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Forward Society (FOS) Lab Launches

FOS officially launched on November 30, 2023, with a program highlighting successful partnerships in education and workforce development and bringing together funding organizations advancing global equity.

Press Release Conference December 2023

Toronto, December 1, 2023: Forward Society (FOS) Lab officially launched to shine a light on the realities of marginalized communities globally. Led by researchers in the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto, FOS leverages research-practice partnerships (RPPs) and data-driven research to bring about meaningful policy change.

The lab’s name, FOS, means “light” in Greek. It represents our commitment to seeing, understanding, and learning from the communities with whom we work.

Solving a Fundamental Matching Problem

“FOS was conceived to solve a basic matching problem,” says FOS Co-Director Raji Jayaraman. “On one side, some organizations are doing amazing work, trying to serve the needs of marginalized communities around the world, but they often lack the time and capacity to leverage data-driven evidence that can inform their decisions. On the other side, you have researchers who have the interest and skills needed to conduct the type of research needed to bring evidence to bear on socially relevant practice-oriented questions, but they lack logistical support to do this. FOS builds a bridge between these two sides.”

Research Affiliates Crafting Real-World Solutions

FOS research affiliates include social scientists, policy experts, and research practitioners committed to equity and inclusion. They are actively engaged in collaborative, on-the-ground research, rigorously documenting:

  • How digital skills training improves lives for vulnerable Canadian workers.
  • The cost-effectiveness of maternal and child health and nutrition programs in Pakistan.
  • How computer-assisted learning can boost students’ math scores in Puerto Rico, among many other projects around the world.

Strong Partnerships with Local Impact

What sets FOS apart is that we aspire to move away from one-off projects to long-term collaborations by building meaningful research-practice partnerships, or RPPs.

FOS supports RPPs that see scholars embedded in the process of program creation and delivery to evaluate results. This model is mutually respectful and successful. We work with partners to deeply understand their communities’ unique challenges. We use data-driven research to co-develop workable solutions, rigorously test them in programs and policies, and iterate as necessary. This iterative approach ensures that solutions are responsive to the evolving needs of communities facing pressing inequity concerns.

Official Launch Event

FOS officially launched on November 30, 2023, with a program highlighting successful partnerships in education and workforce development and bringing together funding organizations advancing global equity. Speakers included representatives from various organizations, including Grand Challenges Canada, J-PAL North America, William T. Grant Foundation, Blueprint, Marcatus, the Puerto Rico Department of Education, and the University of Toronto. “It was a pleasure to witness the collaborative spirit in the room, and we look forward to continuing these meaningful partnerships in the days, months, and years to come,” said FOS Co-Director Gustavo J. Bobonis. “Let’s continue working together, driving social progress and growing into a more equitable and sustainable world.”