Our staff's collective knowledge, skills, experiences, and backgrounds enable us to use a wide range of strategies and methods in our work. For further information about the capacities of Community Science staff, see Our Community.
Community Science is committed to making research and evaluation a participatory learning process that enhances the capacity of institutions to meet the needs and aspirations of community members. With our greatest strength the study of community and systems change, we also are committed to developing knowledge of how to address social problems in a way that will benefit all communities. Our methods for answering research and evaluation questions in various community contexts are state-of-the-art; to gather outcome and process data, we take both qualitative and quantitative approaches, including advanced statistical methods, case studies, surveys (by telephone, mail, Internet, or in-person), and ethnographic methods. Additionally, we employ the latest computer technology, as well as participatory research methods, and our staff members analyze archival data sets, including crime, census, and health data. Community Science is committed to the highest scientific standards and to making collected information both useful and accessible for various audiences.
Information, if shared and used, has the power to effect social and community change, making the ability to collect, share, and use data a critical capacity for all organizations. Community Science therefore focuses on helping organizations and participants learn to use data to plan, reflect, and take action in their communities, while also helping to establish new organizational norms and procedures for learning. We have helped local and national organizations and individuals (including program staff, evaluators, etc.) improve their capacity to collect and use information effectively through developing monitoring and learning systems, planning workshops, providing technical assistance, designing information systems, and establishing learning networks. Current examples of these services include:
- Organizing and facilitating learning networks that enable participants, both locally and nationally, to support each other through peer learning and sharing resources; and
- Convening or establishing neighborhood learning clusters for members of organizations working on common issues, national training and networking conferences, conference calls, listservs, and discussion boards—all with the purpose of creating the relationships needed to foster progressive change.
Through extensive research, many principles for effective community development strategies and programs have emerged. Research findings, however, are not always accessible to or easily adaptable by organizations, community leaders, funders, or practitioners. A key aspect of community development work is deriving the essential principles from prior research and guiding organizations to adapt models that other communities have used successfully. At Community Science, therefore, we develop materials and tools appropriate to the language and perspective of end-users. See our publications for examples of our ability to translate research into practice.
Comprehensive community initiatives must develop an infrastructure that enables community institutions to support initiative goals. To engage a community at the level needed for comprehensive change, organizations must have the capacity to address community needs and promote well-being. Community leaders, agency staff, and others need the knowledge, skills, resources, and relations to implement activities. National and local intermediary organizations are essential elements of the infrastructure needed to develop these local capacities to foster change. Intermediary organizations, in turn, must be mobilized and coordinated to provide multifaceted capacity-building supports such as workshops, technical assistance, peer learning/support networks, educational materials, resource development, and public information. Community Science facilitates the assessment, planning, and management of these support systems to help ensure that long-term capacity to make change is embedded in local communities. Community Science also provides foundation and government agencies with technical assistance, evaluation, and program management assistance to support national and local community initiatives.
Because of our cultural competence, Community Science staff members have been able to work effectively with communities and organizations throughout Latin America, Africa, Canada, Italy, Russia, and Southeast Asia, in addition to different ethnic communities throughout the United States.
Community Science staff is fluent in several languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Malay, Italian, and French. Language proficiency, however, is not the most important element of our capacity to work across cultures. We spend a great deal of time learning about the social organization, customs, norms, and history of the groups with whom we work, enabling us to build upon the strengths of different cultures; for example, we currently support several national and regional initiatives that engage with immigrant communities to increase their participation in civic activities and their relations with other groups. Community Science also leads a national effort to increase the number of evaluators of color and their participation in evaluation opportunities. Our staff's own ethnic diversity is among our greatest capacities, providing us the opportunity to learn about, struggle with, and value our differences (and similarities).
Community Science develops, coordinates, and facilitates workshops and other events. We have facilitated meetings of diverse groups, including practitioners, funders, community leaders, and scientists, both separately and together. We have conducted national and local meetings of foundation and government grantees. Community Science also has facilitated a variety of collaborative planning processes. We understand the importance of providing a comfortable environment for meetings, how to make the time both enjoyable and productive, and how to manage logistics—whether participants come from a single neighborhood or from across the country.