Research into Action: A Report of the 1995 SPRE Research Roundtable

Article excerpt

This is a new era-a time for new possibilities for organizations and programs, whether developing joint programs, floating a bond with another agency, containing costs, downsizing, forming partnerships with external agencies, or collaborating for long-term survival. It is no longer business as usual-given today's political, social, and economic environments. Macroand micro-environmental factors continually demand that we move beyond traditional practices and look at new methods and strategies that will allow us to be proactive.

Many professionals have accepted the notion that collaboration and partnerships save resources, expedite time and enhance the likelihood of success. Additionally, professionals realize that if we can make a commitment to formalizing collaborative ventures, we stand a greater chance of success. However, despite these realizations, we do not seem to be entering partnerships to any significant degree. The paramount questions then become: why are things not happening given the issues and the needs of various agencies? why are we not establishing partnerships or collaborative groups? and moreover, why are we not promoting environments that will foster collaborations?

The Research Roundtable, a creation of the NRPA Board of Trustees whose mission is to establish a national research agenda, has been charged with developing a mechanism to enhance research between practitioners and educators to generate responses to these questions. In 1994 the first Research Roundtable was held with over 100 practitioners and academicians participating. The group examined and reflected on the impact of leisure and recreation services on various social problems, including substance abuse, youth at risk, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, mental health, crime, and unemployment.

In 1995, the Roundtable used a focus group research process to identify barriers to collaborative ventures. This article represents the second phase of continuous effort to achieve a transfer of research and to open research to influence all aspects of the leisure and recreation profession. It is written to share the initial responses of approximately 75 practitioners and 25 educators who convened during the 1995 NRPA Congress in San Antonio, Texas to address the issue of enhancing the transfer of research between practitioners and educators.

Two goals of the 1995 SPRE Research Roundtable were identified: 1) to respond in focus groups to pre-ordinate questions related to barriers to the transfer of research; and 2) to identify personal action steps to move forward in breaking the barriers to sharing research. Sampling

A random sample of approximately 200 practitioners was invited to participate in the Roundtable through a written letter. Approximately 125 practitioners indicated that they would participate in the session; 75 attended. The sample represented a cross section of individuals, agencies, cities, and states. SPRE members were invited via SPRENET and through personal contacts; approximately 25 educators participated in the focus group process. Pre-identified individuals served as moderators and others served as recorders. Methodology

The focus group technique was used in an attempt to identify the barriers to the sharing of research between those who conduct it (typically academicians) and those who are impacted by its findings (typically practitioners). Attendees were divided into groups of eight to 10 members, each with a moderator and recorder. Each group addressed one of the following questions: 1) identify and operationally define the barriers to collaborative research/evaluation efforts; 2) identify and operationally define barriers to research/evaluation methodologies; and 3) identify and operationally define barriers related to reporting styles and dissemination of findings.

In addition to the research questions asked in each focus group, group members were asked to identify an action step that they could take to their "home" territory which would address concerns and issues raised by the group. …