As part of the UC Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in 2010, the Haas Institute draws upon Berkeley’s considerable multidisciplinary research excellence and history of engaged scholarship. Organized into seven research clusters, the institute will involve more than 100 researchers across the University of California system. At its core are eight endowed chairs focused on equity and inclusion—a force that is unprecedented at Berkeley, and, as far as we know, unparalleled in the nation.
The Haas Institute represents a tremendous opportunity—perhaps unique in the world—to bring leading researchers and substantial resources across disciplines to bear on society’s pressing and pivotal issues related to equity, inclusion, and diversity. The institute will serve as a national hub for a vibrant network of researchers and community partners and will take a leadership role in translating, communicating, and facilitating research, policy, and strategic engagement to produce change and make a meaningful impact. While the Haas Institute clusters engage in high-impact, interdisciplinary research, the institute itself will respond to issues that require immediate action and will engage in innovative communications that re-frame public discourse.
Central to the Haas Institute’s vision is the concept of “targeted universalism,” the idea that we share a universal goal—such as a healthy, well-educated family—but have different means of achieving that goal due to our economic, cultural, social, and physical situations. This idea enables us to recognize differences while exploring commonality, to seek to eliminate roadblocks to full and equitable participation, and to leave no one behind in pursuing universal goals.
To illustrate the concept of “targeted universalism,” consider the goal of moving everyone from the first floor to the fifth floor of a building, and that the means of conveyance is an escalator. For most people, an escalator will suffice. For a person in a wheelchair, an escalator is useless. The goal for the person in the wheelchair, as for everyone else, remains to reach the fifth floor; however, the strategy employed must be mindful of how the person is situated in the world. In the broader society, we must also understand how marginalized groups are situated in relation to structures and within the public imagination. It is not just that many marginalized people are separated geographically from good schools and healthy living environments, but that they are also not part of our imagined community. They are not seen as fully belonging, and in some cases, not even fully human. Belonging or being fully human means more than having access. It means having a voice, and being afforded the opportunity to participate in the design of social and cultural structures. Belonging entails being respected at a basic level that includes the right to both contribute and make demands upon society and political institutions. Accepting a group’s belonging requires us to recognize differences while exploring commonality.
These guiding principles lead the Haas Institute to advance research and policy related to people who are not afforded full membership in society — who are considered marginal — while essentially touching all who benefit from a truly diverse, fair, and inclusive society.
- Advancing multidisciplinary research and policy analysis: The Haas Institute’s research agenda examines the structural and cultural impediments to full equity and inclusion and the benefits derived from a diverse and equitable society. The institute’s research clusters to date include: race, diversity, and education; diversity and democracy; diversity and health disparities; religious diversity; economic disparities; disabilities; and LGBTQ citizenship. The institute addresses increasingly complex and intertwined issues holistically, cultivating research contributions within each cluster and collaboration across clusters. Research will be informed by the knowledge of how structures and systems interactively link issues across domains to produce exclusion and inequality, or conversely, inclusion and equality. More than a third of Haas Institute resources will be devoted to a few “game changers”— issues that if won or lost will have a profound impact on society. The institute will change the very nature of interdisciplinary research, breaking down barriers that keep researchers in silos, contributing to a cultural shift in the academy, and affirmatively working to create synergy toward new insights and possibilities. The Haas Institute model allows us to work not only in a different way but also at a different scale — countering a lack of capacity that has made many of our most important efforts seem intractable.
- Building relationships among researchers, organized stakeholders, and policymakers to effect change: Using an innovative model unique in higher education, the Haas Institute aligns research with community organizers, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Collaborators inform the research agenda while researchers inform the practices and strategies of community partners and policymakers. The Haas Institute will develop the necessary leverage to link researchers with stakeholders and policymakers to increase their effectiveness at multiple levels, from local to global. This type of relationship building — which moves beyond the formation of coalitions toward deeper synergy — will be strengthened by structure, time, and interaction that will ultimately yield flexibility and a greater capacity to effect change.
- Employing strategic communication to illuminate research and impact policy: The Haas Institute seeks to effectively communicate research discoveries as well as to help shape how research is framed in order to increase its impact. To be most successful, we must engage the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, which is less empirical, less fact driven, highly social, and more animated by stories, values, and metaphors. The Haas Institute, together with partners, will craft an effective “meta-narrative” or story that engages people on multiple levels and resonates across many issues, circumstances, and communities. This communications work goes beyond mere messaging to engage in a battle of big ideas, to take command of how a debate — such as the entire concept of public space or austerity — is framed in public discourse and to construct a new narrative.
- Making a difference: More than a third of Haas Institute resources will be devoted to a few “game changers” — issues that if won or lost will have a profound impact on society. The Institute will change the very nature of interdisciplinary research, breaking down barriers that keep researchers in silos, contributing to a cultural shift in the academy, and affirmatively working to create synergy toward new insights and possibilities. The Haas Institute model allows us to work not only in a different way but also at a different scale — countering a lack of capacity that has made many of our most important efforts seem intractable.