Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

17323 Examining the State of the Village: Multi-Method, Multi-Level Analyses for Comprehensive Comunity Change

Thursday, January 12, 2012: 4:30 PM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Samantha Teixeira, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
John M. Wallace, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background and Purpose: The Homewood Children's Village (HCV) is a collaborative comprehensive community initiative focused on an economically disadvantaged inner-city neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. The HCV is modeled after Geoffrey Canada's internationally acclaimed Harlem Children's Zone, with a mission to “simultaneously improve the lives of Homewood's children and transform the community in which they live.”

In order to better understand neighborhood conditions that effect children in Homewood, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with the HCV and local non-profits, began a collaborative process of multi-method research. The goals of this project were to paint a comprehensive, data-based portrait of Homewood to prepare for multiple levels of intervention in a comprehensive community initiative.


The State of the Village assessment integrated a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to collect individual, family, and neighborhood level data to inform the work of the HCV. The assessment included neighborhood level measures of the conditions of the built environment, property level data related to building ownership and tax delinquency, and a review of census and other relevant administrative data. We collected individual and family level information through a data sharing agreement with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and Pittsburgh Public Schools and through a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews with residents of all ages. The study also incorporated innovative methods in partnership with the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Community Information System (PNCIS) and the Carnegie Mellon University Community Robotics Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab that included using robotic technology known as Gigapan to take panoramic photos of street blocks to visually measure change over time. These methods were specifically designed to simultaneously collect data and engage community residents in the research process.


In this paper, we will describe the development of the State of the Village assessment and the process by which we used a partnership approach to collect data and engage residents. We will discuss the development of the methods we used and present selected findings from several of the research projects within the State of the Village assessment. Finally, we will describe some of the challenges inherent in community based research and present recommendations for the use of data to drive comprehensive community initiatives.

Conclusions and Implications:

The State of the Village process illustrates a how a comprehensive strengths and needs assessment can be used to inform research and advance practice. The paper describes how research can be used to design practical programs for the community that meet the residents “where they are” for multiple levels of intervention in a comprehensive community initiative.

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