Maggie Carter

Arrived in Geneva:  June 2017

Organization:  Research Analyst at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

Hometown:  Dallas, Texas, USA

Tell us who you are and what you do in Geneva.

Coming from a social science research background and having worked in international journalism as well as with local NGOs, I came to UNRISD four years ago with an appreciation of not only producing knowledge, but ensuring that it reaches a wide range of audiences—be they civil society actors, policymakers or engaged citizens—with different ways to amplify its impact and translate it into tangible change on the ground, where it is most needed. Joining UNRISD, I was compelled by the idea of a research institute—one with a vast network of world-class scholars and activists from around the globe—that has such a direct link to policymaking, a perfect laboratory for exploring how to apply research and knowledge to global problem-solving. Fast forward to today, and this is at the heart of my work at UNRISD.

How does your organization reflect the 2030 Agenda’s paradigms of innovation, integration and collaboration in its activities?

At UNRISD, we sit at the forefront of emerging development debates and push the conversation towards transformative change, helping shift policy agendas towards more progressive outcomes.

We do this in part through our collaboration with researchers and institutions from and in the global South, to identify research areas and methodologies, and integrate local knowledge . We weave together interdisciplinary networks by co-producing knowledge, sharing lessons and engaging with partners to design, implement and deliver research. UNRISD’s integrated approach encourages thinking outside of disciplinary silos.

In addition to how we work, the research itself consistently emphasizes the need to integrate social, environmental, and economic dimensions when analyzing development processes. Our work advocates for a new eco-social contract that safeguards human rights for all, ensures larger freedom for all in a fast-changing world, and spurs the transformation of economies and societies to halt the climate crisis and environmental destruction.

Could you give us a concrete example of a specific activity through which your organization advanced those 3 paradigms?

With our project From Science to Practice: Research and Knowledge to Achieve the SDGs, UNRISD aims to address the barriers that can prevent research from finding its way into policymaking circles, starting right here with the staggering wealth of knowledge produced by International Geneva and global partners. Funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and in partnership with several Geneva-based institutions (including the SDG Lab), we have established a new avenue for impact, collecting and synthesizing evidence, and then disseminating it to policymakers and practitioners through different channels, in particular the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development(HLPF).

In addition to this project, I help design, manage, and conduct research in UNRISD’s Transformative Social Policy Programme on topics such as inequality, elite power, LGBTQI+ inclusion and higher education, and am currently working on our 2022 Flagship Report on Overcoming Inequalities in Times of Crisis.

What do you find unique about the Geneva ecosystem of actors?

I am astounded by the breadth and interdisciplinarity of the Geneva ecosystem. There are people working on truly every topic imaginable, all of them connecting their work back to the pressing mandate of addressing global challenges and building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. While in other places this might lead to division and siloing, in Geneva this diversity of perspectives leads to unexpected collaborations that have the potential to shift mindsets and inspire novel solutions. Geneva is an ideal place to forge unprecedented collaborations between science and policy, and a fertile terrain for testing multilateralism. Furthermore, despite residing in Geneva, the Ecosystem is in fact boundless, as the networks of these Geneva-based organizations extend to every corner of the world, reaching out, collecting and pulling back in knowledge critical for building a new global system that is more inclusive, resilient, egalitarian and in harmony with our planet. These are such essential qualities in view of today’s urgent global challenges and the kind of integrated approach called for by the 2030 Agenda.

What is on your mind right now?

We are now reaching the final phase of this cycle of the From Science to Practice project, where we will disseminate the findings compiled over the last six months to policymakers and practitioners. We’ve put together synthesis papers on three topics—human well-being and capabilities; sustainable and just economies; and food systems and nutrition patterns—and we’ve packed the key findings into a research and policy brief we are very excited to share. An important culmination of this project phase just took place during the HLPF side event organized with Switzerland, UNITAR and the Geneva Science-Policy Interface “From Science to Practice: Harnessing Research to Build Forward Better - A Side Event of the 2021 HLPF”.

What’s your favourite thing to do in and around Geneva?

One of the things I love most about Geneva is the many public spaces where people gather en masse: For example, at Bains des Pâquis, be it in summer when the pier becomes a sea of sunbathing bodies or in winter over steaming pots of fondue. For the more adventurous, the Rhône has its own communal rhythm of swimmers braving the currents, barbecuers lining the banks, and unwieldy flotillas of tethered rafts, paddle boards and the occasional pool floatie setting course for one of Geneva’s most exotic locales: Vernier. And the weekly wine and cheese market in the square of Les Grottes brings together all manner of apero-ers who stay well past closing, begrudgingly tugging their picnic blankets out of the way of exiting vendors and then falling right back into formation.

What is one thing that most people do not know about you?

In the time I’ve lived in Geneva I’ve discovered two passions—woodworking and karaoke (much to the delight of my neighbors)