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News & Info

Building Community Capacity in Puerto Rico Through Food Sovereignty Advocacy

For almost two years now, media outlets have been acquainting the U.S. public with the conditions in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria made landfall in September 20, 2017.1 Less prominent in these accounts, however, are discussions about how, instead of creating the conditions reported, this disaster brought to the surface the limited capacity of the local government to tend to the needs of its constituents as well as the long-standing federal neglect of the affairs of the territory.2 As the scope of the crisis and unmet needs emerged, local residents and community organizers stepped up to fill this institutional vacuum.3 Food sovereignty advocates and organizations were key factors in these grassroots relief and reconstruction efforts. This article discusses how food sovereignty advocates in Puerto Rico mobilized a network of community stakeholders to respond to the hurricane crisis and how this context is shaping their efforts to promote a locally responsive food system. For this, the article describes the socioeconomic circumstances on the island before Maria’s landfall, how previous moments of crisis fostered attention to food system issues, and how agroecology and food sovereignty frameworks are informing current efforts to reconnect food consumption and agricultural production and to promote community participation in the food policy process.

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Spotlight On: Supporting Systems Change to Reduce Food Loss and Waste

Community Science completed a rapid assessment for one of the largest foundations in the United States of their initiative to support systems change to reduce food loss and waste. This initiative was designed to reshape how key actors and institutions within the system perceived the problem of interest, increase the priority and attention given to that problem, develop stronger networks among key players within the system, and encourage key players and institutions to take on a greater role in addressing the problem. The initiative focused on supporting a growing national movement to raise awareness and educate stakeholders about food waste, identify promising solutions, and implement food-waste prevention and intervention strategies.

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Community Science Participates in a Day of Service

Community Science participated in its biannual day of service at Cedar Ridge Farm on May 21, 2019. Cedar Ridge Farm is a nonprofit organization that grows over a ton of organic food, which is given to local groups that serve the hungry and homeless. Community Science staff spent the day tilling the soil, weeding, planting, and mowing the grass.

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Staff Profile: Nour Elshabassi

Nour Elshabassi, B.S., Research Assistant, has experience in data collection and analysis for community engagement projects. At Community Science, she assists with data entry, analysis, and summary of descriptive statistics on research and evaluation projects related to health equity and community development. Before joining Community Science, Ms. Elshabassi provided research support to a longitudinal study on community engagement for social change at George Mason University, where she wrote literature reviews, coordinated data collection, and helped collect data. She also worked as case manager for America Works of Washington, DC, assisting participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with employment goals. Ms. Elshabassi received her bachelor of science from George Mason University.

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Strategies for Increasing Equity in Central Business District Revitalization Efforts

Small and medium-size cities, including those in both urban and rural areas, have often pursued revitalizing their central business districts (CBDs). Cities pursue this work because thriving CBDs/downtowns can (1) create entrepreneurial business and job opportunities; (2) bring human and financial resources into the community, fostering additional investment opportunities; and (3) deepen or enhance residents’ sense of community and their perception of hope for the community’s future. While cities and other key stakeholders often pursue these efforts with the intention of improving the lives of all residents within the community, benefits tend to accumulate to property owners and other well-capitalized individuals and have limited direct benefit for those living in poverty. Without an intentional focus on equity, those renting in the district and those with fewer connections to information and decision-making are unlikely to benefit from any positive growth. There is a need to help communities understand how the benefits from their revitalization efforts will likely be distributed and to provide them with direction on possible strategies that can be used to better infuse equity principles into their efforts. This article provides guidance on achieving greater equity. We take core practices identified in the literature as contributing to downtown success and recommend ways that they can be adjusted to ensure a more equitable approach to revitalization (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014). This overlay demonstrates some of the ways that these practices can be adapted to create opportunities for all residents.

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Further Developing Leaders of Color: A Systems Approach to Equity

In recent years philanthropy has recognized leadership development as a key strategy in improving the participation of people of color and low-income individuals in the positions and spaces that determine policies, procedures, and practices intended to produce social change. Nonetheless, many leadership development programs reflect prevailing cultural values regarding individualism and assume that just selecting and developing the “right” individuals and providing them with specific knowledge and skills will naturally result in an increased individual capacity, strengthened organizations, an increased collective leadership capacity, and an improved ability to serve the community. This approach, however, does not address the structural and systemic barriers that constrain individual power or reflect the fact that collaborative approaches are needed to dismantle structural racism and advance equity. This article summarizes key principles about how to create the conditions and capacities needed to support leaders of color seeking to advance equity and social justice from our evaluations of leadership development programs.

Changing the behavior of individuals is necessary but not sufficient to achieve equity and social justice; it will not necessarily result in comprehensive systems interventions that address the underlying causes of structural racism and inequity. Community Science has evaluated a number of leadership development programs and found that for these programs to work, a number of key elements need to be emphasized beyond a focus on the individual development of traditional leadership skills.

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Publications



Recent Publications:

New Report from Community Science to Help City Governments Get Ready for Racial Equity Work

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, funded by Living Cities, engaged and supported a cohort of five U.S. cities committed to transforming policies and practices to address the inequities within their systems of government. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) was funded by Living Cities to provide training and technical assistance to guide these cities over a two-year period as they worked toward their racial equity goals. The final report is based on the evaluation of the initiative. Community Science used the evaluation findings to report on lessons learned and offer recommendations to other cities interested in engaging in racial equity work.

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The Steps-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers (June 2018)

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. 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.

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Emerging Action Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change (March 2015)

Community Matters! Decades of scientific research have shown that being part of a supportive, inclusive and capable community promotes mental, physical, and social well-being more than any other factors known to the social and medical sciences. Our publication series, Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, shares what science and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community. The first publication in this series, “Emerging Principles for Designing and Implementing Community Change,” has just been released.

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Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites (July 2014)

This report describes, from the perspective of local stakeholders, the experience of several sites involved in Making Connections — the Foundation’s signature community change initiative of the 2000s — in developing and enhancing the core capacities essential for articulating and pursuing a local community change agenda. The report describes the conditions in the communities when Making Connections began; the core capacities built during the decade-long initiative; the factors that contributed to capacity building; the evidence of improved outcomes for children, families and neighborhoods resulting from the enhanced change capacities; the continuing challenges of sustaining those capacities; and key takeaways from the experience.  

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Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (April 2012)

In 2006, The Colorado Trust funded 14 organizations to improve their cultural competency in order to strengthen their capacity to reduce health disparities.  Community Science was engaged to evaluate the initiative, specifically assessing: 1) changes in cultural competency among grantees, 2) the influence of cultural competency changes on grantee interventions and short -term outcomes, 3) factors and conditions needed to bring about positive changes in organizational cultural competency, and 4) grantee progress and accomplishments over time.  

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The Importance of Culture in Evaluation

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides insights to help guide the complex dynamics between evaluators, funders and stakeholders of different cultures. The report provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation and recommends questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of cultural competency. 

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