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OUR NEWS

On this page, you'll find news about Community Science – our latest publications, press releases and staff announcements. We're expanding so keep checking back!

Community Science in Action at the 28th Annual AEA Conference

From October 15-18, the American Evaluation Association will hold its 28th annual conference in Denver, Colorado at the Hyatt Regency and the Colorado Convention Center and Community Science will be well-represented!

TIG Business Meeting: Disaster & Emergency Management Evaluation, Making Sense of Chaos: The State of Disaster and Emergency Management Evaluation, Thursday, October 16, 2014, 7:15 PM to 8:45 PM

Community Science Associate Brandi Gilbert, Ph.D. will chair this TIG Business Meeting that brings together representatives from state, local, and international organizations working in the field of disaster and emergency management evaluation. Presentations will cover considerations for evaluation of the humanitarian industry, trends in value for money ratios, working with minimal resources, and the impact of fewer drills and exercises on evaluating disaster readiness. The group will discuss the future of the field, and share recommendations for applying the many skills, perspectives, and experience inherent in this interdisciplinary arena.

Human Services Evaluation Track Roundtable, Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:15 PM to 7:00 PM

Jaehyun Julia Lee, Ph.D., will co-facilitate this roundtable discussion entitled "Keep in touch!" -- Reaching and staying in touch with hard-to-reach evaluation participants over time while meeting budget and time restraints. Dr. Lee, a Managing Associate at Community Science, will share specific examples from working with refugees in the United States, including the challenges faced and expertise gained from on the ground experiences related to connecting with refugee participants, and maintaining contact with them over time. The roundtable presenters will pose questions to discuss best practices involving hard-to-reach evaluation participants under budget and time restraints.

Health Evaluation Panel, Saturday, October 18, 2014, 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM

Community Science Vice President and Principal Associate Kien S. Lee, Ph.D. will serve as the Discussant at this session entitled Measuring Capacity and Community Change: Evaluating a Comprehensive Community Initiative to Improve Nutrition and Physical Activity. She will be joined by colleagues Brandi Gilbert, Ph.D., and Margaret Paek, M.P.H., who will present the evaluation findings from a project implemented by the Institute for Public Health Innovation -- Transforming Prince George's County Communities (TPGCC), an initiative that applies a range of strategies to improve the health of community residents. Presentations will describe the methods used and the challenges of balancing strategy-level evaluation efforts with large-scale and long-term impact evaluation in a relatively short time period. The group will discuss key measures, including collaboration and impact of the Food Equity Council (FEC); increased availability and accessibility of produce through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and double value coupon program (DVCP) geared toward low-income residents; and increased cross-sector collaboration and community capacity to address barriers to recreational opportunities. The findings from this work provide insight into strengths and challenges of evaluation processes that can inform future assessments of public health initiatives designed to change the built environments.


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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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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Community Science Day of Service

On August 22, Community Science participated in its biannual day of service at A Wider Circle. A Wider Circle is a nonprofit organization with a mission to end poverty. They address the whole person through various programs targeting job preparedness, health and wellness, and housing. Through their Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, A Wider Circle provides beds, dressers, tables, and other large and small home goods free of charge to individuals in need. A student crew filmed A Closer Look at A Wider Circle on the day of service.

"At A Wider Circle, we meet people every day who are living in unacceptable conditions - conditions that in this country we have the knowledge, creativity, and energy to change.  The only way it will change, however, is when companies (yes, companies!) lead the way.  Community Science has become an integral part of what we do at A Wider Circle, beyond the fantastic volunteer days they have here.  We learn a lot from Community Science, and we like putting them to work as well!  Here's to more volunteering - and to even more progress in the movement to end poverty," said Mark Bergel, PhD, Founder and Executive Director. Community Science staff spent the day sorting furniture, clothing, and stocking the organization’s showroom. We have provided them with free planning and evaluation as well as placed an intern at their office last summer.


Staff Profile: Sarya Sok

Sarya Sok, MPA, Analyst, has a background in international evaluation for public health, democracy, human rights and governance, youth, civic education, refugees and immigration, natural resources, and climate change interventions. She is experienced in advising evaluation teams, developing qualitative and quantitative data collection tools, analyzing data, and writing reports. Before joining Community Science, she served as an independent consultant for a national education reform program in Jordan, a pilot impact evaluation of a Cambodian civic education program, and a global network analysis of newborn program partners. Fun fact: Sarya once pleaded with Thai bowling staff in Bangkok to allow her to purchase the bowling shoes she wore when she broke 150.
Cost: 200 baht (roughly $6).
Sour look on the bowling staff’s face: Priceless.


R&D for Social Change

We usually don’t think about research and development (R&D) as an important part of community change. R&D is often assumed to be just something that pharmaceutical and information technology companies do. From our very beginning, we have considered Community Science a research and development organization for social change. The primary purpose of R&D in an organization is to discover and create new knowledge about scientific and technological topics for the purpose of uncovering and enabling development of valuable new products, processes, and services. We have understood the importance of taking an R&D perspective in our work, given the potential critical impact of what we do on the well-being of children, families, and other people. 

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JourneyStart ©

Health and healthcare disparities continue to affect underserved populations in the United States. One strategy for reducing these disparities is improving organizations’ cross-cultural competency. An organization that is cross-culturally competent means that it has written policies and procedures as well as practices that allow its staff to work effectively with people from underserved populations and from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

Cross-cultural competency is “a set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors among individuals, as well as policies and practices within an organization that enable effective work in cross-cultural situations.”1   It’s a way of operating that is sensitive and responsive to people from different backgrounds and ensures that health care is appropriate for them.

1Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care, Volume I. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center.

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Immigrant Integration: From Melting Pot, to Mosaic, to Community and Systems Change

Community Science has been involved in immigrant integration work since 1999 when we provided technical assistance and other support to a national effort funded by the Ford and Mott Foundations in partnership with six local foundations to build relationships between long-time residents and newcomers. In 2005, we evaluated The Colorado Trust's Immigrant Integration Initiative. That same year, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees commissioned Community Science to write the evaluation-related sections of a toolkit that included a wide range of resources to meet the information needs of foundations that sought to support immigrant integration work. In 2012, we partnered with Welcoming America (WA) to assess WA's efforts to transform communities into more welcoming and integrated places. In 2013, we began working with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) to facilitate its effort to promote immigrant integration, as well as with World Education, Inc., to implement the Networks for Integrating New Americans sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

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Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services Focuses on Immigrant Integration

In 2013, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) decided to focus more extensively on immigrant integration. One of its units, the Children Services Unit (CSU), engaged Community Science to assist in aligning its efforts with the organization’s immigrant integration agenda. We worked with CSU staff to apply a child welfare lens to that agenda. The process included redefining the integration outcomes in child welfare terms, determining the outcome measures, and examining the degree to which CSU’s current work supports immigrant integration.

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Incenting Healthy Food Choices

In May of 2014, Community Science shared the results of the SNAP Healthy Food Cluster Evaluation at a Healthy Food Incentive workshop organized by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR). The mission of this public-private partnership, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is to “improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and application of childhood obesity research” and to apply data to halt and reverse its impact through enhanced coordination and collaboration. Leading healthy food practitioners were invited to provide their perspectives from the field that could inform effective practices and policies. Partially due to the Farm Bill’s authorization of $125 million for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), SNAP healthy food practitioners (including those in our cluster evaluation) were there to tell their story regarding their role and potential to address the health and nutritional needs of America’s least advantaged.

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Framework for Evaluating Community Change Now Available

David M. Chavis, Ph.D. and Scott Hebert were the primary authors of a recently released publication by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), entitled Evaluating Community Change: A Framework for Grantmakers. The publication is based on Community Science’s work with the GEO's Community of Practice on Evaluating Place-Based Grantmaking as well as the summation of the lessons learned from our experience and other studies we have conducted of placed based and other community change initiatives. The publication offers a framework of measures and potential indicators that can help grantmakers evaluate and ultimately improve their work. You can download a copy of this interactive document by clicking on this link: Evaluating Community Change: A Framework for Grantmakers.


Community Science to Provide Expert Consulting for Promoting Community Engagement

Community Science has been awarded, out of a highly competitive field, a five-year blanket purchase agreement (BPA) by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), an independent federal agency that encourages community involvement through volunteer programs, including Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, VISTA, and the Social Innovation Fund, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. Together with partner and subcontractor, Campaign Consultation, Community Science will provide CNCS with a broad range of services, including research and evaluation, training, digital learning development, and organizational capacity building in support of CNCS’s strategic goals. David M. Chavis, PhD, President/CEO stated “This award opens up a new relationship for us with one of the most important  agencies for promoting stronger communities and social change. As the only small business awarded this BPA, it reflects a recognition of our and our partner’s demonstrated expertise and commitment to community and systems changes as well as the dedication of our staff to high quality work, on time, and on budget.”


Community Networks Can Foster Health Equity Through ACA Outreach

Oscar Espinosa Shares Strategies for Increasing Access to Care

In February 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. A significant result of this landmark legislation includes affordable health insurance coverage for previously uninsured and underinsured individuals, coverage for several preventive care services, and protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Enrolling in health insurance plans and accessing health care services will be critical to the success of the law and the well-being of the population as well as the nation. The ACA assures affordable health coverage for youth ages 18 through 34, immigrants, and racial and ethnic minority populations.

During the first open enrollment period which ended on March 31, 2014, it was imperative to ensure that people who qualified for better coverage under the ACA were aware of their benefits and the procedures for enrollment. For instance, young adults have one of the highest uninsured rates, and racial and ethnic minority populations are uninsured at a much higher rate than the overall U.S. population. While some young adults don’t believe they need health insurance, others are simply unaware of the options available to help them obtain health care coverage. These population groups can be difficult to reach for a variety of reasons including language access, low interaction rates with the health care system, and beliefs that health coverage is unnecessary because of good health status.

To support implementation of the ACA, the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) led by the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), identified outreach and education to racial and ethnic and underserved populations as a priority.

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Assessing the Impact of Regional Health Equity Council (RHEC) Outreach and Education Efforts to Promote Enrollment

Community Science, in collaboration with CommunicateHealth, has been contracted by the Office of Minority Health (OMH) to work with National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities’ Regional Health Equity Councils (RHECs). We’re assessing the impact that their education and outreach efforts are having on racial and ethnic minority communities throughout the country to enroll in health insurance plans.

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A Framework for Measuring Equitable Revitalization

Principal Associate Scott Hebert made a presentation on “Considerations in Assessing Equitable Revitalization” at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s May 12-14, 2014 conference on Reinventing Older Communities.

Scott’s presentation was part of a panel on Measuring the Impact of Revitalization, and outlined how the metrics traditionally used to measure revitalization efforts generally fail to assess the effects on pre-existing low- and moderate-income residents and local businesses.

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Putting the Impact into Collective Impact and Other Collaborative Strategies

Senior Associate Evelyn Yang Details The True Value of Working Together

Collaborative efforts to address wide ranging social, economic, health and other issues exist in almost every community in the United States. Whether they are called partnerships, coalitions, task forces or collaboratives, the intent of these multi-sector, comprehensive change initiatives is that by bringing together all those with a stake in the issue (e.g., those affected by the problem and those actively involved in addressing the problem) there is a greater likelihood of achieving wide-spread, community-level improvements.

However, it is not enough that concerned agencies, organizations, sectors and individuals convene to discuss issues in the community and share information about what each is doing. Collaboratives need to ensure action, implemented strategically and synergistically, in order to achieve broad scale, sustainable improvements in the community.

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Community Science VP Speaks to White House Advisors

Kien Lee Speaks to Domestic Policy Council at the White House

On April 10, 2014, Principal Associate Kien Lee, Ph.D., along with her colleagues who lead the technical assistance team for the Network for Integrating New Americans(NINA), met with members of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

The network members were at the White House in Washington, DC, to attend the kick-off meeting for this immigrant integration initiative funded by the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.

During the meeting, the technical assistance team as well as members of the five networks selected to be part of the initiative, shared information about each networks’ integration efforts. Domestic Policy Council members who were present, in turn, shared information about the various White House initiatives that touch on immigrant and immigration issues.

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Community Science Staff Presents on Collective Impact and Scale

Scott Hebert Addresses Urban Affairs Association at Annual Meeting

On March 20, 2014, Community Science Principal Associate Scott Hebert made a presentation titled “Moving to Collective Impact and Scale Through Collaborative Leadership” at the 44th Annual Meeting of UAA in San Antonio, TX. Mr. Hebert’s presentation was part of a panel on “Using Community Development to Leverage Systems Change: Early Lessons from The Integration Initiative.”

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Community Science Featured on PBS for SNAP Program Evaluation

Led by Community Science Principal Associate Ricardo Millett and Senior Associate LaKeesha Woods, and reported at pbs.org, the Healthy Food Incentives Cluster Evaluation found that when farmers markets incentivize the use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, the consumption of fruits and vegetables increases.

The study looked at "matched-dollar" incentive programs at more than 500 farmers markets in 24 states and the District of Columbia to see if people using SNAP, which provides financial assistance to low-income families, would purchase healthier options.

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The Impact of Cross-Cultural Competency

Understanding cultural and social contexts goes a long way towards increasing equity for all.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health, cultural and linguistic competence is defined as "...a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations."
But what does this mean in the real world? And what is its impact on overcoming disparities in health and social services?

One word: Understanding.

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Making it Count Through Coordination and Collaboration

Community Science helps build strong community infrastructure by supporting Systems of Care

 Change is rarely an individual effort. In order to shift even the simplest process, multiple stakeholders must be involved, working collaboratively to ensure that no needs are left unmet. Unfortunately, it's far easier in theory than it is in practice. For youth- and family-serving systems, achieving this goal means working with their counterparts in other agencies and organizations to coordinate - and integrate - services available for children and youth in the multiple systems, and those at risk of behavioral and other health challenges.

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Turning Information Into Insight and Action

Since our founding over 15 years, ago, Community Science has seen a great expansion in the practice of evaluation by foundations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Nowadays just about every grantee knows that their funder is going to want an evaluation of their work or some data to show that they are achieving what they set out to achieve. Two challenges emerge from this promotion of evaluation. First, evaluation costs time and money, especially if you use an outside evaluator.  A second challenge is that many organizations are collecting data about their community and work- some are even drowning in it. However, there has been relatively little effort placed on how to use data for strategy improvement to do a better job in addressing social problems and make important organizational decisions, and advocate for better policies and programs.

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The Achievement of Economic Inclusion

In many urban and rural communities in the United States, patterns of long-term disinvestment and persistent racial and economic segregation have been major contributing factors resulting in areas of concentrated poverty. As a consequence of a variety of structural and systemic problems, residents in these disadvantaged communities are isolated from economic opportunities in the broader city or region.

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Research & Development at Community Science

Community Science has a 17 year history in the research and development of products and strategies that help develop healthy, just and equitable communities. Our current research and development efforts are focused on three important products:

* JourneyStart - a unique on-line assessment and action tool for health-related and other organizations focusing on an organization's readiness to examine its cross-cultural competency and take action.  JourneyStart focuses on an organization’s policies, procedures, and practices and provides advice on how to strengthen the organization’s cross-cultural capacity, not the individuals within the organization.
* ChangeThinkers - an on-line "space" for grantees and others to share ideas and best practices, get help and find resources in order to create a learning community.
* Strength of Community Workshop and Toolkit - an assessment and action kit that builds on our internationally used Sense of Community Index-2 to help funders, government agencies, and community groups learn how strong a community they have and how to strengthen it even further.

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Evaluating the Andrus Family Fund's Community Reconciliation Program

Community Science worked with the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) to assess its Community Reconciliation Program and develop a theory of change for its future work in this area.

Continue reading to find out more about Community Science’s work in developing a theory of change that AFF board and staff members will use to help analyze applications and provide clearer information to applicants about the strategies and anticipated outcomes AFF supports.

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Is Your Organization Cross-Culturally Competent?

It's a tough question to answer but a necessary one if your organization is to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. For the past several years, Community Science has been researching this issue as well as working on projects that have focused on evaluating the cross-cultural competency of organizations and other initiatives.

Based on our work, including an extensive literature review, we are in the process of developing an organizational cross-cultural competency assessment, a unique tool that assesses the readiness of organizations to engage in an effort to build its cross-cultural competency and measures the cross-cultural competency of the organizations, not the individuals within the organization. 

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Introducing Our New Model: Innovating for Social Impact

We're proud to launch a five-point model called Innovating for Social Impact, which enables Community Science to work with organizations where change management is an ongoing process and finding solutions for complex social problems is an urgent mission.

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In Print: Strategic Factors for Building Community

The Five C's: Community, Connections, Control, Cash, & Collective Action

First published in 2006, this Community Science publication continues to resonate with capacity building practitioners today.  The Austin, TX chapter of the Community Associations Institute highlighted the article on the cover of its Q2 journal.

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What Does Our Community's Growing Diversity Have To Do With Evaluation?

Like many areas of the country, Colorado's racial and ethnic populations have grown more diverse, particularly through an increase in immigrants and refugees. The Colorado Trust wanted to ensure that its grant making and evaluations continue to evolve to better serve people of myriad cultures. With that goal in mind, they engaged Community Science to help deepen their understanding about what it takes to do a cross-culturally competent evaluation.

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What's Happening: The Importance of Building and Measuring a Sense of Community

Colorado's Neighborhood Liaison Forum - David Chavis and Joy Amulya discussed the importance of building and measuring a sense of community in Colorado. Dr. Chavis has written about the five strategic factors for building community in this article and for measuring a sense of community here.

For more information about the study of a sense of community, visit senseofcommunity.com

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A Murder in Broad Daylight

Greensboro, North Carolina. 1979.  Five members of the Communist Workers Party, holding a Death to the Klan rally, are killed in broad daylight.The murders are captured by TV cameras, yet no one is ever convicted of the crime.

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Share, Vote, Discuss + Influence

ChangeThinkers.com logoChangeThinkers.com is a community of social change agents transforming the way ideas are shared -- not just for the causes we represent but for the way we practice and make change happen. We reconnect individuals, nonprofits and other community groups with funders and foundations to share information, from finding volunteers and crafting a great proposal to learning a new method. 

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Boosting the Impact of a Foundation

Community Science helps measure progress

How does the work of Community Science directly impact a foundation's efforts to help its grantees? We talked to Jane Mosley, PhD, Program Officer for The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF), which works to eliminate barriers to quality health care for uninsured and underserved in its service area. 
 
The Change Agent: What particular obstacles does HCF face in working with grantees?  
 
Jane Mosley: One of our key issues, a key obstacle, is in our ability to report on what the grantees are doing. Grantees are great at providing services, but collecting data and information to actually quantify their impact - that's a challenge for them. That's a need for them and not just for us.

To find out how Community Science is helping HCF overcome data reporting challenges, click below to read the full Q&A with Jane Mosley.

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Currency through Diversity

Foundations that believe in a just and equitable society must do more to address diversity and equality issues -- or risk failing in their missions.

Community Science's Dr. Ricardo A. Millett recently prepared a case study for Diversity in Philanthropy, a group committed to increasing field-wide diversity through open dialogue and strategic action to increase effectiveness and impact.

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Enlisting a Community to Fight Childhood Obesity

Being black and poor in Washington D.C.'s Ward 8 increases the probability of obesity, particularly in young people. A 2008 Rand health study found that 71.2% of Ward 8 residents were overweight or obese, the highest rate of any Ward in the city. A survey of teens and adults conducted by the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation revealed that awareness of obesity as a health issue in the Ward is very low. The Ward also gets the lowest marks in the city for access to grocery stores, availability of community gardens and little organized community effort to educate residents to consider healthier lifestyles.

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Special ASDC Report:

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation A Practical Guide for Evaluators Cross Cultural Guide The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation. While not intended to be the definitive answer to all questions about cross-culturally competent evaluation, it provides a good start in recommending questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of competency.

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Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee

Most children cannot imagine being forced from their homes. Today, more than 30 million people around the world have been displaced due to war and violence. Of those, nearly 10 million are children. Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee is an exhibit that takes young audiences on an inspiring, hands-on journey into the lives of refugee children.

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A New Model to Fight Childhood Obesity

Among the more challenging issues facing our poorest communities is childhood obesity. Marginalized communities face formidable barriers to healthy dietary habits and lifestyles including access to healthy foods and to recreational spaces for exercise. 

Community Science has just completed an evaluation of a public education campaign intended to combat childhood obesity.

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Culturally Competent Capacity Builders: What will it take?

How are changing demographics and growing diversity affecting the nonprofit workforce? The task of helping nonprofit leaders manage diversity and, subsequently, improve their ability to comply with anti­discrimination laws, leverage differences, and practice inclusivity, requires the expertise of professionals or capacity builders, trained to help nonprofit leaders understand how diversity can lead to effectiveness.

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Special ASDC Report

The Five C’s Strategic Factors for Building Community Have you ever wondered what would have the greatest and broadest impact on the well being of individuals, families, and communities? This brief report describes the strategic factors for stimulating community-wide health and well-being. It illustrates how each of the Five C’s - Community, Connections, Control, Cash and Collective Action - can be put together to develop an effective, broad-reaching, and sustainable community development strategy.

The Five Cs