Washington University scholars headline policy conference at National University of Taiwan

Next Age Institute Director Michael Sherraden and two research professors from the Brown School, Margaret Sherraden and Jin Huang, recently headlined an international policy conference on Innovation and Evaluation for Anti-Poverty Initiatives at National Taiwan University (NTU), a McDonnell International Scholars Academy partner university.

The Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare organized the conference, and the co-organizer was the Department of Social Work at National Taiwan University. The conference leader was NTU Professor Li-Chen Cheng, a Washington University in St. Louis PhD graduate and distinguished alumna of the Brown School.

The April 2019 conference provided a platform for participants to exchange strategies for improving the newly enacted Child Development Accounts in Taiwan and to share the latest research on anti-poverty initiatives.

Professor Michael Sherraden highlighted asset building as an innovative model for not only anti-poverty initiatives, but also for long-term social development. He discussed global trends for asset building policies.

Professor Jin Huang presented the research findings from the SEED for Oklahoma Kids (SEED OK) experiment, a large-scale policy test of Child Development Accounts (CDAs). SEED OK models an automatic, universal and progressive CDA policy at-birth, which includes every child and has the potential to reach scale and sustainability.

Professor Margaret Sherraden’s speech focused on how a new Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) curriculum could address the gap in professional training of social work practitioners who serve low- and moderate-income households. The FCAB curriculum has already been adapted for Singapore, and there is growing interest in mainland China.

In addition to participating the conference, the Washington University scholars met with Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen and Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei. The Washington University professors suggested strategies for improving the newly enacted CDAs in Taiwan, named Savings Accounts for the Education and Development of Children and Teenagers. (In 2018, the government adopted this policy based on more than a decade of testing, research and evidence in Taiwan. Washington University has been involved in this research and policy development from the outset.)

Washington University and NTU researchers together presented evidence from CDA research in the United States and Taiwan, especially regarding how Taiwan might want to change its CDAs from an “opt-in” policy to “opt-out.” Research evidence indicates the change would boost the participation rate from the current 45% to nearly 100%. The Taiwan officials were keenly aware of the policy issues and supportive of the policy change to “opt out.” This is an excellent example of research partnerships and policy influence crossing national borders, enhanced by the McDonnell International Scholars Academy partnership.

Professors Sherraden, Sherraden and Huang also met with Washington University Professor Emeritus David Ho, the McDonnell Academy ambassador to NTU, for a planning session on building the WashU-NTU partnership in both social and technical sciences and applications.