Dr. Jiaying Zhao receives UBC Community-University Engagement Support Fund

Jiaying Zhao at the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS).

Jiaying Zhao at the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS).

Congratulations to Dr. Jiaying Zhao (she/her) and community partner Foundations for Social Change, who are the recipients of UBC’s Community-University Engagement Support Fund.

Dr. Zhao and the Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, have partnered on the New Leaf project, the world’s first program evaluating the impact of cash transfers to individuals experiencing homelessness.

“I and my partner organization (Foundations for Social Change) are thrilled to receive the funding and we truly appreciate this support to enable our endeavour that uses storytelling, experience building and narrative inquiry to gather participant first-hand experiences and feedback for our New Leaf Expansion Project!”
Associate Professor, UBC Psychology

UBC’s 2021-22 Community-University Engagement Support Fund (CUES) supports partnerships that will benefit communities and advance collaborative research, teaching, and learning across the province. Paid directly to community partners, CUES funding reduces financial barriers and prioritizes reciprocal, inclusive engagement so all communities — especially those that have been and continue to be underserved, marginalized, or excluded — can benefit.

“The partnerships supported by CUES are an important component of Strategy 9 (Knowledge Exchange) to support research excellence in UBC’s strategic plan, and can lead to effective new ways of tackling social, health and environmental challenges locally and beyond.”
Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation

New Leaf expansion project – Storytelling, experience building, narrative inquiry
The New Leaf project is the world’s first program evaluating the impact of cash transfers in empowering individuals experiencing homelessness to move back into stable housing, regain food and financial security, and improve their physical and psychological well-being.

Originally piloted in 2018 with a smaller sample size of 50 cash recipients, the New Leaf project provided scientific evidence that unconditional cash transfers can be an effective solution to preventing chronic homelessness for those without severe addictions or mental health issues, while also reducing pressure on the shelter system and freeing up resources that can be redirected to those requiring more extensive and complex support.

In collaboration between UBC professors, Dr. Jiaying Zhao and Dr. Anita Palepu, and Vancouver-based charity called Foundations for Social Change, the Vancouver New Leaf Expansion Project will target 400 people experiencing homelessness across Metro Vancouver, screening for severe mental health symptoms, addiction, and gambling behaviour. Half of these participants will receive a cash transfer, quadrupling the pilot’s impact. The remaining half will serve as the study’s control group.Essential to the success of cash transfers are the additional non-cash supports that will be offered (such as a free cell phone, data plan, bank account, ID replacement, money management training, and peer support groups) while participants are tracked over the course of 12 months.

Jiaying Zhao is the Canada Research Chair (t2) in Behavioural Sustainability, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. As the director of the Behavioural Sustainability Lab at UBC, she uses cognitive principles to design behavioral solutions to address sustainability challenges. In reaching this goal, she aims to understand how cognitive mechanisms generate behavior, and more broadly, to use behavioral insights to inform the design and the implementation of public policy. For more information about her research, please visit: http://zhaolab.psych.ubc.ca.

Foundations for Social Change (FSC) is a Vancouver-based charitable organization that develops innovative programs to help vulnerable populations in our communities. FSC is led by a team with combined expertise in social impact, partnership development, research and policy, behavioural sustainability, organizational management and finance.