Working together for global good: Penn State, Oxfam join forces

Developing lasting solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger and social injustice is the cornerstone of a new partnership between Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Oxfam America, the U.S. affiliate of Oxfam, the global organization working to end the injustice of poverty in 90 countries around the world. 

"This collaboration aligns with our vision to uplift marginalized and impoverished families through research, education and outreach," said Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences. "Oxfam represents a new type of partner for us, one that can broaden research opportunities."

Although Oxfam America has worked with academia before, this union — solidified in the form of a recently signed memorandum of understanding — is the organization's first formal arrangement with a university, noted Kimberly Pfeifer, research director at Oxfam America.

"In Penn State, Oxfam has found an enthusiastic and eager partner, one that shares our global strategy of bringing together various disciplines to solve real-world challenges with real humility," she said. "Penn State has a clear mission and approach to developing solutions to social and environmental issues. This approach incentivizes collaboration, and that is essential for the challenges of today." 

To address those challenges, Penn State and Oxfam have outlined a three-pronged approach that involves:

— Collaborating on applied research to address poverty, inequality and gender inequality, social injustices, and resilience in areas such as food production and food security, energy, and climate change.

— Creating opportunities for both partners to expand professional development and enrich learning and experiences through internships for students; lecture opportunities for Oxfam colleagues at Penn State; and visiting fellowship positions for Penn State colleagues with Oxfam and for Oxfam with Penn State. 

— Combining the convening power of Penn State and Oxfam to bring stakeholders together to discuss areas of mutual interest, such as agriculture and food security; climate change and energy, gender and development; and the role of the private sector in international development.

Behring shared a few examples already in progress, including a study focusing on issues related to economic and gender equality, the creation of corporate responsibility programs, and research to explore neglected and underutilized crops for food security. 

"We are looking forward to these joint projects and others to make a positive difference in the world by bringing the best we have to offer to the lives of people everywhere, both at home and abroad," Behring said.

Collaborators include Paige Castellanos, Penn State; Nick Galasso, Oxfam; Janelle Larson, Penn State; Rebecca Rewald, Oxfam; Tariq Ahmad, Oxfam; Carolyn Sachs, Penn State; Jonathan Rose, Tara Gingerich, Namalie Jayasinghe and Marc Cohen, all of Oxfam; Ann Tickamyer, Penn State; Emma Fawcett and Kelly Knight, Oxfam: and Leif Jensen, Penn State and SSRI assistant director.