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News & Info

It Is Time to Take a Look at Collaborating for Equity and Justice

Collaborating for community or other types of social changes is not a recent idea. Formal community collaborations have been documented, along with corresponding literature, for almost 150 years. Explicit federal and philanthropic funding for collaborative efforts to address social issues began to burgeon during the 1980s. Before the end of the last century, it was rare to find a public or private Request for Proposal or grant program in the health and human services that did not require some form of collaboration, whether it was called a coalition, partnership, or collaborative. Every city had numerous collaborative efforts going on, each focusing on a certain social or health issue, or type of approach to that issue. By the mid 1990s, it was very common for nonprofit and other community leaders, along with funders, to spend a day or two each week going to meetings of different collaborative efforts in different offices, sometimes in the same building, and generally with the same people. Collaboration became the safe road to community and social change. We saw, during the same time, less funding going toward community organizing and other explicit efforts to redistribute power and wealth. While researchers and practitioners struggled with how to use collaboration to empower disenfranchised communities, Collective Impact was introduced as five basic ideas that would lead to change, devoid of any social justice agenda. 

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Building System Capacity. SAMHSA’s National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention Performance Assessment

The Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides funding in support of the National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention (NRC). The purpose of the NRC is to provide resources and training that increase the effectiveness of youth violence prevention programs; support the prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; and promote healthy development of children and youth from birth to 21 years old, especially among vulnerable populations. The NRC is comprised of two grant programs to select states, territories, tribal entities, and communities: Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) and Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health). The NRC is administered by American Institutes for Research (AIR), which provides training and technical assistance (T/TA) to these two grant programs and the field at large that build state, local, and tribal grantee capacities to successfully implement project activities and to scale up and sustain activities once federal funding ends.

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Staff Profile: Michael Marks

Michael B. Marks, Ph.D., Managing Associate at Community Science, has over 35 years of experience in senior-level administration, public policy and advocacy, research and evaluation, and direct social service positions primarily in the fields of child welfare, juvenile justice, and youth development. Dr. Marks also has consulted with states and counties and led international work adapting innovative community-based service models within child welfare and probation departments. Prior to joining Community Science, Dr. Marks worked as a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. In this position, he served as Director for the Organizational Commitments Project for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

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Developing Evaluators’ Capacities to Work With Minority Serving Institutions

Educational institutions have always played a critical role in leading important research in our nation. They also have been a place for demonstration initiatives aimed not only at improving the intellectual capacity of our next generation of leaders, but also their health and well-being. Minority serving institutions (MSIs) are no different; they are emerging as critical partners for evaluators and researchers for efforts designed to promote the health and well-being of communities of color. MSIs are two- and four-year institutions of higher education that serve primarily minority populations. MSIs include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as well as newer designees, for example, Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities. There continues, however, limited ability among researchers and evaluators—both White and of color—to collaborate effectively with MSIs, in part because they lack understanding about these institutions’ history and diversity, which is more complex and extensive than it appears to the outsider.

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Publications

Emerging Action Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change (March 2015)

Community Matters! Decades of scientific research have shown that being part of a supportive, inclusive and capable community promotes mental, physical, and social well-being more than any other factors known to the social and medical sciences. Our publication series, Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, shares what science and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community. The first publication in this series, “Emerging Principles for Designing and Implementing Community Change,” has just been released.

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Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites (July 2014)

This report describes, from the perspective of local stakeholders, the experience of several sites involved in Making Connections — the Foundation’s signature community change initiative of the 2000s — in developing and enhancing the core capacities essential for articulating and pursuing a local community change agenda. The report describes the conditions in the communities when Making Connections began; the core capacities built during the decade-long initiative; the factors that contributed to capacity building; the evidence of improved outcomes for children, families and neighborhoods resulting from the enhanced change capacities; the continuing challenges of sustaining those capacities; and key takeaways from the experience.  

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Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (April 2012)

In 2006, The Colorado Trust funded 14 organizations to improve their cultural competency in order to strengthen their capacity to reduce health disparities.  Community Science was engaged to evaluate the initiative, specifically assessing: 1) changes in cultural competency among grantees, 2) the influence of cultural competency changes on grantee interventions and short -term outcomes, 3) factors and conditions needed to bring about positive changes in organizational cultural competency, and 4) grantee progress and accomplishments over time.  

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The Importance of Culture in Evaluation

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides insights to help guide the complex dynamics between evaluators, funders and stakeholders of different cultures. The report provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation and recommends questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of cultural competency. 

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