SOS Meeting in Washington D.C. (Jan 6)

11 12 2014

On Tuesday, January 6the Society of Socio-Economists (SOS) will be holding its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This years meeting on “Socio-Economics: Broadening the Economic Debate” is being co-sponsored by SPIA and promises to be a valuable and thought provoking event with notable speakers (see below).2014-12-09_1345

The intent of the meeting is to provide people with an opportunity to explore how their research may connect with the ‘socio-economic’ approach to economic analysis, and to build bridges between disciplines and perhaps chart new research collaborations/projects. I have reproduced the “Statement of Socio-Economic Principles” below for those who are not familiar with this text. The principles provide both a sound epistemological foundation and set of ethical rules of fair play regarding economic analysis that could aid the formulation of public policy.

2014-12-11_0849The meeting will consist of a morning plenary followed by a series of concurrent sessions in the afternoon. The plenary is intended to provide a forum that affords everyone a chance to speak and exchange views. Whereas the concurrent sessions allow for more narrowly focused, but still broad, discussions.

The growing list of meeting participants includes the following individuals:

Statement of Socio-Economic Principles

Socio-economics begins with the assumption that economics is not a self-contained system, but is embedded in society, polity, culture, and nature. Drawing upon economics, sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, biology, and other social and natural sciences, philosophy, history, law, management, and other disciplines, socio-economics regards competitive behavior as a subset of human behavior within a societal and natural context that both enables and constrains competition and cooperation. Rather than assume that the individual pursuit of self-interest automatically or generally tends toward an optimal allocation of resources, socio-economics assumes that societal sources of order are necessary for people and markets to function efficiently. Rather than assume that people act only rationally, or that they pursue only self-interest, socio-economics seeks to advance a more encompassing interdisciplinary understanding of economic behavior open to the assumption that individual choices are shaped not only by notions of rationality but also by emotions, social bonds, beliefs, expectations, and a sense of morality.

Socio-economics is both a positive and a normative science. It is dedicated to the empirical, reality testing approach to knowledge. It respects both inductive and deductive reasoning. But it also openly recognizes the policy relevance of teaching and research and seeks to be self-aware of its normative implications rather than maintaining the mantle of an exclusively positive science. Although it sees questions of value inextricably connected with individual and group economic choices, socio-economics does not entail a commitment to any one paradigm or ideological position, but is open to a range of thinking that treats economic behavior as involving the whole person and all facets of society within a continually evolving natural context.

Unique among interdisciplinary approaches, however, socio-economics recognizes the pervasive and powerful influence of the neoclassical paradigm on twentieth century thought. Recognizing that people first adopt paradigms of thought and then perform their inductive, deductive, and empirical analyses, socio-economists seek to examine the assumptions of the neoclassical paradigm, develop a rigorous understanding of its limitations, improve upon its application, and develop alternative, perhaps complementary, approaches that are predictive, exemplary, and morally sound. With modest amendment, this description of Socio-economics was the substance of the petition signed by more than one hundred twenty law professors from over fifty member schools of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), to establish the AALS Section on Socio-Economics. It serves as the constitution of the Section. Source.

Additional information of socio-economics can be read in this paper on Socio-Economics – An Overview by Prof. Robert Ashford.





UAP Get To Know U Event – Photos

2 12 2014

IMG_5206This afternoon UAP held its inaugural “Get To Know U Event.” The purpose of the event was to enable students in EPP, PUA, MURP, and PGG to get to know one another and to interact with UAP faculty in a fun environment. The images below capture several moments from this afternoon’s activities.

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Spring 2015 – International Development Planning Studio

22 11 2014

UAP 5764
Instructor: Ralph P. Hall
Meets: Wednesday, 1:25pm to 4:00pm
Location: Architecture Annex 111

Studio Overview

Concepts and practices in the field of international development have changed dramatically over the past few decades. This studio course is designed to prepare students with the most current approaches to the practice of international development as implemented by leading actors today. Students will learn the traditional project planning tools used by multilateral and financial institutions as well as alternative approaches/tools. They will be equipped with a variety of skills necessary for working on development projects in the real world.

Throughout the studio, elements of project development, planning, management, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation will be covered from the perspective of the prevalent development sectors. Emphasis will be placed on synthesizing and practicing skills through the preparation of a proposal for an international development project/program. During the studio, students will work on, present, and critique different elements of their project proposals. To complement the theoretical discussions, several studios will be led by experienced practitioners and academics in the field of international development.

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Studio Objectives

Upon completion of the studio, students will be able to:

  1. develop a complete proposal for an international development project/program – which will include a problem analysis, a needs assessment/stakeholder analysis, a gender analysis/discussion, a clear set of goals/objectives (supported by a logframe analysis), an assessment of resources and organizational ability, a proposed work plan and timeframe, a budget, a monitoring and evaluation plan, and a plan for the successful implementation of the project; and
  2. undertake a financial analysis of a proposed development project.




Spring 2015 – Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries

22 11 2014

UAP 5324 / BSE 4394
Instructor: Ralph P. Hall
Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30am to 10:45am
Location: MCB 219

2014-11-22_1525Course Description

In this course, we will examine the planning process for the provision of water supply and sanitation (W&S) services in developing countries. The course is structured to provide both an engineering and policy perspective on the subject. Thus, the readings, class discussions, and assignments will require students to think as both an engineer and planner/analyst. The course will begin with a review of the state of water and sanitation services in different parts of the world and will raise the question of what constitutes access to water. Following this introduction, we will study the design of important W&S technologies. We will then examine the broader environmental and public health considerations in W&S planning. Armed with an understanding of critical W&S issues and technologies, in the final section of the course we will examine key ideas/topics such as multiple-use water services, demand-oriented planning, service pricing, decentralization vs. centralization of W&S services, community participation in the planning process, and post-construction support.

Learning Objectives

Having successfully completed this course you will be able to:

1. Describe the current level of access to, and the quality of, water supply and sanitation services in one or more developing regions.

2. Outline the planning process for the provision of water supply and sanitation services in the developing region(s) studied.

3. Define the various roles of local, national, and international agencies and donors in the provision of water supply and sanitation services in developing regions.

4. Use planning-based tools to evaluate existing and proposed water supply and sanitation services in the developing region(s) studied.

5. Design policies and/or infrastructure to address identified problems with the provision/adequacy of existing water supply and sanitation services in the developing region(s) studied.

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UAP Get To Know U Event

20 11 2014

On Monday, December 1 from 2-4pm, UAP will be holding its inaugural “Get To Know U Event” – meeting outside War Memorial Chapel. The purpose of this event is to enable students in EPP, PUA, MURP, and PGG to get to know one another and to interact with UAP faculty in a fun environment. I look forward to having all of our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students together in one place – it should be quite the event!

UAP Get to Know U Event





DAC Discussion of Research and Teaching

3 11 2014

During the third meeting of the Deans Advisory Committee (DCA) for the University Libraries this morning, VT faculty and staff engaged in a productive discussion of research and teaching practices at the university. The focus of the conversation was on how university libraries could support emergent trends in areas such as the measurement of research impact, the communication of scholarly material, and teaching/learning environments. The (slightly blurred) images below (taken through Glass) capture the main questions the working groups were asked to explore during the 1.5 hour session.

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For me, the value of the DAC meetings is the exposure I have to the broad variety of research and teaching approaches that are used by faculty at VT. A key challenge facing the university (and especially university libraries) is how to support innovative approaches while ensuring the traditional models of research, teaching, and engagement are supported.

A lingering question I have is how to advance VT’s “hands on, minds on” vision via the platforms I use to support my classes. My use of Google Glass and Apps has enabled the fluid sharing of information among class participants (and with the public in some cases). It is also allowing me to provide personalized (and private) video feedback on assignments to students via YouTube. The deeper question is whether or how this platform can help me advance the “hands on, minds on” vision. In some courses it can be difficult to find ways to provide hands on experience – e.g., think about international development courses where it is not feasible to take students overseas – but technology can be leveraged to close the distance gap. This evening I plan to take part in a Twitter conversation with VT students and the author of the Crisis Caravan (see below). Such opportunities provide new ways for students to engage with professionals and the general public. While not “hands on” in the traditional sense, there are certainly aspects of this engagement process that require students to demonstrate their social media skills (=hands on) and mastery of the subject matter (=minds on).

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SPIA Conference on Resilience

22 10 2014

This Friday, I will be giving a presentation about the IITK-VT Partnership on Sustainable Infrastructure at Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) conference on resilience. The two-day conference (23-24 October) will be held at Virginia Tech’s Research Center in Arlington, Virginia. The conference can be followed on Twitter using #VTSPIA.

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