Graduate student, Michela Planatscher, contributes to complex societal issues.

Posted on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Each year, several students begin or continue their studies at the graduate level. Their research touches on complex issues in our society and is at the heart of our faculty. That is why it is important for us to promote them.

We invite you to discover our students every month, and their research, in relation to the United Nations theme days. This month, we are proud to present you Michela Planatscher, PhD student in the Department of Economics for the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (December 5).

1.Tell me about your journey?

Hi, my name is Michela Planatscher. Three years ago I decided to come to Canada for my Ph.D and to study Economics in line with my previous studies at the trilingual university of Bolzano/Bozen in Italy. At the University of Ottawa, I completed my coursework with impressive marks in all my classes and I passed my comprehensive examinations as well as my field exam in public economics with no delays. Thereafter I started working on my dissertation.

I was inspired to work on Aboriginal issues by prof. Aggey Semenov who teaches and is deeply interested in Aboriginal Economics; with his guidance I became aware of Aboriginal problems here in Canada. One issue that has received no attention to date is the role played by the charitable sector on the economic development of Indigenous communities. My thesis supervisor is prof. Rose Anne Devlin who has a scholarly expertise in philanthropy and has already worked with data on the location of registered charities. The purpose of my research is to examine the relationship between the proximity of charitable organizations and the welfare status of Aboriginal peoples. Specifically, I am investigating whether those charitable organizations exert a causal effect on Aboriginal communities’ well-being, as measured by the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) as well as on their individuals’ economic well-being that I can retrieve by using Statistics Canada confidential data.

2. What motivated or inspired you to research this topic?

Aboriginal peoples represent 4.3 % of the Canadian population according to the 2011 National Household Survey.  The original inhabitants of the country, First Nations, Métis and Inuit differ in their traditions, language usage and spiritual beliefs when compared to other residents. There is historical evidence of disadvantage between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal populations, whereby the latter are still facing longstanding and complex social problems and hardships. Despite improvements in the quality of life in the past decades, severe discrepancies between the two groups still exist: data from the AANDC show for instance that 94.3% of First Nations communities have a below-average community well-being score compared to other Canadian communities. As a consequence, the notion of “closing the gap” has become of major concern for all levels of governmental authorities and policy makers in Canada.

My research will provide a deeper understanding on, if and how the ­­presence of local charities has an impact on community well-being in Canada – with a particular emphasis on the well-being of Aboriginal communities. It is important to understand the needs and priorities of Aboriginal peoples and how these could be better met by charitable organizations. In addition, it is critical to recognize which new types of charities could be created to meet unmet needs in Aboriginal communities. All this may help to define a mechanism that can be used to reduce the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population.

3.Why is your research important in today’s society?

To date, no one has conducted this type of investigation. Accordingly, understanding and confronting the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is an important topic to uncover. Part of my work will be examining the composition of the existing community well-being measure to see if it is a useful way of evaluating Aboriginal communities. I hope that my work will help to point to ways in which some of the social difficulties experienced by the Aboriginal population can be alleviated.

4.What would you like to see or accomplish in the future?

Very little work has been done on the link between the provision of services by charities and community well-being, in general. I hope that my work will help to underscore the important role played by the charitable sector on communities, especially for disadvantaged groups in Canada. I would like to see my research help community leaders and policy makers design new paths for dealing with social and economic needs.

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