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!
The systems approach to evaluation refers to a theoretical orientation of evaluation practice that draws from systems theory in engineering and other technical sciences (Williams & Imam, 2007). Many evaluators find that principles of dynamic systems apply to the dynamic nature of human behavior and the organizational and social systems that arise from human interactions. Systems approaches to evaluation are being adapted to evaluate everything from small-scale individual programs to large-scale systems change (e.g., entire public health systems or efforts to address global food crises; Patton, 2010). There are many variations of systems approaches, and they differ in which principles are used and how they are applied in practice. The perspective discussed herein represents one of many ways of thinking about and applying systems theory in evaluation.
Every organization is embedded in layers of context. Context can include everything from the sociopolitical environment in which an organization operates to the organizational system to which an organization belongs. For instance, an organization can be one clinic within a state health care provider system or even a national health care provider system. The organizational context can also include factors that impact the populations the organization serves, such as the socioeconomic status of its target population. These factors might be called the social context of the organization.Continue Reading
In continuation of celebrating Community Science's 20th anniversary, we are interviewing past and current major contributors to the impact of Community Science. This issue in the series includes an interview with Pete York, M.S.S.A., Principal Associate. Mr. York has over 20 years of experience as a consultant and researcher in the evaluation and nonprofit fields as well as a national spokesperson for social impact and impact measurement issues. For a full, detailed staff profile, visit the Our Community page on our website. The interview was conducted by Nour Elshabassi (NE), Research Assistant.
NE: What brought you to Community Science?
Pete: I've had a long-term relationship with Community Science going back to a project for The California Endowment. David Chavis (Community Science CEO and Principal Associate) was facilitating a national group of evaluators to help guide the foundation on how to evaluate their placed-based policy change initiative. David and I connected on the work, as well as our overall values and approach to evaluation, research, and systems change. After that, we always found time to connect, catch up, and share what we were learning. During the 2016 American Evaluation Association conference, we reconnected over breakfast. He was sharing the great systems and community change work that Community Science was doing and the direction that they were heading with respect to using big data as a tool for change. I shared the exciting work I'd been doing over the past few years using big administrative datasets to build predictive, prescriptive, and evaluation models for government agencies and nonprofits, including innovative ways that machine learning algorithms were making a big difference. We immediately saw how our work was converging, so we began discussing how we could work together. It didn't take long to realize that the high-caliber team of leaders, experts, and researchers at Community Science would be a great group of people with whom to work and learn from as we move this big data and analytics work forward to improve entire systems.Continue Reading
Oscar Espinosa, M.A., Senior Associate, and Brandon Coffee-Borden, M.P.P., Managing Associate, co-authored an article in the Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice. Check out the abstract below! You can also access the full article here.
“In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) launched the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA) to increase the effectiveness of efforts to eliminate health disparities by coordinating partners, leaders, and stakeholders committed to action. At its core, the NPA is an experiment in collaboration that relies heavily on those on the front line who are actively engaged in minority health work at multiple levels."Continue Reading
The Global Libraries (GL) initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to use libraries as a resource to bring about Internet and technology access to developing and transitioning countries as a means to improve lives and opportunities. For the last four years, Community Science has worked in partnership with GL to build the capacity of the Impact Work Group (IWG). The IWG is comprised of impact specialists who work closely with library staff and other stakeholders in their countries to assess their grant activities and measure impact on library users (e.g., improve health, job access, financial security, and education outcomes).Continue Reading
Community Science, along with other organizations under the leadership of Bridging Health & Community, will be holding the Community Agency & Health symposium on May 15–16 in Oakland, CA.Continue Reading
In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we would like to highlight the integral role that Asian Americans play in American history, the issues they face, and how Community Science is contributing to promoting the health and well-being of members of this diverse population.Continue Reading
On February 13, 2015, Kien Lee, Ph.D., Principal Associate/Vice President, and Brandon Coffee-Borden, M.P.P., Associate, delivered a presentation at the offices of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust (the Trust) for 12 members of the Trust and implementation team of Project Lazarus, a project of Community Care of North Carolina. The Trust engaged Community Science to study aspects of Project Lazarus, an initiative designed to address the ongoing challenge of prescription opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose in the state of North Carolina. Community Science used cross-case study methodology to identify patterns and lessons learned across six counties where the initiative is being implemented. The evaluation team conducted site visits and telephone interviews with stakeholders in each county to understand how the initiative is unfolding, and to identify challenges, successes, and lessons learned.Continue Reading
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March 2010 marked an important change in the course of healthcare regulation and reform in the U.S. The law aims to cut the uninsured rate in the nation and expand public and private insurance coverage options through the introduction of new requirements and provisions such as the state Health Insurance Marketplaces.
Community Science, in partnership with other organizations involved in the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), worked to document the outreach and education activities conducted by a select number of members of the NPA’s Regional Health Equity Councils in various states, including Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio. The events were designed specifically to inform vulnerable populations on the ACA and its enrollment process. Analyses of data collected by outreach and education event organizers showed that outreach events that were most effective were held in locations that were convenient to the target population (i.e., easy to get to, familiar, comfortable, and safe). These locations included places of worship, education settings, community health centers, and health fairs.Continue Reading
Funders, policymakers, and practitioners often see “the community” as a single entity. The community is everyone who lives or works in a place. At best, community members are thought of in terms of sectors (e.g., residents, businesses, law enforcement, human services, etc.). Yet to be more successful in our work, we need to take a granular look at the place where people live and work, and understand the actual community; social relations; sense of belonging, influence, and trust; and emotional ties that people have. Whether it is about community building, prevention services, or policy advocacy, certain institutions (formal and informal) play key roles as access points for members of that community. These include faith institutions, professional or trade associations, community centers, schools, sororities and fraternities, and civic groups. Such organizations form the social support structure for members of a group or community; however, they may have different functions in different cultures.Continue Reading
The Annie E. Casey Foundation brought a small group of national, regional, and community-based grantmakers together to present the findings from research of financial coaching practices. At the meeting, Dr. Lee, along with former Community Science Principal Associate Scott Hebert, presented findings from a financial coaching field scan, which included a discussion of current practices, outcomes, and recommendations for the field.Continue Reading
This year, Community Science invited clients and other colleagues to participate in our annual tradition of charitable giving. We identified six organizations that align with our mission "to strengthen the science and practice of community change in order to build healthy, just, and equitable communities," and asked everyone to choose an organization they’d like for us to support with a $5 donation on their behalf:
Our community expressed appreciation for the opportunity to support these organizations as well as enthusiasm for the creative approach to promote engagement. One of our clients said, “This is not only a generous act, but a great idea!” We are grateful to all who responded to our invitation.Continue Reading
On December 2, 2014, Community Science Associate Jessika Bottiani, Ph.D., M.P.H., gave a talk at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for the Room to Grow: Journey to Cultural Competency Mini-Conference, sponsored by Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities, and the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions. Her talk was entitled, “Schools as Developmental Contexts: Implications of Racial Inequity in Adolescents’ School Experiences.”Continue Reading
Kumbie Madondo, Ph.D, Analyst, has extensive knowledge about racial and ethnic disparities in health and, in particular, trends and issues related to HIV/AIDS, poverty, and the role of technology in facilitating civic engagement. She is skilled in conducting qualitative and quantitative studies, including the use of path analysis and other statistical models.Continue Reading
Community Science has been at the forefront in advancing the field of immigrant integration by contributing to the understanding of the changing landscape of the U.S., defining what healthy integration of immigrants and refugees is, and studying how community-building strategies can contribute to immigrant integration, to name a few. The following are several of Community Science’s recent projects:Continue Reading
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health (OMH) contracted with Community Science to conduct a multi-year process and outcome evaluation of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA). The NPA is a strategy designed to mobilize a nationwide, comprehensive, community-driven approach to combating racial and ethnic health disparities.Continue Reading
Community Science brings an environmental approach to substance prevention. We understand that successful environmental prevention efforts must include policy change, address differences in culture and race, equity, and focus on efforts that change systems and structures that impede health and promote unsafe behaviors. Too often, efforts to address substance abuse prevention focus solely, or predominately, on changing individual behavior and attitudes.Continue Reading
Public health expert Margaret B. Hargreaves, Ph.D., joined Community Science as Principal Associate on February 4, 2015. In her new role, Dr. Hargreaves will contribute to Community Science’s long and established track record in leading community change, business development, and project direction, providing valuable mentorship to early-career professionals.
“Meg’s rigor, deep thinking, and passion for community and systems change will strengthen our ability to assist our clients to build community capacity,” said Community Science Principal Associate and CEO David Chavis, Ph.D. “Meg has been a kindred spirit, and now she will be part of our community. Her national experience working with public and private funders, providing valuable thought leadership, guidance, and evaluation services, is a great addition to our company.”Continue Reading
Community Science has started work with the Legacy Foundation on projects related to tobacco prevention and cessation on college campuses throughout the U.S. Through a multi-organizational collaborative consisting of Legacy and nine partner organizations, the Tobacco Free Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Initiative seeks to support HBCUs in developing and implementing comprehensive policies for tobacco-free campuses. Community Science will evaluate this initiative by 1) providing a culturally responsive evaluation for the Tobacco Free HBCU Initiative that will consider the unique features of historically Black colleges; and 2) using culturally appropriate assessment tools to evaluate the unique characteristics of HBCUs.Continue Reading
Community Science Associate, Jessika Bottiani, Ph.D., M.P.H., participated on a panel at the 2015 Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting on March 19-21 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The panel explored the benefits and challenges of racial and ethnic heterogeneity and diversity and same-race peer representation in schools, with a focus on boys of color. Other panelists included faculty from the University of Virginia and the University of California, Los Angeles.Continue Reading
This webinar will provide organizations that are conducting, funding, or planning, ACA outreach and education to racially and ethnically diverse populations with insights on assessing the reach and effectiveness of those activities. The webinar will focus on lessons learned from an evaluation conducted by Community Science and will present information on:
Julia Lee, Ph.D., Managing Associate, has experience in research, evaluation, and health promotion in community settings. She has provided technical support for several health and social science research projects on health disparities, intimate partner violence, and community development. Dr. Lee has also worked extensively with community organizations and coalitions as well as local schools on program evaluation and evaluation capacity building by providing technical assistance, education, and training on monitoring and evaluation, measurement, data collection, and reporting.Continue Reading
For a list of presentations, workshops and other resources from our Knowledge for Equity conference, please click HERE.
Ending health disparities means addressing its social determinants or attacking the problem at its roots where people live, work, and play. This means changing the conditions in communities of color that affect their health. This approach also requires changing the systems that impact these conditions.Continue Reading
Community Science is proud to announce the publication, Emerging Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change. This is the first report in the series called Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, which is intended to share what decades of research and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community.Continue Reading
Recent events have brought the challenges facing boys and young men of color in the United States to the forefront of the national debate. Despite decades-long efforts to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity, boys and young men of color continue to face significant social and economic barriers that limit their opportunities for success. Many boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in economically depressed communities, and attend low-performing schools when compared with other groups. Many are less likely to have a high school diploma, less likely to attend college or technical school, and more likely to be jobless than other groups as they move into early adulthood. Boys and young men of color are often the target of negative social and cultural perceptions related to their ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or racial background which may result in discrimination or unequal treatment by individuals or societal institutions. Negative or traumatic experiences stemming from these social and economic barriers may inflict psychological or emotional damage over time in the form of low self-image, depression, limited self-efficacy, and feelings of hopelessness.Continue Reading
In 2007, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation identified Mississippi as a key state where the Foundation would concentrate its grantmaking efforts; it has committed to supporting local communities for at least a generation. The Foundation works with grantee partners that are implementing programs and initiatives designed to improve the lives of children and families throughout the state, with grants concentrated in the geographic areas of Biloxi; Sunflower County; and the state capitol, Jackson.Continue Reading
As part of our recognition of National Minority Health Month, Community Science hosted a webinar How to Assess the Effectiveness of Affordable Care Act Outreach and Education Efforts on April 29, 2015. Kien Lee (Vice President and Principal Associate) and Oscar Espinosa (Senior Associate) discussed strategies and lessons learned from an evaluation project their team completed for the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA). The purpose of the webinar was to provide insights to others who are conducting, funding, or planning Affordable Care Act (ACA) outreach or education to racially and ethnically diverse populations.Continue Reading
Tracy Neill, Office Manager, joined Community Science in February 2015. She brings over 20 years in office management experience, including management of small businesses. At Community Science, she manages the company’s facilities and administrative functions, as well as provides support for human resources, financial management, marketing and event management, and report production. She oversees the adherence and compliance of office policies and procedures, coordinates travel arrangements, administers the company benefits, and manages the company’s website and production of marketing materials.Continue Reading
Creating a Culture of Measurement and Evaluation for High Performance Nonprofits
On May 14, 2015, Community Science Principal Associate Meg Hargreaves, Ph.D., M.P.P., presented at the 7th Civil Society Days Nirun Sahingiray International Forum II titled Measurement and Evaluation in NonProfit Organizations in Istanbul, Turkey.
Developing Goals, Metrics, and Indicators for Health Equity Evaluations
On May 20, 2015, Community Science Principal Associate Meg Hargreaves, Ph.D., M.P.P., presented at the 7th Annual Empowering Communities for a Healthy Mississippi Conference titled Lead, Connect, and Inspire in Jackson, Mississippi.Continue Reading
Hilary E. Jones, Director of Business Operations, has over 20 years of business management experience in a professional services environment. At Community Science, she is responsible for managing company administrative functions, including financial management, strategic planning, contract administration, marketing and communications, human resources, facilities and administrative operations.Continue Reading
Kien Lee, Ph.D., Principal Associate/Vice President, presented at the 13th Annual Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Forum, “Digging Deeper,” June 23-25, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. In her session titled Building Grassroots Capacity to Influence National Food Policy: Lessons from Everybody at the Table for Health, Dr. Lee discussed an evaluation conducted by Community Science for EAT4Health, a three-year, multifunder experiment of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, enabling grassroots organizations at the frontline of broken food systems to engage in national advocacy.Continue Reading
Sinead Younge, PhD, Community Science Managing Associate
This summer, I had the privilege of volunteering at the Sera Jey Monastic University as a volunteer with the Emory University Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI). The Sera Jey Monastery follows a centuries old tradition and culture dating back to its founding in Lhasa, Tibet. During a 1959 revolt against the Chinese occupation, colleges at the original Sera Jey in Lhasa were destroyed. The Indian government generously provided currency in the form of land and grants for many of the surviving Tibetan monks to reestablish some of their monasteries in India under the spiritual guidance of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. Today, the Sera Jey Monastery in Bylakuppe, India, houses over 3,000 monks and nuns and is located within a thriving, protected Tibetan settlement comprised of over 70,000 Tibetan expatriates where individuals and communities work through collective action to strengthen community, maintain Tibetan culture, and promote well-being.Continue Reading
The number of smoke- and tobacco-free colleges has more than tripled since 2010, when 446 campuses adopted smoke- or tobacco-free policies. Today that number stands at 1,577 campuses, yet the majority of the federally recognized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. do not have comprehensive smoke- or tobacco-free policies to protect their students and faculty from the dangers of tobacco use and second-hand smoke. Truth Initiative (formerly The Legacy Foundation) saw HBCUs as an opportunity to reach Black/African American students and surrounding communities by implementing a new tobacco-free initiative. Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Each year, approximately 47,000 African Americans die from smoking-related disease. While the overall use of cigarettes among youth in the U.S. has declined, smoking among ethnic minorities is still prevalent.Continue Reading
Sofia Sabirova, M.S., Research Assistant, has focused on assessing the impact of social and economic factors on health disparities, and the influence of legal and social factors on incarceration rates in federal and state prisons, during her professional career. At Community Science, she works on various projects, including an assessment of the National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention (NRC), and an evaluation of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute, a project of the National Juvenile Justice Network. Sofia collects, analyzes, and summarizes quantitative and qualitative data.Continue Reading
The American Evaluation Association (AEA) held their Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, November 9-14, 2015. Community Science presented during various sessions and workshops. A major focus of our work this year was systems change evaluation using cross case study methodology. Check out our team in action!Continue Reading
Community Science has been working with the Connecticut Health Foundation since 2007, evaluating their work to promote a healthy state. Check out this blog post written by Kien Lee, Ph.D., Principal Associate/Vice President, and Sinead Younge, Ph.D., Managing Associate, about last year’s evaluation findings.
Within past decades, there has been a shift toward understanding community resilience, which is characterized by a community’s ability to rebound and adapt following disruptions, such as natural and human-caused disasters. Although some assert that the term community resilience is a buzzword, Community Science views it as a useful framework for conceptualizing how key actors, including local residents and organizations, can strengthen their community’s ability to prevent, withstand, and mitigate such stressors. Recently, we developed a community resilience framework, expanding on other community resilience models related to disaster.Continue Reading
Marcella Hurtado Gómez, Ph.D., Associate, has expertise in social issues related to immigrant populations, the utilization of evidence-based programming with ethnic minority youth and families, and managing grant-funded programs in community-based organizations. Dr. Hurtado Gómez has 10 years of experience in conducting, analyzing, and disseminating research. She has expertise in program monitoring and evaluation, running statistical analysis, writing outcome reports, and presenting findings in pragmatic terms to a variety of audiences. She has worked on projects involving large data sets and building research studies from the ground up.Continue Reading
Community Science participated in its biannual day of service at A Wider Circle on September 18, 2015. A Wider Circle is a nonprofit organization with a mission to end poverty. Through programs targeting job preparedness, health and wellness, and housing, A Wider Circle addresses the needs of the whole person. One of their programs, Neighbor-to-Neighbor, provides beds, dressers, tables, and other large and small home goods free of charge to individuals in need. Earlier in 2015, A Wider Circle opened a program office in Barry Farm, a neighborhood in Southeast Washington, DC.Continue Reading
Evaluation capacity building for improved organizational and system learning has been part of Community Science’s practice from our beginning. We see evaluation capacity building as having all the abilities and motivation to learn how to do better by systematically using data and others sources of reliable information to make decisions. Public and private organizations and public agencies have an obligation to continuously strive to equitably provide the best services and supports possible to individuals, families, and communities. In order to do that, there needs to be the capacity in place to evaluate and then improve the work of these collaborations and organizations. These days, just about every organization that receives funding from any public or private entity is expected to do some data collection and reporting. This global movement to use data is being further fueled by the advancements in information technology. There is a virtual Home Depot of evaluation tools available on line.Continue Reading
As one of the largest volunteer networks in the U.S., the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) Senior Corps Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) aims to engage volunteers aged 55 and over to support disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and increase community resiliency. In 2013 and 2014, CNCS provided Disaster Services Augmentation Grants for several RSVPs. These grants focused on addressing the 2014 Hurricane Sandy recovery in New York and a range of disasters that happened in 2013, including floods in northern Colorado; a flash flood in Waynesville, Michigan; a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma; and a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. In the aftermath of disaster, RSVPs deployed thousands of volunteers who played key roles in various activities such as developing disaster preparedness kits, operating volunteer reception centers and call centers, performing direct outreach to disaster victims, rebuilding homes, and managing donation centers.Continue Reading
Community Science is working on several new projects. They reflect our commitment to advancing the science around building the capacity of organizations to develop healthy and equitable communities.Continue Reading
Data-informed decision-making and a stronger, more effective healthcare workforce. This is one of the goals of the Urban Universities for Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership, and Transformation of the Health Workforce (UU4HEALTH). To achieve this goal requires a systematic process for identifying metrics that can be used to help university leaders understand the state of diversity among their institutions’ student population and faculty, and how this could impact our nation’s future healthcare workforce. Equally important, the data for the metrics must be feasible to collect across health profession colleges—consistently and in a sustainable manner. This article describes the UU4HEALTH initiative and Community Science’s involvement.Continue Reading
Daniel Pagán, M.A., M.P.H., is a Research Assistant at Community Science. He assists with data collection and analysis, literature reviews, and report writing for several projects, including the Office of Minority Health’s Community Data-Sharing Initiative and the national evaluation of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities. Prior to working at Community Science, Daniel spent time working for two county departments of public health as a Randal Lewis Health Policy Fellow. As a fellow, he developed a policy brief describing the county’s initiatives to reduce adolescent obesity, relating their successes to established theoretical concepts and allowing for a deeper understanding of their programs. He has extensive experience working in health promotion on a wide range of topics including adolescent obesity, tobacco use and marketing, and utilizing data and theory for program development.Continue Reading
Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) involving child abuse, neglect, and household violence as well as mental illness, incarceration, and substance abuse are linked to a lifetime of poor health outcomes. ACEs disrupt brain development and harm the immune system, resulting in cognitive impairment, risky health behaviors, chronic disease, and early death. An international network of researchers, health officials, foundations, service agencies, and community advocates is working to increase awareness of the harm of ACEs and develop effective strategies for their prevention, mitigation, and treatment. As the evaluator of several important ACEs initiatives, Community Science is developing groundbreaking evaluation tools and approaches to advance the science of how to address this complex problem more effectively at multiple levels.Continue Reading
The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Palix Foundation’s Alberta Family Wellness Initiative, is leading the three-year initiative Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities. The initiative aims to help service providers infuse research on adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress, and brain development into their organizations’ programs, practices, and policies, and work with others to support systems and policy change, impacting child and family outcomes across the life course. Fifteen nonprofit organizations will lead these efforts across communities in the U.S. and Alberta, Canada.Continue Reading
Deryn Dudley, M.A., Associate, has expertise in collective action and social movement participation, mental health disparities, and education. She is experienced in using both quantitative and qualitative research methods and with evaluating community change and collective impact initiatives. At Community Science, Deryn is responsible for evaluating the Office of Minority Health’s Youth Health Equity Model of Practice and is a member of the team that is evaluating the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Substance Abuse Prevention.Continue Reading
In December 2015, Community Science staff members were asked to identify an organization they would like support. A $100 donation was made on their behalf to 12 organizations representing various causes locally, nationally, and worldwide:Continue Reading
Allyssa Allen, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, recently published an article in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. The study examined the moderating effect of race in the link between food insecurity and diet quality.
Programs designed to enhance opportunities for young people and adults from historically underrepresented groups in professions such as teaching, engineering, evaluation, medicine, and nursing play a major role in our nation’s response to workforce diversity (see, for example, Collins & Hopson, 2014; Fenwick, 2001; Greer, Clark, & Bankston, 2015; Nivet & Berlin, 2014). This article discusses why such programs are necessary and what it takes to institutionalize workforce diversity without compromising the focus on equity—ensuring that everyone is treated fairly before and after they enter the profession regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, and other demographic characteristic—and quality—holding everyone, regardless of their background, to the highest level of competency and professional standards.Continue Reading
Achieving health equity requires building communities’ capacity to mobilize, organize, and strategize to change the conditions—or social determinants of health—that impact their well-being. Community and resident-driven organizations need data to 1) bring attention to the disparities and move people into action, 2) understand the root causes and organize across sectors to deal with those root causes, 3) inform solutions that will create lasting change, and 4) monitor the change to continuously adapt and improve the solutions. To achieve all these, communities have to be able to access, share, and transform data into actionable knowledge.
Section 4302 of the Affordable Care Act and the federal government’s increased willingness and capacity to make data available to the public have elevated the importance of data in generating solutions to end health inequities. Today’s technology has stimulated the expansion of data platforms that allow users to download data and use data visualization techniques to illustrate health, education, housing, and other disparities by race and ethnicity, gender, geography, and other variables. Many guides have been published to assist communities to access and use data. In addition, there are many national organizations and groups such as the Community Indicators Consortium, National Neighborhood Indicators Project, and Healthy Communities Institute that are actively working with local data collaboratives to facilitate a learning community of people working at the nexus of data analytics and community change. There are even more local organizations with a similar agenda, such as The Piton Foundation, DataHaven, and Data Driven Detroit that are serving as intermediaries for data gathering, analysis, and use.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
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 CommunitiesContinue Reading
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.Continue Reading
Data-informed strategies are critical to efforts that address health disparities and make progress toward health equity. Administrative data, as well as other national and local data, offer a wealth of resources that can be put to good use. Community Science and its partner, Community Indicators Consortium, is working with a federal agency to mine lessons from the field about facilitating community collaboration around the use of administrative and other secondary data related to social determinants of health.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
Allyssa Allen, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, has expertise in health equity and social determinants of health (SDOH) such as neighborhood-level food insecurity, income inequality, and residential segregation. She has worked on a variety of projects, including substantial experience working with grassroots organizations to use data to guide intervention and policy strategies. Dr. Allen has collaborated with the Druid Heights Community Development Corporation and the Baltimore Place Matters Team (Equity Matters) to pair neighborhood indicators from various public use sources with qualitative interviews about the local food environment. In her work on the National Institute on Aging’s Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity Across the Life Span (HANDLS) study, she combined individual-level health data with neighborhood indicators to understand the SDOH in Baltimore City neighborhoods. Dr. Allen is skilled in community engagement as well as participatory and community-based research and evaluation methodologies. She has been recognized by the Baltimore City Council for her community work in Druid Heights and by the Warnock Foundation as a Social Innovator for her ideas on how to repair relationships between researchers and communities.Continue Reading
On April 28, Community Science participated in its semi-annual day of service at A Wider Circle. A Wider Circle is a nonprofit organization based in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a mission to end poverty. A Wider Circle focuses on the whole person through various services targeting workforce readiness, wellness, and housing. Community Science staff spent the day sorting furniture and clothing, and restocking the showroom.Continue Reading
The American Evaluation Association (AEA) held their Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 24-29, 2016. Community Science presented during various sessions and workshops. A major focus of our work this year was the evaluation of complex, multi-level, multi-sector initiatives and assessing community capacity; cultural responsiveness in evaluation; capacity building for data use and evaluation; and evaluation of professional development initiatives for advocates and professionals of color. Our team also presented action research for health coverage outreach and education efforts targeting hard-to-reach communities under the Affordable Care Act. Check out our team in action!Continue Reading
The recent tragic incident at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the many similar incidents before that continue to bring to the surface issues about mental health (feelings of hopelessness, sense of isolation, and mismanaged anger), broken systems (ability of individuals with mental health issues to purchase assault weapons so easily), sense of community (individuals’ need to belong to a group of people with shared experiences), and intersectionality (people who struggle with multiple social identities, but societal and group norms prescribe which singular identity they should have). The incident was triggered by hatred toward a group of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities; there has been speculation that the perpetrator himself may have been struggling with multiple social identities. The incident unleashed more fear and prejudice against an entire community of people with a different faith. The incident also fueled national debate about gun control, causing some to sharpen their focus on stopping the violence and others to become more adamant about the ability to purchase weapons to protect themselves and their loved ones. The entire situation reflects a complex web of biases, misconceptions, systemic issues, and the human need to belong, that combined, can create inequitable outcomes for certain communities.Continue Reading
A thriving democracy requires municipal governments to be able to set the stage for achieving racial equity because they have power and influence, especially if they work in partnership with other organizations and leaders to leverage and expand opportunities and resources for the places they govern and the communities they serve. Living Cities and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE—a project of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at University of California-Berkeley and the Center for Social Inclusion) have joined together in an effort, Racial Equity Here, to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all in five cities: Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville, and Philadelphia. City government leaders in these cities will complete a racial equity assessment of their core government operations, with an intentional focus on adults and youth of color, ages 16 to 24. Over a two-year period, the five municipal governments will receive training and technical assistance from GARE to develop a blueprint of government-wide strategies and begin execution of the blueprint by applying the skills, tools, and processes they developed through assistance from GARE.Continue Reading
Angela Thrasher, PhD, MPH, Managing Associate, bridges the areas of research and practice to build organizational and community capacity to advance social and health equity. She has over 20 years of experience in directing large- and small-scale research, needs assessment, evaluation, organizational development, and technical assistance projects for philanthropic, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. Dr. Thrasher uses a range of methodologies, collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data, primarily in service of projects to improve the health of communities of color, low income, and located in rural regions. Her specialty is measurement, working with community-based organizations and multisector planning bodies to identify and use appropriate metrics for program development, monitoring, and evaluation purposes. Other areas of expertise and interest include racism as a social determinant of health, African American healthcare disparities, HIV/AIDS, aging, community engagement, and collaboration for community change.Continue Reading
Challenging and/or positive experiences create powerful opportunities for learning using reflective practice, the process of witnessing one’s own experience in order to take a closer look at it. By developing the ability to explore and be curious about our own experience and actions, we open up the possibilities of purposeful learning— learning derived not from books or experts, but from our work and our lives.
In this article, Community Science Senior Associate Joy Amulya writes about reflective practice and why it’s important to generating learning. Purposeful learning is an important component of Innovating for Social Impact, a new and powerful approach Community Science has developed that is intended to improve the organizational effectiveness of philanthropic, nonprofit and government groups.
Community Science Principal Associate and CEO David Chavis was an invited presenter at the International Conference on the Empirical Study of Evaluation Utilization sponsored by CLEAR-LA (www.clear-la.org) on May 23–24 2016, in Mexico City. CLEAR-LA is part of the global partnership of regional Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR, www.theclearinitiative.org). The conference was attended by over 100 policymakers and evaluators from across Latin America and hundreds of others through live streaming.Continue Reading
In 2012, the Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) Public-Private Initiative (APPI), a Washington state consortium of public agencies, private foundations, and local networks, was formed to study interventions to prevent and mitigate ACEs and facilitate statewide learning and dialogue on these topics. As part of the initiative's cross-site evaluation, the evaluation team sought to assess the extent to which five community sites developed sufficient capacity to achieve their goals and examine the relationship of the sites' capacity to selected site efforts and their impact on ACEs-related outcomes. The team conducted an extensive review of the research literature focused on community capacity development. Based on this review and in collaboration with the APPI sites, the team created an instrument to measure the APPI sites' collective community capacity to address ACEs and increase resilience in their communities: the ACEs and Resilience Collective Community Capacity (ARC3) instrument.
Community Science was contracted by the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support its efforts to provide individuals with accurate, timely, transparent, and audience-appropriate information about vaccines. NVPO offers unbiased advice and expertise to other agencies in identifying and responding to gaps in the vaccine system, making vaccines safer and more effective, with the end goal to reduce the burden of preventable infectious disease throughout the country.Continue Reading
Over the past several years, the severe shortage in the healthcare workforce has been largely overshadowed by political infighting concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Nevertheless, it is a topic that deserves our immediate attention, given the great impact it has on the quality of the health care we receive and to our nation’s overall health. In this article, we review key lessons and strategies Community Science team members have learned while conducting evaluations of healthcare workforce development programs.Continue Reading
Ryan Schooley, M.Ed., Analyst, has experience researching community engagement and community development issues, and working with community organizing coalitions and interventions to increase educational and social development. At Community Science, he assists with literature reviews, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and report writing for multiple projects related to community engagement, behavioral health, health equity, and sense of community.Continue Reading
As funders, communities, and evaluators become more knowledgeable about the root causes of racial and ethnic disparities in health, education, income, and other conditions of well-being, we begin to realize how community and systems change interventions are necessary to affect these root causes. In consequence, we evaluators find ourselves re-examining our roles, training, and competencies. Evaluations of these types of interventions do not only generate more knowledge or inform investments—at best, they also help strengthen communities and promote equity. In our evaluation of place-based work at Community Science, we see how evaluators play the following roles in addition to carrying out their technical responsibilities.Continue Reading
The Port Towns Community Health Partnership (PTCHP) is located in the Port Towns community of Bladensburg, Maryland. The PTCHP is comprised of various local residents, organizations, and funders, collaborating to improve community conditions with the end goal of making the Port Towns a healthy place to live, learn, work, play, and worship. PTCHP partners include ECO City Farms, Food Equity Council, Ecumenical Health Council, End Times Harvest Ministries, Cottage City Community Garden, and Colmar Manor Community Garden. Community Science was contracted by Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States to conduct an evaluation of the PTCHP.Continue Reading
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-hap-happiest season! The holidays, whether you observe Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or any other cultural or religious celebration, are meant to be a time to give back and express gratitude to loved ones. It is difficult to focus on the true meaning of the holiday spirit however, when advertisements are constantly reminding us that happiness is found in expensive goods such as cars, clothes, jewelry, and other material possessions. This article seeks to explore the relationship that wealth and pleasure-seeking behavior have on well-being and to discuss pathways to happiness that are community driven and scientifically proven to improve well-being.Continue Reading
Amy Minzner, MSCRP, M.A., Senior Associate, has expertise in the areas of community change, municipal operations and civic tech, workforce development, organizational capacity building, and program evaluation. Over the last fifteen years, Minzner has directed several strategic community development studies. These included the formative evaluations of What Works Cities for Bloomberg Philanthropies and the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities’ CST Pilot Evaluation, as well as two large random assignment studies for the Department of Labor - one on moving individuals from unemployment insurance back to employment and one that tested brochures’ ability to elicit behavioral change from employers. Minzner directed these projects while a senior researcher at Abt Associates. Additionally, Minzner worked closely with staff from HUD to develop an instrument and system for evaluating its technical assistance and training efforts.Continue Reading
As part of its mission to conduct objective, rigorous research of community change processes, in 2016 a Community Science team completed and published a new valid and reliable index of collective community capacity. This article describes the new ACEs and Resilience Collective Community Capacity (ARC3) Survey in detail.Continue Reading
Community Science, in addition to our consultation, capacity building, and evaluation services, also works on local issues of national importance. There is an affordable housing crisis in Baltimore City, as in all American cities. Over half (53%) of city renters and 40 percent of homeowners pay more than one-third of their income in housing, putting them at risk for housing instability and even homelessness. In Baltimore on any given night, 3,000 people, including children and their families, are homeless. Over 25,000 Baltimore City households, more than half with children, are on the waiting list for desperately needed federal housing assistance, and they will wait as much as 10 years. They are the lucky ones: another 50,000 households applied but were turned away from the waiting list.Continue Reading
Seeing the problem. The juvenile justice system in the United States is intended to reduce crime and increase public safety while holding youth accountable for their actions. However, for the last three decades the system has focused more on punishing young people, processing them in the formal court system, and confining youth in large, prison-like facilities, sometimes with adults, at an annual per-youth cost of $149,000.1Continue Reading
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Community Science, originally known as the Association for the Study and Development of Community (ASDC). ASDC emerged as a place where social change professionals could come to focus on “creating healthy, just, and equitable communities.” The promotion of healthy, just, and equitable communities has been a central part of Community Science from the very first day. Kien Lee joined me in forming ASDC, first in a small study in my home and then graduating into our basement. We grew to five people in our basement—to the dismay of our children. When my wife would bake cookies and other treats for our young children, staff would get a whiff of her cooking and instant message me to see if I could bring anything down for them to eat.Continue Reading
Ricardo Millett, Ph.D., Principal Associate
In celebrating our 20th anniversary, we have decided to commemorate those people that have been major contributors to the mission success of Community Science by conducting interviews detailing their contributions. The first staff member in the series will be Ricardo Millett, current Principal Associate at Community Science and former President of The Woods Fund in Chicago. While working for the Fund, Ricardo developed and implemented a strategic grant making plan that responded to the needs of Chicago’s least advantaged. Dr. Millett also worked for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as the Director of Program Evaluation where he focused on building greater communication and collaboration between evaluation and program staff to maximize the use of evaluation as an integral part of programming. Ricardo was interviewed by Research Assistant, Nour Elshabassi.
Part of Community Science’s mission is to directly give back to the local and national community. In 2016 donations were made to the list of organizations noted below. Charitable giving along with two days of service annually are among the many ways Community Science works "to strengthen the science and practice of community change in order to build healthy, just and equitable communities." Each Community Science staff member recommended a charity for the organization to make a donation on their behalf as their “holiday gift.” Five percent of Community Science’s annual profits were donated, the maximum amount allowed by the IRS.Continue Reading
Pete York, MSSA, Principal Associate, has over 20 years of experience as a consultant and researcher in the evaluation and nonprofit fields, as well as a national spokesperson for social impact and impact measurement issues.Continue Reading
In the 1980s, juvenile justice systems in the United States began adopting more punitive, adult-oriented approaches to juvenile justice. Since 1996, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (the Foundation) has been working to correct these trends through grant making activities supporting research, program innovation, and systems and policy change. To work effectively in a complex juvenile justice landscape, the Foundation has used multiple reform approaches suitable for a range of state and local conditions.Continue Reading
Truth Initiative (https://truthinitiative.org/) aims to reduce tobacco use through public education, research, and community engagement. Truth Initiative has embarked on two programs to address tobacco use among college students by focusing efforts on underserved populations and settings.
Who: Pete York, MSSA, Principal Associate, Community Science
Workshop 25: Introduction to Big Data, Data Analytics and Evaluation
June 6, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
June 7, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
The purpose of this workshop is to provide an introduction to the tools and techniques for the collection and analysis of big data, and to use case studies to illustrate the multiple ways in which big data and data analytics can strengthen program evaluation.
Click here to registerContinue Reading
The Bush Foundation has engaged Community Science as its evaluation partner for the Change Network program. The program intends to help leaders in Minnesota as well as North and South Dakota build their skills toward leading inclusively and equitably to effect individual, institutional, and systems change. This partnership and evaluation is an opportunity for Community Science to advance our mission of building healthy, just, and equitable communities and to strengthen the capacity of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to use evaluation for continual strategy improvement.Continue Reading
Tom Kelly, M.P.H. In continuation of celebrating Community Science’s 20th anniversary, we will commemorate those that have been major contributors to the mission success of Community Science by conducting interviews detailing their contributions. The second contributor in the series is Tom Kelly, Vice President-Knowledge, Evaluation & Learning at Hawaii Community Foundation and formerly the Associate Director for Evaluation at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Tom was interviewed by Nour Elshabassi, Research Assistant.Continue Reading
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool for integrating and analyzing geographic or spatial data. GIS allows users to combine important geographic attributes (for example, streets, zip codes, and program locations) with other types of data (for example, neighborhood demographic data, program participant characteristics, and program outcome measures). In turn, users can visualize this information in map form to identify patterns or relationships. Users can also manipulate GIS’s statistical tools to detect significant geographic trends and patterns. In sum, geospatial analysis allows users to visually and statistically detect relevant geographic and spatial phenomena that may remain unnoticed through more traditional analytic approaches.Continue Reading
Elisa M. González, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, has expertise in issues related to the social determinants of health with an emphasis on food and nutrition policies, youth workforce integration, and immigrant rights. She also has extensive knowledge about the history and ethics of public health, particularly in relation to the health and well-being of Latino populations.Continue Reading
Lindsay Bynum, Ph.D., Senior Analyst, has extensive research and evaluation experience in community, organizational, and systemic factors that facilitate pro-social behavior, particularly in the contexts of civic engagement and volunteerism. She is adept in qualitative and quantitative research methods—from interviews to hierarchical linear models—and in evaluation techniques, including development of logic models and design of dashboards. Dr. Bynum has honed her knowledge and skills through a variety of professional experiences. At Community Science, Dr. Bynum serves on the research and evaluation teams for initiatives, including a study to test a framework for facilitating community data collaboration and an evaluation of a national project to engage emerging professionals in health disparity research and studies, both funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. She also works on an assessment of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Models for Change initiative’s sustainability and long-term reach and effectiveness.Continue Reading
With so many government public health workers retiring and not enough new ones poised to replace them, there will be an estimated shortage of over 250,000 workers by 2020. Furthermore, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and African Americans are underrepresented in this already-depleted public health workforce. In response to the need for a larger and more diverse workforce, the federal Office of Minority Health (OMH) began the Youth Health Equity Model of Practice (YHEMOP). Community Science was contracted by OMH to evaluate the YHEMOP—a new initiative that seeks to diversify and educate future generations of public health leaders and practitioners.Continue Reading
In continuation of celebrating Community Science’s 20th anniversary, we are interviewing past and current major contributors to the impact of Community Science. This issue in the series includes a group interview with Margaret (Meg) Hargreaves, Ph.D., Principal Associate, and Amy Minzner, M.S.C.R.P., M.A., Senior Associate. For detailed staff profiles from each contributor, visit the Our Community page on our website. The interview was conducted by Nour Elshabassi (NE), Research Assistant.
NE: What brought you to Community Science?
Meg: Throughout my career, I have been interested in and involved in doing community-based work, especially in public health. I have been interested in getting back to doing community-based work, even when I was working for other research and consulting firms. Finally, the stars aligned so that I could join Community Science and get back to that topic more full time.
Amy: I was attracted to the opportunity to leverage my place-based evaluation work with the work of others to deepen our collective ability to help create more healthy, just, and equitable communities.Continue Reading
Featured from The Intersector Project: A Guest Blog Post by Margaret (Meg) Hargreaves, Ph.D.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs), commonly defined as 10 types of child abuse, neglect, and family exposure to toxic stress, comprise a complex, population-wide health problem with significant detrimental outcomes.Continue Reading
Community Science team members presented at the Cross-Cultural Symposium: Empower and Educate. The full-day, symposium examined the ways in which direct service providers, policy makers, nonprofits, corporate partners, government and the media can collaborate to effectively increase civic knowledge, engagement, and educated decision making in underserved communities. Check out our team in action!Continue Reading
The development of the next generation of community change professionals is a key contributor to our mission to create healthy, just, and equitable communities. This month, we feature our two graduate interns.
Reese Crispen, Summer Graduate Intern, is a master’s student in applied economics at Georgetown University, where he focuses on identifying determinants of and solutions to economic inequality.
Abiodun (Abi) Azeez, Summer Graduate Intern, is a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.Continue Reading
The Connecticut Health Foundation (CHF) was created in 1999 to understand and address the state’s health care challenges. In 2013, CHF deliberately focused on the singular need to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities for the state of Connecticut. Since the foundation’s inception, its efforts have aimed to change the systems that impact health care, and the foundation accomplishes this currently through grant making; conducting and supporting health policy research; and building the capacity of leaders, decision-makers, and organizations to advocate for health-systems changes throughout Connecticut.Continue Reading
Michelle Revels, Senior Associate has over two decades of experience in research and evaluation design and has applied her skills in formative, process, and outcome research to a range of policy analysis, program evaluation and health communication projects. As the senior evaluation technical assistance liaison, Ms. Revels provides evaluation guidance to WKKF program staff to support the use of grantee data to monitor and assess the impact of the foundation’s place-based efforts to improve health, education, family economic security and child well-being in Mississippi and New Orleans.Continue Reading
Maria Fernanda Mata, MA, Analyst, has experience in social science research, program development, public policy, and advocacy, particularly in the areas of community engagement, access to healthcare and social support, immigration, and social mobility. She is particularly interested in the application of quantitative and qualitative research to improve programs and services that empower racially and ethnically diverse communities. At Community Science, Maria is working to develop a tool kit that community- and faith-based organizations can use to reach and increase healthcare access for the most vulnerable populations. As part of this project, she is helping to identify strategies to educate communities of color and individuals with limited English proficiency, low literacy, or low health insurance literacy about the importance of obtaining health insurance coverage and the benefits of accessing preventive healthcare. Prior to joining Community Science, Maria Fernanda served as programs research associate for the National Hispanic Council on Aging, where she led program and policy research on key issues impacting Hispanic communities, including health, retirement security, and access to social programs.Continue Reading
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).Continue Reading
Community Science is pleased to announce the launch of the newly revamped SenseofCommunity.com website-an online, international meeting place for people interested in the study or application of sense of community! Our goal is to bring together the myriad of international scholars and practitioners to advance the work on sense of community that has been gaining interest and development over the past 50 years. Please sign up to join this online community, share your ideas and resources, contribute to the advancement of the measurement and application of sense of community, and promote human development and social justice. This site is an opportunity to share your ideas, work, and questions. Senseofcommunity.com has a Discussion Forum to ask questions, assist others, and find opportunities to collaborate. On this website, you will also find a Documents Library to post files, documents of your work, or learn about the work of others. For a rundown of the site’s features, click on the How to Use tab.
Users will also find this site as a gateway to the Sense of Community Index (SCI) and the Sense of Community Index-2 (SCI-2).Continue Reading
By: David Chavis, PhD, President/CEO
There is little doubt that this country and this world are seeing monumental challenges that we have not seen in decades, if ever. Racism and other forms of hate have become legitimized in many more places than we have seen in a while. There is a rise of authoritarian rule, “bullyism,” and violence against women and minorities. In this country, the basic social contract of a caring state and a common community (e pluribus unum - or “out of many, one”) is being threatened on nearly an hourly basis. The good news is that there has been a large-scale outcry from all corners of our society over many of the abuses and abusiveness. People are organizing across race and class to try to turn these trends around, and to promote equality and inclusion in this great country. For me, it raises the challenge of what do I do as a citizen as well as a professional. I go to conferences that focus on eliminating poverty, fighting racism, transforming society, empowering marginalized groups, conducting equitable or empowering evaluations, etc. But I also see movements like Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, and MoveOn, as well as community organizing groups like the PICO National Network. They are getting attention; they are making a difference.Continue Reading
By: Rodney Hopson
Professor & Associate Dean for Research
College of Education and Human Development
George Mason University1
"You will not be able to avoid the usefulness and ubiquity of evaluation,
You will not be able to mislabel, misappropriate, misconceive, misapply, or misuse
evaluation, limiting it to the settings of programs, policies, and personnel
You will not be able to refer to the usual distinctions between research and
evaluation, draw simple conclusions at the end of a program evaluation, or avoid
instances of bias and conflicts of interests, as if our only concern in the discipline
rests on value judgments or our only claim to fame is to inform decision-making
Because the revolution will not be evaluated."
Community Science is investing in strategies that leverage the tools of big data science and predictive analytics to improve health and human service systems, programs, and policies. This work is fundamental to what we are all about. We use “state-of-the-art qualitative and quantitative methods . . . to strengthen the science and practice of community change.” Another core part of our mission is to use our research and evaluation expertise “to build healthy, just, and equitable communities.” So, here’s the interesting rub: When it comes to using big data science and predictive analytics to promote positive community change, we are at the same time very aware of the warnings, admonitions, and proof that predictive analytics can also perpetuate and reinforce institutionalized inequities.
Our work has already led to some very clear guiding principles as we endeavor to bring the big data science tools of predictive and prescriptive analytics together with the social science methods of research and evaluation. There is an excellent book that everyone should read—Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, written by Cathy O’Neil.Continue Reading
Kate Williams, LGSW, PMP, Project Management Office Director, has over 12 years of federal consulting experience with expertise in project and program management, cross-functional staff management, database development, and technical assistance. Before joining Community Science, Williams worked closely with the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, to support the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs). She directed the daily operations and priorities of the data and technology team, leading the development of, testing and technical support for all CFSR Web-based applications and databases. Williams also managed a nationwide data collection process, conducted analyses and post review cycle evaluations, and led the development of a Data Repository/data visualization website. Williams also brings experience in logistical support, consultant management, training and technical support, and piloting and testing data management systems. She has a diverse background to enrich future work, including mitigating sentences for clients with mental illness, federal child welfare policy, and working on issues of homelessness and disability. Williams has a Master’s degree in Social Work (Management and Community Organization/Clinical Minor) and a B.A. in Human Studies. In her spare time, she prefers to be outside exploring with her kids or relaxing with a cup of tea (or three) and reading.Continue Reading
Oscar Espinosa, M.A., Senior Associate, presents with colleague Brandon Coffee-Borden, M.P.P., Managing Associate on the panel Developing, Sustaining, and Evaluating Health Equity Coalitions as Systems Interventions.
The American Evaluation Association (AEA) held their annual conference in Washington, D.C., on November 6-11, 2017. Community Science presented during various sessions and workshops. Check out our team in action!Continue Reading
Government plays a crucial role in both promoting equity and dismantling policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity. It controls the resources, how they are allocated and applied, as well as providing vital services to the public. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) was established to assist local governments to apply a racial lens to their policies, operations, and practices by using a racial equity framework and tools, implementing a measurement system to monitor progress toward racial equity goals, and partnering with other organizations and communities. In 2016, Living Cities launched the Racial Equity Here (REH) initiative and partnered with GARE to build the capacity of five city governments—Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville, and Philadelphia—to advance their racial equity goals.Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading
“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.”Continue Reading
Hudson Wisconsin’s local newspaper, the Hudson Star-Observer recently quoted Community Science’s Principal Associate/Vice President, Kien Lee, Ph.D. Check out her input on how to ensure productive and respectful conversations occur among community members and city government by clicking here.Continue Reading
Health-literacy interventions traditionally focus on providing individuals with health information in multiple languages; using plain, nontechnical language (i.e., language at an eighth-grade level or below); and adding visuals to health-related information to make it easy to understand and apply to everyday situations. But what can you do to reach your service population when they are dispersed in a remote geographic area or rarely congregate in a central location? And what if a reduced budget does not allow you to interact with people one-on-one? And what if the individuals you are trying to reach have limited access to media or the Internet? This article summarizes practical strategies that have been developed and used by public-health educators around the country to address these types of challenges when working with traditionally underserved, difficult-to-reach, low-health-literate populations. The key lessons were informed by a review of the literature and key informant interviews with health-intervention implementers who responded to requests for information.
Low health literacy continues to be a major barrier to care in the United States, which negatively impacts health outcomes and disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority populations.1 Some populations have unique characteristics that can make them more difficult to reach and make their health behaviors harder to influence. Characteristics such as low or no English-language literacy, social and geographic isolation, and limited access to media and the Internet are some of the barriers that can impact the effectiveness of a health-literacy intervention.Continue Reading
Healthier students tend to be stronger learners (Busch et al., 2014; Basch, 2011). Student health is related to grades, school attendance, and graduation rates. However, one in three children is overweight or obese (Alliance for Healthier Generation, n.d.). In addition to the connection to poorer education outcomes, childhood obesity is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health issues in adulthood. Given the long-term educational and health consequences of unhealthy behaviors, childhood is a critical time to intervene and establish healthy habits that will have lasting benefits. Schools are an important setting and partner in efforts to promote health, well-being, and safety because the majority of school-aged children in the U.S. attend school and spend a great deal of time in that setting. This article describes how schools can implement efforts to promote health and create conditions to help students establish lifelong healthy habits and behaviors.Continue Reading
School districts across the county are adopting policies to improve health and wellness among their students; in reality, the implementation of such policies is often challenging. Each school setting serves different populations, has different needs and resources, and requires an individualized action plan to address its school’s health priorities. One way to support school district-wide wellness policies is through local school wellness councils (LSWCs) that work at the school building or campus level. These councils, typically comprised of faculty, parents, students, and administrators, focus on implementing programs, policies, and practices to improve physical activity, nutrition, and the health of students.
In the corporate world, about one-third of expenditures are focused on leadership development to improve an organization’s performance, productivity, and, ultimately, revenue (Bersin, 2014, cited in Avolio, 2016). In the philanthropic world, however, less than 1% was spent on leadership development between 1992 and 2011 (Hirshfield, 2014). However, powerful leaders are needed to lead not only foundations but also the organizations and communities that foundations fund and support. This article discusses the leadership necessary for a more equitable and just society, which relates individual leadership skills to a more intentional focus on followers, context, and systems.Continue Reading
Community Science is currently evaluating two leadership programs; these evaluations provide an opportunity for us to further understand how leadership programs impact those who lead, the people they lead, and the systems and communities within which they operate.
About a year ago, the Bush Foundation engaged us to evaluate its Change Network, a new style of cohort and pilot program. The foundation recognizes that effective leadership is a combination of skills that enable leaders to self-reflect on their worldviews and how these views affect their interactions with people, to understand the systems that obstruct equity and justice and how to navigate and dismantle these systems, and to develop meaningful relationships across cultural differences, sectors, and disciplines—all toward the end of becoming more effective leaders.Continue Reading
Shakila Haidari, M.S., Senior Analyst, Shakila earned her Master of Science in Analytics from the American University Kogod School of Business and has over five years of professional experience within project management and extensive knowledge of data visualization and analytics. She designs and builds relational database to organize and manage Community Science projects data as well as develops visual analytics and interactive visualizations in Tableau to help our partner organizations tackle their challenges and turn their data into insights and actionable information for making sound and informed decisions. Shakila is a night sky watcher who enjoys exploring stars and constellations. She loves nature, particularly hiking and mountain climbing.Continue Reading
Community Science has been working with various individuals from community-based organizations and Universities to assemble innovative strategies that have the potential to maximize the reach and effectiveness of delivering key health messages to underserved and difficult-to-reach populations (e.g., those who reside in isolated communities, have limited English proficiency, or lack knowledge of the U.S. health system). For this project, staff issued a request for proposals which resulted in 46 applications. Of those who applied, a total of ten practices were selected and are included in an upcoming publication that features 10 innovative strategies designed to address key challenges to delivering health literacy interventions to vulnerable populations in traditionally underserved communities across the country.Continue Reading
Community Science is proud to present The Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers, which we developed for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (download here). This new guide is designed for people with little or no experience with formal evaluation to help them become more familiar with evaluation concepts and practices, partner better with independent evaluators, and use evaluation more effectively to continually learn from and improve their work. It draws from Community Science’s knowledge of evaluation, existing publications about evaluation, as well as our staff’s extensive experiences with building the evaluation capacity of nonprofit organizations. This guide includes tips and tools for practical and important matters such as stakeholder engagement, simple quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and communication and use of evaluation findings. We hope that it will help demystify evaluation and encourage people to use data to inform their strategies to effect social change and promote equity and justice.
Oscar Espinosa, M.A., Senior Associate, is an experienced Project Director with over 20 years of project management experience. His primary area of expertise is program evaluation, and has applied his knowledge of outcome/impact evaluation to design custom grant monitoring and management systems for federal and foundation clients. He has designed systems for the St. David’s Foundation, Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Corporation for National and Community Service, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. For these multi-year projects Mr. Espinosa facilitated needs assessments with staff and conducted document reviews and extensive literature reviews and environmental scans to identify metrics which appropriately gauge the funding agencies’ performance relative to their mission and strategic plan. The objective of building these systems is to help staff determine the extent to which their organization’s funding strategy is having the outcomes and impacts they were intended to achieve, and to learn what mid-course corrections need to be made to achieve their strategic goals.Continue Reading
Courte Van Voorhees, Ph.D., Associate, has expertise in quantitative and qualitative methodology, organizational change management, sustainability, community development, equity, environmental justice, education, housing and homelessness, and impact assessment. He earned his Ph.D. in Community Research and Action (CRA) from Vanderbilt University.Continue Reading
Federal agencies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations that are funding solutions to long-standing social problems need to continually assess their efforts and use the findings to adapt and improve their funding strategies. This article discusses the value and guiding principles for embedding reflective practice into the grantmaking process.
Although many funders and social change organizations espouse learning and adaptation as part of their culture, it is our observation that actual efforts to effectively use their experience and the results of evaluation often fall flat, if they happen at all. This can be attributed to a number of organizational factors, but there is also a common misconception that strengthening their funding strategies through more grants leads to a bigger impact.Continue Reading
The St. David’s Foundation (SDF) is one of the largest grantmaking foundations in Texas. SDF invests proceeds from St. David's HealthCare to more than 60 nonprofit partners that operate healthy community programs in the Central Texas area. SDF has contracted with Community Science to develop a monitoring, learning, and evaluation (MLE) system to assist them to better manage and improve the effectiveness of SDF’s grantmaking. In understanding the importance of working with the organization, the Project Team has been collaborating with SDF staff to build on their existing tools and procedures, refining their content, and developing new procedures to help them determine progress.Continue Reading
Community Science is proud to present one of our latest reports – lessons learned from a national initiative to help city governments get ready for racial equity work.
The Racial Equity Here (REH) initiative engaged and supported a cohort of five U.S. cities committed to improving racial equity in their jurisdictions by transforming policies and practices to address the inequities within their systems of government. Living Cities recruited the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a joint project of Race Forward and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, to provide training and technical assistance to these cities over a two-year period. During that time, the cities’ racial equity teams developed and implemented a capacity-building plan to dismantle institutional and structural racism and improve outcomes for all residents and, in particular, residents of color.Continue Reading
Ji Won Shon, MSPH, Analyst, has experience conducting research and analysis on the social determinants of health, adolescent health and well-being, and place-based initiatives. Before joining Community Science, Ji Won served as a research assistant for the Research, Evaluation, Evidence and Data Unit at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she supported the design and implementation of performance-management strategies and various research and evaluation projects. As a member of the Casey evaluation team for Evidence2Succcess, a multisite initiative engaging communities and public-systems leaders in identifying risk and protective factors and implementing evidence-based programs, she facilitated a collaborative process to decide on common cross-site performance metrics, developed data-collection guidance and tools for grantees, and prepared a data dashboard to share with stakeholders.Continue Reading
Many philanthropic organizations around the country have made it their mission to improve the lives of children and communities of color. Some of these organizations have used community organizing as a means of creating equitable communities by shifting power to those most affected, and strategically placing these individuals at the forefront of the community organizing process. This article discusses some of the foundational principles for promoting equity through the use of community organizing as a strategy.
Community organizing is said to have been started through the work of Saul Alinsky as illustrated in Rules for Radicals, which has since spurred a variety of approaches. National organizations such as PICO, Metro IAF, and the Virginia Organizing Project have become known for their distinct community organizing approaches and work.
Community organizing is a process that involves (a) developing meaningful relationships and gaining an understanding of community context and conditions, (b) educating community members on an issue, (c) mobilizing community members to take action and create community-level change, and (d) building the capacity of community members to effect systemic change. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where community members hold the power in their communities. Community power means that residents have the influence to acquire the resources and promote the systemic changes needed to improve their environment and conditions. Community power emerges when groups act strategically and collectively (Gold & Simon, 2002). At the base of community organizing are the relationships built by the community organizer with those most affected by the issue who themselves have insufficient power to effect change. The relationship between the community organizer and those most affected by the issue, as well as among the community members most affected by the issue, can be leveraged to increase the community’s power.
Established in 1930, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and contributors to the larger community and society. The foundation’s work, at its core, is about giving all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income, the opportunity to thrive in school, work, and life. WKKF is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign nations. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF’s priority places in the United States are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans and internationally are in Mexico and Haiti.