Volunteering to support abused women while she was an undergraduate has helped propel Jade Borgeson (NYU Abu Dhabi '14) into a sophisticated project aimed at lowering the toll that domestic violence imposes on American society.
Borgeson, now a research fellow at NYU’s Center on Violence and Recovery, is part of an all-female team working – with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) - to create a digital knowledge bank that will one day offer a range of services in this field: quick access to the latest research and various state laws, online training, and a detailed nationwide inventory of programs working with victims and those working with offenders.
Recent high-profile cases have raised Americans' awareness of domestic violence, but solving this persistent social problem demands more than public attention. Programs vary widely in effectiveness; the planned knowledge bank is intended to stimulate the sharing and encouragement of the best methods and practices.
"A number of recent studies have questioned the efficacy of a one-size-fits-all approach to working with offenders," Borgeson said. "It's complicated because each state imposes its own requirements about what can be done with convicted offenders. And detailed information on innovative efforts is hard to come by."
Many new efforts show immense promise, she went on, mentioning in particular a restorative-justice approach known as “Circles of Peace," a subject studied by Dr. Linda Mills, executive director of the Center on Violence and Recovery, and NYUAD Associate Vice Chancellor, Admissions and Financial Aid.
Borgeson is what the NSF's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) calls the "entrepreneurial lead" on the knowledge bank project. She is working with Dr. Briana Barocas, research associate professor in NYU's Silver School of Social Work and director of research at the NYU Center on Violence and Recovery, who is the principal investigator on the project, and Cosmo Fujiyama, program director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy and a 2013 graduate of NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The team works with Danielle Emery, director of programs at the Center on Violence and Recovery.
The nascent knowledge bank received a USD 50,000 NSF grant and a spot in the I-Corps. This program helps researchers to think like entrepreneurs, adding sound business reasoning to their academic rigor. I-Corps participants get a crash course and roadmap for turning ideas into financially-sound start-ups, either for profit or as social entrepreneurship ventures.
Early in 2015, Borgeson said, "we started a very demanding seven-week program. After a three-day launch in Berkeley, Calif., we've been interviewing 100 different people in this field, professionals, judges, mental-health providers, and so on" to determine if planned digital knowledge bank would really be useful and viable.
Most interviews have been in person, across several states, but for remote agencies and services interviews were done via Skype. "It's rewarding to speak to customer segments I never would otherwise have access to, in rural Virginia for example," Borgeson said.
"The idea of I-Corps is to get people like us to consider how to put our project into the market. We need to think about funding, for one thing: we're assessing the potential for our product to be fee-based, as a low-cost subscription service."
Borgeson laid her personal groundwork for this project at NYUAD. While earning a degree in social research and public policy, she also volunteered at a facility that helped abused women. And she spent one summer in New York, interning at the Center on Violence and Recovery. An internship at Human Rights Watch also "increased my interest."
"My internship opportunities all came through the NYUAD Career Development Center," she said. "I'm very grateful."
"I loved NYUAD," she went on. "It was an extremely supportive environment. I don't think I'd feel prepared for these opportunities I have now, without the professional network and skills I was able to build there."