Tinkler:  Establishing a Conceptual Model      COMM-ORG Papers 2004 http://comm-org.wisc.edu/papers.htm

Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Notes & References | Appendices

Chapter 5:  Communities in Transition

This chapter provides the within-case description and within-case analysis in relation to my collaboration with John Brewer and Maria Swenson working with research projects to benefit the immigrant population in my small town.  The case description provides an overview of the major events of the collaboration, including a description of the CBR research that was conducted.  The within-case analysis explores the themes that emerged during this collaboration organized around the four constructs of my analytic framework. 

Case Description

The hot afternoon sun slanted in through the window of the coffee shop causing Manuel Alvarez to sweat.  "You have to learn to plug yourself into the social system," Manuel said as he wiped the perspiration off his upper lip with a handkerchief.  Manuel was providing ideas as to how to begin the process of organizing the immigrant population in this small, rural, western mountain town.  He was describing the networks that exist in any immigrant population.  "You have to identify the gatekeepers and informal leaders who control access to the network." 

Maria asked, "What if the leaders are not good people?"  We all perked up.  "In the [Indian population from Mexico] the leaders are witches," Maria shared confidentially.  Leonora glanced across to me and we both smiled in surprise.  "Ah, they are brujas," Manuel exclaimed.  "Yes," Maria said, "The people are afraid of them, and they have all the power in the community because they cast spells."  Smiling, Maria added, "But they are my friends, so I am safe."  "Are they good or bad?" Leonora asked.  "I don't know, but I don't want them to be the leaders," Maria stated.  Luis interrupted, "It's not up to you.  If they are the leaders, you have to go through them."

I was starting to realize that I should begin to expect surprises in my work with John and Maria.  Though I had conducted research with immigrant populations before, this population is unique in that it includes an indigenous population of which I know very little about.  Manuel Alvarez, a community organizer who is himself an immigrant from El Salvador, came to meet with the community members that I was collaborating with to give us some ideas about how to begin the process of organizing the immigrant community.  At the table were John Brewer, the director of the English program which offers free English classes for immigrants, Maria Swenson, the coordinator of the diversity office in town which is linked with the health department, and Leonora Garcia, a former student of John's program from Mexico who is also a member of the English program's advisory board.  The meeting was an important step in my collaboration with John and Maria.

When I moved to this small town in August 2003, I began looking for a site to conduct community-based research.  I started by contacting the small community school close by.  The principal was interested in having me conduct research with the school, but he wanted me to work with a group of teachers rather than with him.  After waiting a month to see if he could find some teachers that were interested in working with me, I decided to look for other options.  One day, I ran into one of my neighbors who also happens to work at the library.  When I mentioned that I was trying to find someone to work with in the community to carry out some research for my dissertation, she gave me John's name and told me that he was the director of the English program in town.  When I contacted John a few days later, he agreed to meet. 

John has been the director of the English program for more than two years.  During this time, the program has seen tremendous growth in the population of non-English speaking immigrants that are being served.  Though John's background is not in English as a Second Language (ESL), his life experiences have led him to this work.  After graduating from college with a degree in forestry, John served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa.  Upon his return to the United States, he worked for Upward Bound for a period of years until he decided that he wanted to pursue a more settled life.  After his spouse secured a position at the college in town, John obtained work at the college working as the director of service-learning.  John describes this as a pivotal experience in his life: "Suddenly I really came alive with this new dimension to life which was to be engaged in the community and involved."  After he lost this position due to state budget cuts, he began to look for an opportunity where he felt he could continue to be of use to the community.  By chance, the director's position in the English program became available and John was hired.  Last summer, he decided to run for city council and was elected.  So he now holds the dual role of English programming director and city councilman.   

The small town that I reside in is predominantly white.  However, while the total population of the town is experiencing slow growth, the immigrant population is growing rapidly.  Most of the immigrants are from Mexico; however, not all of them are Spanish speakers.  About half of the immigrant community is part of an Indian population that resides in the Western mountains of Mexico.  Most of them speak Spanish, but some only speak the unwritten, indigenous language of their people.  It is unusual to have such a large concentration of these Indians in one place, and in fact there are only a few places in the United States where this ethnic group has gathered.  The story in town is that a family of Indians was driving through the area and had a car accident.  Some people in town supposedly took them in and helped them out, and they decided to stay.  Based on word of mouth about how kind the people were, more Indians began arriving. 

Through my work with John, I also came into contact with Maria Swenson, the coordinator of the diversity office.  Maria is an immigrant from South America who moved to the United States to pursue graduate work and has been in the United States for about twenty years.  She obtained a PhD in wildlife ecology from a university in the western United States and has worked with the forestry service in trying to preserve various endangered bird species in the west.  She has lived around the world and speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, Danish, and Amharic, and she is currently learning the Indian language of the clients she serves.  Maria originally moved to this town through her work with the forestry service but decided to pursue a position in the community.  She was hired as the coordinator of the diversity office two years after the office was opened, and had been in her position only a few months when I met her.  The office was created after the community conducted several town meetings to discuss the growing immigrant population and realized that they needed to provide some sort of office that could be a resource for non-English speaking immigrants.  The diversity office is funded primarily by a foundation, and its original goal was to assist immigrants in accessing health services.  However, Maria helps with everything from reading letters to her clients that they cannot understand, to getting people out of jail.  One day when I stopped by her office, she was filling out paperwork for a man who was about to be deported so that his wife would be able to pick up his paycheck the following week to pay the rent. 

When I began working with John, I also came into contact with Maria's supervisor in the health department, Jennifer Payton.  I originally thought that Jennifer would be someone that I would collaborate with as part of my CBR work.  However, when I met with her on October 21, 2003, she made several comments during our meeting that made me think that we did not have similar views about immigrants.  She made statements like, "They expect to get things for free," and she kept referring to the immigrants in town as "those people."  I was confused because she was a driving force in helping to create the diversity office, but she seemed to have a very narrow view of the clients that Maria serves.  I made the decision not to work closely with Jennifer and only had limited contact with her throughout my collaboration with John and Maria; however, I do not feel that this negatively impacted my CBR work. 

During my initial conversations with John in the fall of 2003, we decided to pursue three research areas.  First of all, John wanted to develop a research instrument that would provide feedback as to how to improve his program to better meet the needs of his students.  John was also curious about the current demographics of the immigrant population in town.  Though the town has 2000 census data, everyone in town that works with the immigrant population reports an increase in the number of clients that are being served.  John was hoping that we could figure out a way to determine an estimate of what the real numbers might be at the end of 2003.  Finally, as part of his duties as a city council member, John was interested in determining ways that the immigrant population could have a voice in city affairs.  As John stated on October 15, "I want to have this group become less invisible and recognize they can have a voice and need to have a voice."  Though we initially focused primarily on the instrument to evaluate his program, as our collaboration progressed, we worked simultaneously on all three areas. 

When I first began meeting with John, we focused on developing a survey that would assess student satisfaction.  He had developed a survey in the past that was going to be administered through the diversity office, but in the transition of employees in that office before Maria arrived, the survey was not administered.  John was unable to find the survey they had developed and also felt that we could probably develop something stronger.  John's initial idea was to administer this survey through Maria's office.  He was concerned that if he administered the survey to his students during class, the students would be less likely to provide criticism of the program.  As we continued to meet, John thought it would also be helpful if we would ask questions to Maria's clients who were not attending classes to find out what some of the factors were that prohibited participation.  We developed an initial survey that we then shared with others, including Maria and Dr. Green, to get feedback on the content and structure.  After working through two drafts of the survey, we made the decision to separate the student survey from the survey for non-participants.  John decided that he would probably get a better response rate if he administered the student survey in his class. 

We ended up working through six revisions of the two surveys over a period of six weeks before passing them along to Maria to translate the survey into Spanish.  Maria had a volunteer translate the two surveys and the translator made additional recommendations.  We then worked through four more revisions of the surveys during the month of December.  Since I had been talking regularly with Maria during this time to get feedback on the surveys, I asked her if she would be willing to be a participant in my research; she agreed.  During January 2004, John was busy setting up a new class in another town close by, so work slowed down for a brief period of time on the two surveys. 

Before we administered each of the surveys, we wanted to get input from the population that would be taking the survey.  For the student survey, we met with a group of John's students in early February to pilot it.  Each student took the survey, and we followed a protocol (Appendix B) afterwards to get input on additions and changes.  There were four students that participated in the pilot group: one female and three males.  Three were Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico who were beginners in learning English, and the fourth was an Indian from Mexico who was in the intermediate class.  I was concerned that they might be uncomfortable with providing criticism, but they were very open and willing to provide feedback.  The female student was very vocal.  When asked what they viewed to be the purpose of the survey, she said, "To find if we are happy in the class.  This section here is to cause an improvement.  How would you like to learn?"  They had a number of interesting suggestions including changes to questions that were confusing as well as additional questions they felt should be included. 

After I looked at the surveys they completed, I found that they did not always circle the highest rating of satisfaction for the various aspects of the classes.  Sometimes they had circled the choice in between and in some cases they had even circled the lowest level.  Though I realized that some students in the classes would not provide such honest criticism, I felt that we had developed an instrument that had the potential to gain important feedback.  As the four students left that evening, they thanked me for asking them to participate.  After the pilot, we made the final revisions to the survey that John administered to his students in May 2004. 

Since we had separated out the survey for non-participants in the English program, we began to explore ways to administer this survey.  John wanted to administer the survey through Maria's office.  Though I thought this was a good starting point, I thought it would be stronger if we could get a broader sample. Since most of the clients registered through Maria's office are women with families, we would not get much input from the single males that worked primarily in construction, ranching, and in the resort industry.  Based on suggestions from Maria's supervisor, Jennifer Payton, I developed a list of ideas for administering the survey including: distributing the survey to employers around town who employed a large number of immigrants and asking them to include the pre-paid survey with each employee's paycheck; setting up a table after church services at the Catholic church and having volunteers administer the survey; and having volunteers administer the survey at the local food banks.  When I shared the suggestions with John during a meeting on November 5, 2003, he seemed a little overwhelmed.  He said, "All of a sudden, that's turning into work.  I need something that's going to be fairly painless."  So, we decided that we would limit the survey administration to the clients of Maria's office. 

Since Maria's office is connected to the health department, the personal information about her clients is protected by federal legislation relating to patient confidentiality.  We discussed strategies for working around this limitation in a way that would not violate client confidentiality.  Jennifer Payton, Maria's supervisor, did not feel they could share client addresses with us to mail out the survey.  She suggested instead that we have volunteers make calls to clients through Maria's office and the volunteers would be provided with a list that only included phone numbers.  However, the volunteers could not take the phone numbers with them out of the building. 

When I began talking with Maria about volunteers that might be able to administer the survey, she raised a concern about the Indian population.  Though many of the Mexican Indian immigrants speak some Spanish, many of them are not fluent in Spanish and some do not speak much Spanish at all.  Maria was concerned that if we only used Spanish speakers to administer the survey we would not get good data.  The problem was that Maria did not have any Indian immigrant volunteers and she thought the only way we could get someone would be to pay them.  I raised the issue with John, but he was struggling with finances and did not think he could find anything in his budget.  So, I applied for a scholarship at the university that I was attending and received funding to hire an interpreter. 

Maria and I began working on identifying a Spanish-speaking community member as well as a Mexican Indian immigrant who would have the requisite skills to administer the survey effectively.  Maria suggested one of her volunteers, a student at the local college, to administer the survey to the Spanish speakers.  Pedro comes from a town close by and is an immigrant from Mexico.  He has been in the country for a number of years and has very strong English skills.  In her experience in working with Pedro on other projects, Maria found him to be a patient and effective communicator.  For the Indian clients, Maria recommended that we hire a Mexican Indian named Idella.  Idella speaks very good English but only understands a little Spanish.  She has lived in the town for a few years.  Maria was impressed with her intelligence and also felt she had the personality skills that were necessary to administer the survey. 

Before Pedro and Idella began administering the survey, we set up a meeting with them on February 27, 2004 to discuss procedures for administering the survey and issues around confidentiality.  We also wanted to get their feedback on the survey to see if they had suggestions for changes or additions.  Both Pedro and Idella made important suggestions about changes to the survey, and Idella made one suggestion which was particularly significant.  One of the questions asked survey participants to categorize their abilities in English.  The choices we had included were beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  Idella recommended that we add to that list "no English at all."  She pointed out that many of the Indian community members have no real English skills.  It is interesting to note that 42% of the survey respondents chose that response.  After this meeting, I made final revisions to the survey and Pedro and Idella administered the survey over a three-week period in February and March. 

Though there were 113 clients on Maria's list when the survey was administered (44 Indians and 69 Spanish speakers) Pedro and Idella were only able to administer 45 surveys in total.  The original number was whittled down by a variety of factors.  Twenty-two of the phone numbers on the list were disconnected even though Maria had worked to update the list only a month before.  There were also 20 phone numbers that were duplicate numbers, indicating there were multiple families at that residence.  Pedro and Idella were instructed to only administer one survey at each residence.  They were unsuccessful reaching a response at 19 homes even though each number was tried at least twice at different times of the day, and seven individuals did not want to participate.  Of the 45 clients who responded to the survey, seven were currently attending class so they only responded to the first three questions, and  three respondents answered some of the questions in the survey but chose, for various reasons, not to complete the full survey.  Though I had hoped to get a larger sample, John and I did find that we had some interesting data from the responses we received. 

After Pedro and Idella finalized the administration of the survey, John and I began to discuss how we wanted to analyze the data.  Since John is computer savvy, I suggested the idea of acquiring statistical software called SPSS.  John liked the idea, so I bought the software with some funds provided by my advisor from a CBR grant, and we installed it on his computer.  I sat down with John on two different occasions and showed him how to enter data and pull up information.  One of the areas in which John gave important feedback was in coding the qualitative responses on the survey.  Though I created the coding categories, he did go through all the data with me and we made a number of changes based on what he wanted in the report and different views on how we interpreted comments.  As we went through these qualitative data, there were some responses given by Indian participants that we did not really understand.  Since we thought there might be some cultural significance to the statements, I contacted Idella and talked through the information with her so that we could understand how to interpret and code the responses. 

After we had pulled together some of the data through SPSS, I sketched out a report outline that John reviewed.  I wrote the original report, and then John and I went through the report together and looked at changes that would make the report more accessible to other readers.  The purpose of the survey was to seek out non-English speaking community members who were not currently attending English classes, or who had previously attended and ceased attending, and determine factors that might impact their participation in the English program. We asked the survey participants to categorize themselves by language group, English ability level, and participation in the English program.  We also asked participants a series of questions to determine factors that might limit their participation.  These questions related to awareness of the program, interest in learning English, the time that classes are offered, child care, cost of book fees, enough personal time to attend, access to transportation, perceptions of difficulty levels of the classes, and literacy.  We also asked three open-ended questions that allowed participants to clarify previous responses or introduce additional issues. 

Based on the data from the survey responses, here are some of the conclusions that we reached: 1) Having enough personal time to attend class is a factor that limits participation; however, 72% of respondents who categorized themselves as having no English skills stated that they did have time to attend;  2) Limited access to transportation restricts participation, and this issue is intensified in winter;  3) Non-English speaking Community members who had never attended classes, as well as those who had attended and ceased attending, expressed concern that the beginner level English course would be too difficult or was too difficult for them; 4) The various issues that impact participation are intensified for the Mexican Indian community members.

Based on these conclusions, we arrived at some recommendations.  First of all, the most important recommendation we determined is that the program needs to create a palate of course offerings that are more differentiated and that have level specific enrollment standards.  We recommended that this palate should include an introductory course that is designed for students with very limited English skills, as well as an introductory course that incorporates a curriculum that provides literacy remediation.  We also recommended that the program consider ways to market the English classes to the Indian population, particularly the new introductory level courses.  Another important recommendation was to determine ways to address the issue of transportation.  The final recommendation was that the program should conduct additional research to determine if it would be feasible to hold a morning class in addition to the evening classes they currently offer.

John and I presented the information from this report to his advisory board on May 11, 2004.  The advisory board is made up primarily of older Caucasian women, but there are two native Spanish speakers on the board: Leonora, from Mexico, and another lady who has lived in the United States for most of her life but is bilingual.  Based on the questions that the board members asked during the presentation, it was obvious that they did not have any difficulty understanding the information.  At the end of the presentation, they thanked me for the work.  One board member stated, "This will be very helpful in program planning."  In a letter that John sent to me after the meeting he stated, "My board wants you to know in particular how pleased they are that you could help us out so substantially."  John plans to share the one-page executive summary of the survey with organizations all over town.  The data from this survey is also being used by Jennifer Payton in the health department as part of a grant proposal for a large scale grant relating to immigrant integration. 

Along with working on the development, administration, and analysis of these surveys, I also pursued a plan to gain a sense of the current demographics of the non-English speaking population in town.  Based on information I acquired through the Urban Institute in a document titled The New Neighbors: A User's Guide to Data on Immigrants in U.S. Communities (Capps, Passel, Perez-Lopez, & Fix, 2003) as well as suggestions from Jennifer Payton in the health department, I developed a list of indicators (see Appendix D).  My plan was to collect data for the last four years from various organizations that worked with the immigrant population to get a sense of the growth in numbers of immigrants that were being served.  Some of the indicators included: the numbers of students participating in John's program, the number of students in the school district categorized as English Language Learners (ELL), the number of births to immigrant mothers, and the number of immigrants requiring translation services in the court system.  My plan was to look at the growth of these various indicators and try to develop an estimate of the current immigrant population.  I also hoped to provide an estimated growth projection based on state growth projections for increases in the immigrant population. 

I developed the list of indicators in October 2003 and slowly began making calls to local organizations and agencies.  What I found as I contacted various people was that many of the organizations in town that serve the immigrant population do not maintain numbers in relation to how many people are being served.  I knew that the school district would be required to maintain information on the number of students categorized as ELL, so I began contacting people in the district to try to obtain this information.  I made calls regularly to the school district starting in early February and finally received the information from a teacher in April 2004.  With the limited amount of data I was able to access, I did not feel I had enough information to make any sort of reliable estimate of the population.  Short of conducting our own census, I ran out of ideas on how to develop this information.  The fact that I was not able to complete this successfully was a little frustrating for me.  As I said to John in a meeting on April 29, 2004:

I wish that I would have been able to do a little more with the demographic piece, but that's something I'm continuing to look at and think about.  I feel like I kind of hit a point where I couldn't do anything with it...and that was information that I thought would be useful for people to have.  But you know part of the problem is that if people aren't collecting the data, it's really hard for us to do much with them. 

Though I was not able to complete this area of research, I have not yet given up on the idea of trying to find some way to provide useful demographic data to the community. 

The third area of research that I pursued was to begin to access information for John and Maria that they could use to initiate the process of organizing the immigrant population so that the immigrant population can have greater voice in city affairs.  Though John was the one who was primarily interested in this idea, Maria also felt strongly that she would like her clients to have greater power in the community.  However, Maria did express some skepticism as to whether the immigrant population in our town would be willing to organize, considering the fact that the health department estimates that at least half of the population is undocumented.  In a meeting on March 16, 2004, Maria said,

What I'm thinking about is that most of the people I work with, I'm not sure about their legal status here.  So it's difficult to accept that you have a voice if you don't have the papers...And not only that, but also, I'm legal, but I wasn't born here so I still think that my opinion, it doesn't count too much.  So I can imagine those people that haven't been here long, don't speak the language very well, and perhaps they don't have the right papers, they say, 'I'd better keep low.'

Though we had originally discussed the idea of holding focus group meetings with some of the population to discuss some of the issues that they are dealing with in town, Maria, who deals with members of the population everyday, already had a well developed knowledge base as to what some of these issues were, including: the inability to afford health care services, difficulties with finding affordable housing and accessing loans to purchase a home, domestic violence, and alcohol abuse.  I decided the best way I could be of use would be to try and provide information to John and Maria about strategies for community organizing. 

I began contacting various people who had experience with community organizing.  I started with a professor in another state who I had come into contact with through my work with CBR.  This professor discussed the need to identify informal leaders within the immigrant community and begin to determine the issues that people are concerned about.  He felt that we should also try to identify other people in the community who were interested in helping, and that we should try to find assistance from people with experience in community organizing.  That suggestion prompted me to contact an individual who works with community organizing with the Latino immigrant population in a large city in the state.  This contact recommended that the immigrant population needed to create an organization to structure their work around.  He also recommended that we contact an organization closer to our town that could potentially provide us with trained organizers.  When I contacted the regional organization, I found that they are an umbrella organization for grassroots organizations in this part of the state.  The director of the organization recommended that we start with one-on-one communication with individuals in the community.  He pointed out that it is "difficult to get people to group sessions."  He agreed to come to our town and meet with a small group of us to talk about strategies for organizing. 

John, Maria, and I began the process of trying to identify people in town who might be interested in helping with this process.  As we were working through the process of dialogue around ideas, I found out from Maria that Jennifer Payton in the health department was writing a proposal for a substantial grant from a large foundation in the state that would be directed toward immigrant integration.  Part of this proposal process required that they develop a team of people who would help to direct the grant.  Since this grant deals with the same population of people, recent immigrants, many of the people that we had identified who might be interested in assisting with community organizing were also the individuals that Jennifer was contacting for her grant committee.  Jennifer asked if we could hold off on our end until they had written the proposal and received notification as to whether they were being considered for the grant.  She suggested that if they did receive the grant, they could probably include an advocacy piece as an aspect of the grant administration.  So, we decided to invite the director of the regional grassroots umbrella organization just to meet with John, Maria, Leonora Garcia (John's former student), and myself. 

When I contacted the director to set up a time to meet, he mentioned that he had a friend, a community organizer named Manuel Alvarez, who would be coming through our town later that week on his way to pick up a group of migrant workers.  I spoke with Manuel, and he agreed to meet with us at the coffee shop on April 16, 2004.  Manuel discussed the idea that we needed to start with one-on-one conversations with individuals to figure out the networks of communication.  As Manuel said, "Immigrants are networked together for survival."  He also stated that we needed to identify the informal leaders within the community who control access to the network.  This is when Maria brought into the conversation the idea that witches are the leaders in the Indian community.  Manuel suggested that through our conversations with people we pay attention to the primary issues they are concerned about.  He said, "Look for themes that emerge and that are actionable.  If you change something that is an issue for them, then they will be interested...It becomes a victory that everybody talks about and it starts the momentum...It may not be your interest, but it is theirs." Manuel agreed to come back in the summer to meet with us again to continue to help us learn.  I realized when I began this process that community organizing is a slow process that evolves over time, so I was satisfied with reaching the goal of providing information and contacts to help get the process started.

The final project that I worked on during my collaboration with John and Maria was to assist Maria in developing a survey to administer to her clients.  As stated previously, Maria's office is primarily funded by a grant from a foundation.  The foundation awarded the grant with the requirement that her office would assist in improving the health of her clients.  After developing a relationship with Maria when working on the phone survey for the English program as well as the community organizing piece, she asked on March 9, 2004, if I would help her develop the survey for her office.  We met twice and developed a strong draft of the survey which Maria shared with her supervisor, Jennifer Payton, in a meeting on April 12.  The plan was that after Jennifer looked at the survey, we would meet again to talk about next steps in refining the survey.  My plan, which I do not think I articulated clearly to Maria, was to have some of her clients look over the survey to see if we needed to make any additional revisions before she began the administration of the survey. 

When I saw Maria at the coffee shop on April 16, during our meeting with Manuel, she mentioned that she had started administering the survey and she did not feel that it was working well.  I set up a time to meet with her the following week to discuss what to do.  When we met the following Monday, Maria expressed concern that some of the clients were misinterpreting some of the questions; she was concerned that when we analyzed the data they would not demonstrate that she was supporting the health of her clients.  Since she had only completed 15 surveys at that point, I recommended that we consider those surveys to be a pilot and make additional revisions.  We changed several questions on the survey.  When Maria began administering the survey again later that week, she was happy with the responses to the amended questions.  After Maria finishes administering all the surveys, I plan to help her with data analysis and writing the report.  After I showed her some of the data that we could extract from SPSS, she is also interested in learning to use the software.  The data that we collect from this survey will also be used as part of the grant proposal for immigrant integration that Jennifer Payton is writing. 

Though I completed my original commitment to the work that I planned to complete with John and Maria, I am finding that I do not want my work with them to end.  If it were not for the fact that I am moving to another state this summer, I could envision a long term relationship where we would continue to progress on the community organizing piece as well as thinking of new research projects to pursue in relation to the immigrant community.  I guess this is the sign of a successful collaboration; it leaves the door open for continued collaboration.  This is also one of the primary differences between CBR and traditional research; with CBR you develop a relationship with the individuals that you are working with, and these relationships do not end when the research project is complete (McNicoll, 1999).  

Within-Case Analysis

The initial section of this chapter provided a chronological case description of the major events of the case.  The next section provides within-case data analysis structured around the analytic framework of community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change. 


When I first arrived in town and began looking for a site to conduct CBR, I initially considered partnering with a school.  Since my field is teacher education, I thought it would benefit me to partner with an educational institution.  When this did not work out, I began to consider other options.  I began looking for a grassroots organization in town to partner with.  The issue is, as Stoecker points out (2002b), it can be difficult to find grassroots organizations in rural areas.  The only grassroots organization in the area in which I live is a group working on water rights issues.  However, they do not work from a conservationist standpoint but from a view of making sure that the big city to the east does not get any of their water.  Since I am not interested in this philosophical orientation, I began looking for another organization with which to work. 

As with every CBR project that I have completed, I struggled with the question of whether I was truly working with the community.  I often asked myself, who is the community?  Are John and Maria the community?  Based on Stoecker's (2002a) definition of community, the community is "the people with the problem" (p. 4).  According to this definition, John and Maria are not the community.  They deal with the issues that arise when trying to provide services for the immigrant population, but they do not struggle personally with the daily issues that the immigrant community is dealing with.  Since Maria is a former immigrant herself, she may have struggled with these issues at some point in her life, but her current situation is fairly comfortable. 

However, even though John and Maria are not the community, they are not an organization that is removed from the community.  Both of them work closely on a daily basis with community members, and John has community members that participate on the advisory board for his program.  Instead, I view John and Maria as what Stoecker (2002a) calls "link people" or "bridge people" (p. 4).  According to Stoecker, in multicultural situations bridge people are "the people who not only speak multiple languages, but also understand the rules of multiple cultures" (p. 4).  Both John and Maria are bilingual and both have an understanding of other cultures; Maria, through the fact that she is herself a former immigrant, and John through his previous life experiences of living in other cultures. 

Both John and Maria are concerned about making sure that the needs of the community are met, and they are proactive in trying to meet these needs.  Throughout my collaboration with John, he consistently brought up the need to be proactive.  During a phone conversation on October 15, 2003, John said, "Current issues pale in comparison with what can happen if we ignore the bicultural dimensions of our community.  We can forestall problems if we are proactive now."  During a meeting on November 5, he mentioned this again: "The face of this county is changing, and I want to be a part of that change.  And, I'd like to be proactive."  John is also participating in an organization that is seeking to understand why there has been a significant increase in the number of Latino youths that have been incarcerated in the area.  The group is trying to address the issue now before it escalates.  This proactive stance is not only John's stance, but it is also a perspective of the wider community.  Many of the individuals working within social service agencies in the town are interested in addressing the needs of the growing immigrant population.  The creation of Maria's office, the diversity office, came out of this desire to try to address these needs before significant issues began to arise. 

In the ideal CBR process, the community, meaning the immigrant population, would determine the research to be carried out (Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003a).  Though the community did not determine the research that was carried out, we did include community input throughout the process.  Community members provided input on the student satisfaction survey that was developed as well as the survey for non-participants.  These instruments were also designed to access community input.  In relation to the community organizing piece, we included a community member, Leonora, in the initial meeting with Manuel Alvarez so that we would incorporate community involvement from the outset as we began the process of organizing.  Though my experience working with John and Maria did not meet the ideal in relation to partnering with the community and allowing the community to control the research process, I was working with individuals who I felt represented the best interests of the community, and we did seek community input. 


When working on CBR projects, I work from the definition of collaboration as shared decision making (Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000; Strand et al., 2003a).  In my work with John and Maria, I do feel that decision making was a joint, or shared, process.  Power was not an issue in this collaboration because all of the participants had the choice of whether they wanted to participate in the collaboration and power was shared.  This joint decision making process was based in effective communication that allowed us to develop a trusting relationship.  As Stoecker (2002a) says, "I've come to understand that collaboration is about relationships.  The closer the relationship, the better the collaboration" (p. 5).  Our collaboration was also facilitated by the fact that the roles and responsibilities of all of the participants were clearly defined at the outset.

Roles and Responsibilities

When both John and Maria agreed to collaborate with me, I shared with them a memorandum of understanding that outlined the principles of CBR and that detailed the requirements for my dissertation research as well as the requirement that we bring in the voice of the community (see Appendix D).  I shared the memorandum with both of them to make sure that they were comfortable with all aspects of the agreement before we began our work together.  They both expressed that they understood the research they were agreeing to participate in, and they also understood their obligations in relation to my dissertation research.  In an interview with Maria on December 11, 2003, she said, "I think what you're trying to do is kind of make that link between higher education and the community.  So kind of making a liaison there that connects those [research results] and makes use of those results on the ground."  This original agreement was also facilitated by that fact that we had ongoing and meaningful dialogue about the research we were conducting. 


A key to developing and maintaining an effective collaboration is communication.  During the first interview with John and Maria, I asked them what we could do to ensure that we communicated successfully.  Maria said that communicating through email or over the phone was okay for certain things, but she preferred face-to-face communication.  She said, "I don't like the phone that much.  I like to see the person that I'm talking to...I prefer personal contact." Because of Maria's preference, I only used email or phone calls for simple logistics.  Any important conversation that we had was conducted face-to-face.  In the first interview with John on October 21, he said,

It's easy for me to drop the ball and I'm not really good at multitasking.  So setting times to meet or just like 'We're going to talk about this in a week.'  I just have to write down that in a week we're going to talk.  And I may not remember everything we said the last time, and I need you to understand that that's just part of what's going on with me.

The fact that John made me aware of these issues at the outset of our collaboration made it easier for me when these issues did arise later on.  There were times when he could not remember conversations or decisions that we made in previous meetings, and I did feel in some meetings like we were starting over again.  Since I had transcriptions of all our meetings, I could refer back to previous conversations and decisions. 

I also felt that John gave contradictory messages at times.  He often expressed the desire to have data that would help him improve his program, but then he would make comments implying that it did not matter what the data said because he would not be able to make changes anyway.  In a meeting on November 5, he said, "I'm doing all I can 'cause to do any more it costs money.  So I'm not going to stress over it."  During the focus group meeting we held with students on February 2, 2004, the students made some interesting suggestions for changes John could make to the classes.  One of the suggestions was that the teachers should break students up into groups by occupation and teach them the vocabulary particular to their occupation.  Though he was receptive to their ideas during the meeting, John said afterwards, "I'm not in a position to do a whole lot about it right now.  I'm supposed to be doing like two other things right now."  Sometimes I would initially be a little confused when he made these kinds of comments, but the fact that he kept plugging away with me on the research demonstrated that he did in fact value the work.  I realized that these comments were typically made when he was feeling overwhelmed.  Since he had warned me about his difficulty with multitasking at the outset, it allowed me to have greater tolerance for some of the comments that he made and not feel frustrated by them. 

In the final interview with John and Maria, I asked them if they felt that communication with me was effective.  John said, "Absolutely.  No equivocation whatsoever."  Maria felt that communication allowed us to rework the survey that we developed for her office so that it would produce better data.  She said,

You know I think that whenever we started talking about something it opened other questions and we kind of explored those things and got to a good point...it was really good, the interaction, and it helped me to get to places where, like for instance with this [survey for the diversity office], we got to places where I feel good about that based on the communication.

Maria also described communication as something that facilitated our collaboration.  She said, "It was easy to talk to you and you responded immediately.  Like the emails were like half an hour after I emailed...so I didn't have to wait weeks and weeks and forget that I was working on that."

Though communication was effective and facilitated our collaboration, there were gaps at times.  One of these gaps related to the fact that though I communicated well with John and Maria individually, they did not seem to communicate much with each other.  Though we all worked on the same projects, except for the survey for Maria's office, I usually met with each of them individually and they asked me to convey information to the other down the hall.  Though there were times when I felt it would have been more effective for John to communicate directly with Maria, I did usually end up providing that communication link. 

Another gap in our communication related to communicating information to me that might relate to or impact a project that we were working on.  For example, during a meeting with John on March 23, 2004, I mentioned that I had been having difficulty accessing some of the information we were hoping to collect in relation to the demographic data.  John stated that the judicial group he was working with (the group working on trying to address the increasing incarceration of Latino youths) was trying to collect some of the same data.  I was a little puzzled about the fact that he had not brought this up before since I had been working on this project steadily since October.  I asked him to pass along to me any data that they were able to obtain.  A similar situation arose in relation to the community organizing process.  Maria did not let me know about the grant that the health department was applying for until she realized that we were considering contacting the same people for a meeting.  If I had known about their plans for the grant earlier, I would have talked with Jennifer Payton sooner to ensure that I was not interfering with the grant committee that they were organizing.  Despite these gaps in communication, our communication overall was effective and laid the groundwork to develop a strong working relationship that was based in trust.


In order for any collaboration to be successful, the partners need to trust each other.  I was able to develop a trusting relationship with both John and Maria.  I think trust developed partly through the fact that we had similar life experiences and similar values.  According to Strand et al. (2003a), "In successful CBR partnerships, the key players share important elements of a worldview, including basic philosophical assumptions about people, communities, society, and how they connect with one another" (p. 28).  With John, I shared the similar experience of having been a Peace Corps volunteer.  In my encounters with other Peace Corps volunteers, I have found that there is an instant rapport that exists based on the knowledge of why people typically join the Peace Corps, to have a role in making the world better in some way.  This value that John holds is exemplified in his previous participation in service-learning as well as his current work directing the English program.  Maria and I have the similar experience of having lived in multiple countries and having to learn how to adapt to differing cultural environs.  Finally, both John and Maria have an interest in working with Latino immigrants, as do I, and both have pursued graduate degrees.  Whenever I met with John or Maria, our personal lives were always part of the conversation.  We took the time to get to know each other and this made the relationship comfortable.  When I look back at the transcriptions of our meetings together, I am always surprised at the amount of laughter and conversation that is interspersed between the dialogue about research. 

The trust that developed from this relationship is evident in statements as well as in actions.  In a meeting with John on April 29, he said, "I could count on you, there was a dependability."  He was referring in this statement to both my consistent pursuit of the research as well as the quality of the work I did.  He said, "I've seen the level of detail you put into it.  I work like that too when I have a project that needs to be done right, and I want to do it right."  Maria also demonstrated her trust in me during a meeting in December 2003.  A student from a college in the state had contacted her about conducting some research with the Indian population in town.  She asked if I would work with him because she was concerned that he did not know what he was doing and that he would not translate information correctly.  When I mentioned that I was not fluent in Spanish either, she said, "It doesn't matter because I think you're doing a very good job of asking fluent people to translate the [surveys]."  She even asked if I would contact this student and talk with him.  I did contact the student twice, but he never responded.  Also, the fact that Maria asked me to help design a survey to evaluate her program demonstrates that she had trust in my research capabilities. 

The fact that we had a relationship based on trust allowed John and me to disagree about an important issue and still maintain our working relationship.  In all of our conversations about community organizing prior to March 23, 2004, John and I seemed to be on the same page as to how we envisioned what the process should look like.  However, during our meeting on March 23, John expressed the concern that the immigrant population might not be interested in organizing.  He said, "You know it could be that there's just no interest and therefore we just spin our wheels if it's white people worrying about a problem that hasn't presented itself."  He then talked himself around to the idea that instead of focusing on organizing the immigrant community we should instead organize social service agencies that work with the immigrant community.  He said, "The more I think about this, I'm realizing we need to organize ourselves as people who are collectively providing public services."  I told him that such an organization may be needed, but that it would not necessarily represent the immigrant population. 

I was in the process at that time of setting up a meeting with a community organizer from the grassroots umbrella organization who lived in a town not too far away.  The plan was that the community organizer would come out to meet with us and give us ideas about how to get started.  The type of people I envisioned inviting to this meeting would be people who would potentially be interested in supporting the organizing process, such as Maria's boyfriend who had worked as a lawyer for migrant workers.  John mentioned that instead we should invite all the social service agencies and people who may have an interest in talking about issues relating to the immigrant population, but not necessarily an interest in helping the immigrant community to organize.  I reiterated that I felt there was also the need for immigrants to have their own organization.  The conversation then turned toward other issues and we did not come to any conclusion in relation to the issue. 

When I ran into John about a week later in town, I told him I was planning to get in touch with him that day to set up a time to meet.  I had talked with the community organizer about setting up a meeting.  I mentioned a few people I had contacted to see if they would be interested in attending the meeting.  He asked,  "Well what about the police, and human services and all the other people we talked about contacting?" I was confused because I thought we had agreed during the last meeting that the immigrant community should have their own organization.  He reiterated the need for all these people to have a forum to discuss issues.  I mentioned the committee that Maria was pulling together for the grant that would be comprised of all of the people he was talking about.  He did not seem to know anything about the grant committee.  I then raised the possibility of an organization that could potentially work for both, but I pointed out that if the immigrant community saw the organization as primarily a forum for a social services agenda, then they might not be interested.  He agreed.  I stated that I thought that it was important that the immigrant population have an organization that is just their own.  We decided to meet on the following Monday to discuss the issue further. 

When we met on Monday, April 21, I agreed to invite all the people he wanted to attend the meeting in the hopes that the community organizer would make him realize that the type of organization he was envisioning would not represent immigrants.  I pointed out again that these were the same people that Jennifer Payton and Maria were talking about using for the grant committee.  John asked me to talk with Jennifer and Maria to see if they were amenable to the idea of using the same people for both meetings.  When I got in touch with Jennifer, she asked us to hold off on inviting all of those people to a meeting since she had been contacting the same people in relation to the grant committee.  She was concerned that people would be confused.  One member of the community I had contacted in relation to community organizing was confused when he was invited to be on the grant committee because he thought it was the same thing.  John agreed that we should hold off on a large scale meeting and we decided to have the community organizer meet with just a few of us, John, Maria, Leonora (John's previous student), and myself.  When we met with the community organizer, Manuel, on April 16, John asked about the idea of social services agencies organizing themselves to open up communication.  Manuel responded, "If you work from the grassroots, it will be sustainable."  Manuel plans to come out for several days in the summer to continue to work with us on getting started.  I am confident that he will guide the work in the direction that will be in the best interests of the immigrant population. 

As Strand et al. (2003a) point out, "Another important principle of a successful partnership is agreement about the desired outcomes of the joint endeavor, along with similar ideas about the best strategies for achieving these goals" (p. 30).  For a period of time, John and I did not agree about the best strategies for achieving our goal of organizing the immigrant population.  However, the fact that we had developed a relationship allowed us to communicate our disagreement and work past it.  Though this was in many ways a significant issue to me, it did not interfere with our working relationship. 


Part of the reason that we were able to maintain a strong relationship was that both John and Maria demonstrated consideration for my dissertation research and for me as an individual.  In turn, I tried to employ the same consideration for them.  Both John and Maria would check in periodically to make sure that things were working well in relation to the data collection for my dissertation research.  In a meeting with John on November 5, 2003, he asked, "Are your research needs being met?" After I agreed to assist Maria in developing the survey for her office she asked, "Can you use this for your dissertation?" and was pleased when I responded that I could.  They also both agreed at the beginning of our work together to be taped during meetings and they never complained about what some might consider to be an intrusion.  Whenever I asked to set up an interview for my dissertation research, they were always willing to do so in a timely manner.  I demonstrated consideration for John and Maria by scheduling meetings at times that were convenient for them, getting information and documents to them in a timely manner, and completing some things quickly if they found they had an unexpected need.  This willingness on all sides to be flexible and considerate toward each other strengthened the trust in our relationship. 

Knowledge Creation

In the ideal CBR project, community members participate in every facet of the research process.  In my work with John and Maria, they were closely involved in all of the research that we completed.  In the development of the surveys for the English program, both John and Maria gave input on every draft.  We also sought input from community members as well, and the survey for non-participants in the English program was administered by community members.  In relation to data analysis for the non-participant survey, I completed most of the data analysis, but I did have input from John during this process.  John also provided significant input on the structure and design of the final report.  

Though I would have preferred to have John complete all of the analysis and report writing with me so that he would further develop his research skills, I recognized that the time he had to commit to the project was limited.  According to Cornwall and Jewkes (1995), "Control over the research is rarely devolved completely onto the 'community'; nor do 'communities' always want it... Even if there is interest there may be barriers of time" (p. 1672).  In the final interview I conducted with John, he said, "I guess the only thing that might have hindered [our collaboration] was niggling doubt on my side.  'Am I doing enough?'  I kind of felt like I wasn't holding up my side of the bargain."  Though I communicated to John several times that I realized that he was busy and that I only wanted him to participate as much as he was able to, he did seem to feel that he should have participated more.  Even though John did not always have a substantial amount of time to commit to our work together, he maintained interest in the work because it was based on goals that he helped to define. 

Shared Goals

In the initial meetings I had with John in September and October, we outlined three areas of research to pursue.  In a meeting with John on October 21, I shared a written outline of these three research areas and John agreed that they would be the focus of our work (see Appendix D).  These three areas included: the development of a student survey to assess satisfaction with the English program, the selection and collection of demographic indicators to develop an estimate of the immigrant population, and the accessing of information to begin the process of community organizing.  Though we branched off from the student survey to develop a survey to determine factors that limit participation in the English program, for the most part our research focused on these three areas.  When John asked me later if I would be willing to assist a group in conducting an assessment of commercial real estate on Main Street, I said, "No."  Though the three areas of research that we were focusing on were different, they all related to the immigrant population.  When Maria approached me later and asked me to help design a survey for her office, I agreed to do so since this work did relate to the immigrant community that she serves. 

Views About Data

Part of the reason that we were able to agree to focus on these particular areas of research stemmed from the fact that we had similar views about the purpose of data collection and research.  In my first interview with John on October 21, 2003, I asked him about his perceptions of research.  He replied, "It informs practice...It's a feedback loop to allow us to improve and the intent is to do better...Organizations that don't ask themselves these questions are doomed to stagnate." Maria expressed a similar view when I asked her the same question.  She said, "I think we can get good information and with information make decisions that will help the people, educated decisions."  Both of these views align with how I view the use of data.  Maria also expressed interest in particular in community-based research.  She said,

When I was thinking about [your] dissertation project, one of the topics that I really, really liked was community-based consideration.  So like it means that whatever you do, you work with the local population.  I think it's the only way to get something done is [to ask] the local people how to do it.  Not just stepping on anybody else's feet.  You know the powerful, white, European or American researcher coming in and telling everybody what to do.

Both Maria and John demonstrated a strong understanding of the goals of community-based research throughout our work together. 

This understanding of both research and community-based research stems from the fact that both John and Maria have experience with research.  John has a master's degree in public administration.  In order to complete his thesis, he developed a satisfaction survey that he administered through Outward Bound.  His graduate experience provided a strong foundation for carrying out research, but he also has strong intuitive skills in relation to this work.  In many ways he is a natural researcher.  John consistently keeps track of data in relation to the work of his program.  During an interview on October 21, he said, "The part I'm good at is making sure the numbers get collected, having charts and spreadsheets that document the progress and outputs."  Since John has had experience with service-learning, he views community-based research in the context of service-learning.  When we would discuss community-based research, he often referred to it as service-learning.  

Maria has also had extensive experience with research.  She has a doctorate in wildlife ecology.  Most of the research that she conducted as part of her dissertation was primarily scientific; however, she has had experience with other kinds of research in her work with wildlife conservation.  In one of her research projects she utilized what she described as a participatory research approach.  In my first interview with Maria, after we had discussed the goals and principles of CBR, she said, "I ended up doing something very similar to that in [a western state].  It was also with the Sage Grouse [and I was] working with local people, with ranchers, asking their input.  And it was very interesting, and I really liked that participation."

Since Maria and John both had experience with research, they understood the procedures that should be utilized to ensure that we were getting quality data.  Maria expressed concern over the administration of the non-participant survey that community members administered over the phone.  She was concerned that the Mexican Indian community member that we hired, Idella, would know all of the survey respondents that she was contacting and that they may respond differently because of this.  However, we both agreed that if a Spanish speaker administered the survey that we would probably not get good data.  In the end, I think the Indian survey administrator actually obtained more extensive data because of her knowledge of the participants. 

John also expressed concerns about the rigor of our data collection in relation to the non-participant survey; however, he was not always willing to commit to the work that would be required to increase the validity of our data.  In a meeting with John on November 5, I proposed a variety of ways we could administer the non-participant survey in order to get a broad sample.  After John realized how much work it would entail he decided to keep it simple and only administer the survey to Maria's clients.  I mentioned that of Maria's client list we might only get a half or a fourth, and John said that he was okay with that. 

Since the survey included only nominal variables, I ran chi-square tests on the crosstabulated variables.  Because of the small sample size, in all the tests I ran, more than 20% of the cells had an expected value of less than 5, making the statistic unreliable.  In a meeting with John on April 26, I explained this information to him.  John replied, "It's important to be able to state whether it's statistically significant because when we're comparing things people are going to draw inferences about that."  Though I agreed with him, I did point out that regardless of statistical significance we still had some interesting data that could be useful.  As Strand et al. (2003a) point out,

The challenges of securing participants often mean that questions of sample size and even of representativeness take a back seat to more practical concerns of CBR.  After all, limited findings may be better than none at all (p. 106). 

Though John wanted quality data, he was not always willing or able to commit to the amount of time that this level of rigor would require. 

The fact that both John and Maria had experience with traditional academic research meant that we had compatible views about the use of data and compatible views about what is meant by quality data.  Though I would like to pursue a research agenda that focuses on community-based research, I still value traditional academic research.  I value the standards of traditional academic research, and I value the knowledge that is created through traditional academic research that I can draw upon as a community-based researcher.  However, my views of data and research may not always be compatible with those of my community partners.  One of challenges that practitioners of CBR have to wrestle with is finding ways to integrate traditional views about research into the CBR process in such a way that the community still has equal control of the research. 

Valuing Knowledge

Because of the fact that both John and Maria had experience with research, I think they had greater value for my knowledge, and I also valued both their knowledge of the community as well as their knowledge of research.  I made an effort throughout my collaboration with them to make sure that they felt that they were having the input that they would like to have, and that they felt that their knowledge was valued.  As Strand et al. (2003a) point out, "When all members of the CBR team recognize the value of each member's knowledge, mutual respect prevails, and the partnership is far more likely to be successful" (p. 32).  In a meeting with Maria on March 16, I asked if she was having the input that she wanted to have with our research.  She said, "When I worked on the [phone] survey, I think I had things to say and they were accepted and considered."  In the final interview with Maria I asked her the same question, and she replied, "I did. Yeah, more than I wanted [we both laughed].  Well, not more that I wanted, but more than I was thinking that I would."  When I asked John the same question in the final interview, he said, "Yes, you've been very thorough in that regard, making sure I had input." 

Part of that input included providing critical feedback on the work that we were producing.  Since we had developed a relationship and I respected the knowledge of both John and Maria, I was open to this constructive criticism.  As Nyden, Figert, Shibley, and Burrows (1997) state, "an important part of collaborative research is the willingness of both sides to accept criticism and respect the input of others" (p. 5).  I encouraged John and Maria to let me know what changes needed to be made in order to improve the quality or readability of a piece of work.  They both offered this criticism and I felt that it improved the overall quality of the work.  It also helped that they both frequently expressed appreciation for the work that I was doing.  Since I realized that they appreciated my work, the critiques did not feel like a criticism of my abilities.


Since the work of CBR is a collaborative process, it takes longer to complete every stage of the research process.  Though Maria and John were both considerate about getting things back to me quickly, working through 10 revisions of a survey is a time-consuming proposition.  I tried to be respectful of the timelines they were working with and also respectful of the fact that they both had multiple commitments.  As McNicoll (1999) states,

Groups have their own dynamics, timings, and priorities; research activities should ideally intersperse among the activities and events of their daily lives.  This is real time-as opposed to a university's rigid time frame-and if we are to work with marginalized people, it needs to be respected (Limited Time section, para. 1). 

In my first interview with John on October 21, he said, "I'm counting on this not being particularly onerous.  I'm committed to making this happen and the research piece there doesn't seem to be prohibitive, but I'm expecting it to stay that way."  I tried to honor this request throughout our collaboration, but I know there were times when our collaboration required a greater time commitment than he was expecting. 

Because of the fact that John was not comfortable multitasking and could not commit a large amount of time to our collaboration, I was primarily responsible for keeping the work going.  Indeed, John mentioned time and again in our meetings that I was the one who was keeping the project going.  For example, in a meeting on March 23, he said, "If you weren't keeping this thing alive, I would be off being busy with something else," and in April, he brought this up again.  He stated

I appreciate you carrying the ball because what I've realized is, you know I went into this with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and still have value for it, but my ability to summon the energy to finish this project is long dissipated in the middle of chasing grant writing and other stuff.  I need this information, but I'm glad I'm not doing it myself 'cause I would just put it on the shelf and forget about it, because I got other important stuff that needs my attention more urgently.

The fact that John did not feel a sense of urgency in completing this work did mean that we progressed more slowly than we might have.  According to Verbeke and Richards (2001), "When collaboration is based on mutual need, there usually is a sense of urgency that creates high motivation for all stakeholders to work together in a timely way with fewer resources" (Factors section, para. 1).  When I began working with Maria to develop a survey for her office, she moved the process along quickly because she needed to get the data; there was greater urgency. 

Unmet Expectations

Though we did pursue the three research areas that we defined at the outset of our work together, I was not successful in all three areas.  I was frustrated initially that I was not able to complete the plan to collect the demographic data.  It took me a while to let go of that project.  Though John was interested in getting the information, he did not seem concerned that we were unable to complete this project.  However, I felt I was unsuccessful in providing all of the research that I said I would provide.  It helped though to consider the words of Strand (2000).  She states,

Research in the real word invariably brings with it the unexpected, unpredictable, and uncontrollable.  Although unanticipated problems in the research process might mean that a project must be abandoned, more typically, students-perhaps with the help of the professor and community members-must re-think and re-design some aspect of their original research plan (p. 89). 

Though I was not successful with this project in the way that I originally conceptualized it, I am continuing to rethink how I can access some useful demographic information. 


At this point, it is hard to know whether any of the work I have completed will lead to change.  However, I feel there is strong potential for change.  At this time, I recognize the knowledge that was gained through this process and my expectation is that this knowledge will be beneficial.  Some of the knowledge that was gained relates to skills and knowledge that John and Maria acquired about research.  As Strand et al. (2003a) point out, "Community members who participate in CBR projects often develop research skills" (p. 26).  Though John had worked on developing surveys before, he now has knowledge of how to use SPSS and how to construct a report that can convey this information.  Maria learned how to word questions and construct surveys.  In a meeting with Maria on March 16, she said that she felt like she was learning through our work together.  When I asked her what she was learning she said, "The way to ask questions.  I never worked with surveys before."

In addition to information about how to construct and analyze surveys, John and Maria also gained knowledge about community organizing.  During a meeting with Maria on April 22, we discussed the meeting with Manuel.  Maria stated, "I think we learned just a few little things that are very basic and that may show us how little we know."  One of the things that she learned was the idea that she needed to start the process with conversations.  Maria pointed out,

And actually this is what I'm doing.  So maybe it's good because I am doing it without knowing why, just out of curiosity, and I'm learning a lot by it.  So now it makes me feel better because even if all these things are in my head, I know that they're useful things.  When I sit down and chat with people, it's not just for my pleasure, but it's something I can use to help them in the future.

Maria also discussed the idea of keeping notes relating to these conversations and watching for emerging themes.  She said, "Yeah, I do have a little list that whenever something comes up I start writing, even if it doesn't make much sense."  John also mentioned a plan to start collecting information to begin the process.  He said, "The sense I got was over time we're going to keep gathering information and building relationships."

Some of the knowledge that was gained through our collaboration may help John acquire additional resources for his program.  John plans to share the information that we obtained through the survey of non-participants to seek out funding to support changes within the program.  He plans to share the information with the newspaper and with various organizations around town such as the Kiwanis club to motivate people to support the program so that he can create an introductory level English course that will serve the needs of the most marginalized immigrants.  He also hopes to convince some churches in town, with the support of the survey data, to provide transportation to his students who would not otherwise be able to attend class, particularly in wintertime.  The data that were collected through the survey for John's program and the data that will be collected through the survey conducted for Maria's office will also be used as part of the grant proposal that is being written for immigrant integration. 

Was this CBR?

Though I struggled with this question in my work with the Coalition for Schools, this was not a question I struggled with in my work with John and Maria.  I think this collaborative work was community-based research.  However, it was closer to what Stoecker (2003) defines as mainstream CBR than it was to radical CBR.  Though John and Maria work closely with the community, they are not part of a grassroots organization.  However, we did seek community input during certain stages of the research process.  We also developed a strong collaborative relationship with shared decision making throughout.  The process of creating knowledge was also shared, though John and Maria did not complete all of the work with me.  Finally, though there has not yet been the opportunity to evaluate change, there is a realistic potential for change.  Like most CBR work that is carried out, the majority of the work that we accomplished together focused on program evaluation (Strand et al., 2003a).  Therefore, most of the change will probably be programmatic change.  However, if the initial start that we made with the process of community organizing continues to expand, there is the potential for even greater change within the community. 

Implications for the Field of CBR

While the case study in chapter four provides an example of a CBR project with limited success, this case study provides an example of a successful project and the factors that helped make this collaboration successful.  First of all, it is important to find an organization that is either a grassroots organization or that works closely with the community.  It is also important to find community partners with whom you can establish a relationship. The researcher should know herself well enough to have an understanding of the factors that can inhibit the development of a relationship and either learn how to work around them or learn how to find partners with which these factors are not an issue.  Things that can facilitate the development of a trusting relationship are: clearly defined roles and responsibilities, effective communication, and consideration for each other.  The stronger the relationship, the more likely that the community partners will be involved in all aspects of the creation of knowledge.  The process of collaborating to create knowledge is facilitated by shared goals, similar views about the uses of data, valuing each other's knowledge, and working within reasonable timelines.  The closer the collaboration and the greater the participation in the creation of knowledge, the more likely it is that the work will lead to change. 

Chapters four and five provided the within-case descriptions and within-case analysis of the contrasting cases.  Chapter six includes the cross-case analysis that addresses the findings of the study and also discusses the implications of this study in relation to the field of CBR.

Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Notes & References | Appendices