Our Work

The Center for Social Development’s broad engagements in research and social innovation encompass seven primary areas: Financial Inclusion; Civic Engagement and Service; Thriving Communities; Child and Youth Development; Social Justice; Environment and Social Development; and Race, Inequality and Social Mobility.


Financial Inclusion

In the 21st century the world is highly financialized, and income alone is not a sufficient support for millions of households. All people require access to safe financial products and services as well as sound financial knowledge. In addition, all families should be able to accumulate assets for their security and long-term development. Since its inception, CSD has served as a leading center for research on ways to enhance the financial security and development of families in the United States and around the world. The center’s Financial Inclusion projects fall into four categories: Inclusion in Asset Building, Global Asset Building, Financial Capability, and Financial Behaviors. Please click here to learn more.​


Civic Engagement and Service​

Civic Engagement and Service is another area of applied research in which CSD has long contributed. The center’s initiatives seek to test and inform opportunities for civic engagement and service worldwide. At CSD, civic engagement is defined as positive social action that makes a difference at a local, national or international level. Service to the community, country or world—by teens, young adults, people in their working years, and retired older adults​—is increasingly seen as a normal part of the life course. The center’s work in Civic Engagement and Service falls into three categories: Community and National Service, International Service, and Productive Aging. For more information​​, please click here.


Thriving Communities

It is in everyone's interest to have thriving communities where all families, including low- and moderate-income families, can lead reasonably stable lives. Families may struggle for access to basic resources for stability and to raise and educate their children. The center is engaged in multidisciplinary collaborations that explore policies and supports to create and sustain thriving communities. Current projects in this area include Livable Lives, Inclusive Housing, Community Engagement, and Native Families and Communities. Click here to learn more.​


Child and Youth Development​

U.S. “child welfare” policy has focused primarily on child protection, and little on positive child development. Also, in contrast to every other developed nation, the United States has no youth policy at all. These are major shortcomings in social policy vision and action. It is in everyone’s interest that all children and youth grow and develop to their fullest potential and become effective, productive and civically enaged adults. The center is building a new body of applied research on positive development for all children and youth. The focus is on testing interventions that enhance opportunities for young people to succeed in life, to contribute to the social economy and to develop into positive role models for the next generation. The areas of research are Child Well-Being: Beyond Child Protection, and Youth Development: Effective Transitions to Adulthood. Click here to learn more.​


Social Justice​

Social justice is an integral part of CSD’s mission and research, underlying much of what we do. Going forward, we will be more explicit in tackling major social justice issues that face the United States. The first of these is the Smart Decarceration Initiative​. A prolonged era of mass incarceration has resulted in extraordinary rates of imprisonment in the United States, particularly among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. This trend is counterproductive (most people are not improved by imprisonment) and unaffordable (states budgets cannot support the staggering costs), and will have to be reversed. But how to go about this? How will the U.S. design and implement effective and sustainable decarceration? CSD’s applied research in decarceration will be an important early effort to move toward that goal.​​​ Click here to learn more.​


Environment and Social Development

Global environmental changes—such as pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, and freshwater decline—affect people worldwide, with impacts that are not just physical, but also social and economic. Through new applied research, the Environment and Social Development initiative at the Center for Social Development examines social vulnerability to environmental change, and strategies for social action and adaptation. The initiative aims to contribute to a more environmentally sustainable world, in which all people have fair and optimal opportunities to live full, healthy and productive lives.​​ Click here to learn more.


Race, Inequality and Social Mobility

Social mobility has been described as “movement which places an adult person into a social world that significantly differs from the one into which she or he was socialized during childhood.”   Upward social mobility is, perhaps, the most critical aspect of the American Dream.  Education is considered the key vehicle to upward social mobility in the United States.   However, structural racism, defined as “the macrolevel systems, social forces, institutions, ideologies, and processes that interact with one another to generate and reinforce inequities among racial and ethnic groups,”  has created deeply entrenched inequality.  This inequality is critical in regard to neighborhood and education quality, and could undermine chances of upward social mobility for people of color.  Learn more.