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Cambridge, MA -- Harvard University and The University of Manchester are joining forces to help Britain and America better understand the challenges of contemporary society.
"Social Change: A Joint Project of Harvard and Manchester" will be directed by Professor Robert Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who is renowned for his influential research into community ties known as "social capital."
As part of the project, Putnam will take up a part-time Visiting Professorship at The University of Manchester for five years. His activities will include a series of collaborative projects, graduate summer school coursework and postgraduate programs.
Named one of the Guardian’s top 100 intellectuals of 2005 and a member of both the American National Academy of Science and the British Academy, Putnam charted the 30-year-decline of social connectivity in the U.S. and articulated the atomised nature of modern life in his book called "Bowling Alone."
The work has been the subject of heated debate among politicians and commentators – including Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and George Bush – since it was published in 2000.
Researchers from the two universities will conduct a series of transatlantic comparative studies on topics such as inequality, immigration, religion, the changing workplace and civic engagement.
They will investigate what drives social change, how it relates to the well being of members of society and the implications for policy makers – issues which confront political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
The research will be conducted by academics from Manchester and visiting academics from Harvard.
The initiative enables the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America project at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government to leverage a multi-million dollar investment made over the last six years in building datasets on issues relating to religion, the workplace, immigration, and civic engagement, among other topics.
Putnam said: "There is a long and fruitful history of collaboration between British and American scholars in learning across our similarities and differences in order to tackle important social issues. It builds on a foundation of exceptional expertise in both Manchester and Harvard, as well as elsewhere in our two countries."
He added: "We will be able to tap the scholars at both of these universities who have done terrific work on immigration, diversity, social networks, inequality, to name only a few fields.
Manchester historically has been heavily involved in bringing the best scholarship to address problems of practical importance to politicians, industrialists, leading citizens, and the working-class, and this project returns Manchester to those roots."
Professor Alan Gilbert, President and Vice Chancellor at The University of Manchester said: "I’m delighted that Professor Putnam has agreed to join the University in connection with this new initiative.
"His appointment as a Visiting Professor is the latest in a series of iconic appointments intended to reflect the University’s commitment to become one of the top 25 research universities in the world. I am particularly pleased that Professor Putnam and his team will be addressing some of the key social challenges facing our community.
"We already host a number of centres of excellence specialising in the exploration of social change and are home to the £3.7 million Economic and Social Research Council Funded Centre for Research on Socio Cultural Change."