Monthly Archives: June 2016

Fordham IPED Director Visits Students in West Africa


Prof. Henry Schwalbenberg (right) and Mr. Randy Schwab (left) in Diourbel, Senegal

From May 18 to June 3, Fordham IPED Director Prof. Henry Schwalbenberg travelled to West Africa to visit students currently completing their internships with the Catholic Relief Services. Richie Koch, Elizabeth Shaw, Camille Tacastacas and Joshua Voges, this year’s International Peace and Development Travel Scholars, have been working with CRS’s country offices in West Africa since January 2016. Prof. Schwalbenberg traveled with Randy Schwab, the 2016 Cardinal McCarrick Travel Fellow from St. Joseph Seminary in New York. Read on to learn more about Prof. Schwalbenberg’s travel.


I began my travel outside New York on May 12. My first stop was in Rome to attend the annual meeting of the Foundation Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice at the Vatican. Pope Francis graciously decided to take the time to individually greet every participant attending the conference.


I was joined in Rome by Randy Schwab, this year’s Cardinal McCarrick Travel Fellow. From Rome we travelled through Morocco to  Senegal, our first stop for our CRS site visit. In Senegal, we visited Josh Voges who works as a Program Quality and Growth Fellow.  I was able to meet with the CRS Senegal staff on my first day in Dakar. The next day, the CRS team brought me to their sub office in Diourbel to visit their program activities.  CRS is assisting a local NGO in their efforts to provide universal access to health facilities through a health insurance model based on community run savings and lending associations.  On the following day in Dakar we were able to visit the orphanage of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.


Josh facilitating a community meeting in Diourbel, Senegal.


Randy with some of the children.



CRS Team in Diourbel, Senegal.

After Senegal, my next stop was Freetown, Seirra Leone to see Camille Tacastacas. Since January, Camille has been involved with the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition and Infant and Young Child Feeding Program which is part of Sierra Leone’s government’s post Ebola crisis response.  After meeting with the representatives from CRS Sierra Leone country office in Freetown, we travelled to Mekeni and then on to Kabala to check on CRS’s programs in those areas.  We primarily focused on their Food for Education Program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

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Camille during our site visit in Kabala.

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The Sinkunia I school outside of Kabala.

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The CRS Food Warehouse in Kabala.

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Camille with the students.

My last stop in West Africa was Mali. We have two students currently interning with CRS Mali, Richie Koch and Beth Shaw.  Due to security concerns, my visit to Mali was restricted to Bamako, Mali’s capital, where CRS’s head office in the country is located.  The CRS Mali team briefed me about their operations and existing programs they have in the country. Richie is largely involved with flooding vulnerability assessment, while Beth has been working on proposal writing for rapid needs assessment and funding for emergencies. Aside from visiting the CRS office, and some sites around the city, Beth and Richie also took me to the Timbouctou Manuscript Project where we were able to see manuscripts from the 12th century.


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Beth and Richie outside the CRS Office in Bamako.

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At the Timbouctou Manuscript Project Archives.

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Outside the Bamako Museum.

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The Bamako Rail Station build in 1924.

More information about the work that Richie, Beth, Camille and Josh do for CRS can be found from the video below and from this summer’s edition of Beyond Borders.

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Fordham IPED Students Launch Fordham’s Pope Francis Global Poverty Index (FFI)


In response to Pope Francis’s address to the United Nation  General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on September 2015, Fordham IPED students began working on a basic human needs assessment tool that measures the basic requirements for human dignity put forward by Pope Francis.  As outlined in his address, the basic requirements for human dignity were divided into two groups: basic material goods and spiritual well-being.  Under the direction of IPED Director Prof. Henry Schwalbenberg, the students identified the indicators that best captures what Pope Francis intends to assess. Seven indicators of human development were included: access to water, food, housing, employment, education, gender equality, and religious freedom. Collectively, these 7 indicators create the Fordham’s Pope Francis Global Poverty Index (Fordham-Francis Index or FFI)

The FFI is envisioned to be the poverty measurement tool that will provide a comprehensive and straightforward assessment of inclusive poverty alleviation. It is hoped that various actors in civil society, particularly Catholic organizations in the developing world, will be able to use the FFI to judge the international community’s success in implementing the UN’s New Agenda for Sustainable Development.


FFI score across the globe. Lower FFI indicates higher levels of deprivation.

Last April 21, the students presented their results at the Building Good Economies conference held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.  Their results were able to confirm the relevance and comprehensiveness of the FFI indicators.  Regression analysis revealed that the seven primary indicators are strongly correlated with key development indicators.  Additionally, they found religious freedom to be an innovative addition that had yet to be captured by existing indices.

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The FFI Student Team for Fall 2015

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The FFI Student Team for Spring 2016

We look forward to sharing more developments as future student teams update and refine the Pope Francis Global Poverty Index.

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Student Spotlight: Schima Labitsch on her St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award Win

The recently concluded 46th St. Gallen Symposium held in Switzerland last May 11-13 named Schima Labitsch (IPED 2017) as the top winner for its Wings of Excellence Award. The St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award is a yearly essay competition open to students from all over the world.   Schima presented her ideas on alternatives to economic growth on stage in front of  peers from other universities and leaders from business, government and civil society.  On this student spotlight guest post, Schima shares her  experience at the St. Gallen Symposium. 


Deconstructing the Growth Conundrum

The theme of the 46th symposium is “alternatives to economic growth”. It reflects contemporary criticism directed at growth in all or several of its dimensions. At first glance, the growth conundrum appears almost disappointingly easy to solve: let’s all adopt Bhutan’s index of happiness and hope that a change in measurement will alleviate the negative side-effects of growth-led economics. However, upon closer examination, one realizes that it challenges us to suggest viable alternatives that are a) implementable instead of naïve abstractions of a complex reality, b) well understood in their consequences, and c) acceptable to a wide audience. I realized that the crux of the issue is not that we lack appropriate ideas. Human species after all is remarkably inventive in its ability to solve complex issues. But the issue is in the shortfall in execution or/and lack of political will. Economics often is politics, after all.

With fellow Fordham IPED students and St. Gallen participants Ludo Lombaard,IPED 2016, (left) and Armand Aquino, IPED 2017 (right).


My friends in the entrepreneurial sector stress that they face an abundance of ideas. However, the true success of a business or start-up is a function of how well an idea is executed, implemented and ultimately sold to outside stakeholders and consumers. I am fascinated by all these Schumpeterian creative destructors, and am interested in ways to elevate their dynamics to the macro-level of economic growth. In this regard, philosophical excursions bring valuable input to the often narrowly defined social science of Economics. Thus, the argument I formulated for the St. Gallen Symposium was influenced by a combination of fields – business, economics, philosophy and political science – and pursues the idea that we have alternative concepts to growth at our disposal. Society should focus on the implementation and acceptance of these alternative concepts or new societal framework (given that there is an agreement that the current focus on GDP-induced growth is outdated for large parts of the world). In doing so, I propose a triangular framework (find it here) drawing on insights from Michel Foucault and Ludwig Wittgenstein that can create an environment in which alternatives may come to fruition.

Presenting and defending my idea on the big St. Gallen stage next to the other finalists. (Photo Credit: Armand Aquino)

One major highlight of my St. Gallen experience is when the six finalists for the Wings of Excellence Award were asked to present their idea in public and defend them against the sharp minds of three international panelists (find the panel debate here). The truly remarkable aspect of having a big stage for your idea lies in the resulting discussions with people from all walks of life. It was delightfully surprising to discover how well an idea resonates with others. For example a linguist can advance one’s economic toolkit or a business leader thinks one’s philosophical discussions can push his/her (more practical) boundaries of thought.

Panel debate in which the three winners discuss their ideas in more detail. (Photo Credit: Armand Aquino)

The Symposium is a curious and invigorating place. It mixes old and young from different continents with different fields of expertise trying to give their approach to alternatives to economic growth. I like to think of the St. Gallen Symposium as a cross-continental incubator of ideas. It brings together the traditional and the unconventional, formulating fresh visions for our societies – sometimes practical, sometimes philosophical, sometimes heroic.

The three finalists (Colin Miller, US, from New York University; myself; Alexandra Ettlin, CH, from the University of St. Gallen) with the head of the Jury and watch sponsor. (Photo Credit: Markus Senn)

Click on the following links to view my essay,  interview, and panel debate (presentation starts from minute 59:37).


About the St. Gallen Symposium

Founded against the worldwide student protests of 1968, the St. Gallen Symposium aims to foster intergenerational and intercultural dialogue between decision-makers to advance a social and liberal economic order and to this end hosts the world’s largest student essay competition under the “St. Gallen Wings of Excellence Award”.


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