In today’s Social Work Podcast, Corey and Sandy distinguish between Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and talk why they use PAR rather than CBPR in their work with communities. They give examples of how challenging it is to actually do PAR. They talked about the need to bridge the gap between research and practice and how that was one of their motivations for writing their text, Change Research. Throughout our conversation Sandy and Corey bring up lots of ideas that are perfect discussion points for research classes, both at the masters and doctoral level.
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BiosCorey Shdaimah, LL.M., PhD, is Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, School of Social Work with degrees in law and social work. Dr. Shdaimah’s research and writing focuses on how people respond and adapt to policies and programs that they perceive as ineffective or unjust. She has investigated these responses in housing-related child welfare decisions, court responses to truancy, and, most recently, alternative criminal justice responses to prostitution. Dr. Shdaimah relies on primarily qualitative methods, which elicit the important insights that people have about improving the systems in which they work and interact. She has published numerous articles in journals and edited volumes and is the author of Negotiating Justice: Progressive Lawyering, Low-Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change (New York University Press) and, with Sanford Schram and Roland Stahl, Change Research: A Case Study of Collaborative Methods for Social Workers and Advocates (Columbia University Press).
Sanford Schram has taught social theory and policy at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research since 1997. Schram serves on the editorial board of the Social Service Review, as well as the boards for a number of other scholarly journals. He is the author or co-author of seven books and co-editor of another five. Schram’s first book Words of Welfare: The Poverty of Social Science and the Social Science of Poverty (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995) won the Michael Harrington Award from the American Political Science Association in 1996. His most recent book, Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), is co-authored with Joe Soss and Richard C. Fording and was also selected for the Michael Harrington Award for 2012, making Schram the first person to author two books that have won that prestigious prize. Disciplining the Poor has also been selected for the 2012 Oliver Cromwell Cox award from the American Sociological Association for the best book in the prior two years for combating racism. Schram is the 2012 recipient of the Charles McCoy Career Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association.
Today's episode of the Social Work Podcast is on research. Don’t turn it off. Give me a chance to pitch it to you. Why did you get into social work in the first place? Uh huh, um, yes, Ok, so I just heard from 100,000 of you and you all basically gave me the same answer: the pay check. I’m sorry. My producer just tapped me on the shoulder and said that we had some cross-feed with the Motley Fool podcast. Because you wanted to make a difference in the world – that’s why you got into social work. At some point in your life you said, “there is a problem out there and I want to be part of the solution.” Still with me? Excellent. Ok. Research. Wait, don’t go anywhere. Research is how we document that we are actually making a difference. You can’t just say “this works, trust me.” Remember the DARE program? Police officers came into schools, gave out black t-shirts with red letters, and claimed to keep kids off of drugs? So, after spending nearly ½ billion tax-payer dollars to provide this program, researchers evaluated the program and learned that the kids who went through the DARE program were NO LESS LIKELY to use drugs than kids who did not go through the program. So, if you were a school social worker passionate about keeping kids off of drugs and you advocated for your school to pay for DARE instead of providing other services, you would have been sold a bill of goods. In part because of debacles like DARE, funders are requiring community groups to demonstrate that what they are doing works. Research. So, if you got into social work because you wanted to make a difference then at some point you have to make peace with the fact that research is the way to document that you’re making a difference. So why are so many students and practitioners totally turned off by the idea of research? And why do so many researcher seem to be totally dispassionate about social problems? My guests suggest that one of the places where the disconnect occurs is in the classroom: Students come in passionate about problems, but what they learn about is methods. For example, you’re passionate about improving the quality of life of people with schizophrenia. But, instead of building on that passion, your research class focuses on how you are operationalizing “quality of life,” how you are establishing who has schizophrenia, what measures you are using, the setting, type and duration of intervention, exclusion criteria, and potential sources for funding. The research prof will want to know if you need to compare changes in between two groups of people (ANOVA), or are you predicting the likelihood that someone will be successful in a certain program (Regression)? If you find that your brain is turning off as I’m talking about research, then this episode is for you. If you find yourself getting excited – then this episode is also for you. If you are an advocate or practitioner who has found the experience of working with researchers to be completely confusing and or frustrating, this episode is for you. Basically this episode is for everyone.
Today’s episode is about how to balance the demands of doing good research with the passion that practitioners and advocates have for addressing the social problems that face their communities. My guests are Corey Shdaimah and Sanford Schram. Dr. Shdaimah’s research and writing focuses on how people respond and adapt to policies and programs that they perceive as ineffective or unjust. She uses primarily qualitative research methods to investigate these responses in housing-related child welfare decisions, court responses to truancy, and, most recently, alternative criminal justice responses to prostitution. Dr. Schram’s research and writing focuses on social theory and policy. He has written or edited 12 books. He is the only scholar to have won the Michael Harrington Award from the American Political Science Association twice, first for his 1995 book Words of Welfare: The Poverty of Social Science and the Social Science of Poverty, published by University of Minnesota Press and his most recent book, Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race, published by University of Chicago Press, 2011. Dr. Schram is the 2012 recipient of the Charles McCoy Career Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association. Drs Shdaimah and Schram, along with Roland Stahl, co-authored the 2011 text that is the focus of today’s interview: Change Research: A Case Study on Collaborative Methods for Social Workers and Advocates published by Columbia University Press.
In today’s Social Work Podcast, Corey and Sandy distinguish between Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and talk why they use PAR rather than CBPR in their work with communities. They give examples of how challenging it is to actually do PAR. They talked about the need to bridge the gap between research and practice and how that was one of their motivations for writing their text, Change Research. Throughout our conversation Sandy and Corey bring up lots of ideas that are perfect discussion points for research classes, both at the masters and doctoral level. They use lots of big words and throw around lots of big ideas, AND you can still tell that they are passionate about making the world a better place.
For those of you interested in learning more about doing the kind of community-based change research that we talk about in today’s episode, I posted a list of resources on socialworkpodcast.com that Corey very generously provided. You can connect with other social workers at the Social Work Podcast Facebook page, www.facebook.com/swpodcast, or follow the Twitter feed @socworkpodcast. You can listen to the Social Work Podcast from socialworkpodcast.com, by downloading the episodes through iTunes or any number of other apps, or you can stream the 10 most recent episodes right from your mobile device using the Stitcher Radio mobile app (http://stitcher.com/s?fid=31925&refid=stpr). One quick note about the interview: I recorded it at Sandy’s beautiful house in Philadelphia in November of 2011 right after the book was published. At the time of the interview Corey was a not-yet-tenured assistant professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. She has since been awarded tenured and promoted to associate professor. Congratulations Corey.
And now, without further ado, on to episode 82 of the Social Work Podcast. The Challenges and Rewards of Collaborative Community-Based Social Work Research: Interview with Corey Shdaimah and Sanford Schram.
Shdaimah, C. S., Stahl, R. W., & Schram, S. (2011). Change research: a case study on collaborative methods for social workers and advocates. New York: Columbia University Press.
Collaborating with community members adds a critical dimension to social work research, providing practitioners with intimate knowledge of a community's goals and needs while equipping community advocates with vital skills for social change. Sharing the inspiring story of one such partnership, Corey Shdaimah, Roland Stahl, and Sanford F. Schram recount their efforts working with an affordable housing coalition in Philadelphia, helping activists research low-income home ownership and repair. Their collaboration helped create the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund, which funnels millions of dollars to people in need. This volume describes the origins of their partnership and its growth, including developing tensions and their diffusion in ways that contributed to the research. The authors personalize methods of research and the possibilities for advocacy, ultimately connecting their encounters to more general, critical themes. Building on the field's commitment to social justice, they effectively demonstrate the potential of change research to facilitate widespread, long-term difference and improve community outcomes.
Resources for Doing Community-Based Research
- Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (http://www.ccph.info/) provides the most comprehensive set of resources for learning about CBPR and not just for health-policy concerns. It includes definitions, tools and resources, and CBPR course syllabi. Most but not all summaries and links listed in this appendix come from this organization’s Web site.
- Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies (http://www.nyam.org/initiatives/cues.shtml) was established by the New York Academy of Medicine in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and with the cooperation of multiple collaborating institutions. The center’s purpose is to study social determinants of health using a CBPR approach, with an emphasis on investigating the role of social support and social cohesion. The geographical communities of focus are East and Central Harlem, areas where a substantial proportion of the residents are poor people of color.
- Center for Urban Research and Learning (http://www.luc.edu/curl/) promotes cooperation between Loyola University researchers and community-based organizations, citywide organizations, social service agencies, health care providers, and government. The center recognizes the importance of working with communities and organizations in seeking new solutions to pressing urban problems.
- Colorado Community-Based Research Network (http://www.ccbrn.org/) is a network of university and college faculty, staff, and students; nonprofit and community-based organizations; and foundations interested in conducting community-based research that benefits the metro-Denver area.
- Community Linked Interdisciplinary Research (http://clir.buffalo.edu/) has the mission of linking together community research needs in the public and private sectors with research expertise among University of Buffalo faculty to provide additional opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research that is of use to western New York industry, government, community groups, schools, and social service agencies.
- Community Research and Learning Network (http://www.coralnetwork.org/) links up university faculty and students in the Washington, D.C., metro area with community-based organizations. Its Web site provides opportunities for researchers and community-based organizations to list their interests in CBPR and to find ways to work together.
- Davydd Greenwood’s publications Davydd J. Greenwood, a Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University and one of the leading theorists regarding CBPR (http://anthropology.cornell.edu/faculty/Davydd-Greenwood.cfm).
- Detroit Community: Academic Urban Research Center (http://www.sph.umich.edu/urc/) works to establish partnerships between the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the Detroit Health Department, and six community-based organizations so that they can work together to improve the quality of life of the communities on the eastern and southwestern sides of Detroit.
- East St. Louis Action Research Project (http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/) establishes and nurtures mutually enhancing partnerships between community-based organizations in distressed urban areas and students, staff, and faculty at the University of Illinois as well as on other campuses.
- Institute for Community Research (http://www.incommunityresearch.org/index.htm) is an independent, nonprofit research organization in Hartford, Connecticut, dedicated to using research to promote equal access to health, education, and cultural resources in a diverse society. It collaborates with community and institutional partners in research and development to improve services, foster individual and community strengths, influence public policy, and contribute to social science theory and practice.
- COMM-ORG: The On-Line Conference on Community Organizing (http://comm-org.wisc.edu/) Edited and moderated by Randy Stoecker, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. This provides resources for organizers and scholars, including an active listerv, papers, syllabi, and organizing resources on a variety of specific topics.
- James Jennings’ Advocacy Research (http://www.tufts.edu/~jjenni02/reports.html), created by Tufts University planning professor James Jennings, explicitly practices community-based advocacy research in ways that demonstrate how long-standing commitments to work with community groups can pay off for both the researcher and the groups.
- Just Connections (http://www.ferrum.edu/aca/justconnections/index.htm) invigorates grassroots democracy among residents of distressed mountain communities by creating and using models for participatory research and service.
- Office of Community-Based Research at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (http://web.uvic.ca/ocbr/), is part of the university’s strategic vision of increasing civic engagement. It works toward democratizing knowledge, supporting community-driven research initiatives, and supporting students and faculty who are doing or who wish to do community-based research.
- Pam Oliver’s Advocacy Research (http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~oliver/RACIAL/racelinks.htm#ActivismPolicy), set up by University of Wisconsin sociology professor Pam Oliver, does advocacy research on race and incarceration. It explicitly embraces an advocacy stance in ways that are refreshing and illuminating.
- Southeast Community Research Center (http://scrc.squarespace.com/) was established to promote, facilitate, and conduct participatory and community-based research throughout the southeastern United States.
- Toronto Community Based Research Network (http://torontocbr.ning.com/) brings together community practitioners, academics, funders, and community members from across the Greater Toronto Area who are or have been involved in CBPR projects.
- University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia (http://www.temple.edu/uccp/) conducts research on community engagement, best practices in youth leadership development, and university community collaboration. Much of this research is done in concert with community partners. It has been presented at local workshops as well as at professional conferences and has appeared in professional journals including Journal of Urban Affairs, Political Economy of the Good Society Journal, and American Political Science Newsletter, among others.
APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:
Singer, J. B. (Producer). (2013, June 28). The challenges and rewards of collaborative community-based research for social change: Interview with Corey Shdaimah and Sanford Schram [Episode 82]. Social Work Podcast [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkpodcast.com/2013/06/change-research.html