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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!

Evaluation Can Inform Strategy Improvement and Programming

Community Science was engaged by the Andrus Family Fund to evaluate the impact of its Community Reconciliation (CR) program.  The foundation was interested in knowing the value of its investments in this area,  the difference that CR grantees have made with the support, and the usefulness of the support - both the funding and coaching - provided by the foundation. Given that the foundation had not conducted any evaluation of the CR program before, did not have a clear theory of change or program logic model, and had not convened the grantees for several years, Community Science advised the Andrus Family Fund to seize this opportunity to take a participatory approach and engage grantees in developing a logic model grounded in the realities and context within which they were operating - especially since community reconciliation work is complex and highly vulnerable to factors outside the grantees' control.

“As a new Executive Director, it was really important [for me] to take a look at what had been done to understand that portfolio.  The Andrus Family Fund had been working in the same way for over a decade, and it was important to me that we have some objective measures to help us move the work forward.  Community Science’s thorough work with AFF helped us streamline our process with our Community Reconciliation portfolio, and their work was key in helping us determine what types of outcomes we should be thinking of – not based on what we desired, but on the types of grants and technical assistance we were actually providing.  This helped us build the foundation that eventually led to our strategic assessment and helped us identify our new direction.” Leticia Peguero, Executive Director, Andrus Family Fund and Andrus Family Philanthropy Program.

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Understanding Immigrant Civic Participation

Community Science has conducted studies on civic participation of immigrants for organizations such as the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and the Public Interest Project. The learning from the findings of these studies are important because people from all over the world resettle in the United States for various reasons and diversify - and challenge - traditional definitions of civic participation and leadership in this country. It is imperative that funders, community leaders, elected officials, program managers, researchers, evaluators, and anyone else invested in creating healthy and just communities understand how our new neighbors and citizens engage civically in order to improve outreach and communication on a wide range of issues, such as consumer rights and the Affordable Care Act. More important, this understanding is essential to bridge old and new communities and traditional and nontraditional institutions, in order to create a stronger and economically competitive nation.

Dr. Kien Lee, Vice President of Community Science, presented what was learned from these previously mentioned studies as part of the opening plenary for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection's one-day symposium on cross-cultural communications on October 23, 2014. Click here to access the Connecticut Network (CT-N) website, and enter the symposium date to view the panel discussion.

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Senior Associate Oscar Espinosa Presents at American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting and Exposition

The APHA hosted its 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition from November 15-19 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Community Science Senior Associate Oscar Espinosa, M.A., presented at a Panel Discussion entitled, "ACA Outreach under the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities: Results and Lessons Learned." The session focused on the opportunities and challenges faced by community based organizations, particularly those involving individuals from racial and ethnic minorities, during the initial enrollment period of the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace.

Mr. Espinosa is the project director for the effort to document and quantify the impact of outreach efforts conducted during the enrollment period. During his presentation, Mr. Espinosa described how the evaluation team developed a measurement framework and an event assessment instrument. He reviewed the procedures the team followed for supporting data collection, and presented key findings from the analyses of the event data. Click here to log into the AEA website and access recordings of the presentation.


Kien Lee Authors Cross-Cultural Competency Chapter in Community Psychology Textbook

Community Science Principal Associate and Vice President Kien Lee, Ph.D. authored a chapter in the recently published textbook Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice, by Victoria C. Scott and Susan M. Wolfe. Dr. Lee's contribution is entitled Effecting Social Change in Diverse Contexts: The Role of Cross-Cultural Competency. The book is available for purchase on the SAGE Publications website.


David M. Chavis Speaks on Evaluation at Place-Based Initiatives Forum

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy and the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation held a national forum in December, focused on the current state of place-based initiatives that address geographically-concentrated poverty. Community Science President/CEO David M. Chavis, Ph.D. served as a panelist for Evaluation in Context, a discussion to address how place-based initiatives are being evaluated in the context of larger forces and long-term change. Click here to view a video of the panel discussion.  


Staff Profile: Jasmine Williams-Washington

Jasmine Williams-Washington, M.P.A., Analyst, has five years of experience in community organizing in political campaigns as well as on advocacy issues. In addition to her experience in the community, Mrs. Williams-Washington has extensive background in both quantitative and qualitative research. Before joining Community Science, she served as a community organizer for the Mississippi Center for Justice in their health law division. Mrs. Williams-Washington still serves as an adjunct professor at Jackson State University in the Urban Studies program. At Community Science, Mrs. Williams-Washington collects and analyzes data, provides background information for project reports and proposals, and oversees basic technical tasks. She is an Atlanta Falcons fan through good times and bad, loves crawfish, and her unusual fear of fish keeps her out of aquariums!


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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Improving Access to Food: A Health Equity Imperative

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

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Transforming Prince George's County Communites

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

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

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Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment Promotes Racial and Social Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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