colaboração com Henrique Gomes, produtor cultural, morador e organizador comunitário da Maré, entre 2013 e 2019, quando o Rio de Janeiro sediou a Copa do Mundo de 2014 e os Jogos Olímpicos de 2016. As fotografias, intimistas e profundamente humanas, evidenciam a diversidade e resiliência das comunidades da Maré e expõem os entraves que seus moradores confrontam no seu dia a dia, rompendo, deste modo, com as narrativas que os estigmatizam. Os ensaios incluídos neste volume, escritos pelos criadores, curadores e colaboradores deste projeto, contextualizam as fotografias. O texto de Andreza Jorge, moradora e pesquisadora da Maré, por exemplo, levanta uma pergunta fundamental: o que faz da Maré de Dentro uma exibição tão comovente para tantas pessoas de diferentes partes do mundo? Parte da resposta reside no poder da arte de nos fazer reconsiderar imaginários e estruturas dominantes e, com isso, abraçar estratégias políticas e culturais que promovam a construção de uma sociedade verdadeiramente igualitária e democrática.
  • Negotiating Multiple Identities of Brazilian Paralympians
    Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (MDPI, 2021-08-13)
    In this article, I draw on the personal narratives of 41 Brazilian Paralympic athletes who competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games to explore their multiple identities shaped within and outside sport and how they negotiated those self-representations. Parathletes’ narratives gave a sense of who they are, how they live their lives, and what their struggles, hopes, and aspirations are within and outside sport. The available studies in disability sport and the representation of disabled athletes have largely failed to examine the stories of these individuals and address their unique realities and perspectives. Five major themes emerged from the interview analysis regarding the parathletes’ self-representation: athletic identity, gender identity, disability identity, national identity, and activist identity. These accounts also revealed how these individuals negotiated their multiple identities in different settings and the tensions they experienced in their social interactions. The Rio Paralympics presented such a new interaction setting for the Brazilian parathletes who competed on such a grand scale at home for the first time and provided multiple examples in the athletes’ accounts of their identities.
  • Community Social Polarization and Change: Evidence from Three Recent Studies
    Stephenson, Max O. Jr.; Abella-Lipsey, Beng; Nagle, Lara; Moayerian, Neda (MDPI, 2020-05-29)
    This review article analyzes three major recent books (written by Robert Wuthnow, Arlie R. Hochschild, and James and Deborah Fallows, respectively) concerning ongoing political, economic and social change in United States’ rural communities to probe differing frames and claims among them. We contend these works together point to vital social and political forces that must receive increased attention if the communities they treat are to address the challenges confronting them successfully. Thereafter, we briefly and illustratively underscore the significance of these authors’ arguments using our own ongoing work in two small communities confronting catastrophic economic decline and social fissuring in Central Appalachia. Overall, we argue that an analytical approach that combines elements of Wuthnow’s sensitivity to demographic and scalar polarization and divides, coupled with Hochschild’s emphasis on opportunities to instill and call on empathetic imagination in development efforts, could assist these rural communities’ residents to understand more fully the dynamics at play within them and to craft strategies aimed at addressing those challenges. In particular, we contend that the Fallowses’ call for pragmatic interventions and partnership building must be accompanied by long-term efforts to overcome the fear engendered by the view that rural community life constitutes a consumerist zero-sum game, and the accompanying widespread belief in those jurisdictions that scapegoating and explicit or implicit racialized hierarchies represent reasonable responses to such anxieties.
  • Educational Legacy of the Rio 2016 Games: Lessons for Youth Engagement
    Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (MDPI, 2020-05-28)
    The promise of the Rio 2016 Games was to influence the entire population of Brazil, but the major impact was expected to be on children and the youth. The development of youth education programs promoting Olympic and Paralympic values was one of the main commitments that organizers made in 2009 to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This article draws on the available literature on Olympic and Paralympic education and youth engagement and examines several of such programs previously implemented in such host cities as Beijing, Vancouver, and London. The purpose was to explore the ways in which implementing such educational legacy programs by the Rio 2016 and other sporting mega-event organizers can inspire and sustain youth engagement. The inductive thematic analysis was applied in the close examination of the content, strategies, and outcomes of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic education program. The results suggest that to leave an enduring youth legacy, policymakers, future mega-event organizers, and educators need to understand it as a continued endeavor beyond the hosting period and embed the related educational efforts into broader educational and youth-focused structures. This article also outlines lessons for youth engagement that can be drawn from Rio’s and other host cities’ Olympic and Paralympic education practices.
  • Policy Brief: Veterans’ Health Care In Rural Virginia
    Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Goverance (Virginia Rural Health Association, 2011-12)
    The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to an estimated 748,3451 military veterans, ranging in age from centenarian, pre‐World War II veterans, to teenage veterans recently returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). These veterans are faced with wide‐ranging and complex health needs, which are further complicated if they live in rural regions of the Commonwealth. Research and study undertaken by the Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA) and the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program (VWWP) identify major veteran health care issues such as the inclusiveness and accessibility of health care, coordination of health care services, the availability of health care services in a veteran’s community, and the cultural competency of health care providers serving veterans. A primary challenge facing Virginia’s program and policy leaders is how to leverage state, federal, and local resources to meet the health care needs of all Virginia veterans.
  • Arts as Dialogic Practice: Deriving Lessons for Change from Community-based Art-making for International Development
    Kirakosyan, Lyusyena; Stephenson, Max O. Jr. (MDPI, 2019-06-20)
    Communities around the world struggle with weakening social bonds and political, racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural divides. This article argues the arts can be a means of raising public consciousness regarding such concerns by catalyzing conscious, thoughtful dialogue among individuals and groups possessing diverse values and beliefs. Change can only occur when people become aware of and actively reflect on the ontological and epistemic-scale norms and values that so often underpin their divisions, and the arts can help them do precisely that. We examine the dynamics of participatory performing arts and mural-making in diverse contexts to contend that the dialogic character of community art-making can be valuable for practitioners and scholars in a variety of efforts in international community development. We conclude by sharing lessons that we believe will aid artists and practitioners in devising more inclusive and participatory approaches to their international community change or development projects.
  • Sport for All and Social Inclusion of Individuals with Impairments: A Case Study from Brazil
    Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (MDPI, 2019-06-01)
    This article examines the discourses about Sport for All (SFA) and their evolution over the past four decades in Brazil and analyzes the implications of those discourses for social inclusion of Brazilians with impairments in sport and leisure. It provides an overview of four political milestones in the development of sport participation in Brazil: the launch of the SFA program under the military dictatorship; the adoption of the 1988 Constitution; the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Foucault’s archaeological-genealogical approach has been used to explain how the principle of social inclusion has been practised and enacted through the SFA discourses in Brazil and to discuss the implications of sport and leisure policies for the population with impairments.
  • Fragile Foundations and Enduring Challenges: Essays on Democratic Politics and Governance
    Stephenson, Max O. Jr. (VT Publishing, 2019-05-22)
    In this volume of timely essays, Max O. Stephenson Jr. offers unique insight into the state of politics and policymaking in the United States. Covering the period 2010-2018, his essays chronicle a growing crisis in American governance with many of the nation’s professed values and principles increasingly under attack—including the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the ability of a share of its citizens otherwise eligible to vote to exercise their right to do so. But Stephenson does more than sound a warning cry. He urges all Americans to reclaim self-governance and democracy by embracing the central values and core purposes underpinning the United States. Max O. Stephenson Jr. is Professor of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech where he also directs the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (VTIPG).
  • RE: Reflections and Explorations: A Forum for Deliberative Dialogue
    Stephenson, Max O. Jr.; Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance in association with VT Publishing, 2017)
    The essays in this volume treat dimensions of broader trends at all scales of analysis, examining the elemental issue of democratic agency and obstacles to its exercise, the difficulties inherent for self-governance in inter-governmental cooperation and in racial, ethnic and religious diversity and the antagonisms resulting from rapid widespread economic, social and technological shifts. These articles also investigate the dynamics of political change and movements in a time when the prevailing social imaginary makes such action, always difficult, especially tough to achieve. While we have divided the essays into seven sections, as they address a variety of topical concerns at discrete levels of analysis, all may be said to treat in one form or another the consequences for Western liberalism of its embrace of neoliberalism’s elevation of capitalism to a governing role and its view of freedom as atomistic individualism. Adherents have embraced this perspective without acknowledging the daily reality that human beings live in families and societies and that freedom will never be sustained by the pursuit of material goods alone.
  • Re: Reflections and explorations : Essays on politics, public policy, and governance
    Stephenson, Max O. Jr.; Kirakosyan, Lyusyena (Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance, 2015)
    We have organized the essays that follow in this volume into nine themes or broad topical foci based on the subjects our RE: Reflections and Explorations authors selected for their efforts during 2013-2014. A brief overview of our contributors’ organizing issues follows. Part 1 contains six essays that address the role(s) of the academy in society. Part 2 offers six essays that address questions central to the relationships among art, culture and politics. Part 3’s five essays treat issues linked to community building. Part 4 includes five essays that explore the challenges of public leadership at multiple scales and in a variety of contexts. Part 5’s eight essays examine a variety of concerns central to the characteristics and fundamentals of democratic citizenship and ethics. Part 6 consists of six essays that explore different dimensions of international politics. Part 7 of the volume comprises seven essays that directly or indirectly illuminate alternate facets of local and international development dynamics. Part 8 includes six essays that together analyze several manifestations or implications of neoliberalism, the current dominant public imaginary or frame in American and indeed, Western, politics. Part 9’s seven essays each afford readers alternate lenses into the dynamics and vicissitudes of change processes, as conceptualized at alternate analytical levels. The 56 essays together address a variety of concerns central to democratic politics and self-governance. The topics are as varied as our contributor’s substantive interests and perspectives, and that diversity yields a complex array of analytical insights. We hope you enjoy reading this richly textured collection as much as we have enjoyed assembling it.