WSII Fund for Social Impact Research

Rigorous research provides the foundation for meaningful and sustainable social change.

The Wharton Social Impact Initiative Fund for Social Impact Research helps support faculty & doctoral social impact research across many areas and disciplines. Here are some of the projects we’re currently funding:

LuisBallesterosLuis Ballesteros, a PhD candidate in the Wharton Management Department, is studying the factors that contribute to varying levels aid and philanthropic efforts from the business community during disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes.

“As a percentage of total international aid, disaster relief coming from the business community has been increasing over the last decade and, for some events, it has been greater than the total donation from any other source, including national governments and multinational agencies together. At the same time, corporate philanthropic disaster response remains a greatly variable phenomenon across firms and across disasters. What factors help explain this, and what public-policy and market consequences does the business response have?

I’m interested in understanding the drivers and consequences of donations from firms to the relief fund of natural disasters. My hope is that this research ultimately contributed to a more efficient generation and allocation of aid  for disaster-stricken communities.”

Mauro-GuillénMauro Guillen, management professor and director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute, is exploring whether financial inclusion reduces poverty and income inequality.

“Do countries with more population using banks or mobile-banking applications score better? In this project I use a unique dataset covering 196 countries between 1995 and 2012 to answer these questions. I explore the implications for policies encouraging the adoption of new applications using mobile telecommunications technology.”

Witold Henisz2

Vit Henisz, the Deloitte & Touche Professor of Management at Wharton, is researching a problem solving process to guide students through crisis situations.

“In this project, I’m developing a simulation for use in the classroom that helps students navigate complex crisis situations involving external stakeholders (e.g., accusations of a chemical spill or human rights abuse in a foreign operation) in which the perceptions are shaped by multiple sources of information. Students have to make decisions about whom to believe and with whom to cooperate under extreme time pressure.”

Theresa KellyTheresa Kelly, a doctoral candidate on the Decision Processes Track, is investigating whether moralizing undesired behaviors — such as “smoking is selfish” — makes people less likely to try to change.

“We’re interested in whether this leads people to spontaneously adopt all-or-nothing goals, which are characterized by immediate and complete cessation of the behavior, versus reduction goals, which are characterized by simply reducing the frequency or the extremity of the behavior. We hope that this research will ultimately inform the way that policymakers attempt to enact large-scale behavior change, particularly in the areas of consumer behavior, public health.”


Rachel Pacheco, a doctoral student in the Management Department, is investigating impact investing.

“I’m especially interested in understanding what attributes of impact investing drive growth and success of the social enterprises that are invested in.  My hope is that this research ultimately contributes to helping impact investors better structure their investments such that the social enterprises that the impact investors fund can optimize their development impact.”


Iwan Barankay, an associate professor in the Management Department at Wharton, is researching monetary and non-monetary incentives to shape individual level productivity both in the workplace and as a method to improve health behavior.