Session: The Role of Community-Engaged Research in Advancing the Science on Racial and Economic Inequality (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

285 The Role of Community-Engaged Research in Advancing the Science on Racial and Economic Inequality

Sunday, January 19, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 14, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Communities and Neighborhoods (C&N)
Kirk Foster, PhD, University of South Carolina, Daniel Brisson, PhD, University of Denver, Mary Ohmer, PhD, University of Pittsburgh and Paul Shattuck, PhD, Drexel University
Communities have long played an important role in social science research. Social scientists typically view communities as places to situate their research to advance knowledge, but not as partners in conducting research and generating new knowledge. Positivism's emphasis on experimentation as true scientific method often leads researchers to minimize community-engaged partnerships in the research enterprise. Instead researchers often view communities as the laboratory for their work. This epistemological orientation is particularly problematic when working with marginalized populations, especially racial minorities and low-income populations. The need for situated, tailored community-engaged strategies is even higher when considering the intersection of race and socioeconomic status with smaller subpopulation communities like gender and sexual minorities and those with disabilities. The orientation toward community engagement in research has shifted in recent years. Researchers recognize the impact community engagement can have on client outcomes, and funders require evidence of a community's role in the research process. Community has, consequently, figured more centrally across substantive areas in social work research. The academy has sought adequate and appropriate ways to engage communities in the knowledge building process, recognizing that community itself is a term with disparate conceptualizations. Various community-engaged research methods have become prominent such as community-based participatory research and participatory action research. Yet the randomized controlled trial remains the gold standard of social science research—despite clear evidence of the diminishing effect sizes of interventions brought to scale after being found effective in randomized control trials. Positivist epistemology guiding social science research favors experiments with samples that can be randomly assigned to treatment groups and neatly specified research boundaries. Social work research evidences the struggle of situating community-engaged research within a positivist epistemology that tacitly questions the ability of community-engaged research to advance science. This roundtable session will begin a dialogue about the role of community-engaged research in advancing science. Presenters will focus particular attention on the challenges of defining community; developing a community-engaged epistemology; creating space to work with intersections of race, class, gender, disability, and community dynamics; methodological considerations; ethical considerations; and conducting research in, with, and for communities. One presenter will discuss strategies and challenges of a CBPR project “with” a community to address persistent racial, economic, social and political inequities leading to equitable development plans, policies and decisions impacting their neighborhood. A second presenter will discuss methodological considerations in pursuit of internal validity versus external validity highlighting that community- engaged focus on external validity may need to be more strongly embedded in gold-standard research. The third presenter will review work with inner-city autistic youth, families, schools, state agencies, service providers, and large employers from the public and business sectors using tactics drawn from macro practice and improvement science. The fourth presenter will review research partnership models, highlighting strategies for scientifically rigorous shared knowledge building with community members.
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