Session: Building Community and Institutional Capacity for Sustainable Community Change (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

263 Building Community and Institutional Capacity for Sustainable Community Change

Friday, January 22, 2021: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cluster: Communities and Neighborhoods
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
Social work has its roots in community practice. Early practitioners studied the relationship between community factors and individual outcomes to devise and deploy interventions aimed to improve lives and change systems. This ethos carries over into contemporary social work practice and research. The very science of social work is predicated upon these values of community engagement. Yet researchers historically viewed communities as the laboratory for their work -- objects of research and knowledge generation. Such a colonial approach may limit the sustainable change that could come from sound research and interventions when the community has little investment in the process. Alternatively, community buy-in of the research process increases the likelihood community members will use the research to make sustainable change. In recent years researchers have begun adopting community-engaged research methods that value integrating the community throughout the research process. Employing these methods has led to the development of community advisory boards. Such boards have functioned to give the study team credibility, to assist in recruitment, and to provide feedback on study findings. Yet communities may not have the capacity to engage more deeply in the research process, specifically around conceptualizing studies and interventions and devising methods to study problems. Similarly, universities may not have the capacity to support community members as full partners in the research process. If we want to remain committed to sustainable community change, it is incumbent upon social work researchers to devise methods to build community capacity to engage fully in the research process and to build institutional capacity to support community members. This roundtable session will advance a dialogue on the role of social work science in building community and institutional capacity for effective community-engaged research. One presenter will discuss what capacity means from both a community and researcher perspective. This presenter will share findings from two studies: one that examined ways in which universities focusing on hyperlocal engagement defined and focused their efforts on community capacity building, and another that asked community members and stakeholders what would be required for university researchers to engage the community in authentic research partnerships. One presenter will discuss the skills a scientist brings and what skills community members bring to the research partnership. More importantly, we will discuss how these skills overlap and how to leverage them for community- and institutional-capacity building. Community-based participatory research has become synonymous with community-engaged research; however, CBPR is but one method that engages the community in the research process. One presenter will synthesize and critique the body of community-engaged approaches to equip us for impactful leadership in social change. Researchers may not be geographically proximal to the communities where the research is located. One presenter will discuss important strategies for building and sustaining community partnerships from afar, including building community capacity to undertake research tasks when the researcher is not physically present.
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