The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Building Capacity Among Stakeholders for Community-Level Interventions: Empirically Exploring the Dimensions, Predictors, and Outcomes

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Nautilus 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Organizations and Management
Symposium Organizer:
Julian C. C. Chow, PhD, School of Social Welfare
Michael Spencer, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Complex social problems, such as violence, housing, and mental illness need to be addressed by engaging stakeholders at multiple levels (Goodman, et al., 1996).  Community level interventions provide opportunities to grow a collective infrastructure for community-level problem solving that targets the structural determinants of social problems and the environmental barriers to effective service provision (Wandersman, 2003).  Although the roots of social work practice are at the community level, our evidence-base for community practice is still in its infancy (Ohmer & Korr, 2006).  The wisdom literature has long claimed that community level intervention efficacy depends upon building and leveraging community capacities (Butterfoss, 2002).  This series of papers collectively examines the dimensions, predictors, and outcomes of building community capacities to further our understanding of the community capacities that relate to effective community level interventions.

Community capacities are “the characteristics of communities that affect their ability to identify, mobilize, and address social and public health problems.”  (Goodman, et al., 1998)  The first paper explores the meaning and measurement of community capacities through qualitative inquiry with stakeholder groups.  This work, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Strengthening What Works Initiative, explores community capacity building through the eyes of intimate partner violence prevention advocates within an immigrant community-based organization and faith leaders.  A participatory research process over ten months explored the domains of community capacity building proposed by Labonte & Laveracke (2001) to develop culturally-competent measurement tools useful for enhancing staff work.  Results indicate that these domains of community capacity proved relevant to staff engaged in capacity building work and the measurement tools were useful for improving staff performance.

The second paper explores predictors of community capacity, or the readiness of residents to engage in a transit-oriented mixed-income redevelopment (TOMIR) project.  Two low income neighborhoods were studied through a mixed-methods design.  A well-fitting structural equation model revealed that residents with higher cohesion, collective efficacy, relocation plans, identification of neighborhood problems, activism, and involvement in neighborhood organizations were more ready for TOMIR.  Qualitative analyses suggested that residents low in these characteristics experience barriers to involvement in collective activities and may benefit from household level interventions to develop capacities for community change.

The final paper explores the outcomes of community capacity using data from a community-randomized intervention trial.  Earlier analyses indicate that Communities That Care, a community mobilization strategy for preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral problems, has heterogeneity in its effect on community change.  Using a series of mixed-effect meta-regressions to determine the extent to which coalition capacities explain the variance in effect, this study finds that the community capacities of coalition member skills and linkages between community organizations explain 25% of the variance in community change outcomes, with no residual variance left to be explained.

These papers use diverse methods to engage key stakeholders in addressing problems experienced by youth, low income families, and individuals experiencing interpersonal violence.  Together they improve our understanding of the role of developing community capacities, and as a result, improve the evidence informing community practice.

* noted as presenting author
Testing Practice Wisdom: Does Building Community Capacities Enable Community Practice Strategies to Achieve Community Change?
Valerie B. Shapiro, PhD, University of California, Berkeley; J. David Hawkins, PhD, University of Washington; Sabrina Oesterle, PhD, University of Washington
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