The Poverty and Power Research Initiative is a student-run effort to understand discrete national power structures and their effects on poverty. PPRI...

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Poverty and Power Research Initiative

The Poverty and Power Research Initiative is a student-run effort to understand discrete national power structures and their effects on poverty. PPRI creates opportunities for the close study of corruption, media, political power, and oligarchy, hosting relevant speakers and forming global research projects to generate new ideas and critical and ethical investigators. 

PPRI formed to investigate the hypothesis that poverty is a product of distorted political and economic governance structures where decision-making powers are unequally distributed within a society, i.e. captured by an oligarchy. PPRI grew out of the EPIIC 2007-08 colloquium, Global Poverty and Inequality. Under the guidance of then INSPIRE Fellow Jose Maria Argueta, President of the Institute for Central American Strategic Studies and former Guatemalan Ambassador to Peru and Japan, a group of seven Tufts undergraduate and graduate students began examining the relationship between poverty and inequality in Guatemala as manifested through national decision making processes.

In 2008, PPRI students researched Guatemala’s attempt to qualify for a new US foreign assistance program, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which uses an incentive and rewards system of conditional aid to encourage democratic reform in developing countries.

In 2009, four PPRI members went to Manila, Philippines to study the MCA's ongoing negotiations with the Philipine government over a $500 million Compact Agreement in the context of endemic and worsening government corruption and human rights abuses, including unprecedented deaths of journalists under the Aroyo administration. The group published its findings in a paper titled "Utang Na Loob (Deeply Indebted): The 'MCC' Effect and the Culture of Power in the Philippines."

From 2009 to 2013, PPRI research groups also examined social class dynamics among youth in Haiti and the disintegrating peace process in Bosnia-Herzegovina in collaboration with The Dayton Peace Process and the Project on Justice in Times of Transition (now Beyond Conflict). 

PPRI has focused on different aspects of corruption since its founding. Through our speaker series, weekly discussion sessions and debates, and documentary screenings, we have created a lively forum for addressing corruption. Some topics so far have been:

1.     How do we define corruption?

2.     How can corruption be tackled?

3.     In what ways does corruption manifest itself across countries and regions as well as in our daily lives?

4.     What is the role of corruption in humanitarian assistance, natural resource extraction, construction contracting, etc.?

5.     Specific case studies: Guatemala, the Philippines, Haiti, Bosnia, Turkey.

6.     What are the cultural dimensions of corruption and how do we understand corruption within different political cultures?

PPRI is a small, focused group at Tufts, but has a wide network base on campus and in the greater-Boston community. PPRI currently has about 10 dedicated research members.

Currently, PPRI has two research projects in progress. One asks how Turkish political influence is affecting freedom of speech and the press in Turkey. PPRI Turkey is examining how the interaction of politics and journalism affects the portrayal of salient topics in the media. PPRI Turkey travelled to Istanbul in January 2014 to conduct on the ground interviews the columnists, editors, aceademics, and civil society members. PPRI is also formulating a new research topic on the defense sector, specifically military transitions and post-conflict transitional societies. This research will potentially focus on Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, East Timor, or another location. More information about our new research project will be coming soon.

PPRI is always welcoming new members! To get involved, please come to a General Interest Meeting at the beginning of any semester or contact our leadership directly.

Program At-a-Glance


Experiential Education and Research

Areas of Study

Program Size


Year Founded



PPRI Research Project in Turkey