From: Stacy Anne Harwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've been carrying this paper around for awhile and finally had the opportunity to read it when my plane was delayed for three hours in Chicago last night.
Shlay and Whitman’s paper on linking university research (technical assistance) to community organizing provides a clear example of how universities could contribute to grass-roots social justice efforts. After reading the paper I was left wondering if the authors sufficiently demonstrated what they set out to do.
The theoretical contribution could be strengthened by more explicitly situating this case in the literature on urban political economy. The authors argue that this literature lacks studies on how structures of political dominance are modified, but the Philadelphia case doesn't quite go all the way in showing how the combination of solid research with community organizing actually modified the politics. How did the authors know that the research actually altered political decisions? From the paper I cannot tell if authors spoke with city council members and city staff about decision making… What did these people say or do in response to the studies about blight? Did other community groups then begin to pressure the decision makers? Adding more about those operating outside of the EPOP would greatly strengthen the paper’s argument.
I was also curious about the timing of gathering the data and producing the results. When opportunities emerged from the community organizing side, was the data already available? Or were you pulling all nighters to get the results prepared for meetings? How complicated was all of the data gathering? Did the researchers engage in any politics to get the data in the first place? How did this information transfer unfold? Did the community leaders tell you want they were looking for at any point? These are the kinds things I would like to know as researcher involved in community development.
I enjoyed the paper. I look forward to hearing more about the project.
Stacy Anne Harwood, Assistant Professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
111 Temple Buell Hall
611 Lorado Taft Drive
Champaign, IL 61820-6921