Photo Courtesy of Ryan Donnell.

Global TIES For Children: Advancing Child and Youth Development

Global TIES for Children is a research center at NYUAD working to strengthen education in conflict afflicted and low income regions. Meet the co-directors and learn about the vision for this innovative hub for research and policy.

Apr 10, 2021

Founded in 2014, Global TIES for Children is a research center based in NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi that focuses on children and youth in conflict-afflicted and low income regions through research and partnerships with NGOs and governments around the world. The center aims to bridge the gap between the multidisciplinary human developmental sciences and policy in practice. Co-directed by J. Lawrence Aber, Willner Family Professor of Psychology and Public Policy and University Professor, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at Steinhardt, the center has grown into a leading research hub of over 30 linguistically and culturally diverse staff, including multiple NYUAD-affiliated faculty, in its six years.
Photo Courtesy of the NYU Steinhardt Website
Aber focuses on understanding the effects of poverty and violence on child development and uses research to design programs and policies to strengthen children in these situations. Yoshikawa uses his professional background as a community and developmental psychologist focusing on early childhood development to conduct research on human development, education, evaluation and implementation. He uses this research as the basis for partnerships with NGOs and governments to improve development for kids and adolescents.
“About a decade ago there was a very influential article that said 95 percent of our rigorous scientific knowledge about children's education and human development is based on five percent of the world's population, primarily by the United States. Now that number has gone [to] 11 percent, but almost all of the progress has been made in other high income countries in Europe and other parts of the world,” shared Aber.
Recognizing the gap in research about disadvantaged communities and echoing the global university ideal of NYU, Global TIES conducts research and works with organizations and governments in regions including the Middle East, Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia.
Based between two portal campuses, the team takes advantage of the strategic location of the UAE. “Abu Dhabi is located in the middle of the regions that span South Asia, through the Middle East and North Africa to sub Saharan Africa, and that's a huge part of the world. It has a disproportionate number of countries that are very low income and are affected by conflict and violence,” stated Aber. “The UAE has a major part of its foreign policy to provide humanitarian and development aid in the area of education so for all those reasons there's just lots and lots of exciting opportunities.”
With the center’s active role and its network of scholars across the Middle East, Aber shared: “I think our greatest relevance… is in helping philanthropic and government investments in humanitarian and development aid for children become more evidence based.”
Acknowledging the significance and needs of the region, the center has taken on an active role in bridging research with policy practices. Under its Early Childhood Development in Emergency & Conflict project, the center has partnered with the International Rescue Committee and the Sesame Workshop to create a Sesame Street as an educational resource for families in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, alongside evaluations on this early education intervention.
Within the UAE, Yoshikawa and his team work with the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority on implementing comprehensive early childhood development programs and policies for Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, including work on the quality of preschool classrooms in the area. “We've involved students from NYUAD in our research projects and that's been really productive and wonderful,” added Yoshikawa.
However, with the sudden disruption of Covid-19, the center has faced difficulties in implementing its programs, with interventions cut in half and some initiatives halted right before being tested. Nevertheless, the researchers have utilized this as an opportunity to advance remote research methods and innovate on new strategies.
For instance, the center has pivoted towards virtual methods, which could prove useful in future moments of crisis for youth in remote areas who are unable to engage physically with the interventions. Global TIES has also taken part in phone based interventions with its partnering NGOs to monitor, evaluate and inform, and it has also facilitated and participated in the creation of computer, internet, or phone based data collection; they are currently conducting a large impact evaluation of 2,300 families in Jordan through data collected via the phone.
“We're not sure how much value these new methods of both interventions and research are going to prove to be. We think, though, that they're not going to go to waste, and this is unlikely the last pandemic we're going to face; there are natural disasters, human disaster and manmade disasters, where children will be cut off from face-to-face education,” shared Aber on the hopes for the new methods created from the pandemic.
Moving forward, the co-directors are excited for the center to continue to grow. “Like a startup, we're somewhere in the middle of our childhood phase, but someday we’ll grow up,” shared Yoshikawa. “We want to continue to advance the relevance of our work for local contexts and develop partnerships with a wider range of NGOs and governments.” Specifically in terms of the UAE and NYUAD, Aber shared: “My vision for the future is that Global TIES plays a useful role in the development of NYUAD over the next decade and the creation and sustaining of collaborative relationships between NYU faculty in New York and Abu Dhabi.”
“What excites me is the potential for a very wide range of research and evidence to be engaged, along with the work of practitioners and policymakers in different parts of the world to improve the learning, and ultimately, the lives and well being of kids and youth.” shared Yoshikawa.
Grace Shieh is Deputy Features Editor and Staff Illustrator. Email her at
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