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News & Info

Empowering Youth to Help Transform Communities

The places we live are a core part of who we are. They affect our accomplishments, our perspectives, our sense of hope, and our overall well-being. It is this truth, coupled with the reality of deep poverty in many U.S. cities, that has driven the significant annual investments in place-based development efforts. The strategies implemented to enhance the health, safety, and economic opportunity for residents of these communities range widely. One important strategy is engaging and empowering youth. The next generation has been shown to be powerful change agents in their communities and therefore critical to our communities’ health and our nation’s success. Specifically, research has shown that with intentional investments of time, skills, leadership, and new opportunities, youth from disadvantaged communities can thrive as leaders, empower those around them, and work for community change while simultaneously charting new futures for themselves (Barnett & Brennan, 2006; Fulford & Thompson, 2013; Ginwright & James, 2002; Kirshner & Ginwright, 2012; Percy-Smith & Burns, 2013; Schwartz & Suyemoto, 2013; Stoneman, 2002).

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Groundwork USA’s Green Teams

Youth engagement strategies produce economic benefits both to the youth and the communities in which they live. Actively engaging youth in their communities strengthens social ties, fosters a sense of community, weakens the cycle of poverty, and inspires youth to achieve. Groundwork USA’s (GWUSA) Green Team program seeks to do just that by engaging high school-age youth from underserved and marginalized communities in environmental education, job training, stewardship, employment, and leadership opportunities. The Green Teams teach youth environmental stewardship and how to transform neglected land into community assets. 

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Community Science Gives Back!

A very important part of Community Science's mission is to directly give back to the local community and support national organizations that promote social justice and equity through donations in service. Each year Community Science staff members recommend a charity for the organization to make a donation on their behalf as their "holiday gift." In 2017, donations were made to the list of organizations noted below. We donated 13% of annual profits to another 20 local and national organizations. In addition, we donated thousands of dollars of office furniture to six local organizations as a result of recent office renovations.

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Staff Profile: Wanda Casillas

Wanda Casillas, Ph.D., Managing Associate, has extensive experience in monitoring and assessing the impact of healthcare and education strategies and programs using systems and culturally responsive evaluation approaches. Dr. Casillas has directed the design, planning, and implementation of projects dealing with the context surrounding the cognitive development and performance of students of color and other vulnerable students in K-12 as well as higher education institutions. For instance, she led a multi-state outcome evaluation of the National Science Foundation-funded Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate initiative, and designed and implemented evaluations of several 4H programs for the state of New York.

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Evaluation Capacity Building: It’s More Than Just Evaluation

“Information is power,” says Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin of St. Petersburg, Florida, during her welcoming speech at the annual Community Indicators Consortium in November 2017. She was referring to the conference’s theme this year—Information is Power: Data to Support Community Change—where hundreds of data-driven activists gathered to discuss the importance of community data for addressing inequity. The validity of data and reliable sources of information have never been as crucial as it is now, especially with accusations of “false news” and the idea of “alternative facts.” 

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Recent 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.


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.  


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.  


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.