Awards, Faculty

John Richards receives the 2021 Chris Dagg Award for International Impact

October 18, 2022

Simon Fraser University (SFU) Public Policy professor John Richards—an economist whose research focuses on social policy in Canada and South Asia—is the 2021 recipient of the Chris Dagg Award for Impact in International Sustainable Development. This annual award recognizes the achievements of an SFU staff or faculty member who has made substantial contributions to sustainable international development on behalf of the University.

“It is my great pleasure to personally congratulate SFU public policy professor John Richards on being the 2021 Chris Dagg Award recipient,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s Vice-President, Research and International.

“For over two decades, Richards’ international work as a visiting scholar in Bangladesh has helped create social policy research opportunities for SFU faculty and graduate students, which resulted in dozens of monographs on various aspects of domestic policy. He also helped set up a public policy institute, a nursing school and a graduate level public health program at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology.”

Richards joined the School of Public Policy in 2003. Throughout this time, he has connected SFU faculty and students to international community development activities based in South Asia, primarily Bangladesh, and has supervised numerous Masters of Public Policy student capstone projects focused on health and education policies in the region. Whether working on his own research or supporting the work of graduate students, Richard’s interest goes beyond the theoretical and academic, with the goal of positive, meaningful impact on people’s lives.

"Unfortunately, the public sector in India, Bangladesh, and most South Asian countries is burdened by serious corruption. Achieving improvement in quality of education and health services for ordinary people has largely depended on NGOs and reputable for-profit firms,” Richards reflects on his experience, “it has been a privilege to participate in the difficult challenge of improving social services, in Bangladesh in particular."

For more than 20 years, Richards has volunteered as a visiting faculty member at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT) in Dhaka. His efforts include negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) encouraging SFU faculty and students to undertake research projects in Bangladesh, and setting up a modest policy institute linked to IUBAT. From 2001 to 2015, the institute published a dozen monographs on various aspects of domestic policy, from enhancing rural electrification to improving nutrition in slums. Many of the monographs are co-authored by a Bangladeshi scholar and a member of the SFU community, either a graduate student or faculty member.

In another collaborative initiative, Richards, alongside colleagues from the Mid-Main Community Health Centre in Vancouver founded a College of Nursing at IUBAT. At the onset, a group of Canadian nurse instructors and other health professionals volunteered their time to teach courses in their respective disciplines. Today, the college consists primarily of Bangladeshi faculty. The latest joint project involves curriculum development for a new Master's of Public Health program based at IUBAT. 

Richards regularly travels to South Asia and has built strong partnerships and friendships. His long-standing interest and commitment to education and learning outcomes led to an ongoing collaboration with Bangladeshi and Canadian academics and community leaders who wanted to explore and address the issues of persistent low quality of school education in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. The result is a book titled “Political Economy of Education in South Asia: Fighting Poverty, Inequality and Exclusion,” published in January 2022 by University of Toronto Press.