Initiatives Focus

In carrying out its mandate, the GW-CIBER focuses on research, teaching, and outreach in five substantive areas under the unifying theme of Institutions, Resilient Globalization and Sustainable Competitiveness, which leverages GW’s campus-wide faculty expertise in these topics and its location in Washington, D.C. Institutions are the rules and norms that govern and shape the interactions of individuals around the globe as well as the strategies and performance of firms and the capabilities and competitiveness of countries. In the post-pandemic recovery and beyond, institutions will play a crucial role in tackling the globalization backlash by strengthening multilateralism, deepening interconnectedness, promoting innovation, and addressing the environmental urgency, polarization, and inequality, making globalization more resilient. The focus now must be on: (i) making globalization more equitable and robust by including all members of society in the economic prosperity of a nation and by creating resilient value chains that account for uncertainties and can better withstand shocks; and (ii) managing resources efficiently to ensure their availability for future generations.

Areas of Focus

Governing Globalization: Disruptions and Dynamism

The resilience of the global trade, investment, and capital system rests to a great extent on the adaptability of one of its major pillars: global value chains. Traditionally used to describe the international dispersion of production activities, the term “global value chains” has increasingly come to encompass other value-adding tasks and intangible assets beyond those associated with manufacturing production, such as services, innovation, and intellectual property. An embodiment of globalization, global value chains rely on the undeterred cross-border flows of raw materials, goods, services, finance, capital, labor, knowledge and technology. Hence, they are subject to the same attitudes and concerns expressed towards globalization as a whole and reflected in increased protectionism, economic nationalism, trade and investment disputes, growing bilateral rivalries, inward-oriented geo-politics, and populism. These sentiments, loudly expressed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, have become even louder as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic unsettled the international economy by challenging not only globalization’s agility but also its promises of sustainable development.

This focal area explores current challenges faced by the international trade, investment, and capital system. Today’s economic cycle has been characterized by unsteady recovery, natural resource and commodity volatility, supply chain shortages, debt shocks, and bilateral hostilities, but also by increased interest in combining productivity and efficiency with human rights protection, sustainable investments, social safeguards, and crisis resilience. In light of these challenges and opportunities, multilateral organizations and national leaders have increasingly focused on how they can better guide globalization. This focal area emphasizes projects that seek answers to questions about how formal and informal global governance institutions can impact U.S. companies’ efforts in remaining competitive in the current environment, and how national economic policies can shape a healthier domestic economy and help foster a sustainable global recovery.

Coordinators: Maggie Chen & Stephan Kaplan

Other faculty experts: Michael O. MooreJay C. Shambaugh, Tara SinclairEmmanuel Teitelbaum

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Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship

The COVID-19 pandemic shook the global economy by disrupting its operational cycles and networks as we knew them. But the pandemic also demonstrated the important role of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in quickly adjusting to new ways of working, learning, communicating, shopping, banking, getting entertainment, receiving healthcare and other personal services, among others. Companies quickly switched their production processes and adopted new technologies to stay in business, stay competitive, and contribute to the fight against the pandemic (e.g., by manufacturing PPE and needed medical equipment). We witnessed governments partnering with established business and startups to create and disseminate learning, co-working, testing and contact-tracing platforms, and most notably, to quickly develop and roll out effective vaccines. All these developments remind us how technology and innovation can bring about changes and opportunities. Some of the cutting-edge technologies that emerged and that have the potential to boost existing and spur new industries include artificial intelligence and its application to healthcare, transportation and marketing,  quantum computing, technologies addressing climate change (solar geoengineering, vertical farming, decarbonization through direct air capture, electric-powered vehicles), delivery drones, virtual influencers and the metaverse, to name a few. This focal area aims to answer questions about what drives global companies to innovate in addition to addressing issues such as cross-border knowledge transfer, creating innovation-conducive national and international ecosystems, technology regulation, intellectual property rights protection and data management.

Coordinators: Anupama Phene & Meghana Ayyagari

Other faculty experts: Robert OrttungHeather Berry, Noel Maurer

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Natural Resource Management and Environmental Sustainability

Recent economic and geopolitical developments presented the world with the paradox of ambitious emissions-cutting targets set by many countries and the reality of increased energy needs and shortages that force governments to revert to fossil fuels they had only recently abandoned. This focal area will tackle questions about the resilience of the energy system, the global challenges posed by climate change, the policies that governments are considering implementing, and the actions of firms in response to these policies. Topics within this area include energy security and rising geopolitical risks, energy transition and decarbonization, environmental regulation and global co-operation on climate change, efficient use of fossil fuels and investment in renewable energy, and making cities more resilient and sustainable (cities are estimated to consume 78% of the world’s energy, produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, and are greatly affected by climate change). In the coming years, governments and business will be under increased pressure to show genuine, measurable efforts in meeting their promises about decarbonization. Regional trade blocks and multilateral organizations such as the World Trade Organization are also getting involved in environmental protection by linking trade policy and environmental consequences.

Coordinators: Robert Weiner & Robert Orttung

Other faculty experts: Jorge E. Rivera, John Forrer, Stephen Smith

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Economic Development and Structural Transformation

Economic development (encompassing issues such as equitable and sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation and income inequality, financing, institutional upgrading, and increasing living standards), and structural transformation (the changes and shifts across and within the main economic sectors of a country) remain key factors that U.S. stakeholders must consider when operating internationally. Emerging and developing markets are potential trade partners and some are also growing economic powers, but their institutional environments are different from those of the Western developed countries. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined economic and political stability in many of these markets, which previously were viewed as offering a vast consumer base and ample labor resources. The pandemic lockdowns forced millions back into poverty, sabotaging international efforts in lifting living standards, and highlighted some of the unaddressed issues that increasingly need attention, such as mitigating climate change effects, improving healthcare and labor standards, tackling ethnic and gender inequality, making cities (home to over half of the world’s population) more sustainable, and fighting corruption, to name a few. All of these issues make it more urgent for U.S. companies to acquaint themselves with this changing economic environment and the challenges it presents so they can be better equipped to conduct business in these markets.

Coordinators: Maggie Chen &Danny Leipziger 

Other faculty experts: James Foster, Stephen SmithStephan Kaplan, Roberto Samaniego

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The Intersection of Business, the State and Civil Society

Scholarship on topics at the intersection of business, the state, and civil society brings to light both the socio-cultural and the political dimensions of globalization, which are reflected in countries’ diverse sets of informal and formal institutions. On the one hand, firms are embedded in diverse cultural environments that often impose conflicting demands, including pressures arising from customers, employees, social movements and other civil society actors. On the other, firms must contend with different political environments in which state actors display varying levels of economic activism, and national institutions reward and punish varying types of strategic action. The relationships among firms, societal actors, and the state have changed significantly in recent years due not only to changes stemming from the global pandemic, but also due to demographic shifts, calls for measures to address climate change, and growing attention to issues related to social and economic injustices.

As relationships among the three sets of actors evolve, scholars must assess how well current understandings of firm-state-society interactions apply to our post-pandemic reality. How do strategic actions of each type of actor affect key globalization outcomes: inequality and exclusion, cross-border and internal migration challenges, corruption, and climate change? How will the frequency, type, and tenor of interactions among the three sets of actors change in coming years within the US, and what is the implication for the global competitiveness of US firms? How will firm-state-societal relationships change across the globe, and what will be the impact on US firms investing in those markets and competing with firms from those countries?

Coordinators: Jennifer Spencer & Jennifer Brinkerhoff

Other faculty experts: Robert Weiner, Emmanuel Teitelbaum, Stephen Smith

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