IWPR’s Pepsi Experiment: Providing Critical Information to Community Leaders

by Jennifer Clark

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is venturing into new territory. IWPR has been selected to compete in the Pepsi Refresh Project, a voter-driven contest that could win IWPR $25,000 for raising awareness on the status of women. With previous grants going to projects that build playgrounds in local communities or provide spay/neuter surgeries for pets, it might seem like IWPR’s project to provide reliable information on the state of the union for women is a bit abstract for the contest. But IWPR sees the Pepsi Refresh project as an opportunity to demystify the importance–nay, the necessity–of reliable information on women’s lives, their needs, and how addressing these needs strengthens their families, as well as the communities they hold together.

We can’t do this alone, however, and we hope you’ll join with us to show that research–quality, reliable research–on women is key to understanding how communities can better address their needs.

In a time when politicians seem no longer confined by the votes or views of their constituents, and news outlets no longer seem restricted to reporting just the facts, reliable research on how women are faring is essential to community leaders wishing to strengthen families and the economic security of their communities, without demagoguery clouding the issues.  We intend to alleviate the need for research-backed information in public conversation, overpowering outdated misconceptions with real data.

Since its founding in 1987, IWPR has held to the belief that research and hard numbers can be critical for improving communities in a number of ways. Research that respects women’s realities and identifies ways to address their needs can lead to more effective funding of community initiatives and can open up opportunities to inform and improve the community and government structures that affect women’s lives. Here are a few examples of how research has informed community change over the years:

 – The Status of Girls in Minnesota report–prepared by IWPR and its community partner, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota–was used to support the GirlsBEST program, a grant making initiative that focuses on building economic power of girls.

 – Based on the information in the Status of Women in Wisconsin report, a group of community leaders formed Wisconsin Women = Prosperity, a group that has conducted workshops on best practices for employers, as well as on violence against women and what it means for their well-being.

 – Informed by the Status of Women in Tennessee, the Tennessee Council on the Economic Status of Women developed Women’s Resource Directories for economically disadvantaged counties in the state and established a mentoring program for at-risk teenage girls.

 – In 2005, the Women of Color Alliance in Idaho used the Status of Women in Idaho report in their Latino Leadership Summit workshop on domestic violence and its impact on communities and lack of state funding.

Click to vote for IWPR!

With the Pepsi Refresh Project, IWPR hopes to build on these successes and restore reliable, credible information back into community conversations. We believe this project will kick off the effort to bring critical research, not just vague talking points, to community leaders.  To join us in this mission, you can:

Vote for IWPR at the Pepsi Refresh website. (And don’t forget to “Like” us or Tweet about the project after you vote!)

Join the IWPR Facebook event for the project and invite your friends to join.

Sign up to receive a daily email reminder to vote. We want to make it as convenient to remember to vote as possible and we promise to keep the email short.

Spread the word by forwarding this blog post to your friends.

Contribute to IWPR and help us grow our day-to-day efforts to ensure research-backed information informs public policy.

Jennifer Clark is the Development Coordinator for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Who’s Doing the Dirty Work in New Orleans?

Playground being built
A new playground being built by volunteers in New Orleans (Photo by Casey Clevenger)

Last month, I had the opportunity to take five days away from work and studies to volunteer for relief work in New Orleans, Louisiana through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) “50@50” program. The trip was part of JVC’s effort to bring fifty volunteers to assist in relief projects in the gulf region during five separate weeks of service. The theme of the week was “Racial Justice” and in addition to working on various reconstruction projects, our group of twelve participated in a larger dialogue on issues of racism at a local and national level, attending a talk by Tavis Smiley on his book, Covenant with Black America.
While my current work at IWPR and graduate studies in Public Policy and Women’s Studies at George Washington University are focused on improving the status of women, minorities, and low-income populations in the United States, research and academic engagement in these issues are not always enough to make me feel truly connected and actively engaged in problems of poverty, racism, and systematic injustices in the U.S. Taking time out of my regular schedule to step away from books, policies, and computers, and contribute to “hands-on” reconstruction efforts was invaluable.
Our group had the chance to spend time with residents, listen to their stories, and show our concern to those lives disrupted by the destruction of Katrina. As we talked to long-term volunteers, cleared storm drains, helped gut houses and sort clothing with Common Ground, and assisted Fanny Mae employees build a school playground with KaBOOM, it was clear that relief to the most vulnerable communities of New Orleans is being provided by volunteers and nonprofit organizations.
As I have learned in various volunteer positions, including the year I spent as a Jesuit Volunteer (2004-2005), the work of social justice is not complete without community, solidarity, individual commitment, and an awareness of the important policy issues at stake. However, as volunteers and as citizens, we must also question the role of our government in providing leadership and executing policies that take into account all populations of our country. We must hold our government accountable for its decisions. Rebuilding our own communities and inner cities, addressing injustices within our own fifty states, must be a national responsibility and priority if the U.S. is to legitimately support democracy building in other nations.
This is why IWPR’s work on the effects of Hurricane Katrina is so important. Returning from New Orleans, I am grateful to be working for an organization actively involved in the dissemination of research on gender, race, and poverty in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. IWPR’s reports on the women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were the first reports to look at the impact of Hurricane Katrina and specifically address its effects on impoverished women in the area. In addition to its two-part briefing paper, The Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: Multiple Disadvantages and Key Assets for Recovery, IWPR is interviewing people impacted by Katrina in order to make policy recommendations that will take into account their realities and better inform the recovery process.
It has been over a year and a half since Hurricane Katrina struck and there is an enormous amount of work left to be done, but I am glad to know that in advocating for policies that promote economic justice, IWPR continues to give voice to those still suffering from the devastating effects of the storm.
– Casey Clevenger, IWPR Development Intern