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Bruce Fuller

Professor (on sabbatical AY 2015-16) *
Ph.D., Stanford University

We have witnessed the rising appeal of decentered organizations, along with colorfully pluralistic cultural forms, over much of the past half-century. What forces have undercut centralized forms of authority and moral signposts? Do locally focused, decentralized firms work any better than their institutional predecessors in public and for-profit sectors? How might the current generation of innovators enrich the benefits of charter schools, health clinics, and the variety of local nonprofits that seek to lift vulnerable clients?

These questions motivate Bruce Fuller’s new book, Organizing Locally – How the New Decentralists Improve Education, Health Care, and Trade. This volume tells the story of inventive managers and practitioners in four differing settings – a charter school, vast health care company, international bank, and nonprofits hoping to lift war veterans – seeking effective ways to lift their clients or customers. The project was undertaken with two Ed School students, Lynette Parker and Danfeng Soto-Vigil Koon, along with Mary Berg, a physician.>

The nation’s drive to expand access to high-quality preschool similarly illustrates how centralized agencies attempt to incorporate and regularize a feisty array of nonprofit organizations – vast networks of human-scale firms have long served young children and their families. Mr. Fuller’s current study of ‘universal preschool’ in New York City examines which youngsters and neighborhoods benefit most as central agencies extend a broad entitlement to a range of families, rich or poor.

Mr. Fuller’s most recent report, co-authored with Ed School student Elise Castillo, details how competition among city schools and nonprofits may weaken New York’s preschool infrastructure and divert public resources from the pressing task of closing inequities in access to early education.

Working inside policy organizations and the academy over the past three decades, Bruce Fuller has asked how public action best strengthens families and schools. He helped to design policy reforms for a free-thinking California governor, and advised opposition leaders on education reform as democracy emerged in southern Africa. Professor Fuller has studied child care programs arising at the grassroots or state run in Latin America. A fundamental question continues to motivate this array of research and writings: How can central governments enrich families and schools when situated in colorfully pluralistic societies? In short, what happens when government confronts culture?

Trained in political sociology, Professor Fuller's recent projects center on small-scale organizations that sprout across diverse communities, such as charter schools and preschools, which often spread in response to the clumsy or gray character of central states. Yet, decentralized institutions can disempower central governments, a worrisome scenario for those concerned with equity. Professor Fuller's current research delves into how young children are socialized in diverse Mexican-American homes, and what neighborhood organizations effectively advance their development. His recent book, Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education, examines how elite reformers often push for state incorporation of community programs, even eroding the authority and resources spread across diverse ethnic leaders.

Professor Fuller also looks into fields that have become hyper-centralized, exemplified by his critical work on No Child Left Behind. A college dropout, he eventually received his Ph.D. from Stanford University. Before coming to Berkeley, Professor Fuller was a research sociologist at the World Bank and taught at Harvard's School of Education.

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