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News & Info

Success Starts with Your Strategy: Lessons About Evaluating Community Change Initiatives

On August 27 of this year, Community Science President and CEO David Chavis, Ph.D., delivered an invited presentation to the Institute of Medicine’s meeting on Designing Evaluations for What Communities Value in Washington, D.C. Dr. Chavis pointed out, quoting Lisbeth Schorr, that community change planners and evaluators first need to “embrace complexity,” because one of the biggest failings in the implementation of these initiatives has been to make them simplistic in order to sell them to foundation boards, public officials, and community leaders. Yet the causes and effects of major social problems are complex and sophisticated, and complex solutions are essential. If they were simple, they would have been solved already.

“Strategy matters,” Dr. Chavis pointed out. “An evaluation is never better than what it evaluates!” He further cautioned, “Community change results from changing systems and environments, not programs.”

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New Contracts Expand Our Impact

Community Science received three new contract awards from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) for work to be performed during fiscal year 2015. Vice President and Principal Associate Kien Lee, Ph.D., stated, “These awards reflect our strong track record of quality work in terms of rigor and practicality, and our unparalled expertise in understanding and developing stronger, inclusive and caring communities. Our collaborative learning process and knowledge about building community capacity to solve problems will help our client address some of the critical issues we face as a nation, such as health disparities and disaster preparedness."

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APHA Presentation on Affordable Care Act Outreach Project

The 142nd Annual APHA Meeting and Exposition is being held this week in New Orleans, Louisiana. Community Science Senior Associate Oscar Espinosa, M.A., will deliver two presentations at the meeting: Educating and Empowering Youth Under the National Partnership for Action (NPA) to End Health Disparities, and Methods and Instruments Used to Assess the Reach and Impact of ACA Education and Outreach Efforts. Mr. Espinosa’s expertise in these topics is based on experience designing and leading the evaluation of the Office of Minority Health’s Youth NPA internship program and serving as the project director for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Outreach project, where he led the development of the measurement framework and the event assessment form.

Improving Access to Food: A Health Equity Imperative

With obesity rates on the rise in the United States and a national focus on healthcare reform, systems change in how we view healthy eating and food access is a priority. Additionally, with a disproportionate number of food deserts, i.e., areas where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile1, in low-income neighborhoods, food access becomes a critical health equity issue. Improving access to food includes not just improving the availability of healthy foods in communities, but also improving the affordability and quality of food as well as eliminating barriers that make it difficult for residents to access markets and stores. This requires a comprehensive view of the issue and an understanding of local conditions within a specific community that are impeding food access for residents. For example, healthy food outlets may exist; however, barriers to accessing them may occur in the form of lack of transportation to outlets or unsafe conditions surrounding local markets (e.g., lack of sidewalks, crime). For other communities, there may be many food outlets, but they are comprised of mostly unhealthy food options (e.g., fast food chains). Other communities may have healthy food options, but the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables makes them inaccessible to low-income residents.

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Transforming Prince George's County Communites

Community Science has been working with the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) to evaluate Transforming Prince George’s County Communities, a comprehensive initiative to improve nutrition and physical activity for low-income residents in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Community Transformation Grant, this effort focuses on changes in policies, systems, programs, and infrastructure to improve access to healthy foods and recreational opportunities.

IPHI Program Associate Kate McGrail stated, “This project has proactively engaged county stakeholders, including Prince George’s County community members, in order to identify sustainable solutions and incorporate them into county policies to create safe and healthy
environments for families in ways that matter to them—affordable healthy food, active lifestyles, and stronger clinical preventive services.”

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Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment Promotes Racial and Social Justice

Dr. Julia Lee, Managing Associate at Community Science, together with former Community Science Senior Associate Dr. LaKeesha Woods, facilitated a roundtable discussion titled, “Measuring Racial Equity: Challenges, Opportunities, and Applications of Culturally Responsive Assessment” at the Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA) 2014 Conference in Chicago on September 20, 2014.

Drs. Lee and Woods presented their work in juvenile justice and immigrant integration in order to share the experiences and challenges faced in the effort to be responsive to issues related to racial equity, to reduce disparities, and ultimately to promote racial and social justice. With the participants, they explored what challenges exist and what measures or tools could be incorporated into their work to be responsive to cultural issues and nuances.

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Strengthening Community in Action: Using the Sense of Community Index-2

By Jon Clarke, Community and Neighborhood Resources Manager, City of Longmont, CO

I use the concepts of the Sense of Community Index to design programs that build a sense of community and to measure the effectiveness of those programs in building a sense of community. Those of us working for the City of Longmont, we know inherently that building a sense of community is a good thing. The Sense of Community Index has given me the ability to demonstrate to city leadership the results of the work that we are doing in our community.

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Measuring Sense of Community

Research has conclusively found that a sense of community (also described as social support, social cohesion, etc.) is one of the most important factors needed for social, psychological, and physical well-being. Community Science has been the leader in the field in the measurement of a sense of community. The Sense of Community Index version 2 (SCI-2) is based on a well-known theory introduced in a seminal piece on sense of community by David McMillan and Community Science’s CEO David Chavis in 1986. The authors describe sense of community using four elements: membership, influence, meeting needs, and a shared emotional connection. Community Science developed the measurement tool to help assess sense of community. It is the most frequently used measurement of sense of community among researchers and practitioners globally. The original tool was a 12-item scale. The current version of this assessment instrument – the SCI-2 (which is a 24-item scale with four subscales) – was developed to better reflect the four elements of the theory and advances in research on this topic.

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Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (4/19/2012)

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.  

Click "Continue Reading" below to go to final evaluation report.

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Scope, Scale, and Sustainability: What It Takes to Create Lasting Community Change

How can we address complex social problems in communities and make an impact on a larger scale? By changing institutions' policies and practices, and developing new strategies that address root causes of social problems. Community Science' David M. Chavis, Ph.D. and Tina R. Trent, M.A., (now with NeighborWorks America) co-authored Scope, Scale, and Sustainability: What It Takes to Create Lasting Community Change,  published in the inaugural issue of The Foundation Review.

In the study, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, eleven completed community change initiatives (CCI) were analyzed to better understand what had been learned from these initiatives about how to reach the scope, scale, and sustainability needed to achieve lasting community change.

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Strategic Factors for Building Community: The Five C’s Community, Connections, Control, Cash, & Collective Action

This brief report describes the strategic factors for stimulating community -wide health and well-being. It illustrates how each of the Five C’s “can be put together to develop an effective, broad-reaching, and sustainable community development strategy”.

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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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Safe Start- Principles for Engaging and Retaining Families in Services

This report was developed by Community Science for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for the Safe Start Initiative. It describes the promising principles for engaging and retaining families in non-mandated services.

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