Santa Cruz receives $450,000 grant to study economic inclusivity in emerging countries

Environmental Studies and Sociology professor Chris Benner will lead a team helping to develop the Rockefeller Foundation’s inclusive economies concept

Chris Benner
Professor Chris Benner

The Rockefeller Foundation awarded UC Santa Cruz a $450,260 grant to test and refine the foundation’s emerging inclusive economies framework in Brazil, India, and South Africa.

The work will be led by Chris Benner, the Dorothy E. Everett Chair in Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship and director of the Everett Program.

Benner will lead a research team that includes Manuel Pastor, a UCSC alumnus and former UCSC professor who is now with the University of Southern California, and Gordon McGranahan, a research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

With the award, Benner will continue building on the inclusive economies framework he and Pastor researched in 2016 with funding from a previous Rockefeller Foundation award. These initial findings are available online.

Benner, whose research focuses on the relationships between technological change, regional development, and structures of economic opportunity, and his colleagues plan to conduct research in three major regions of the globe—Brazil, India, and South Africa—to better understand the relationships between the different elements of inclusive economies, e.g. equity and growth, participation and stability, stability, and sustainability.

The Rockefeller Foundation defines inclusive economies as ones where there is “expanded opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity, especially for those facing the greatest barriers to their well-being.”

Equitable, participatory, growing, stable, and sustainable are the five characteristics that define an inclusive economy. Benner and his colleagues’ initial work broke down these categories into 15 subcategories (e.g, how widespread its technology infrastructure is) and 57 indicators (e.g. percentage of households with internet or number of mobile phone subscribers) that better allow geographies to measure themselves up against the characteristics of an inclusive economy.

In this next phase of work, they plan to refine the initial framework and explore its applicability in both urban and rural contexts.

“We’re focusing on Brazil, India, and South Africa because they embody a range of characteristics of levels of urbanization, strength of rural economy, levels of rural-urban migration and total income,” Benner said, suggesting that the findings will thus be relevant for a much broader array of countries as well.

Additionally, Benner and his colleagues will explore indicators at the national level as a way to catalyze action and new ways of thinking in the global development community.

Benner and Pastor co-authored the book Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn From America’s Metro Areas (University of California Press, 2014) that explores how equality helps economies grow and also collaborated on Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Region (Routledge, 2012).