Volunteerism, though not unique to the United States, is a decidedly American phenomenon. During her fellowship, Menaka Nayyar will explore civic engagement and volunteerism in diverse communities across the country, focusing on how they contribute to social, institutional, and economic change. She will study civil society initiatives through the eyes of the people they serve and those who work for them, analyzing the demographics of volunteers, their motivations, and the outcomes of their work, especially on community development. By interviewing volunteers and organization leaders for case studies, as well as participating herself, Menaka will study three broad categories of volunteerism: electoral campaigns, particularly in the 2018 midterm elections and other recent elections; government and NGO programs that foster structured community service; and more informal citizen-led volunteerism, such as grassroots activism and faith-based community initiatives. She will pay particular attention to programs’ intended beneficiaries, the sustainability of various initiatives in terms of staffing, funding, momentum, local community buy-in, and the role of donors and philanthropy. Menaka will apply what she learns about best practices for civic engagement to help colleagues at the Department of State improve programmatic outreach to youth and civil society groups and form stronger partnerships with influential institutions and networks. Working with civil society has been a consistent highlight of Menaka’s career during diplomatic postings in Italy, Estonia, Pakistan, Thailand, The Gambia, and Washington, DC. She previously volunteered as a tutor at a youth center in New York City and at a non-profit organization to help the children of human trafficking victims in Mumbai, India. Connect with Menaka on LinkedIn.
As an Una Chapman Cox Fellow, Arati Shroff will research the evolving state of Chinese investment in the United States in emerging high tech industries. In collaboration with industry, academia, and government, Arati will explore the implications of China taking on a leadership role in key high tech sectors that are expected to drive future global economic growth. Arati will also analyze the changing landscape of high skilled talent migration in order to assess the United States’ ability to maintain its competitiveness in innovation and technology-driven industries. Throughout the year, Arati will engage with U.S. audiences to share fresh perspectives from the field about China’s economy and highlight the important role of the Foreign Service in advancing U.S. economic interests. U.S.-China economic policy has been a crosscutting theme for Arati since she first stepped foot in China in 2000 in the lead-up to China’s accession to the WTO. In her most recent assignment at U.S. Consulate Shanghai, Arati collaborated with senior policymakers to advance U.S. priorities related to China’s macroeconomic situation, financial sector, and foreign investment climate. Arati has also served in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asia and at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Prior to joining the U.S. Foreign Service, Arati worked in the finance industry in New York and Hong Kong and was a consultant with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) in India. Connect with Arati and follow her adventures as an Una Chapman Cox Fellow on LinkedIn.