2021 Innovation Grants Program Award Recipients

American Political Science Association (APSA)

“Addressing Issues and Mechanisms of Systemic Inequality in the Political Science Discipline”
Kimberly Mealy, Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion, APSA
Paula McClain, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Duke University
Betsy Super, Deputy Director, APSA


The goals of this project are to examine the systemic inequalities experienced by marginalized scholars within the discipline of political science and to propose transformational recommendations and resources for ameliorating them. This proposal's objectives are to use the APSA presidential task force and discipline-wide surveys, interviews and demographic data analysis as a means to engage in an evidence based review and analysis of various institutions within the political science discipline that may perpetuate systemic inequities. The impact of these inequities upon the career experiences of scholars of color, women, and LGBTQ scholars will be assessed. Strategies (e.g., programing, education/training and a research center) to dismantle inequitable practices and systems will be developed.

There are many issues of concern for marginalized members (e.g., underrepresented racial and ethnic minority scholars, women of all races and ethnicities, LGBTQ scholars) of the discipline. This project addresses how systemic racism, inequality, and disparate treatment have manifested overtime in the discipline and have affected the career trajectories and experiences of marginalized scholars. This project asks research questions that will enable our discipline, leadership, and staff to develop innovative evidence-based strategies to dismantle systemic inequality and inequity, create a more inclusive climate, and improve the career trajectories and experiences of marginalized scholars. The following research questions are being asked: what is the climate of the discipline with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion? How do marginalized members of the political science discipline experience their scholarly lives, at annual meetings, and their departments? What effect do these experiences have on their career trajectory, including their tenure and promotion prospects?

Plan of Work: The plan of work for this project has commenced via the APSA Presidential Task Force on Systemic Inequalities. The Task Force is divided into four working groups: 1. Climate and Context; 2. Citations and Epistemic Exclusion; 3. Graduate Student Experiences; and 4. Faculty of Color Burdens: Tenure and Promotion Processes. A working group of scholars has been assembled to work on each area. Each group has a work plan that includes adding survey items and modules onto the association's annual surveys, focus groups with political science graduate students, faculty and non-faculty professionals, and content analysis of discipline journals. Additionally, the APSA leadership and staff will be conducting an internal equity audit and climate study governance structures and the discipline at large.

Intended Outcomes: Intended outcomes include the development of innovative and evidence based best practices, resources, and a research center that will bring about a transformation in the climate and that will address the inequalities examined by the Task Force on Systemic Inequalities. The end goal is to move the discipline in a more open and accepting direction. Measures of success: An improvement in the climate--as experienced by marginalized faculty and students--would be a key measure of success. Second, the creation of resources and best practices on addressing systemic inequality and a culture of respect. Third, widespread adoption and stakeholder buy-in from political science departments, association leaders, faculty, students, and association members.


Educational Theatre Association (EdTA)

“A New Student Membership Model: Working Toward Cultural Competency”
Dan Doerger, Membership Outreach Manager, EdTA
Hans Weichhart, Chief Membership Officer, EdTA
Maryann Fiala, Leadership Development Director, EdTA


The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) is home to the International Thespian Society (ITS). ITS has been honoring theatre students in grades 6-12 via a membership model that has changed very little since 1929. While we have processes in place to help diversify membership and provide student leadership opportunities, those processes are limited by a given school’s location, population, and financial resources and, thus, impact is uneven. EdTA is seeking funding to design and implement an innovative, cyber-based student membership model that focuses on overcoming barriers of geography while connecting diverse student populations using a framework of cultural competency.

This new student membership model is intentionally designed to meet three primary goals:

  • Provide our student members opportunities to achieve cultural competence and improve social/emotional learning
  • Create access to membership for students facing geographic and financial barriers
  • Develop student leadership, voice, and advocacy to effect change and dissolve inequities

The plan of work for this project includes the design and implementation of the following strategies: affinity groups, open access to membership, student generated operational standards, and improved/increased student leadership opportunities. The framework for these strategies will be based on a clearly defined plan for cultural competency (created in conjunction with The Ivy Group using funds from this grant) and social/emotional learning.

Other funds from this grant will be spent on parallel cultural competency training for students and EdTA staff and on processes for ensuring open access to the benefits for the widest possible group of students. Evaluation and assessment of the project will be measured in two primary ways: via an increase in culturally competent policies and practices in our association, and in increased diversity of student membership.

Because this project impacts our student membership so dramatically, current student members briefly discussed what this addition in membership benefits would mean to them and other students. Please view the three-minute video that is part of the supplemental materials at the end of this submission for these insights.


National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)

“How Associations Can Promote Worker Wellbeing and Behavioral Health to Their Members”
David Jaffee, VP, Legal Advocacy, NAHB
Joseph Burak, VP, Federation Services, NAHB


The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic uncertainty, forced solitude, and created worries about contracting the virus, which have increased stress levels in most adults. But even before the pandemic, construction workers were particularly susceptible to mental health issues and suicide. In the U.S., the construction industry ranks first for all industries by highest number of suicides, and second for all industries by rate of suicide. As a result, following our multi-year initiative to combat opioid misuse in home building industry—https://www.nahb.org/advocacy/industry-issues/safety-and-health/Opioids-in-the-Home-Building-Industry—NAHB is launching a new effort focused on member mental health and wellbeing. We know that the home building industry is not immune to the issues in the construction industry at large. Recent research suggests that industry associations have been overlooked as an agent for change, and that they have a role to play in promoting the importance of worker health and wellbeing to their member organizations. One way to do that is to help association members support healthy work environments and be more proactive in looking at their own health and wellness. Helping to create sustainable workplaces and healthy, thriving professionals strengthens the industry and deepens the volunteer leadership bench. Our mission recognizes personal and professional risk factors as they relate to mental health issues in the home building industry. Additionally, this is a workplace issue. The construction workforce is ahigh-risk industry for various behavioral health conditions including, but not limited to: Stress and anxiety, depression, substance misuse, and suicide. Many construction companies have yet to incorporate mental health, substance abuse, addiction recovery, and suicide prevention into safety, health, and wellness culture and programs. A major reason is stigma. Stigma for mental health conditions runs high, and access to behavioral health services is low in the construction industry and among trades. Our goals include:

  • Improving awareness;
  • Facilitating discussion
  • Destigmatizing mental health and addictions, and;
  • Taking a leadership position moving forward

In addition to the benefits to the association, workplace wellbeing is good for employee health and retention, may reduce the cost of insurance, sick time and employee turnover, and increase productivity.

To date we have been working with industry experts such as Cal Beyer, Vice President, Workforce Risk and Worker Wellbeing, CSDZ, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, and Lisa Desai at MindWise Innovations.

Since it was founded in the early 1940s, NAHB has represented America’s housing industry. We work to ensure that housing is a national priority and that all Americans have access to safe, decent and affordable housing, whether they choose to buy a home or rent. NAHB has been at the forefront of enhancing safety and health in residential construction, taking proactive steps to keep members and affiliated state and local associations informed and educated about safety and health issues and trends affecting the building industry, including developing safety and health resources to help builders and contractors operate safe jobsites.


Past Winners

View past years recipients from:  2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013