CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Building the School-Community Connector Role
Jody Kretzmann is leading a three-year research project supported by the Chicago Community Trust that will begin to institutionalize a new mechanism for creating mutually productive relationships between local schools and their surrounding communities. By defining the role of the school-community connector and building the capacity of individuals in this role, this project will (a) help schools position themselves to secure new pedagogical resources and political support for school funding and (b) help communities tap into school assets for community building activities.
The project expands on earlier work with Perspectives, a charter school in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, within the Chicago Public Schools system. During the first year, this project will explore the lay of the land at innovative schools in the Chicago area and around the nation, looking for examples of where the school-community connector role has been successfully implemented. In the second year, the knowledge generated will be translated into a variety of materials for use in further developing the school community connector role in schools in the Chicagoland area, and testing the recommended method for implementing this role in both new and existing schools. In the third year, materials — including lessons learned — will be translated for a national audience and disseminated through national networks such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS).
Read more about Kretzmann’s research
Neighborhood Health Status Improvement
Deborah Puntenney is leading a five-year project in Rochester, New York, that uses asset-based community development principles and practices to help community coalitions improve the health status of their neighborhoods. Supported by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, three central-city coalitions and one rural coalition have been selected for multi-year funding for the research, design and implementation of strategic health improvement plans for their local areas. The foundation recognizes the fact that poverty materially contributes to poor health status, and that initiatives that target the health consequences of poverty must address the broad social and economic contexts of the community. The four coalitions will work to improve the health status of people living in their neighborhoods, all of which are challenged by poverty and other forms of disadvantage. Their efforts include broad plans that address the well-being of entire families, and initiatives that bridge the systems of health, education, housing and employment, thereby creating a healthy context for life and opportunities for improved health status.
Using a community-based participatory research design, Puntenney is working with each of the neighborhood coalitions to map local health assets, identify local health priorities, mobilize local residents, associations, and institutions, develop a long-term strategic health plan, and leveraging the resources they will require to implement their plan.
Building the Community of North Chicago
Deborah Puntenney is leading a one-year project in North Chicago, Illinois, that will invest in building a strong coalition of local partners— residents and local associations, organizations and institutions — capable of designing and implementing a community-based participatory research project that will inform and help define the coalition’s future community building efforts. Using an asset-oriented, grassroots approach, the project will bring these groups together, first to develop trusting relationships, then to consider shared interests, and the assets, skills, and knowledge each member brings to the table that reflect their shared interests in improving the health of the community. All participants will be encouraged to identify and invite other interested individuals to help expand the stakeholder group. Two strategically positioned community-wide meetings will provide the venue for community visioning and moving toward identifying what kind of local research the coalition might undertake that would contribute to establishing priorities and setting goals for improving the overall health of the community. By the end of the year, the project partners hope a major coalition will be in place with residents positioned as drivers of the work, and other stakeholders as partners in the work.
RECENTLY COMPLETED RESEARCH PROJECTS
KaBOOM! Program Evaluation: Building Communities One Playground at a Time
Deborah Puntenney led the 2007–08 evaluation of KaBOOM! and its community build model, through which it supports community residents, associations and institutions to work together to build a playground for local children. The project examined 110 playground projects across the nation and concluded that the KaBOOM! model was creating a positive impact in the disadvantaged communities on which it focuses, and in more advantaged communities where the model produces similar outcomes in terms of building community cohesion and strength. Puntenney is currently working with KaBOOM! to expand the research with a more serious examination of the impact the playgrounds have on children's physical activity, as well as on broader community engagement.
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