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Display in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. Seattle, WA (2019).


Governance in Crisis: Philanthropy and the Politics of Global Outbreaks

Under what conditions philanthropic foundations influence the policies and institutions governing global crises? Over the two decades prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a powerful class of large private foundations emerged as influential actors in global governance. Their presence is more prominent in global health than any other issue area. This project demonstrates how private foundations influence global policy outcomes primarily through strategic engagement in public-private partnerships (PPPs) – through which they gain voting power typically reserved for states – alongside institutional embeddedness achieved through repeated interaction with other global health actors. This runs counter to prior findings suggesting donation amount and policy windows created by crises may facilitate foundation policy influence. Findings furthermore suggest foundations may circumvent regulations against lobbying domestic or foreign governments via PPP engagement.

While a body of global health research examines similar issues, foundations as non-state actors in global governance are largely under-theorized in international relations (IR). This project seeks to bridge global health scholarship with IR theory, integrating both philanthropy as an actor and global health as an issue area with broader IR theoretical approaches. Employing a mixed method approach, I draw on an original dataset documenting foundation engagement in global outbreak preparedness, prevention, and response between 2002 and 2022, encompassing eight outbreaks, including newly acquired data on the COVID-19 pandemic. Shadow chapters contextualize this theory in the issue ares of environmental governance and human rights. My first article from this project is published in International Studies Review (2021).

The World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (2019).


Pandemics & Borders
I continue contributing to the Pandemics and Borders project, a collaborative research initiative examining cross-border trade and travel measures states take in response to infectious disease outbreaks. This work entails large-N analysis of a dataset documenting cross-border measures states have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to a series of case studies examining individual state decision-making. A primary aim of this research is to employ international relations frameworks to better understand state behavior and compliance (or lack thereof) with the International Health Regulations (IHR [2005]), the international law governing state responses to infectious disease outbreaks. I have co-authored four publications related to this project. This work was cited by the World Health Organization in a May 2021 report informing the future of the IHR (2005).

U.S. Foreign Policy
I am engaged in research collaborations examining the interplay between U.S. foreign and domestic policy responses to global outbreaks. With Catherine Worsnop, I co-authored a chapter on Foreign Policy Analysis and Global Health, forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Foreign Policy Analysis (in press). As part of the Pandemics & Borders project, we have a working paper examining comparing U.S. border measures during COVID-19 under the Trump and Biden administrations.

As part of my broader research agenda examining global health through the lens of international relations and cooperation, I have two ongoing research projects related to COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access), the PPP seeking to ensure equitable global vaccine distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a working paper with Catherine Worsnop, we analyze the politics of joining COVAX, considering motivation, order, and timing of state commitments. This work sheds light on the degree to which newer, more nimble public-private partnerships represent fundamental shifts in the nature of international cooperation during crises versus continuation of established patterns. In a single authored working paper, I draw on previous findings from international relations and global health to analyze institutional agency and state compliance in the context of COVAX. Findings suggest conditions under which hybrid cooperation – in which private actors fill leadership roles conventionally held by states – emerges in the global order.


Other areas of my research focus include work on environmental governance and humanitarian response, including the role of social capital in crisis response and recovery. I have published a peer-reviewed article examining issue linkages between infectious disease and climate change as they relate to global health governance reforms, and have a co-authored article under review, which challenges prevailing beliefs about relationships between climate change issue framing and U.S. policy outcomes. Related to this work, I am Co-Invistigator on a longitudinal mixed method study assessing the role of social ties in local COVID-19 response and recovery in the the northeastern U.S. Initial findings from this work are forthcoming in a Russell-Sage Foundation Special Issue, “The Social and Political Impact of COVID-19 in the United States” (in press; with Courtney Page-Tan and Daniel P. Aldrich).

Academic Publications available here.

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