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Grand Challenges: Seizing Opportunities: Social Capital, Businesses, and Communities

Grant Type: Team Project Grant
Topics: Social Justice and Economic Disparities
Colleges Represented: BGMT, JOUR

Grand Challenges Grants Program


Why do small businesses exploit business opportunities better in some locations than others? Are outcomes in a locality, such as growth and profitability, determined by the availability of investment opportunities and infrastructure, or are they also modified by the deeper characteristics of localities and the people who live there? The relationship between the local environment and value creation is increasingly important, given the recent debate on spatial economic polarization. A vibrant local business environment can provide opportunities for independent businesses in disadvantaged communities, thus reducing racial and social disparities. Addressing these issues is one of our nation’s Grand Challenges: how to foster a resilient and diverse economy. We are looking to deepen the understanding of small businesses, which represent 44% of U.S. economic activity and create two-thirds of net new U.S. jobs. To meet this Grand Challenge successfully poses two tasks. First, we need to scientifically understand the role of social capital, a significant force in the success and failure of small businesses. Second, we need to share our findings with the widest possible audience. The project has two components. The analysis component, to be completed by Smith School researchers, is to research the causal effects of social capital on local economic and social outcomes using large-scale granular restricted-access databases from the U.S. Census Bureau. The communications component, to be completed by Journalism researchers, is to study how techniques of data journalism, combined with traditional narrative journalism, can effectively convey the story of cutting-edge scientific research in ways that are intelligible to the broader community and thereby elevate the public debate on the topic. Together, these two components will further our understanding of the substantive disparities between communities and place that knowledge in context.

Team Members:

PI: Vojislav (Max) Maksimovic (BGMT), William A. Longbrake Chair and Professor of Finance

Constance Mitchell Ford (JOUR), Lecturer, Journalism

Sean Mussenden (JOUR), Senior Lecturer and Data Editor, Howard Center for Investigative Journalism

Liu Yang (BGMT), Associate Professor of Finance, Academic Director, Master of Finance and Master of Quantitative Finance Programs

Rob Wells (JOUR), Associate Professor and Director of Ph.D. Studies
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