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OUR NEWS

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

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

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

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

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New Contracts Expand Our Impact

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

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APHA Presentation on Affordable Care Act Outreach Project

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


Improving Access to Food: A Health Equity Imperative

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

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Staff Profile: Lexie Perreras

Lexie Perreras, M.P.H., Research Assistant, assists with data collection and analysis, project coordination, and reporting for several research and evaluation projects related to health disparities and systems-level change. She has experience with both quantitative and qualitative methods as well as evaluation planning and implementation. Prior to joining Community Science, she worked at a research and development company focused on creating web-based technologies for health and well-being. Ms. Perreras’ professional interests include health disparities, implementation science, and participatory approaches in health promotion. Ms. Perreras is a CrossFit enthusiast and salsa dancer.


Transforming Prince George's County Communites

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

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

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Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment Promotes Racial and Social Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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Measuring Sense of Community

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

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Putting the Impact into Collective Impact and Other Collaborative Strategies

Senior Associate Evelyn Yang Details The True Value of Working Together

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

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

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Community Science VP Speaks to White House Advisors

Kien Lee Speaks to Domestic Policy Council at the White House

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

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

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

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Community Science Featured on PBS for SNAP Program Evaluation

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

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

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The Impact of Cross-Cultural Competency

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

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

One word: Understanding.

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Making it Count Through Coordination and Collaboration

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

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

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Turning Information Into Insight and Action

Since our founding over 17 years, ago, Community Science has seen a great expansion in the practice of evaluation by foundations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Nowadays just about every grantee knows that their funder is going to want an evaluation of their work or some data to show that they are achieving what they set out to achieve. Two challenges emerge from this promotion of evaluation. First, evaluation costs time and money, especially if you use an outside evaluator.  A second challenge is that many organizations are collecting data about their community and work- some are even drowning in it. However, there has been relatively little effort placed on how to use data for strategy improvement to do a better job in addressing social problems and make important organizational decisions, and advocate for better policies and programs.

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The Achievement of Economic Inclusion

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

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Research & Development at Community Science

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

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

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Is Your Organization Cross-Culturally Competent?

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

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

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Introducing Our New Model: Innovating for Social Impact

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

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In Print: Strategic Factors for Building Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Share, Vote, Discuss + Influence

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

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Boosting the Impact of a Foundation

Community Science helps measure progress

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

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

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Currency through Diversity

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

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

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Enlisting a Community to Fight Childhood Obesity

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

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Torn From Home: My Life as a Refugee

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

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A New Model to Fight Childhood Obesity

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

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

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Culturally Competent Capacity Builders: What will it take?

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

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