Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Community-Based Research Assessments: Some Principles and Practices

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Community-Based Research Assessments: Some Principles and Practices

Article excerpt

Community-based research (CBR) creates new knowledge for the explicit purpose of advancing social change (Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003). The types of social change we seek to advance through CBR include: enhancing the capacity of the individuals or community-based organizations (CBOs) with which we collaborate; increasing goods and services delivered to disadvantaged groups or clients of CBOs; empowering communities or constituencies to advance their social change claims; and altering the policies and/or social structures that limit opportunities and life chances for classes of disadvantaged people. We also seek to transform our higher education institutions and, when CBR is employed as classroom pedagogy, hope to transform our students academically, personally, socially and politically. Yet, based on experience with assessments of service-learning in particular and community change initiatives in general, we know how difficult it is to assess the impacts of our efforts (Eyler & Giles, 1999; Nyden, 1997). Social change is typically quite slow to occur and often contingent on far more factors than any particular social change initiative can influence. However, we assert that the steps toward social change that are implemented through intentional community-based initiatives can be better understood and supported by undertaking assessments--systematically understanding their process and rigorously evaluating their outcomes. This article articulates a conceptual framework and roadmap for undertaking assessments in CBR.

First considered is the question of what is distinctive about assessment in CBR and why we believe this work is so valuable. This is both a value-laden question and an epistemological matter that merits response at both levels. A conceptual framework of assessments in CBR is then presented in order to demonstrate the broad range of analyses that can be undertaken, and to illustrate how these contribute to understanding social change. A decision-tree is outlined to help guide practitioners formulate appropriate assessments.

What is Different about Assessment in CBR

CBR, as defined here, is the collaborative creation of new knowledge to advance social change on behalf of disadvantaged communities or groups. The term assessment is used to refer to the research process through which these social change efforts are evaluated with respect to outcomes--for the individuals and collectivities undertaking the change effort, and for the targets or objectives of their change efforts. The actors themselves can be changed through the process of undertaking the change effort, often in ways that they hope empower them and/or expand the organization's capacity or increase its efficiency. The intended effects of their change efforts typically include changing power arrangements (enhancing disadvantaged group's power) and altering institutional practices or structural arrangements that limit their life chances. These process and effects outcomes are referred to below as one dimension of the assessment framework.

The process of undertaking assessments in CBR constitutes the critical feedback loop that enables assessing the effectiveness of social change efforts in light of the change goals set by the interested stakeholders in the process. Assessments are analogous to a reflective process through which social change actors and advocates articulate their change goals and formulate the criteria with which they will evaluate the successes and failures of change efforts. This in turn guides the actors in rethinking their change efforts, influencing whether and how their further efforts should be modified. This is the value-laden premise, and promise, of undertaking assessments in CBR--that the collaborative researchers seek to improve the efficacy of social change efforts so that they improve the quality of life and/or opportunities for the disadvantaged communities or constituencies with which they work. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.