People

Headshot of Ariel Schwartz

Ariel Schwartz, MPA, PhD

  • Managing Director, Center for Social Impact Strategy

3815 Walnut Street, Room 400
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3604

Research Interests

Organizational science

Organizational learning

Social innovation

Technology & work

Information science

ICTD

Sociotechnical systems

Human-computer interaction

Ariel Schwartz is a postdoctoral fellow based at the Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) at the School of Social Policy and Practice. At CSIS, Ariel works on curriculum development for the Center’s educational initiatives, including the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy, massive open online courses in Social Innovation and Corporate Responsibility, and for the Penn Impact Lab. Ariel’s research focuses on how grassroots social sector organizations can make good use of donor-funded computing technology.

Ariel studies how staff in social initiatives collectively reorient (or don’t) to improve their efficiency and effectiveness, especially on arrival of new computing technologies in the workplace. Some key features of Ariel’s research interests seem to be:

  • Competent but resource-constrained social sector initiatives in any country
  • Itinerant or otherwise isolated knowledge workers who have low social status, education, and poor alternative employment options
  • Those who are systematically underpaid (sometimes euphemistically referred to as incentivized volunteers)
  • A mismatch between, on one hand, the increasing availability of computers like mobile phones, while, on the other hand, the still relatively low absorptive capacity of these initiatives.

During her dissertation data collection in 2013, Ariel was based in Bangalore at the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research, India, to study ten Indian deployments of a mobile application to groups of female community health workers. She also spent much time in Kenya (doing more action than research) developing strategies with community librarians to maximize their use of available computing technologies in service of their beneficiaries.

Previously, Ariel was Research Development Specialist at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and Program Manager at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, both at Columbia University. In 2008 Ariel co-founded Maria’s Libraries, a US-based not-for-profit organization striving in Kenya for information access and social, political, economic, and cultural development through community libraries. Ariel received her BA and MPA from Cornell University, and her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

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