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Congratulations! #PolicyInAction Winners

September 24, 2015

Thank you to all who submitted photographs to Sanford's annual #PolicyInAction contest. This year we had close to 70 submissions from undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni. The goal of the contest is to see what policy looks like to you. There are five winners. We will reveal a new winner every day this week on social media.

Grand Prize Winner: Tara Bansal

Tara Bansal in India, talking with people.

Tara Bansal spent the summer working in Bangalore, India. She went into slums and interviewed people in Hindi and Kannada with the help of translators.  

“In many of these communities, my presence was, at best, a spectacle and at worst, highly suspicious,” Bensal says.

The team conducted thousands of surveys. They were attempting to identify formal and informal community leaders. Her goal was to analyze the relationship between local leadership density and government services. The research will be used to better identify the political network that controls how government goods and services are distributed in the slums of Bangalore.

 “As you can see here, many members of the political ‘entourage’ of the leader [the man in the tan shirt] are watching warily.”

Bansal conducted this work as a part of the Bass Connections. Bass Connections is a university-wide initiative that links faculty and students to respond to complex challenges through problem-focused educational pathways and project teams.

Judges Comments: The judges chose Tara Bansal’s submission as the grand prize winner because it candidly captures the messy reality of public policy research. To know how government policies actually function, you must find and speak directly with the people affected by them. There are often language and cultural differences to overcome, as well as your own nervousness. Sometimes the people you need to learn from are suspicious or uncooperative.

Winner#4: Andrea Patiño Contreras, Duke alumna, Media Policy and Journalism certificate, and CDS Hine Documentary Fellow (2012-13)

This summer Andrea Patiño Contreras traveled to Reggio Calabria, in southern Italy to document the migration crisis–which in recent weeks has become one of the most important topics for leaders and policy makers across the globe.

“Witnessing such a dramatic influx of refugees and learning about the systems in place to protect them, has been one of the most fascinating and enriching experiences of my life,” says Contreras.

 In this photo, she is documenting the rescue of 650 refugees by a German ship. Most of the refugees were from Eritrea.

Photo Credit: Gabriela Arp

Judges comments: Contreras’ photo places her in the midst of one of the world’s most urgent concerns – how to respond to migrants and refugees displaced by wars and economic hardship. Documentary photography and public policy are inextricably linked; images document suffering tied to policy failures and can mobilize people to act. The judges liked the composition of the photo, and the decision to have the photographer in focus, while the migrants are out of focus. In addition, the judges were struck by the photographer’s courage to document this subject matter.

Winner #3: Erin Leyson PPS'15

Leader and children daning

In this image, Erin Leyson is teaching a dance class in Oaxaca, Mexico. But the class is not just for joy and exercise, it’s a way to bring together the women and children in this community of squatters. “By uniting women and youth through art, we work to empower them to fight for their rights to public water, electricity and policing services,” says Leyson. Leyson works as a community program coordinator and grant writer for the Asociación Mexicana para la Transformación Rural y Urbana (AMEXTRA).

Judges comments: The judges were impressed with how Leyson and other members of the organization are using the arts to gain the trust of families who are living in precarious circumstances. This photo captures the joy in the children's faces, and the hope the program is bringing to the community.

Winner #4: Tim Saintsing MPP'02

Tim Saintsing leads a meeting

This year for the first time, we asked alumni to share photos. Tim Saintsing responded. Saintsing received his Master of Public Policy degree in 2002. He is now Chief Operating Officer of the Relay Graduate School of Education. The school was launched five years ago to help train teachers to be successful with low-income children. Relay currently operates in ten states with 1,700 graduate students who are also full-time teachers or principals.

In this photo, Saintsing is leading the organization's community meeting. Weekly, 150 staff members around the country join the meeting virtually or in person.

“While [the photo] doesn't show my face (just the back of my bald head)," writes Saintsing, "I think it totally demonstrates---in a pretty major way---policy in action."

Judges comments: The important work of creating and implementing policy often takes place in uninteresting visual settings, such as offices. The judges thought this image took a creative angle on a routine but essential event in the life of a chief operating officer – communicating with the troops. They liked how the panoramic view from behind alumnus Tim Saintsing emphasized both his leadership role and the large team of people working together to achieve common goals.

Winner #5: Matthew Borden MPP'16

Heard of palm oil? It comes from these fruits and it can be found in about half of all products sold at a typical supermarket. Palm oil is a widely used edible oil. Unfortunately palm oil plantations are the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia, contributing significantly to climate change.

Matthew Borden took this photo during his 2015 internship with the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination (UNORCID) in nearby Borneo.

Judges comments: Sometimes the roots of major global problems like climate change are linked to things small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. Your shampoo, ice cream, margarine, and lipstick contain palm oil. The judges liked the simplicity, vantage point and vibrant color of Matthew Borden’s photo.