COMM-ORG Papers 2004


Establishing A Conceptual Model Of Community-Based Research Through Contrasting Case Studies[1]



Barri E. Tinkler

August 2004

Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures
About the Author
Chapter 1  Introduction
        The Response of Higher Education
        Purpose Statement
        Research Questions
Chapter 2  Literature Review
        The Civic Mission of Higher Education
        Community-Based Research
              Foundations of Community-Based Research
               What is Community-Based Research?
               Criticisms and Concerns
Chapter 3  Research Methods
       Methodologic Framework
               Types of Case Studies
        Methodology of Community-Based Research
        Participants and Setting
        Data Collection
        Data Analysis
               Analytic Framework
              Analysis of Contrasting Cases
       Limitations of This Study
Chapter 4  The Coalition for Schools 
       Case Description
       Within-Case Analysis
                     Lack of Consideration
              Knowledge Creation
                     Shared Goals
                     Views About Data
                     Valuing Knowledge
                     Unrealistic Expectations
              Was This CBR?
              Implications for the Field of CBR
Chapter 5  Communities in Transition
       Case Description
       Within-Case Analysis
                     Roles and Responsibilities
              Knowledge Creation
                     Shared Goals
                     Views About Data
                     Valuing Knowledge
                     Unmet Expectations
              Was This CBR?
              Implications for the Field of CBR
Chapter 6  Cross-Case Analysis and Interpretation
       Cross-Case Analysis
              Knowledge Creation
              Continuum of CBR
              Issues Arising From Collaboration in CBR
              Factors That Facilitate or Hinder Collaboration
              Benefits of CBR
       Conceptual Model of CBR
       Implications of this Study
       Recommendations for Further Research
       Appendix A:  List of Meetings and Interviews
       Appendix B:  Interview Protocols
       Appendix C:  Document From First Case Study
       Appendix D:  Documents From Second Case Study

List of Tables

       Table 1:  Two Models of CBR

       Table 2:  Contrasting Cases of CBR

List of Figures

       Figure 1:  Four Constructs of CBR

       Figure 2:  Continuum of CBR

       Figure 3:  Conceptual Model of CBR


First and foremost, I would like to thank my husband Alan Tinkler for his tireless support throughout this process.  Through dialogue, he helped me to develop and solidify my findings, and he assisted in developing the conceptual model that I present in this dissertation.  He also provided continuous, important editorial advice starting with the proposal and working through the final product.  Alan, my family (parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews), and coworkers (Anna Parish-Carmean and Christy Moroye) also provided moral support and continued encouragement as I worked through this process.  I would not have made it to this point without all of their support.

I would also like to thank my advisor and dissertation chair, Dr. Nicholas Cutforth.  Dr. Cutforth introduced me to community-based research, and I thank him for helping me to find a research venue that is meaningful for me.  His passion for this work is contagious.  I also thank him for his kindness, support, and consistent thoughtful and timely feedback.  His encouragement throughout this process helped me to stick with this project at times when I was wavering. 

One of my committee members, Dr. Gary Lichtenstein, also played a significant role as I worked through both of the community-based research projects described in this study.  I appreciate the extensive expertise that Dr. Lichtenstein made available to me throughout this work, and I appreciate the contributions that he provided to my thinking about the field of CBR.  I would also like to thank another committee member, Dr. Jennifer Whitcomb, for both her support as a colleague and as a friend, as well as her advice in relation to case study design.  Her expertise was important in helping determine the structure of my dissertation.      

My other committee members also played important roles in this process.  Dr. Bruce Uhrmacher assisted in helping me define the topic of my research and in developing my research questions.  Dr. Ginger Maloney provided important feedback during both the proposal process and with the final dissertation in challenging me to examine the subjectivities that I carried into this work.  Her feedback was important in encouraging me to explore these issues with greater depth.  I would also like to thank Dr. Jean East for chairing my oral defense.  She added thoughtful contributions to the discussion.

There were several people who provided important information as I was conducting my CBR work.  I would like to thank Dr. Randy Stoecker for his advice as well as for the important contributions his writing has had in influencing my views about CBR.  There were a number of other people who played important roles in providing information as I completed each CBR project, including: Ethan Hemming, Mike Kromrey, Matt Sura, Luis Ibanez, and Carol Dawson.  I would also like to thank my community partners in both CBR projects for their willingness to pursue this work and for allowing me to study my work with them. 

About the Author

Barri Tinkler is an assistant professor in the Department of Secondary Education at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. She has completed a number of community-based research projects, many of which focus on working with immigrant populations. Her research interests include: community-based research, minority parent involvement, and case methods in teacher education.


Traditionally, academic researchers have not involved underserved communities when dealing with and researching difficult social problems.  Many universities are now feeling pressure to find ways to work closely with local, disadvantaged communities. Community-based research (CBR) is a new movement in higher education that combines practices from other participatory research models as well as service-learning.  CBR requires researchers to work closely with the community to determine a research agenda and to carry out the research to affect change.  The goal is to empower disenfranchised and marginalized groups. 

The purpose of this study is to explore the process of conducting community-based research from the researcher's perspective.  This process study presents contrasting cases of two CBR experiences.  One collaboration was conducted with a non-profit educationally oriented organization in a large western city; the other, with community members who provide services to the growing immigrant population in a small, mountain town.  The considered issues in both collaborations centered around access to the community, power, communication, shifting research plans, timelines, scope, and the required range of knowledge.  There were factors that facilitated or hindered these collaborations-shared goals, defining roles and responsibilities, trust, views about research, rapport, and hidden or fluctuating agendas.  Despite these factors, the community benefited from the research process, as did I.  The community gained research skills, useful research results, and access to resources.  While I gained a sense of purpose, a feeling of engagement, and an expanded knowledge base in relation to research and other peoples. 

Based on the findings, I developed a conceptual model organized around the four categories of community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change.  The model presents a way to consider how to increase the value of CBR.  In this model, the form of CBR that has the greatest value is radical CBR.  Radical CBR requires that the researcher work with grassroots community organizations, share all decision making with community partners, involve community partners in all aspects of the research process, and seek to create change that challenges existing power structures.  The model also demonstrates how to add value to more mainstream versions of CBR. 

Chapter 1: Introduction

Traditionally, there has been a divide between academic research and the needs of communities beset by poverty.  Researchers generally carry out research agendas that are influenced by academic disciplines (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Greenwood & Levin, 2000) or established within university departments (Checkoway, 2001).  Researchers who pursue an agenda that is determined by academic disciplines seek to fill in gaps in the knowledge base to further that particular field of research.  As a result, much of the research that is produced is only of interest to a select few within a discipline and rarely of interest to those outside of higher education and the academic arena (Sclove, Scammell, & Holland, 1998).  As Robinson (2000) points out, "Too much academic research is focused on advancing knowledge within the discipline itself, and too little is focused on advancing 'social knowledge,' or on how to find practical solutions to social problems" (Introduction section, para. 2).  Nyden, Figert, Shibley, and Burrows (1997) introduce the idea of "opposing orientations to research" (p. 3), specifically research that is designed for empowerment versus research that is created to further an academic discipline. These opposing orientations have created a gap between academics and community leaders who otherwise may work together. 

In 1988, faculty and students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took on a project that involved architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning working together to revitalize East St. Louis (Reardon, 1995). Two years later, the project team conducted 40 interviews with community leaders in East St. Louis to determine the impact of the project.  Responses to the interviews include: "The last damn thing we need is another academic study telling us what any sixth grader in town already knows.  Hell, just send us the money and we will take care of our own problems"; "There's not a single improvement that has been made in East St. Louis that came from the efforts of one of these university consultants" (Reardon, 1995, p. 49).  These attitudes were partially a response to past experiences that community leaders had with researchers who ignored the knowledge of local residents and business people in relation to the community.  Community members also questioned the researchers' commitment to working with the community to carry out proposals the researchers recommended.  Finally, the community viewed the researchers as "carpetbaggers" using the community's problems to justify research grants that did not in turn help the community.  Based on the insights gleaned from these interviews, the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reorganized their efforts into a participatory research process in which the community became a partner in research, planning, and decision making.  The project has since received numerous awards for its achievements in grassroots community development efforts (Reardon, 1995).  This effort is an example of how the gap between university researchers and communities can be overcome to affect change.

Though some researchers conducting traditional academic research believe that the information they produce will lead to change, generally change is only incremental (Greenwood & Levin, 2000), and it may not be change that benefits underserved communities.  As Stoecker (2002a) says, "Being truly useful, and part of real social change, is something too few of us academics get to experience on a regular basis" (p. 2).  The resulting disconnect occurs when researchers write studies in inaccessible "academic" language, publish these studies in obscure journals (Sclove, Scammell, & Holland, 1998), and then expect those who need the information to find the information and utilize it.  Porpora (1999) calls this "trickle down academics" (p. 123); the idea that knowledge and research will eventually make its way down to the people who need it.  Porpora argues that higher education needs to move away from the "production of knowledge that serves society's elites and more toward the production of knowledge that might serve the downtrodden" (p. 122).  Nyden et al. (1997) see collaborative, community-based research as a way to "provide a bridge between the more obscure parts of academic research and the practical questions under study" (p. 7), otherwise the research that academics create, which in fact can be relevant to dealing with social problems, may never be utilized and will "continue to gather dust on library shelves, read only by a few graduate students collecting more references for their dissertation bibliographies" (Nyden et al., 1997, p. 7).

Some researchers make the assumption that good research will lead to enhanced practice for everyone, including the underserved and disenfranchised; yet, it is up to those who need to improve their practice to seek out research findings and determine how to apply these findings (Whyte, 1991).  Though researchers generally have good intentions, the reality is that traditional academic research brings about change slowly, if at all.  In order for research to affect change within communities, there needs to be a mechanism to connect research to action (Whyte, 1991).  By creating a closer link between research and action, research can have a greater impact on local communities.

Community-based research establishes this link between research and action, since the purpose of community-based research focuses not on developing knowledge within a discipline but on creating knowledge that "contributes to making a concrete and constructive difference in the world" (Sclove, 1997, p. 542).  In order for community-based research to truly become part of the agenda of higher education, particularly the research agenda, academics need to broaden traditional ideas of research and knowledge (Willms, 1997).  As Willms says, "Research should be understood as a process of rediscovering and recreating personal and social realities" (p. 7).  Therefore, research is not just about creating knowledge for the purpose of expanding academic disciplines but also about allowing individuals to understand their own realities.  Though traditional academic research may allow for academicians to pursue this kind of intellectual endeavor, community-based research creates opportunities for marginalized individuals to better understand their own realities and seek to recreate those realities in ways that will benefit them. 

The Response of Higher Education

In order to address the disconnect that exists between academic institutions and the communities in which they reside, many institutions of higher education are gradually becoming more involved with their communities (Maurrasse, 2001; Stoecker, 2001; Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003a; Ward, 2003).  As Maurrasse (2001) says, "A movement is emerging" (p. 1).  This movement is primarily driven by three factors (Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003b): criticism of higher education in relation to insensitivity to solving social problems in surrounding communities, the "perception that the intellectual work of the professorate is unnecessarily narrow and largely irrelevant to societal concerns" (p. 5), and the concern that students are not prepared to participate in civic life because they are not engaged with the community or with learning. 

A number of universities have begun implementing service-learning programs or other service related activities to address these concerns (Chopyak & Levesque, 2002; Stanton, Giles, & Cruz, 1999).  Though service-learning has the potential to provide resources to the community, its goal is typically service, not change (Stoecker, 2001; Strand et al., 2003a).  In fact, some critical theorists have expressed concern that the service-learning paradigm can be oppressive to those being served and may actually reify the status quo (Maybach, 1996).  Robinson (2000) has gone as far as describing service-learning as "a glorified welfare system" (Service Learning as Charity section, para. 2).  Though this seems a harsh criticism of service-learning, the reality is that service-learning programs, though they may impact students in positive ways, generally do not provide sustainable change for communities (Maybach, 1996).

Marullo and Edwards (2000) have delineated two strands of service-learning: charity service-learning and service-learning for social justice.  They point out that some service-learning activities are really charity, which can be helpful, but they are "moral rather than political acts" (p. 900) that are not change oriented.  While Marullo and Edwards do not wish to belittle the value of charity work, they do feel that service-learning should move from a focus on charity to a focus on social justice and social change.

One way that institutions of higher education can provide assistance to communities in ways that have the potential to create sustainable change is through community-based research.  Strand et al. (2003a) have defined community-based research, or CBR, as "a partnership of students, faculty, and community members who collaboratively engage in research with the purpose of solving a pressing community problem or effecting social change" (p. 3).  According to Stoecker (2003), CBR combines the strategies of action research and service-learning.  Stoecker says, "CBR is designed to combine community empowerment with student development, to integrate teaching with research and service, and to combine social change with civic engagement" (p. 35).  Community-based research, which has its roots in other forms of participatory research (Stoecker, 2001), may provide the opportunity for academic institutions to become true partners with communities in creating and sustaining change.  Chopyak and Levesque (2002) point out that community-based collaborative efforts have increased within the last thirty years.  And, as Stoecker (2003) indicates, there is growing interest for the newly emerging model of community-based research that is described by Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, and Donohue (2003a) in Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices.

Strand et al. (2003a) have outlined three guiding principles for community-based research: 1) collaboration, 2) validation of the knowledge of community members and the multiple ways of collecting and distributing information, and 3) "social action and social change for the purpose of achieving social justice" (p. 8).  Since community-based research is a collaborative process that validates the knowledge that community members bring (Strand et al., 2003a), the process allows community members to assist in defining problems and determining solutions that are acceptable to them (Stringer, 1999).  This process is inherently democratic and allows for the co-creation of knowledge (Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  Unlike other kinds of research, with community-based research, the researcher continues to be a part of the process as solutions are enacted in order to assist in facilitating change (Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  As Sclove et al. (1998) point out, "Community-based research is not only usable, it is generally used and, more than that, used to good effect" (p. 67). 

When considering the three principles of community-based research, Stoecker (2003) sees some variation in the ways these three constructs can be defined, either conservatively or radically.  In relation to the construct of collaboration, Stoecker says, "In its most basic sense, 'collaboration' means that researchers and community members should jointly define the research question, choose the research methods, do the research, analyze the data, construct the report, and use the research for social action"  (p. 36).  Strand et al. (2003a) agree that "ideally, CBR is fully collaborative, with those in the community working with academics-professors and students-at every stage of the research process" (p. 10).  Looking at collaboration more conservatively, at the minimum collaboration means "obtaining approval for a researcher-defined project" (Stoecker, 2003, p. 36).  Stoecker points out that defining collaboration in a radical way means "placing researcher resources in the hands of grass-roots community members to control, thereby reversing the usual power relationship between the researcher and the researched" (p. 36).  Thus this radical construct of collaboration challenges existing power structures in which the community (most often an underserved and disenfranchised entity) is usually the object of others' research, rather than controlling the research from the inception of the research topic to the action that results from the findings. 

When considering validation of knowledge, a conservative characterization of this construct would be limited to incorporating community members' knowledge as data (Stoecker, 2003).  Viewed more radically it would mean "using community understandings of social issues to define the project and the theories used in it, undermining the power structure that currently places control of knowledge production in the hands of credentialized experts" (Stoecker, 2003, p. 36).  Finally, Stoecker also distinguishes both conservative and radical constructs in relation to social change-conservatively change could mean "restructuring an organization or creating a new program" (p. 36) while radically change would mean "massive structural changes in the distribution of power and resources through far-reaching changes in governmental policy, economic practices, or cultural norms" (p. 36).  Though Stoecker positions CBR practices as conservative or radical, he is reluctant to create a narrow definition of CBR, as "[a] definition too narrow would exclude too many" (p. 36).

Though there is increasing interest in community-based research, there has been some criticism of these types of research methodologies from members of the academic community.  Kemmis and McTaggart (2000) point out that some critics have made the charge that community-based or participatory research confuses "social activism and community development with research" (p. 568).  These critics believe that the traditional academic status quo should be maintained.  Creswell (2002) mentions that other critics argue that community-based or participatory research is too informal; as a result, the research design may be altered according to the wishes of community partners.  There is concern that because of these fluctuations the method is not scientific or rigorous enough.  However, as Greenwood and Levin (1998) point out, the fact that community partners play such an integral role in the decision making process leads to more applicable research results for the community. 

Some of the criticism of community-based and participatory research may stem from the fact that many researchers in academic settings have not had experience with this kind of research.  Since community-based research has been used across disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, communications, and education, the methodology is not specific to one discipline (Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  Though community-based research can be useful in many academic fields, the goals and ideals of community-based research could have a significant impact on the field of educational research in helping to seek solutions to the problems plaguing schools today.  In fact, Verbeke and Richards (2001) believe that "[c]ollaboration between schools and universities may be the best hope for education reform" (Conclusion section, para. 5), as many educational reform movements are typically unsuccessful. 

Educational researchers should collaborate with K-12 schools and with other youth and educationally oriented institutions.  As academics become more knowledgeable about and comfortable with community-based research, they will be more willing to embrace it in their own work.  Studies that elucidate the process of working on community-based research projects will be useful in encouraging institutions, faculty members, and graduate students to pursue community-based research.  An increase in the use of community-based research could provide unanticipated benefits to institutions and would be particularly beneficial to the communities who partner with academic institutions.  

Purpose Statement

When considering the research that has been carried out in relation to community-based or participatory methods of research, there have been some important case studies that have been conducted that add insight into the process.  In relation to participatory research, there have been case studies of the experience of individuals carrying out this kind of work (Kneifel, 2000; Maguire, 1993).  The case studies conducted by Kneifel (2000) and Maguire (1993), both doctoral students, are process studies of carrying out participatory research; the studies explore what is learned from that experience.  Other case studies have been conducted that focus on collaboration between universities and communities (Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett,1996; Reardon, 1995; Santelli, Singer, & DiVenere, 1998; Savan & Sider, 2003).  These studies tend to emphasize the research that was conducted and carried out rather than the process of the collaboration.  As has been mentioned, Reardon (1995) has provided a case study of a long-term participatory action research project between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and East St. Louis; the case study explores different approaches to participatory research and what has been most effective in working with East St. Louis.  Benson, Harkavy and Puckett (1996) have produced a case study describing a participatory action research project between the University of Pennsylvania and the community of West Philadelphia aimed at neighborhood and school revitalization, and there are many other case studies that seek to illuminate the field of community-based work (Chataway, 1997; Nyden et al., 1997; Wallerstein,1999)

Though there have been case studies exploring the process of implementing other kinds of participatory research (Kneifel, 2000; Maguire, 1993), there has not been an extensive study written about the researcher's perspective of the experience of participating in a long term community-based research project based on the new model of community-based research that has been provided by Strand et al. (2003a).  The literature points to the need for additional case study work to inform the field of community-based research.  Israel, Schulz, Parker, and Becker (1998) argue for "in-depth, multiple case study evaluations of the content and processes (as well as outcomes) of community-based research endeavours" (p. 194).  Wallerstein (1999) says, "Although there has been an upsurge of interest in community-based research and its methodologic problems, there has been little written about the problematic relationships between communities and evaluators/researchers" (p. 40). 

The purpose of the following contrasting case studies (presented in chapters four and five) is to explore the process of collaboration on community-based research projects through my partnership with a non-profit, educationally oriented organization in a western city and through my partnership with various members of the community in a small, western, mountain town who work with the immigrant population.  My study adds to the field of community-based research methodology by exploring the process and outcomes of conducting community-based research. 

Research Questions

The overarching question the study addresses is-what is the process of collaborating with a community partner on a community-based research project?  Additionally, the study looks at four sub-questions:

What kinds of issues arise when collaborating on a community-based research project?

What facilitates or hinders the process of collaboration?

What does the researcher gain through this collaborative process, and what are the benefits for the community?

What can we learn from these experiences to inform the field of community-based research?

This study explores these questions by offering comparisons between two community-based research projects, one which was effective and one which was less effective.  I label a project as an effective community-based research project based on four factors: the opportunity to work closely with the community dealing directly with the issues, the ability to develop an effective collaborative relationship with my community partners, the inclusion of the community in creating knowledge throughout the research process, and the creation of change or the potential for change.  Through the comparison of these cases, this study provides insight into the difficulties and delights that come with using this research methodology. 

This introductory chapter began with an exploration of the disconnect between academic researchers and the community and has introduced newly emerging methodologies to address this disconnect.  The next chapter elaborates on the research traditions and philosophies that have joined to create community-based research.  Chapter two also discusses the traditions of research and service within higher education and defines many of the constructs that are integral to understanding and carrying out CBR.  Chapter three provides a description of the methodology chosen for this study, case study design, as well as providing details on the methodology of community-based research, the participants of the study, data collection and data analysis, and validity procedures.  Chapters four, five and six present the findings of the study.  Chapters four and five present the within-case descriptions and data analysis for each individual case, while chapter six presents the cross-case analysis and major findings of the study. 

Chapter 2: Literature Review

In order to understand the current model of community-based research that has been described by Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, and Donohue (2003a), it is important to place CBR within the context of the civic mission of higher education and to describe the various theoretical influences that have combined to create this new form of participatory research.  This chapter provides an overview of the literature in relation to community-based research and also defines some of the important constructs that relate to this work, such as community and collaboration. 

The Civic Mission of Higher Education

When considering the original mission of institutions of higher education in the United States, it is interesting to note how far we have strayed from historical intentions.  According to Checkoway (2001), academic institutions were based upon the mission of developing citizenship and community involvement.  Because of this mission, universities and colleges were connected to the real world beyond the institution in significant ways (Ward, 2003).  The creation of land-grant institutions through the Morrill Act of 1862 created additional opportunities for those other than the wealthy to attend tertiary institutions (Maurrasse, 2001).   Maurrasse (2001) and Cordes (1998a) have pointed to the original purposes of these land-grant institutions, one of which was to address community needs.  Thus these institutions were inextricably linked to "public service or civic engagement" (Maurrasse, 2001, p. 17).  Land-grant institutions provided a link between academic research and communities through the use of extension offices that translated research for the community so that it would be usable (Ward, 2003).  Ward points out that the land-grant institutions solidified the idea of the three missions of the university: teaching, research, and service. 

If civic engagement was one of the original intentions for institutions of higher education, what happened to create the separation from communities that typifies most institutions?  According to Greenwood and Levin (2000), because of fears regarding the influence of religion and politics, institutions of higher education were designed to allow for intellectual autonomy.  Since research agendas were determined within the institution, a sort of intellectual insularity began to develop (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  This insularity was deepened by the strictures of departmentalization in institutions (Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett, 1996) and the fact that dialogue tended to exist solely within academic disciplines (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  Academics end up simply talking to each other (Porpora, 1999), providing research that is reviewed and read by each other, and making the argument that "connections to the world beyond the university invade their intellectual autonomy" (Greenwood & Levin, 2000, p. 86).  As stated frankly by Benson, Harkavy, and Puckett (1996), "In short, esoterica has triumphed over public philosophy; narrow scholasticism over humane scholarship" (Introduction section, para. 4).  This intellectual fragmentation leads to barriers in developing knowledge and understanding that could lead to solutions for difficult social problems (Benson et al., 1996).   

This disconnect between universities and communities is ironic if you consider the tripartite mission of research, teaching, and service that most universities espouse (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Boyer, 1990; Maurrasse, 2001).  Benson et al. (1996) point out that intellectual fragmentation and the strictures of universities have separated these three missions, and they believe that this separation has impoverished all three missions.  In looking particularly at the mission of service, Ward (2003) differentiates internal service (university committees and professional associations) and external service (consulting, service-learning, CBR).  However, for most institutions service has come to mean professional service within departments or academic disciplines rather than service to the larger community (Checkoway, 1997).  Checkoway (1997) argues that we need to redefine service as "work that develops knowledge for the welfare of society" (Introduction section, para. 4). 

Though Checkoway (1997) proposes the idea of reconceptualizing service to include community-based work, Ansley and Gaventa (1997) believe that CBR should not just be categorized as service, as it is research.  Ansley and Gaventa (1997) state,

Faculty members across the country who are engaging in these new forms of research too often report facing a double bind: their democratic research work may be tolerated and even rewarded, but only if they simultaneously demonstrate excellence and productivity in the traditional ways.  Yet working with communities in a democratic and collaborative way takes time and makes demands at least as great as those that traditional researchers face (Reconstructing section, para. 5).  

The concern is that if community-based research is only categorized as service, it will not gain status as an accepted research agenda. 

Current university reward structures do not typically recognize community participation as important (Boyer, 1990; Reardon, 1995).  Most academics gain tenure through a combination of publications, research, and teaching, with publications typically carrying greater weight (Benson et al., 1996; Boyer, 1990).  As Ansley and Gaventa (1997) point out, "Scholars reap rewards not for contributions to community or civic life but for contributions to an expert knowledge base" (Introduction section, para. 3).  With concerns over gaining tenure (Boyer, 1990), most professors are reluctant to venture in new directions. 

As Lisman (1997) states, professors involved in community-based activities may be bypassed for tenure in favor of "professors [who] maintain their elite positions through conspiring with a research and publication reward system that produces countless articles and books of self-serving theory of limited use that often is only intelligible to scholars within one's own circle" (p. 84).  Though there are new venues emerging in which to publish accounts of community-based or participatory research, there is still concern that this kind of work leads to limited publications (Reardon, 1995).  This emphasis on publication has been partially responsible for the separation of the three missions espoused within higher education.  Even after professors have gained tenure, once they have been acculturated into the academic environment and have developed a demanding traditional research agenda (Reardon, 1995), it can be difficult to break out of the mold. 

There are important reasons, however, for universities to break the mold.  There is growing concern in the United States about seemingly intractable social problems plaguing our cities (Chopyak & Levesque, 2002; Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000).  Many universities, particularly those in urban areas, are surrounded by communities with significant and very real social problems (Benson et al., 1996; Greenwood & Levin, 2000; Maurrasse, 2001; Strand et al., 2003a).  As stated by Benson et al. (1996), "For an urban university, it is difficult to be triumphant as its neighborhood collapses around it-untenable to be an island of affluence in a sea of raging and deepening despair" (Introduction section, para. 5).  It is incongruous that many prestigious urban universities are surrounded not only by poverty and crime but also by walls (Maurrasse, 2001).  Checkoway (1997) points out that some of the most esteemed research universities in America "have some of the greatest intellectual resources in the world, but they are not readily accessible to the community" (Introduction section, para. 3).  If the intellectual capacity of these institutions were focused toward seeking solutions in the community around them, there would be the potential for significant change.  Institutions of higher education have the choice to remain fortressed, insulated from these problems, or they can move out into the world and redefine the mission of service.

Some academics make the argument that universities do provide research for the community.  Though it is true that academic institutions often conduct research in the community, it is typically research on the community, not for the community (Sclove, 1997).  Many community organizations have negative perceptions of academic researchers because of the experiences they have had (Nyden, Figert, Shibley, & Burrows,1997).  Most contact with researchers is usually through one of two venues: evaluation research, where organizations are judged and critiqued in ways that can impact their funding, or hit and run research where researchers venture into the community to collect data, then leave without sharing the results (Nyden et al., 1997).  Because of these experiences, community members often "talk about feeling exploited by researchers" (Reback, Cohen, Freese, & Shoptaw, 2002, Historical Problems section, para. 1). 

There are several reasons why many university academics have not become involved in participatory forms of research.  Research agendas are typically determined by academics who are focused on adding to the knowledge base within their discipline (Siedman, 1998; Wallerstein, 1999), while other academics are concerned with maintaining scientific integrity (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  Research agendas are also influenced by sources of funding.  Universities often receive funding from private corporations and the government.  As Sclove (1997) points out, "Presently, across the world most research is conducted on behalf of private enterprise, the military, national governments, or in pursuit of the scientific community's intellectual interests" (p. 542).  Not surprisingly, those that provide the funding influence the research (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Greenwood & Levin, 2000), and "very little research is conducted directly on behalf of citizens or communities" (Sclove, 1997, p. 542).  Impoverished and disenfranchised communities typically have little influence (Greenwood & Levin, 2000) and, as a result, these communities have nowhere to turn for help in seeking ways to understand and alleviate social problems (Checkoway, 2001).  As stated by Greenwood and Levin (2000), "The majority of people cannot look to universities for assistance with solutions to their most pressing problems" (p. 90). 

The encouraging news is that many universities are now in the process of making renewed commitments to the communities around them (Checkoway, 2001; Maurrasse, 2001; Stoecker, 2001; Strand et al., 2003a).  There are various reasons for this shift.  Wallerstein (1999) points out that not only have communities pushed for greater participation, but also the government and private foundations, which underwrite many research initiatives, are pushing for greater community collaboration and participation.  According to Cordes (1998a) "With universities under pressure to prove a public payoff for the vast sums of federal and state funds they spend, advocates say community-based research should be part of the answer" (A Minute section, para. 1).  Chopyak and Levesque (2002) concur that institutions of higher education are "feeling pressure from financial backers to demonstrate how their universities are contributing to the communities in which they reside" (p. 204).  Because of this pressure, many universities are seeking to integrate the three missions of research, teaching, and service (Maurrasse, 2001) in ways that are beneficial to both the institution and the surrounding communities, including instituting service-learning programs (Stanton, Giles, Cruz, 1999).  Some are even taking things a step further by allowing the community to have input into the service or research provided (Maurrasse, 2001). 

Many institutions are realizing that community involvement not only benefits the community, it also provides many benefits to the university.  Communities receive educated manpower, resources, and expertise (Checkoway, 2001; Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000) while the university receives benefits as well through improvements in research.  Researchers are provided with fresh perspectives which can dramatically improve the quality of their research (Checkoway, 2001).  Researchers also have the opportunity to test research theories if carried out in community sensitive ways (Checkoway, 2001).  Of course, for the students involved, community experiences can provide substantial gains in learning and growth (Benson et al., 1996; Checkoway, 2001).  Universities are beginning to realize that community-based research, and others forms of community participation, has the potential to "unite all three academic missions-research, teaching, and service-in creative ways that enliven each other" (Cordes, 1998a, Balancing section, para. 4). 

There are some difficulties that will need to be overcome in the process of renewing the civic mission of institutions of higher education.  Many community organizations are distrustful of university researchers (Checkoway, 2001; Sclove, Scammell, Holland, 1998) because of past research situations where communities were studied and written about but left unchanged (Benson et al., 1996).  As Maurrasse (2001) points out, "A lot of bitterness remains in local communities after decades of mistreatment from some universities or colleges" (p. 5).  Academic institutions will have to prove themselves in order to develop effective working relationships with their communities.  There are also existing structures within universities that inhibit community involvement that will have to be overcome (Checkoway, 2001), such as departmentalization (Maurrasse, 2001).  New interdisciplinary structures will have to be created to allow collaboration across departments and disciplines (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  Though changes will have to be made in order to facilitate greater community involvement, the resulting benefits will make the effort worthwhile. 

Community-Based Research

Though community-based research has been described by some as a new research movement (Cordes, 1998a), Stoecker (2001) has pointed out that it is not a new movement per se but rather a confluence of other existing participatory research models that have developed both inside and outside academia (Stoecker, 2002b).  As a result, there is a confusing mix of nomenclature used to describe this kind of research: participatory research, action research, participatory action research, collaborative action research, community based inquiry, and the list goes on (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Creswell, 2002).  A common theme to these various forms of research is that they "emerged as resistance to conventional research practices" (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2001, p. 572), and most of them include a collaborative component between the researcher and the community or organization participating in the research (Fals-Borda & Rahman, 1991; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2001; Stringer, 1999; Whyte, 1991).

Strand (2000) describes two alternatives to the positivist research paradigm: interpretive research and critical research.  Community-based research is located within the paradigm of critical research.  Critical research, which has its roots in Marxism, focuses on issues of power and inequality.  According to Strand (2000), 

Critical researchers are less concerned with questions of how to do social research than with questions of why to do it and who is entitled to shape and control the research process.  The purpose of all social inquiry, they argue, should not simply be to describe the world, but to change it (p. 92). 

Therefore, CBR differs from traditional academic research in two ways.  First of all, CBR is conducted "with rather than on the community" (Strand, 2000, p. 85). Though it does not always happen, the goal is to involve community members in every stage of the research process.  The research problem is defined by the community and not by the researcher.  It is a democratic process that values the knowledge of powerless people.  The second primary difference between CBR and traditional academic research relates to purposes.  The primary purpose of CBR is to create change; the focus is on social change (Strand, 2000). 

Foundations of Community-Based Research

The two research models that have had the greatest influence on the development of community-based research are action research and participatory research (Stoecker, 2001; Strand et al., 2003a).  Action research, also called industrial action research (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000), came about through the work of Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist who did pioneering work in the field of industry during the 1940s (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Greenwood & Levin, 1998; Reason & Bradbury, 2001).  Action research was originally developed as a methodology to deal with social concerns (Creswell, 2002).  Greenwood and Levin (1998) define action research as "social research carried out by a team encompassing a professional action researcher and members of an organization or community seeking to improve their situation" (p. 4). 

Stoecker (2001), though recognizing the pioneering efforts of action research in the field of participatory methods, criticizes the fact that the movement did not challenge existing power structures.  As stated by Stoecker (2003), "Action research values useful knowledge, developmental change, the centrality of individuals, and consensus social theories...Action research does not address power differences but seeks to resolve conflicts between groups" (p. 37).  Stoecker (2003) points out that action research is based on the sociological theory called functionalist theory which argues that "society tends toward natural equilibrium and its division of labor develops through an almost natural matching of individual talents and societal needs" (p. 40).  People end up in whatever role they are supposed to be in-thus the poor are playing their role of being poor.  Functionalist theory views the idea of rapid change as unhealthy in that it upsets balance and instead promotes the idea of steady change through cooperation (Stoecker, 2003).  Stringer's (1996) description of action research concurs with Stoecker's (2001) argument.  Stringer (1996) says,

[Action research] is fundamentally a consensual approach to inquiry and works from the assumption that cooperation and consensus making should be the primary orientation of research activity.  It seeks to link groups that are potentially in conflict so that they may attain viable, sustainable, and effective solutions to their common problems through dialogue and negotiation (p. 19).

However, Stringer's consensual approach to action research is not mirrored by all of those who work in the field of action research.  Greenwood and Levin (1998), for example, do not promote a consensual approach to action research. 

Though the term action research has traditionally been associated with industrial settings, action research took on a different form in the 1970s as a method that was modified by teachers to improve their teaching practices (Creswell, 2002).  This form of action research is also called practical action research (Creswell, 2002) or classroom action research (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000).  With practical action research, teachers research their own teaching practices to determine improvements that could be made (Creswell, 2002).  This research may be done by individual teachers working alone or with the collaboration of research experts (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000). 

The second research model that has had a direct impact on the development of community-based research is participatory research.  Participatory research developed as a research movement in third world countries during the 1960s and has its roots "in liberation theology and neo-Marxist approaches to community development" (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000, p. 568).  "In Latin America, Paulo Freire and Orlando Fals-Borda and other activist educators and researchers used what they called 'participatory research' as an organizing and transformative strategy for the disenfranchised" (Strand, 2000, p. 86).  The original purpose behind the movement was to give third world farmers leverage in resisting exploitation from large agricultural corporations (Stoecker, 2001). It also appeared in Europe and North America in the 1960s and 1970s "during an era of challenge to the dominant positivist paradigm" (Strand, 2000, p. 86).

The basic attributes of participatory research are "shared ownership of research projects, community-based analysis of social problems, and an orientation toward community action" (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000, p. 568).

The work of Paulo Freire has had an important influence on the field of participatory research (Stoecker, 2001).  Freire's (1970) ideas about shared control and shared creation of knowledge as the means of empowerment have played an important role in developing the ideology of participatory research and other forms of alternative research (Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  Participatory research was promoted in the U.S. through the Highlander Research and Education Center (Stoecker, 2003).  The founder of Highlander, Myles Horton, a subsequent director, John Gaventa, and Paulo Freire provide the philosophical foundation of what is called the population education model.  Stoecker (2002a) defines popular education as "a participatory approach to learning that makes participatory research a central part of the learning process.  Research is not done just to generate facts, but to develop understanding of one's self and one's context" (p. 9).  Unlike action research, participatory research does not shy from conflict.  In fact, participatory research "emphasizes the centrality of social conflict and collective action, and the necessity of changing social structures" (Stoecker, 2003, p. 37).  Stoecker (2003) states that participatory research is based on conflict theory.  Conflict theory purports that society is in constant conflict over limited resources, and stability only happens rarely when "one group dominates the other groups" (p. 41). 

The terms participatory research and participatory action research are used by some researchers interchangeably (Fals-Borda, 2001; Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  Kemmis and McTaggart (2000), however, see participatory action research as the overlap between action research and participatory research.  According to Wallerstein (1999), "While both action- and participatory-research traditions remain partially separate in their goals and change theory, they share enough commonality so that some researchers have begun to use the term participatory action research" (p. 41).  According to Soltis-Jarrett (1997), however, there are both philosophical and methodological differences between participatory action research and social action research.  Soltis-Jarrett states,

Simply put, social action research is a study designed by a researcher who is interested in the identification and solving of problems in a specific group of individuals.  Change is usually the intended outcome of the study.  Participatory action research, on the other hand, is a study designed by a group of participants (researcher-facilitator included) that focuses on the identification of concerns that become apparent through the critical process of observation, reflection, and transformation.  It is through this process that the group can then collectively seek to uncover the possibilities for their actions so that they may be freed to implement changes in their lives (Introduction section, para. 3).

According to Soltis-Jarrett, though both research models are intended to create change, participatory research focuses on empowerment as part of this change process. 

However, there is a strand of action research, called emancipatory action research, that does focus on empowerment as part of the research process.  Carr and Kemmis (1986) are advocates for this version of action research.  Though the goal of emancipatory action research is to create change, it also focuses on the learning that groups of research participants obtain through the collaborative process of exploring issues.  Carr and Kemmis believe that it is through this critical process that the research participants recognize their ability to become agents of change and are thus empowered. 

Another important influence on community-based research is the service-learning movement in higher education.  Stoecker (2001) points out that much of the current involvement in community-based research stems from involvement with the service-learning movement.  Though service-learning has the potential to provide interesting opportunities for students, it does not necessarily encompass an agenda of change for the community (Stoecker, 2001; Strand et al., 2003a).  Though students may grow through the process of providing service to community partners, there is some concern about the lasting impact of the service on community organizations (Maybach, 1996). 

As mentioned in chapter one, there are two models of service-learning that have surfaced, charity service-learning and social justice service-learning (Marullo & Edwards, 2000).  Charity service-learning is linked to the philosophy of Dewey (Stoecker, 2003).  Stoecker describes Dewey's "approach to change as one of mediation and gradual reform" (p. 38).  Therefore, traditional service-learning (charity service-learning) is more compatible with action research as it does not challenge power structures (Stoecker, 2002a).  Social justice service-learning focuses on creating social change and is linked closely to the popular education model of Freire.  The goal is to use education as resistance against power structures that maintain domination of the elite.  Thus social justice service-learning is more closely aligned with participatory research methods (Stoecker, 2003).  In determining which type of service-learning approach individual institutions will pursue, it will be important to consider not only student learning, but also the needs of the community (Strand, 2000).  As Strand (2000) says, "we should do more to ensure that our students' service-learning efforts are truly beneficial to the communities where they work" (p. 95)

 Some academics who recognize the benefits of service-learning, but would like to create a more extensive impact, are turning to community-based research as a vehicle for change (Stoecker, 2001).  In fact, Porpora (1999) has argued that community-based action research might be considered "a higher stage of service-learning" (p. 121) in that it combines service, teaching, and research.

Willis, Peresie, Waldref, & Stockmann (2003) describe CBR as "an intensive form of service learning" (p. 36).  As Strand (2000) points out, researchers and community activists have been participating for decades in a range of action and participatory research methods. However, it is only recently that community-based research has been described as a form of service-learning.  

Though community-based research has it roots in other methods of participatory research, the form of community-based research utilized in this study is more directly linked to universities (Strand et al., 2003a).  As stated by Stoecker (2001), the current community-based research movement is a "uniquely academic version of community-based research" (p. 3).  This movement has come about partly because of the recognition from members of academic institutions as to the importance of the university's role in assisting communities but also because of public demands for universities to provide a return for the investment of federal and state funds (Cordes, 1998a).  Whatever the impetus, this new research movement has the potential to connect academic institutions to communities in many beneficial ways. 

Stoecker (2003) has recently delineated two streams of community-based research, radical CBR and mainstream CBR.  Mainstream CBR combines the philosophy of Dewey, the traditional charity service-learning approach, action research methodology, and functionalist sociological theory.  Stoecker states,

[Mainstream CBR] sees reform as a gradual, peaceful, linear process...[and] attempts to mediate divisions across social structural boundaries, implicitly reflecting that common interests between the rich and the poor, for example, are more powerful than their differences.  All follow an expert model, either through choosing agencies rather than grassroots groups as partners, or through professional control over both the research and teaching processes (p.39). 

 Alternately, radical CBR combines the popular education model of Freire, the social justice service-learning model, participatory research methodology, and conflict sociological theory (Stocker, 2002a; Stoecker, 2003).  According to Stoecker (2002a), "popular education and participatory research, because of their mutual emphasis on structural change, collective action, and a conflict worldview, are beginning to form a radical version of CBR" (p. 9).  Within this radical model of CBR, research partnerships are usually developed with grassroots organizations versus social service agencies.  Table 1 provides a comparison of these two models of CBR. 

Table 1 - Two Models of CBR

  Educational Philosophy Sociological Theory Community Partners Model of Service-Learning Research Base
Mainstream CBR Dewey Functionalist Social Service Agencies Charity SL Action Research
Radical CBR Freire Conflict Grassroots Organizations Social Justice SL Participatory Research

Stoecker (2002a) expresses the concern that it is more likely that proponents of CBR will adopt the mainstream approach versus the radical approach.  If so, "The question arises whether our distaste for conflict situations, and conflict groups, and our gravitation toward safe 'middle' service organizations may be making it difficult to achieve the third principle of CBR, which is social change for social justice" (p. 9)

The danger in moving closer to the mainstream version of CBR is that at some point, the research is no longer community-based research; it becomes simply consulting based on the traditional expert model or possibly a collaborative form of consulting.  What is the difference between consulting and CBR? What Whyte (1991) calls the professional expert model is in reality consulting.  Whyte (1991) states, with the professional expert model:

The professional researcher is called in by a client organization-or talks his or her way in-to study a situation and a set of problems, to determine what the facts are, and to recommend a course of action...the professional researcher is completely in control of the research process except to the extent that the client organization limits some of the research options (pp. 8-9). 

The consultant views him or herself as the expert who explores problems or conducts evaluations and recommends solutions or new avenues.  Bentley (1998) describes this role as the "non-involved and confidential advisor" (Introduction section, para. 1). 

Consultants are hired for various reasons, usually to "fix" issues.  "In this role consultants are expected to diagnose what is wrong and to put forward the appropriate prescription for a cure" (Bentley, 1998, Providing section, para. 1).  Though the consulting process may follow many of the same research stages of CBR-defining the problem, developing a research question, collecting data, analyzing data and communicating the results (Nyquist and Wulff, 2001), the difference is the client's (community's) input in the process.  The consultant is not really concerned with collaborating with the client on all stages of the research process.  The consultant is viewed as the expert uncovering issues and often providing training to address issues revealed in the research process (Dallimore & Souza, 2003).  Organizations usually use information or products developed by the consultant to inform decision making or make new policy (Seargeant & Steele, 1998).  Stoecker (1999) points out that in many situations where academic researchers are attempting to create a participatory research process, they in fact "find themselves consulting with community groups" (p. 844).  In this scenario, the researcher carries out research but is accountable to the community (Stoecker, 1999).  Though this form of consulting may be more collaborative than traditional consulting, it is not truly CBR. 

What is Community-Based Research?

Strand et al. (2003a) describe community-based research as the "next important stage of service-learning and engaged scholarship" (p. xxi), but what exactly is CBR?  Stated simply by Sclove et al. (1998), "Community-based research is research that is conducted by, with, or for communities" (p. ii).  It is a collaborative form of inquiry between academic institutions and community members (Strand et al., 2003a) that seeks to offset the prevalence of traditional academic research by acknowledging the expertise that community members contribute to the research equation (Hills & Mullett, 2000).  Community organizations or members are involved with the research process from the beginning, helping to determine the direction of the research, providing community knowledge, and assisting in the research process (Hills & Mullett, 2000).  This process is conducted with the goal of solving problems or creating change (Hills & Mullett, 2000; Strand et al., 2003a) that leads to social justice. Stoecker (2003) says, "In the most concrete sense, CBR involves students and faculty working with a community organization on a research project serving the organization's goals" (p. 35).

 Though qualitative research methods are more closely aligned with this kind of process, quantitative methods may be used as well (Strand, 2000).  As Hills and Mullett (2000) point out, CBR "is more concerned with methodology than it is with method" (p. 1).  Strand (2000) mentions that regardless of the fact that students may use quantitative methodology (usually surveys), the content of the instrument is developed through a collaborative process with members of the community "who have a stake in the information they yield" (p. 90).  And, "they are compiling, interpreting, and presenting data imbued with meaning far beyond mere numbers and with potential to bring about needed social changes consistent with the students' own values" (p. 90).  Strand also makes the point that combining quantitative data with qualitative data can sometimes be more persuasive for community organizations who are seeking funding or support for their position.  The researcher assists in designing a study that will provide the most benefit to the community in contributing the information they will need to assess options or access resources (Greenwood & Levin, 2000). 

Community-based research is opposed to the idea of forcing research on people (Greenwood & Levin, 1998); instead it seeks to empower community members through valuing their knowledge (Hills & Mullett, 2000; Strand et al., 2003a) and helping them find solutions that work for them (Stringer, 1999).  As Sclove et al. (1998) point out, "community-based research is intended to empower communities and to give everyday people influence over the direction of research and enable them to be a part of decision making processes affecting them" (p. 1); empowerment is an important aspect of this process.  Though community members may gain research skills through this collaborative process (Hills & Mullett, 2000), it is a sense of empowerment that creates the realization of the possibility for change.  In defining empowerment, Perkins and Zimmerman (1995) state,

[Empowerment is] an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over these resources (p. 570). 

It is through the combination of assisting the community in seeking information and allowing for the possibility of empowerment that creates the potential for sustainable change in the community.

Though constructing a definition for community can be difficult, when considering community-based research, it is important to define or determine what is meant by community.  Checkoway (1997) defines community as "people acting collaboratively with others who share some common concerns, whether on the basis of a place where they live, of interests or interest groups that are similar, or of relationships that have some cohesion or continuity" (Community Needs section, para. 5).  Though Checkoway uses the terms common and cohesion, it is also important to realize that communities consist of multiple voices (Wallerstein, 1999).  So who is the community in community-based research?  Stoecker (2001) points to grassroots community members and community organizations, though research tends to be carried out with organizations.  These organizations may include "social service organizations, community development corporations, and government agencies" (Stoecker, 2001, p. 15).  Strand et al. (2003a) also include educational institutions.  Though community can mean any number of various groups or organizations, the communities targeted for community-based research are essentially any group of people who are subjugated and powerless (Strand et al., 2003a). 

Stoecker (2002b) expresses concern that researchers carrying out CBR projects do not always end up truly working with the community.  Ideally CBR projects would be carried out with grassroots organizations (Stocker, 2002b); however, the reality is that many CBR projects are carried out with what Stoecker calls "mid-range organizations" (p. 232).  The concern is that some of these organizations may be too far removed from the communities they purport to represent and therefore do not truly act in the community's best interests (Stoecker, 2002b).  Since the purpose of CBR is empowerment as well as social change, involving those people who are dealing with the issues directly provides greater potential to create effective change (Stocker, 2003). 

Criticisms and Concerns

Though community-based research has the potential to provide useful benefits to community members, there has been criticism directed at this kind of research.  The typical concerns that some academics have about qualitative research in general are intensified in relation to community-based research.  Cordes (1998a) and Stringer (1999) point out that some critics decry that it is not genuine research because it is not scientific, and Creswell (2002) points to the critique that the research is too changeable.  Others express concerns about validity.  Greenwood and Levin (2000) prefer the terminology of credibility versus validity.  When addressing concerns about internal credibility, Greenwood and Levin (1998) feel that the research results are credible if they are credible to the group that creates or evaluates them.  The true test of credibility is whether the research is successful in bringing about substantive change that benefits the community (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  When considering external credibility, Greenwood and Levin (1998) purport that "only knowledge generated and tested in practice is credible" (p. 81) and therefore generalizable.  Though research resulting from this kind of work is very contextual (Greenwood & Levin, 2000) that is not to say that the knowledge gained through this kind of research cannot be what Eisner (1998) describes as transferable to other situations.  

Other concerns about participatory methods of research relate to concerns about influences on the research.  Some critics point to the possibility that if the researcher becomes too involved with the lives of the participants the research results may be impacted by these relationships (Cordes, 1998a).  Stoecker (2002a) argues that researchers who do not have a relationship with the community do not get good results because community members will not be open and truthful because of a lack of trust.  It is through developing a relationship that the researcher is able to gain more accurate results.  Cordes (1998a) also points out that if researchers come to care about the people they are working with, they will be more focused on making sure that they are producing credible research results.  And, as Strand (2000) says, "community members expect research that is rigorous and of high quality...communities want results, after all, that are credible and persuasive" (p. 94).  Another concern that has been expressed by some researchers is the potential for a small, but vocal, minority to set itself up to speak for the whole group (Cordes, 1998a).  This concern can be sidestepped fairly easily if the researcher takes the time to get to know the community and seeks multiple sources of knowledge within that community rather than aligning him or herself with one faction of the community.

Along with criticism relating to credibility, there are also concerns about the process of doing this kind of research and the difficulties it can create for faculty and students.  Time is often a primary concern.  Engaging in collaborative research can be a time intensive endeavor for faculty, students, and community members (Ansley & Gaventa, 1997; Sclove et al., 1998; Stoecker, 2001).  Just the process of negotiating the research question alone can take a significant amount of work.  Time is particularly an issue when professors try to include community-based research as a component of a course, as the timetables of semesters and quarters are not typically conducive to the completion of these kinds of projects (McNicoll, 1999; Sclove et al., 1998).  Other concerns relate to writing up the data.  Attempting to write up research results from this kind of work into a publishable article can be difficult (Cordes, 1998a), and professors concerned about gaining tenure may feel it is too risky (Sclove et al., 1998).  There is also the issue of who owns the data.  Cordes (1998b) says that both the researcher and the community own the data.  However, Stoecker (2001) states that "an increasing number of community organizations make academics sign agreements to not write about the research without community permission" (p. 9).  Since this may limit the possibility of publishing an article around the work, this places another obstacle in the path of pursuing publications for tenure.  


Despite concerns relating to community-based research, there are many benefits for academic institutions and students as well as community members.  One potential benefit for universities is that this kind of research creates the possibility for collaboration across disciplines (Greenwood & Levin, 1998).  Since community-based research is not specific to one academic discipline, there is the potential for greater cooperation across departments and between colleges (Greenwood & Levin, 2000; Reardon, 1995).  When divisions within a university work together for the betterment of the university and for students, positive results tend to occur.  Not only will students benefit from a more cohesive institution, they also have the opportunity to be involved in hands-on learning experiences (Stoecker, 2001; Strand, 2000) that can be very meaningful (Cordes, 1998a).  Students also gain valuable research skills from participating in community-based research projects (Benson et al., 1996; Reardon, 1995; Strand, 2000).

Faculty who have designed courses around community-based research projects believe that CBR greatly enriches the skills that students develop in relation to research as well as other areas (Strand, 2000).  Willis, Peresie, Waldref, and Stockmann (2003), students who participated in community-based research projects at Georgetown University, outline four areas in which they believe CBR positively impacts students.  These include: "enrichment of traditional academic coursework, increased sense of empowerment, greater understanding of social problems, and integration of academics and service" (p. 40).  Strand (2000) also points to the relational skills that students develop such as tact, perseverance, and tolerance for ambiguity.  These skills that students develop are desirable to employers who prefer to hire "graduates with 'real-world' experience behind their degrees" (Chopyak & Levesque, 2002, p. 204).  However, CBR experiences are not only important to students because of the skills they develop, they are also important in that they are typically meaningful, and they provide a sense of purpose to schooling (Strand, 2000).  Also, the fact that students are working and providing research for real people pushes them to produce top quality work, which makes the learning process more fulfilling (Strand, 2000). 

Finally, the community itself benefits through this kind of research, primarily because the community is provided with research results that are both applicable and useful (Sclove et al., 1998).  According to Ansley and Gaventa (1997), both the university and the community gain social capital.  Through CBR work, each develops a network of resources and knowledge that provides advantages for both.  It is also important that those who are dealing with the problem are allowed to help seek solutions to these problems.  As stated by a community member who participated in a community-based research project, "We have to involve the people whose lives are involved" (Cordes, 1998a, Conclusion section, para. 5).


Since collaboration is such an essential component of community-based research, it is important to explore the construct of collaboration.  I will begin with providing a definition for collaboration.  According to Seaburn, Lorenz, Gunn, Gawinski, and Mauksch (1996),

To collaborate is to create conversations in which people are joined together, meanings are fashioned, purposes are defined, roles are clarified, goals are established, and action is taken.  Together the participants create a...culture in which the whole is greater than the sum of parts (p. 9). 

A simpler definition is that it is a shared decision making process (Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000).  Traditionally, the process of collaboration has been described as a linear process (Bradley, 1999).  However, those who practice and write about collaboration, whether in the field of education or in other fields, are questioning this linear model.  Some are pointing to chaos theory as a model for representing the complexity of the collaborative process (Bradley, 1999; Goff, 1998), as collaboration is often difficult and chaotic (Christenson, Eldredge, & Ibom, 1996; Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000; Solomon et al., 2001).  

The reason that collaboration can be difficult is because it deals with relationships between individuals (Christenson et al., 1996).  Developing and maintaining these relationships is typically an ongoing and multi-layered process (Solomon et al., 2001).  Though this process is not always linear, there are phases or stages that typify collaborative endeavors.  According to Seaburn et al. (1996), the process begins with an "initial period of self disclosure, checking each other out, and building trust" (p. 47).  As the relationship develops and confidence increases, the collaborators begin to consider each other and grow together.  Carter (1998) describes the collaborative process in less relational terms.  Carter delineates the phases of collaboration as problem setting, direction setting, and implementation.  Whatever the process, the reality is that collaborations are founded on relationships (Christenson et al., 1996; Seaburn et al., 1996). 

The first step in developing collaborative relationships is to identify the stakeholders who are in play (Bradley, 1999).  According to Goff (1998),

Identifying stakeholders begins with an analysis of the perspectives necessary for defining problems and solutions, not with the names of powerful individuals of organizations that need to be represented.  The perspectives of those affected by problems or solutions and those who may be part of the cause of problems are especially important.  Everyone involved in the problem needs to be involved in the solution (Development section, para. 9). 

It is also important to realize there are often differing agendas among the stakeholders (Solomon et al., 2001; Verbeke & Richards, 2001), as well as differing agendas between stakeholders and researchers (Wallerstein, 1999).  An important part of the interpersonal work at the beginning of the process is to negotiate these differences (Solomon et al., 2001), as the process is most effective when all of the collaborators have a stake in the project through common goals (Seaburn et al., 1996; Solomon et al., 2001; Verbeke & Richards, 2001).  Dialogue is imperative in this process of negotiation and goal identification (Marlow  & Nass-Fukai, 2000; Seaburn et al., 1996).  The willingness to communicate is a sign of mutual respect (Seaburn et al., 1996) among the parties involved and assists in the process of identifying strengths.  When identifying strengths it is important to realize that "[a]ll of the participants play vital roles.  Each brings experiences, knowledge, skills, beliefs, and wisdom to bear on the task of resolving problems, stimulating change, and alleviating suffering" (Seaburn et al., 1996, p. 9). 

Developing collaborative relationships is not always an easy process, as there are a number of variables that can hinder the process.  Carter (1998), who conducted a study of the collaborative relationship between a university and middle school, found that there were three primary things that hindered collaboration: inadequate trust between the parties, inequities of power, and insufficient communication.  Verbeke and Richards (2001) point to other issues such as differences between individuals like status, age, gender, and race.  Whatever the obstacles, collaboration can have many beneficial outcomes.  The collaborative process can lead to growth which creates the potential for change.  It allows collaborators to accomplish much more than they could individually, and the collaborative process generates additional power.  As stated by Christenson et al. (1996), "I have now come to understand collaboration as creating more power rather than sharing a quantity of power" (Marilyn Johnston section, para. 2).  Is it this co-generative process that makes community-based research so dynamic.

Since collaboration plays such an integral role in community-based research, studies that reveal the subtleties of the collaborative process in community-based research would be informative for the field of higher education.  If institutions of higher education are to play a more significant role in their surrounding communities, they must find ways to become engaged.  Community-based research is a viable option for doing so.  The purpose of this study is to illuminate the experience of conducting this kind of research in the hope that it will lead to the increased use of community-based research.  As part of exploring the process of collaboration, this study investigates the issues that arise during collaboration on two CBR projects, the factors that facilitate and hinder the process, and the benefits for the researcher and the community. 

This review of literature provided a background on the various influences that have played a role in the development of community-based research.  It also defined community-based research and the constructs that relate to this work, community, empowerment, and collaboration.  The next chapter will provide more detail about the methodology of community-based research and will also describe the contrasting case methodology that was used to study the process of carrying out CBR. 

Chapter 3: Research Methods

This study seeks to provide insight into the process of conducting community-based research.  In order to do so, the study utilizes a qualitative case study approach to examine the methodology of community-based research. Two contrasting cases of CBR are described and analyzed in order to understand the issues that arise when conducting CBR, the factors that facilitate or hinder the process, and the benefits of conducting CBR.  Finally, these contrasting cases are considered to determine what this study can contribute to the field of CBR.  This chapter details case study methodology as well as multiple case design.  It also describes the methodology of community-based research, the participants of the study, data collection and analysis, and issues around credibility, including my own subjectivities that may have influenced the research. 

Methodological Framework

In order to explore the collaborative process of conducting community-based research, this study utilizes a qualitative case study approach.  Case studies can be particularly useful for studying a process, program or individual in an in-depth, holistic way that allows for deep understanding (Merriam, 1998).  As Merriam points out,

A case study design is employed to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved.  The interest is in process rather than outcomes, in context rather than a specific variable, in discovery rather than confirmation (p. 19).

There are some differences in how researchers define case study.  Some researchers think of case study as the object to be studied (Stake, 2000), while others define case study as a process of investigation (Creswell, 2002).  Creswell defines case study as "an in-depth exploration of a bounded system (e.g., an activity, event, process, or individuals) based on extensive data collection" (p. 485).  Creswell recommends case study as a methodology if the problem to be studied "relates to developing an in-depth understanding of a 'case' or bounded system" (p. 496) and if the purpose is to understand "an event, activity, process, or one or more individuals" (p. 496).  Patton (1990) suggests that case studies are valuable in creating deep understanding of particular people, problems or situations in comprehensive ways.  

This study is particularly suitable for a case study design because it is a bounded system, it is contextual, and it is a study of process (Merriam, 1998).  Like Creswell (2002), Stake (2000) defines case study as the study of a "bounded system" (p. 436).  According to Creswell (2002), "'Bounded' means that the case is separated out for research in terms of time, place, or some physical boundaries" (p. 485).  In other words, it is possible to create limits around the object to be studied (Merriam, 1998).  A case study can focus on a variety of different things.  A case could be an individual, a group, a school, a community (Merriam, 1998), or a case could also include "a program, events, or activities" (Creswell, 2002, p. 485).  The bounded systems in my contrasting case studies are my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools[2] in a western city and my collaboration with community members in a small, rural, mountain community to carry out community-based research.  The boundaries of these two cases are determined by the people and groups that I collaborate with in the CBR process.  

I chose a case study design because it involves "detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context" (Creswell, 1998, p. 61).  Context is a key factor.  According to Merriam (1998), in focusing on a particular phenomenon in a case study, it is impossible to separate the phenomenon from its context.  However, in this study, it is important that the context is understood as part of the process.  As Yin (2003) says, "you would use the case study method because you deliberately wanted to cover contextual conditions-believing that they might be highly pertinent to your phenomenon of study" (p. 13).  Thus, using a case study approach allows for the possibility of gaining significant knowledge about the process of conducting community-based research in particular contexts.   According to Sanders (1981), "Case studies help us to understand processes of events, projects, and programs and to discover context characteristics that will shed light on an issue or object" (p. 44). 

The two case studies each took place over an extended period of time.  The first CBR project lasted nine months, and the second CBR project lasted eight months.  I worked with my collaborative partners to define research problems and questions, develop research designs, collect data, and analyze data.  However, this study does not focus on the data that I collected as part of that CBR work.  Instead, this study focuses on the process of the collaborative experience.  Since the study focuses primarily on the procedures of conducting community-based research, the study is considered a process study.  According to Patton (1990), when carrying out a process study, the "focus is on how something happens rather than on the outcomes or results obtained" (p.94).  And, as Merriam (1998) points out, "Case study is a particularly suitable design if you are interested in process" (p.33).  Therefore, case study was chosen since it allows for detailed monitoring of the collaborative process (Merriam, 1998). 

Types of Case Studies

Stake (2000) delineates three types of case studies: intrinsic, instrumental, and collective.  Intrinsic case studies focus on a case that is unusual and is of particular interest to the researcher (Creswell, 1998; Stake, 2000).  The intent is not to build theory (Stake, 2000).  An instrumental case study is pursued in order to provide insight about a particular issue that may be generalizable (Creswell, 2002).  The primary purpose of an instrumental case study is to help advance understanding (Stake, 2000).  The collective case study encompasses more than one case "in order to investigate a phenomenon, population, or general condition" (Stake, 2000, p. 437).  Since the purpose is to help advance understanding, a collective case study is a grouping of instrumental case studies (Stake, 2000).  Using a collective case study approach can allow for the possibility of stronger interpretation and "perhaps better theorizing" (Stake, 2000, p. 437). 

Though Stake (2000) uses the terminology "collective case study," this approach is known by other names such as, multiple case studies, cross-case studies, comparative case studies, and contrasting cases (Merriam, 1998; Yin, 2003).  With multiple case studies, data are analyzed for insights both within each case and across cases (Merriam, 1998).  Yin (2003) points out that multiple cases may be chosen to try to replicate insights that you find within individuals cases or to represent contrasting situations.  Regardless of whether the purpose is replication or contrast, multiple case studies are "considered more compelling, and the overall study is therefore regarded as more robust" (Yin, 2003, p. 46). 

When this study was first proposed, the original intent was to pursue a single case study of my experience of collaboration in carrying out a community-based research project.  After completing my work with the Coalition for Schools, I felt dissatisfied with the experience in that I did not view it to be a success.  Instead of focusing on that one experience, I decided to pursue another research option in the small town in which I live in order to have a contrasting experience to write about.  It turned out that the project I completed in my small town was more successful, therefore allowing me to present contrasting cases.  Since this study seeks to add insight to the field of methodology in CBR, it is important to understand the factors that impact the process of collaboration and the factors that support successful collaborations (Strand et al., 2003a). 

Methodology of Community-Based Research

Since the purpose of this study is to explore the process of carrying out CBR, it is important to understand the methodology of community-based research.  As mentioned in chapter two, community-based research is not as concerned with methods as it is with methodology (Hills & Mullett, 2000; Strand et al., 2003a).  Either quantitative or qualitative methods may be used; the choice depends on what would obtain the most useful data for the community (Greenwood & Levin, 2000).  The methodology of CBR is guided by the three principles outlined by Strand et al. (2003a): 1) collaboration, 2) validation of the knowledge of community members and the multiple ways of collecting and distributing information, and 3) "social action and social change for the purpose of achieving social justice" (p. 8).  Though community-based research is not limited to specific methods, it does follow the typical stages of research that most traditional academic research would follow: defining the research question, developing a research design, collecting data, analyzing data, and writing up the results.  The difference is that the researcher collaborates closely with the community throughout the research process (Strand et al., 2003a).  The community is involved in determining the problem and research questions, creating the research design, collecting data, analyzing data, and creating a presentation of findings (Strand et al., 2003a).  The researcher also continues to play a role in the final stage by assisting with the enactment of solutions to create change (Greenwood & Levin, 1998). 

Regarding knowledge, community-based research seeks to redefine how we conceptualize knowledge in relation to academic research (Strand et al., 2003a).  Researchers who conduct CBR projects recognize the important knowledge that community members possess on the subject of their environment and the issues they are dealing with (Cordes, 1998a, No Concrete section, para. 2; Hills & Mullett, 2000, p. 1), what Strand (2000) calls "local knowledge" (p. 88).  This knowledge is key throughout the research process.  This acceptance of community knowledge does require the researcher to rethink his or her role.  As Stringer (1996) says, "The role of the researcher is not that of an expert who does research, but that of a resource person" (p. 22).  The expertise that the researcher brings to the equation is still valued; however, the local knowledge that the community brings is recognized as integral to the research process (Strand et al., 2003a). 

I have provided a brief overview of the methodology of CBR.  However, the purpose of this chapter is to describe the case study methods that I used to carry out this process study.  The descriptions of data collection and data analysis that are included in this chapter pertain to the data that were collected and analyzed for the contrasting case studies.  A description of the data collection and analysis that was conducted for the CBR projects in each case study will be included in the case descriptions in chapters four and five. 

Participants and Setting

Though I came into contact with a variety of people in each case study, my primary research collaborators are the main participants of my study.  In the first case study that I carried out, my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools, there were initially two primary collaborators, one of the co-chairs of the Coalition, Marge Bowline, and the director of the Coalition, Lisa Brown.  As my collaboration progressed, I worked primarily with Lisa Brown. 

The Coalition for Schools is an organization that has been created to support greater academic achievement in an urban school district in a western city.  The Coalition has focused its efforts toward a feeder pattern of schools in a quadrant of the city that has a high percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches, a high percentage of minority students, and a high percentage of English language learners.  This feeder pattern includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, and three small high schools that were originally part of one large high school and that are housed in one building.  The Coalition is an alliance of non-profit organizations, foundations, parent organizations, universities and colleges, and the school district working together to support achievement in these low performing schools.  The Business and Schools United (BSU) organization is the lead partner for the Coalition, and the Coalition is housed at BSU.  Marge Bowline is the director of BSU and one of the co-chairs of the Coalition for Schools.  She helped to create the Coalition and to procure funding for the organization.  The Coalition was a year old when I began my work with them.  Lisa Brown was hired to direct the Coalition and replaced the first director.  She had been in her position for about six months when I began my work with the Coalition. 

The two primary collaborators in my work in a small, western, mountain town are John Brewer and Maria Swenson.  The town is a small rural community that has a rapidly growing immigrant population from Mexico, about half of which are Indians from a remote area of the country.  Both John Brewer and Maria Swenson work in positions that have direct contact with this population.  John Brewer is the director of the literacy program which offers free English courses for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.  He is also a member of the city council.  Marge Swenson, who is herself a former immigrant from South America, is the coordinator of the diversity office which provides services to immigrants in town.  The case descriptions in chapters four and five provide greater detail of the participants and setting. 

Data Collection

As I progressed through each case study, I pursued two streams of data collection; the data collected to pursue the CBR projects and data that were collected as part of this case study to study CBR.  This section describes only the data that were collected for the case studies.  A description of the CBR data that were collected for each collaboration is included in the case descriptions in chapters four and five. 

Since the purpose of case study research is to provide an in-depth exploration of the person, program, or process under study, it requires intensive data collection (Merriam, 1998; Yin, 2003) using "multiple forms of data" (Creswell, 2002, p. 486).  Data collection for case studies usually focuses on three sources of data: observations, interviews, and documents (Merriam, 1998).  Though all qualitative research is to some extent based on the idea of emergent design, this study was truly emergent.  Though the research questions that this study proposed to address did not shift throughout the study, the methods of data collection changed to accommodate emerging issues or ideas.  According to Patton (1990),

What is certain is that different methods produce quite different information.  The challenge is to find out which information is most needed and most useful in a given situation, and then employ those methods best suited to producing the needed information (p. 196).

Though I collected all three forms of data (observations, interviews, and documents) for each study, there are some variations that are detailed in the following sections.  Appendix A provides a list showing the dates of meetings and interviews for each case study. 


My primary source of data collection for both case studies was observation.  Since I was essentially observing myself as I collaborated with my community partner, all of the observations that I completed for my case study data collection were participant observations.  Creswell (2002) defines participant observation as "an observational role adopted by researchers when they take part in activities in the setting they observe" (p. 200).  In this role, the researcher "actually engages in activities at the site begin studied" (p. 200).  Glesne (1999) describes a continuum of participation that "ranges from mostly observation to mostly participation" (p. 44).  Based on this continuum, I was what Glesne (1999) describes as a "full participant" in every interaction relating to my collaborative work with my community partners since I was concurrently a member of the collaborative partnership as well as the researcher investigating the process.  

In all of the meetings that I conducted with my community partners in relation to our CBR work, I collected data around those interactions.  I utilized Merriam's (1998) checklist of elements to structure my observations: physical setting, participants, activities and interactions, conversation, subtle factors, and my own behavior (pp. 97-98).  When working on my first CBR project with the Coalition, I initially only maintained field notes.  I was concerned that if I taped our meetings that it would be intrusive and would impact the openness of our conversations (Merriam, 1998).  However, as my study progressed I realized that it was difficult to take effective notes while participating in the conversation.  I then asked my community partners if I could tape subsequent meetings.  After that, most of the meetings I had with Lisa Brown or Marge Bowline were taped and then transcribed.  As part of the transcription process, I added notes that clarified or contextualized the dialogue.  When I began my work with my community partners in my small town, I asked during the first meeting if I could tape all of our meetings; both John Brewer and Maria Swenson readily agreed.  I found that after the use of the tape recorder became routine, they did not seem to be inhibited by being recorded.  Using the tape recorder allowed me to collect much more extensive data from my observations of our meetings. 


As part of the data collection for both case studies, I collected both formal and informal interview data (Patton, 1990).  Informal conversational interview questions were interwoven into meetings that we had in relation to ongoing research (Merriam, 1998) and were recorded as part of observation transcriptions.  These informal questions typically addressed how the community partner felt the research process was progressing, whether the research was meeting their needs, or addressed immediate questions that arose through the process of continued interaction. 

I also collected formal interview data for both case studies; however, I conducted fewer formal interviews with my community partners from the Coalition for Schools.  As my work with the Coalition progressed, I sought to determine particular data collection procedures that would address my research questions.  Since I was working within a collaborative relationship, part of the consideration when choosing methods was the impact that various methods would have on the relationship with my community partner.  In this first case study, as I show in more detail in chapter four, it was challenging to develop a collaborative relationship with my community partners.  The lack of trust and communication within this relationship made it difficult to carry out formal interviews discussing our collaboration.  I felt that these kinds of interviews would create greater distance between us.  Instead I relied primarily on other forms of data collection, observations and documents.  However, I did interview both Lisa Brown and Marge Bowline once formally toward the end of our partnership.  This interview included questions about the work of the Coalition as well as questions relating to community-based research (Appendix B).  I also conducted a follow-up email interview with Lisa Brown after beginning the process of data analysis (Appendix B).   

In my collaboration with John Brewer and Maria Swenson in my small town, I was able to develop a much more honest and open relationship from the beginning and felt very comfortable conducting formal interviews about the process.  I interviewed John and Maria individually three times throughout our collaboration (Appendix B).  I used a semi-structured approach (Rubin & Rubin, 1995) when designing the interview protocols.  I prepared questions as a starting point, but allowed the conversation to flow in whatever direction was helpful to providing insight.  The first interview focused on getting a sense of their background and experiences with research, their expectations for our research, and strategies for effective communication.  The second interview focused on their satisfaction with how things were proceeding, whether they felt we were communicating effectively, and whether they were having the input they wanted to have in the process.  The final interview focused primarily on the research questions of the case study: what were the issues that arose, what helped or hindered our collaboration, and what benefits did they receive from the research.  I transcribed each interview and added additional notes for interpretation. 


As part of the data collection process, I also collected or created a variety of documents including: email communications, a reflective journal, a phone call log, and other items that were provided by my community partners such as newsletters and meeting minutes.  As part of my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools, we relied extensively on email for communication since I found it difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings with Marge Bowline and Lisa Brown.  These email conversations are an important source of data in compiling a picture of our collaborative experience.  I also collected email data during my second case study.  However, these email communications focused primarily on setting up logistics.  Most important conversations were conducted face-to-face. 

Throughout both case studies, I sought to engage in a reflective stance toward my role in the research process.  In order to aid my reflection, I maintained a journal in which I transcribed my thinking in relation to my experiences and the perceived experiences of my community partners.  Merriam (1998) expresses some concern about using personal documents such as journals as data.  Merriam (1998) says,

Personal documents are a reliable source of data concerning a person's attitudes, beliefs, and view of the world.  But because they are personal documents, the material is highly subjective in that the writer is the only  one to select what he or she considers important to record.  Obviously these documents are not representative or necessarily reliable accounts of what actually may have occurred (p. 116).

However, Merriam (1998) does point out that one of the goals of qualitative research is to "reflect the participant's perspective" (p. 116).  Since this is a process study, the perceptions of all participants are a key consideration (Patton, 1990).  As I am a participant in this study, my perceptions of my experience of the process are important. 

The other documents I collected consisted of a phone call log and documents obtained when meeting with my community partners.  The phone call log consisted of a brief description of phone calls that were made during the research process.  If the conversation was extensive, I tried to recreate the conversation as closely as possible.  The phone call log was used primarily during my collaboration with John Brewer and Maria Swenson.  I also obtained various documents from my community partners.  These mostly included newsletters, meeting minutes, and data collected from previous research.  Most of the documents related to the CBR work we were conducting; yet some of the documents also provided information for my case study research. 

Data Analysis

After completing both case studies, I had accumulated large volumes of data (more than 500 pages of data for each case study).  I organized the data from both cases into what Yin (2003) calls a case study data base I organized my case study data base in a chronological order so that I could move through the data from the beginning to the end of the process.  This allowed me to perceive the progression of the process and my changing views throughout.  However, I felt that I needed an additional frame from which to organize the data. 

Data analysis was an ongoing process throughout the implementation of each case study.  Periodically I composed analytic memos to begin to formulate ideas around particular findings.  As each study progressed, I looked for events with common elements within the data that had "issue-relevant meaning" (Creswell, 1998, p. 154) or significance for the study.  As I recognized these common elements, I focused on determining whether they continued to be supported throughout the data collection process.  Creswell (1998) calls this process categorical aggregation.  As categories within the data began to emerge, I began to look for patterns or themes that connected these categories.  Based on the literature and the categories and themes that emerged while conducting the cases, I created an analytic framework from which to organize and think about the data. 

Analytic Framework    

The analytic framework is composed of four categories: community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change.  In creating this framework, I was influenced by Stoecker's (2003) delineation of radical and mainstream CBR.  I view each of the four constructs of my framework as existing on a continuum.  At one end, there is radical CBR, in the middle, mainstream CBR, and at the other end the professional expert model or consulting (see Figure 1).  Based on how I conceptualize this framework, the closer on the continuum the researcher moves toward radical CBR, the greater the potential for change that will benefit the community with which the researcher is collaborating. 

Figure 1.  The Four Constructs of CBR
   Consulting  Mainstream CBR   Radical CBR
  Non-Representative Orgs.   Midlevel Orgs.  Grassroots Orgs.
   Researcher Holds Power Partial Collaboration Shared Decision Making
  Researcher Controls Knowledge Partial Participation Community Creates Knowledge
Knowledge Creation         
  No Discernable Change Programmatic Changes Structural Change

When considering the category of community, the goal is to work as closely as possible with the community.  Since the ultimate goal of CBR is "social change for social justice" (Stoecker, 2002a, p. 9), the closer the researcher is to the members of the community who are dealing with the problem (Stoecker, 2003), the greater the potential to empower.  The community continuum includes grassroots organizations on one end and organizations which do not represent the community or use practices that "disempower the community" (Strand et al., 2003a. p. 73) on the other (see Figure 1).  In between are organizations that are a level removed from grassroots organizations but still seek to represent the community democratically, what Strand et al. (2003a) call "midlevel organizations" (p. 74).  Conducting CBR projects with midlevel organizations is what Strand et al. (2003a) label "doing CBR in the middle" (p. 73). 

Within this analytic framework, I conceptualize collaboration as shared decision making.  The goal is that the community should have equal power with the researcher and that decision making should be a shared process throughout (Strand et al., 2003a).  When considering this concept within the continuum, shared decision making is at one end of the continuum and at the other end the decisions are made primarily by the researcher (see Figure 1).  A companion to collaboration is the concept of participation in knowledge creation.  The primary goal in relation to this aspect of the framework is that the community assists in the creation of all knowledge that is generated during the CBR process, thus leading to community empowerment.  This point of the framework is based on the principle that the knowledge of community members is valid (Strand et al., 2003a) and integral to creating strong results.  At one end of the continuum, the community is involved in all aspects of knowledge creation, at the other end, the researcher controls the creation of knowledge (see Figure 1). 

The final point of the analytic framework is change (see Figure 1).  If you consider CBR within the radical framework described by Stoecker (2003), the goal for change is "massive structural changes in the distribution of power and resources through far-reaching changes in governmental policy, economic practices, or cultural norms" (p. 36).  This goal can be difficult to achieve.  More often, CBR work leads to programmatic changes within an organization or other more limited changes (Strand et al., 2003a).  However, each change within a community can have a cumulative effect that can lead to broader change.  Community-based research that does not involve the community in close collaboration and knowledge creation is less likely to create change that benefits the community.

Analysis of Contrasting Cases

Since this study utilizes contrasting cases, data analysis occurs at two levels: within-case and across cases (Merriam, 1998).  Merriam (1998) describes this process:            

For the within-case analysis, each case is first treated as a comprehensive case in and of itself.  Data are gathered so the researcher can learn as much about the contextual variables as possible that might have a bearing on the case...Once the analysis of each case is completed, cross-case analysis begins.  A qualitative, inductive, multicase study seeks to build abstractions across cases (pp. 194-195).

For each case, I analyzed observations, interviews, and documents to develop a description of the case. This description depicts the setting and participants as well as a general chronology of events and provides the reader with an understanding of the particulars of the case (Creswell, 1998).  This allows the reader to develop an understanding of the case within the larger context (Creswell, 2002).  Then using the analytic framework I developed, I did some within-case analysis and organized the categories that emerged during each study around the four constructs of my analytic framework.  This within-case analysis focused on answering the primary research question: What is the process of collaborating with a community partner on a community-based research project?  Thus each case analysis consists of  "both description and thematic development" (Creswell, 2002, p. 486).           

After completing the within-case analysis, I focused on the cross-case analysis to address three of the sub-questions of the study: What kinds of issues arise when collaborating on a community-based research project? What facilitates or hinders the process of collaboration? and, What does the researcher gain through this collaborative process, and what are the benefits for the community?  In the cross-case analysis, I used data from both case studies to address these questions.  I explored the categories that had emerged throughout each case study and then compared to see if these categories were supported in both cases.  I used the categories and themes that emerged during the within-case analysis and the cross-case analysis to determine "naturalistic generalizations" (Creswell, 1998, p. 154) concerning the field of community-based research.  Creswell (1998) defines naturalistic generalizations as "generalizations that people can learn from the case either for themselves or for applying it to a population of cases" (p. 154).  These naturalistic generalizations address the final question of the study: What can we learn from these experiences to inform the field of CBR?


In order to lend credibility to the findings of my study, I incorporated a variety of validity procedures.  The first validity procedure I employed was prolonged engagement in the field (Creswell & Miller, 2000) or what Merriam (1998) calls "long-term observation" (p. 204).  I worked on my case study with the Coalition for a period of nine months, and I worked with John and Maria for a period of eight months.  During each of these case studies, I had consistent contact with my community partners.  Collaborating with my community partners for this length of time allowed me to develop tentative categories in my findings and then follow up on these preliminary findings through observations or interviews (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  Therefore, the length of each case study and the consistent contact I had with my community partners lends credibility to my perceptions of this experience.

In addition to prolonged engagement in the field, another important validity procedure I employed, which is integral to case study design, was triangulation (Creswell, 1998).  Merriam (1998) defines triangulation as "using multiple investigators, multiple sources of data, or multiple methods to confirm the emerging findings" (p. 204).  I employed methodological triangulation (Creswell & Miller, 2000) since I collected three forms of data: observations, interviews, and documents.  I also employed multiple sources of data since interviews were conducted with several participants (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  I used the process of triangulation to seek convergence in the data and to confirm or disconfirm emerging categories and themes (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  As part of this process, I employed another validity strategy, disconfirming evidence (Creswell &  Miller, 2000).  Categories or themes that emerged in the within-case analysis were compared across cases.  If a category did not hold true across cases, it was generally deemed to be unreliable.  However, I did utilize what Creswell (1998) calls direct interpretation.  In direct interpretation, "the case study researcher looks at a single instance and draws meaning from it without looking for multiple instances" (p. 154).  I did recognize that there were single incidents specific to only one case that were significant to the study as well. 

Since this case study focused on the study of process, my perceptions were an integral component of the research.  However, since I did write interpretations of what I considered to be the perceptions of others, I used member checking to ensure accurate portrayal (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  I conducted member checking toward the end of the study so that it would not potentially disrupt the collaborative process.  I shared an outline of findings with Lisa Brown with the Coalition and also John Brewer and Maria Swenson in my small town and allowed them the opportunity to provide feedback.  Lisa Brown responded to the findings through email and said, "Thanks for sharing [these findings].  I feel it is accurate, and that it was a learning experience for all of us."  Maria Swenson also responded to the findings that I shared with she and John.  She said, "I looked at [the findings] and it sounds good.  I agree with all said."  John also said that he thought that the findings looked good. 

Finally, I used the validity procedure of thick description when writing about the study in order to give the reader a sense of being there and to capture the essence of the experience (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  This is an important feature in case study design that is presented to the reader through the case description.  The case description for each contrasting case is included in chapters four and five.  


Another method of creditability I used continuously throughout the research process was researcher reflexivity (Creswell & Miller, 2000).  I incorporated researcher reflexivity by constantly questioning my assumptions about what I thought was happening.  I sought to maintain a heightened sense of awareness of the biases that I brought to the study and maintained this awareness when adding contextual data to field notes, observations transcriptions, and interview transcriptions, and also when writing journal entries. 

Since my perceptions of the research process played a major part in the findings of the study, it was important that I attend to the idea of subjectivity.  Peshkin (1988), defines subjectivity as "the quality of the investigator that affects the results of observational investigation" (p. 17).  Peshkin (1988) points out that an individual's subjectivity is not something that can be removed, and it is therefore something researchers need to be aware of throughout the research process.  Peshkin (1988) identified the various facets of his subjectivities through a series of I's, for example, the "justice-seeking I" (p. 18) and "the community-maintenance I" (p. 18).  Though Peshkin does not view subjectivity as necessarily negative, he does feel it is something that researchers need to realize and acknowledge.  It was important to examine my own subjectivities throughout the research process so that I was aware of how these subjectivities could influence my interpretations and portrayal of events.  As Strand (2000) points out, "the researcher's values, experiences, and personal points of view are as much a part of the research process as those of the people studied, and they should be discussed and acknowledged" (p. 91). 

Since the two CBR projects I worked on were in different settings and related to different types of work, I dealt with different subjectivities within each case study.  In my work with the Coalition for Schools many of the subjectivities that I brought to that collaboration arose from my past experience as a classroom teacher.  I hold the perception that people who do not have experience in a K-12 classroom do not generally understand the issues that classroom teachers have to address.  I can be defensive and overly sensitive to criticism that I feel puts the blame on teachers.  There were many times during my partnership with the Coalition that I realized this subjectivity was influencing my reactions to statements made by Lisa Brown or Marge Bowline.  I also think that this perception at times clouded my view of the knowledge that Lisa brought to the equation.  Though I felt that she was very knowledgeable in certain areas, I questioned her understanding of what was actually happening in the schools that are part of the Coalition.  I tried to be aware of my bias in this area, though I do not believe I was always successful in controlling how this bias influenced my work with Lisa. 

Another bias that I brought to my work with the Coalition was the idea that a successful partnership should not have conflict.  I tend to avoid conflict in my personal life.  I have difficulty at times recognizing the benefits that conflict can bring.  Because of this, I did not communicate as effectively with Lisa as I could have.  If had been more willing to risk conflict, we may have been able to develop a more productive working relationship.  When I began my work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, I determined that I would not avoid conflict in this collaboration.  When a situation did arise where John and I disagreed, I engaged him, and we talked through the matter.  The outcome was that we both were able to see the value of the other's viewpoint. 

Though I was able to address the issue of conflict avoidance in my work in John Brewer and Maria Swenson, there were other subjectivities and biases of which I had to be aware.  I am liable to have the perception that small towns tend to discriminate against minorities.  Since all of the projects that I completed with John and Maria involved the immigrant population in town, I felt at times that I was waiting for someone to say something that would demonstrate their prejudice.  At times, I would jump to the conclusion that a particular statement was pejorative.  When looking back again at the statement in the context of the full conversation, I realized at times that I may have misinterpreted particular statements.  I had to make a concerted effort not to single out statements just because they supported my bias.  Nevertheless, this subjectivity did influence whom I chose to partner with during this case study.  I had originally planned to include Maria's supervisor, Jennifer Payton, in our collaboration.  However, after meeting with Jennifer in October 2003, I decided not to collaborate with her since she made several comments during the meeting that I perceived to be pejorative.  If I had decided to work with Jennifer, I may have found that these comments did not represent discrimination but rather a lack of understanding of the impact of language choices. 

Two other subjectivities that I brought into my work on both projects related to my experience with previous CBR projects.  As I was involved in another community-based research project before working on my dissertation, I already had an initial perception of how the process works.  One concern that arose during my previous experience was the issue of communicating with my community partner.  I had difficulty developing a research question because the conversations that I shared with my community partner seemed circuitous.  We talked around questions during several meetings before I was finally able to gain a sense of what she was hoping to achieve from the research.  Though these past experiences with community-based research helped me to anticipate some of the issues that arose, I tried to make sure that the anticipation of issues did not create issues. 

When entering into CBR projects, it is important to me that I am doing work that I view as meaningful.  Work that is meaningful to me would be research that allows me to consistently interact with members of the community on a personal level.  However, I tried to maintain the awareness that the research that I wished to pursue was not necessarily the research that the people I was collaborating with wished to pursue.  I continued to remind myself that these discrepancies should not interfere with the development of a research design that was beneficial to my community partner and had the potential to bring about effective change.  Since change is the goal of community-based research, I needed to be sure that the change I was assisting to create was the change that the community partner was seeking to make rather than the change that I would have liked to pursue. 

Finally, when a researcher carries out a qualitative study, it is also important to attend to the subjectivities that the researcher brings based on gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  I feel at times that I lack self-awareness of how these orientations impact the way that I view the world.  Though I tried to be conscious of these factors while doing my research, I am not sure that I was successful in completely exploring how these subjectivities may have influenced my research.  I do feel, however, that my status was an issue in the work that I conducted with the Coalition for Schools.  My status in relation to my age (under 40) and my position as a graduate student influenced how my community partners at the Coalition viewed my role, and my socioeconomic background impacted the level of confidence that I felt when working with members of the Coalition.  I come from a working class background while my community partners at the Coalition come from backgrounds of higher status both in relation to levels of education and socioeconomic status.  At times, I did feel out of place moving through the world of the Coalition in that I often felt that I was from a lower class than many of the people with which I came into contact.  I felt most comfortable when interacting with teachers or parents. 

In order to minimize the impact of my subjectivities, I closely monitored my feelings as I carried out my research.  I looked for situations where I felt uncomfortable or that I wanted to avoid as well as situations where I felt comfortable and that I wanted to continue.  When these feelings arose, I realized that I was usually being influenced by subjectivity (Glesne, 1999; Peshkin, 1988).  I analyzed my feelings and considered how they related to my subjectivities, then took note of these occurrences in my journal (Peshkin, 1988).  Throughout the research process, I was mindful of previously identified subjectivities.  I also tried to be aware of newly emerging subjectivities that I may not have considered (Peshkin, 1988) that would potentially influence my research. 

Limitations of This Study

This study seeks to compare two cases of conducting community-based research.  However, there are differences between the two experiences that may have impacted the findings of the study.  In my work with the Coalition, I was a paid employee.  Though I was hired with the understanding that I would be a collaborative researcher, I believe my position as an employee impacted how Marge Bowline and Lisa Brown viewed my role, and it also impacted my reactions to various situations.  The fact that I was an employee in the first case study when collaborating with the Coalition but in the second case study I was independent, may have created some of the differences that were apparent in the two cases. 

Another limitation of this study is that it primarily focuses on the researcher's experience of this process.  Though I did interview my community partners, the number of interviews in the first case study was more limited.  If I had conducted additional interviews throughout the first case study, I might have additional information to support or contradict some of my observations.  However, the purpose of this study is to provide insight into this process for practitioners in the field of community-based research, thus it is beneficial to explore the researcher's perspective of these two experiences. 

The final limitation of this study relates to the timeline of the completion of the study.  Since I only recently finalized data collection in relation to my work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, I am not really able to make an assessment at this point as to whether any of the work we completed will affect change.  My work with the Coalition was completed almost a year ago so it easier to assess the impact of that work.  However, even with the first case study, there is a possibility that some of the work that I completed could eventually lead to change.  If I were to conduct a long-term case study in relation to either of these collaborations, it would be more feasible to assess the impact of our work. 


This chapter provided an overview to the case study methods that were used to conduct this study.  I detailed a rationale for choosing this method, then described data collection, analysis, and procedures in relation to validity.  Since this is a process study of the methodology of CBR, I also described the foundations of this methodology.  The next three chapters will present the findings of this study.  Chapters four and five provide a synopsis of the within-case analysis of each of the contrasting cases.  I begin each chapter with a chronological overview of the major events of the case and then present within-case analysis organized around the four concepts of my analytic framework.  In chapter six, I present the findings from the cross-case analysis that address the sub-questions of the study and identify the "naturalistic generalizations" (Creswell, 1998, p. 154) that emerged from the study with recommendations for further research. 

Chapter 4: The Coalition for Schools

In order to develop an understanding of the process of conducting community-based research, this chapter provides a chronological overview of my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools.  This overview details the main events that occurred during the collaboration and includes a description of the research that was conducted.  Following the overview is the within-case analysis of this particular case structured around the four themes of my analytic framework. 

Case Description

The library at East Middle School became crowded as more and more parents packed into the room.  Looking around there must have been at least 70 to 90 parents, most of them Latino and some African-American.  There was palpable energy and excitement as the meeting began.  At the front of the room was a table with people who worked in various social service and governmental agencies in the city, including: the principal of East, the city council woman for that district, a representative from the police department, and the director of security for the school district.  A parent came up to the microphone and began speaking in Spanish.  A translator interpreted her comments.  The parent stated that the parents of East students were concerned about safety at the school.  She asked, "When can we receive a copy of the safety plan for East?"  The principal responded that the school had created a discipline committee to address staff and student expectations and school rules, and they would work to develop a plan.  Another parent came to the microphone, an African American woman.  She stated that parents would like to have a monthly incident report that measures school safety and that parents would like to meet with the principal each month to discuss safety and discipline.  The principal agreed.  Another Spanish speaking parent then came up and addressed various people at the table.  Each person was asked what he or she would do to help the situation.  When the head of security for the school district responded that he would try to have more security coverage at East in the mornings and in the afternoon, the woman responded, "Is that a yes or no to our question?"  As each member at the table agreed to various support endeavors, the parent at the microphone would reply, "We will hold you accountable for your promises."

I was excited as I left this meeting on December 5, 2002.  I had been working with the Coalition for Schools for two weeks, and the organization that had set up this meeting at East, Parents Supporting Education (PSE), was one of the member organizations of the Coalition.  I was energized about working with an organization that had grassroots connections like PSE.  Though I had been feeling some uncertainty about my decision to work with the Coalition, the meeting at East put some of my unease to rest.  

The Coalition for Schools was created in the fall of 2001.  According to interviews with Coalition members, the initial mission of the organization was to align the efforts and funding streams of organizations that were working in that area of the city in order to support the feeder pattern that flows into the three small high schools in that quadrant.  This includes five elementary schools, two middle schools, and the three small high schools housed on one campus.  Todd Jones, the executive director of a local foundation, was the initial leader of the movement and promised substantial funding from his foundation.  However, as the Coalition continued to take shape in the spring of 2002, the school district started to promote its own plans to support improved academic achievement, including a literacy plan developed by a local literacy specialist.  Business and Schools United (BSU) decided to support this initiative, but Todd Jones and other significant funders felt that the school district did not want the Coalition to have their own agenda.  At this point, Mr. Jones withdrew the majority of the financial support for the Coalition.  Lisa Brown was hired during this transition period and led the process of redefining the Coalition based on its reduced funding.

After the foundation withdrew its support for the Coalition, BSU became the lead organization of the Coalition, and the Coalition for Schools is housed within BSU.  Based on interviews that I conducted with teachers, principals, parents, and Coalition members as part of my CBR work with the Coalition, I found that most people recognized the close association between the two organizations.  BSU is an association with members from education, business, and the community that serves over 100 schools and is nationally known for its work and publications in the field of literacy. 

Lisa Brown has a Master of Divinity degree from an ivy-league university.  She lives in the area of the city that is supported by the Coalition, and her two children attend schools in the school district.  Marge Bowline is the president of BSU and also the co-chair of the Coalition.  The other co-chair is Rosanna Ibanez.  Rosanna has strong ties to the community in that part of the city; however, I did not work closely with Rosanna in my work with the Coalition.

There were also two professors that played an important role in my collaboration with the Coalition for Schools.  My advisor, Dr. Graham Darby, is the professor who is in charge of community-based research at my university.  I became involved in this work after taking a course with Dr. Darby in the first year of my doctoral program.  Dr. Don Green works closely with Dr. Darby in assisting with CBR projects at the university.  He teaches courses in CBR and also works with a foundation that supports reform initiatives in schools in the city.  I had worked with both Dr. Darby and Dr. Green on previous CBR projects before starting my work with the Coalition.

When I began my work with the Coalition, the Coalition had developed two goals and six areas of reform.  The two goals include: 1) improvement of academic performance in literacy and math, and 2) community ownership of the success of students and the schools.  In order to achieve these goals, the Coalition has six reform areas on which to focus.  The reform areas include: 1) teacher recruitment and retention, 2) teacher professional development, 3) principal leadership, 4) curriculum and assessment, 5) community and parent involvement, and 6) early childhood education.  The governing body of the organization is the executive committee which is comprised of a small group representing various organizations and perspectives within the Coalition.  In my experience working with the Coalition, most decisions were made by Marge Bowline and Lisa Brown with consideration of the input from the executive committee. 

The Coalition has also created various action teams that are devoted to particular issues or areas of interest, including early childhood education and after-school programming.  There are many members of the Coalition general assembly that attend the open invitation general assembly meetings.  These include non-profit organizations, foundations, parent organizations, universities and colleges, and the school district.  Thus, the structure of the Coalition is complex.  Several of the individuals I interviewed during my work with the Coalition expressed confusion over the structure of the Coalition and the decision making process.  One attendee of the general assembly meeting in January, 2003 stated on the evaluation form, "It would be helpful to have a visual aid-an understanding of how all groups are related and who is in charge of what." 

In the fall of 2002, I was originally working with a principal, in one of the middle schools in the Coalition, to carry out CBR work that I would study for my dissertation.  When the principal was removed from her position in October, I had to find another site to complete my dissertation research.  I wanted to work with a school or with an organization that worked in the field of education.  I was considering several possibilities when Dr. Don Green brought up the possibility of working with the Coalition.  He had met with Marge Bowline and she had asked for his help in using data to forward the work of the Coalition.  Since Don was currently committed to other projects, he asked if I would be interested in working with the Coalition.  I jumped at the chance.  I was familiar with BSU and some of the work they had done around the city, and I was excited about the possibility of working with such a reputable organization. 

Don met with Marge to discuss my involvement, and we decided to set up a meeting.  Don sent an email on October 24, 2002 and requested that we all meet, but because of Marge's busy schedule, we were not able to set up the meeting until November 21.  I was concerned that if I met with Marge and Lisa and things did not work out, it would be difficult to find a school to work with that far into the school year.  Don sent Marge an email detailing his role and my role in the process and essentially asked her to commit to the project before we met; she agreed. 

On November 21, 2002, Dr. Green, Dr. Darby, and I went to the BSU offices close to downtown to meet with Lisa and Marge.  I was apprehensive as we walked into the old red brick building.  I had heard so many good things about BSU that I was feeling a little intimidated.  Marge and Lisa met with us in the conference room.  My advisor, Graham, and I talked about community-based research and the needs of my dissertation.  Lisa and Marge both said they understood what I would be doing and felt comfortable participating.  Then Marge discussed what they were needing in relation to the work that I would conduct with them.  She said, "We need data on what is happening in the schools in [this part of the city] to provide a current picture so that we know what is getting better and what is not."  She also discussed the idea of what she called community indicators.  She wanted to select a group of indicators that are of particular interest to the community and provide regular reports of these data to the community so that the community would begin to push for change.  Since this was a large project, they wanted to hire a data person who would work part-time.  I agreed to devote around 16 hours a week to them (no more than 20 hours) and in return I would be compensated. 

After we left the meeting, I felt a little unsure about what had happened.  Though Marge did have the option to say that she did not want to hire me, I felt like they were sort of cornered into accepting me for the position.  I was also unsure of whether or not I could provide the work they wanted me to provide.  Though I was not completely clear as to what my work with them would entail, it already seemed daunting.  I asked Graham and Don as we left, "Do you think I can do this?"  They both assured me that they had confidence that I could do the work.  The next couple of weeks involved a flurry of meetings.  I attended the Coalition executive committee meeting the next morning, a meeting with Lisa on November 25, a meeting with one of the member organizations of the Coalition who was working with the three high schools, and finally the parent's meeting sponsored by PSE at East Middle School on December 5.  This fast pace was simultaneously exciting and overwhelming.

When I met with Lisa on November 25, she discussed some of the work that Coalition members were carrying out in the schools in that part of the city.  She asked me, "Will it be possible to measure the impact the [Coalition] is having?," realizing that the work of member organizations may not be attributable to the Coalition.  She asked me to look at some data they had that had been collected by a previous venture of BSU that had been unsuccessful as well as a power-point presentation put together by the Education Trust that illustrated what they were wanting as an end product.  I looked through the information and did not really know what to make of it.  There were reports produced by the Rand Corporation, Education Trust, and a data team working with the previous initiative.  I began to wonder if they expected me to be able to produce work that a team of people working full-time would create.  I felt overwhelmed and did not know where to start. 

In the initial stages of CBR work, the researcher usually works closely with the community partner to determine the research question for the project (Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, & Donohue, 2003a).  In my previous experiences conducting CBR, some of this initial exploration of issues and questions had already been done by the professor of the course.  I made the mistake of not realizing how important it was to focus on this first stage before continuing on with data collection.  The reform areas of the Coalition were so comprehensive that I did not know where to focus.  In previous experiences when I have felt overwhelmed, my instinct is to jump in and get started and then things typically fall into place.  This time I decided to do the same.  Instead of pushing for discourse around the data, I started to pull together a list of data that were easily accessible and that might have some relevance for each of the reform areas, as well as additional data that could be collected to inform the Coalition about a particular strategy area.  Based on the information Lisa had directed me to from the previous initiative and information I found on the web through the school district, a foundation, and the state department of education, I developed a list that I titled "Data Points for [the Coalition for Schools]."  This list included demographic data for each school, assessment data, and a number of other measures such as average attendance, dropout rates, teacher data, and other information.  I also included more time intensive data, both quantitative and qualitative, that the Coalition might decide to pursue (see Appendix C).  I saw the list as a starting for a discussion of possible ideas for data collection.  Instead, what I did not realize was that the focus of my work would become collecting and putting together the accessible statistical data that were on the list.   

When I met with Lisa and Marge on December 6, 2002, and showed them the list, Marge said, "You've already earned your keep with this."  She was obviously pleased.  Instead of selecting items from the list that they thought would be useful to pursue, they instead added items to the list.  Marge asked me to collect the available statistical data and put them together on spreadsheets that they could give out, along with the list of data points, at the executive committee meeting on December 17.  Marge again broached the idea of community indicators and thought that some of the data from the list could be used for this.  She thought it would be interesting to select a few indicators for which we could collect data each month to distribute to the community, as well as indicators that would be reported yearly.  She asked if I could develop a list of potential monthly indicators for the general assembly meeting in December and also put together some data to present.  Marge thought it would be compelling if we compared data from the Coalition schools to another higher performing feeder pattern in the school district.  So, not only would I be putting together statistical data for the 10 schools in the Coalition but also at least three additional comparison schools, and I had less than 10 days to do it.  As I left the meeting, I was concerned that the list of data was now longer and that it already seemed insurmountable to collect all the data. 

On December 16, 2002, the payroll administrator for BSU asked me to email her my hours early since she wanted to get things done before she left for Christmas break.  In that one week, I had worked 33 hours trying to complete the spreadsheets of data for the executive committee meeting.  I had planned to put in only a few hours the following week because of other commitments, so I thought I would still only end up with 35 or 36 hours for the two weeks.  Since I had to turn in the hours early, I sent an email to Lisa and the payroll person explaining that those were the hours for essentially two weeks of work and that it should even out since I would not be working many hours in the coming week.  Lisa emailed back expressing concern over that fact that I had worked more than my allotted hours.  Though I thought my approach was reasonable based on the cumulative hours for two weeks of work, Lisa did not agree.  I was surprised by her reaction and felt frustrated since I had essentially gone without much sleep for a week in order to put together the information they had asked me to complete.  I was led to believe we were going to talk about some of the data at the executive committee meeting, but the committee did not look at the data.  I realized at that point, that my role within the organization was that of an employee. 

During the two-month period from mid-December to mid-February, Dr. Green kept pushing for Lisa and Marge to have some conversations around defining the reform areas and selecting data around these defined goals.  He was concerned that I was collecting data without having a vision that provided meaning for the data.  In meetings and through email he pushed for this discussion, but I do not believe Marge and Lisa understood what he was wanting.  In several meetings I also tried to make this happen, but I had did not have the power or confidence to bring about this kind of conversation.  My relationship with Lisa began to deteriorate, and I began to realize, when I was not included as part of the agenda at the executive committee meeting on December 17, 2002, and at the Coalition general assembly meeting on January 15, 2003, that I would not be allowed access to members of the Coalition to discuss data related issues.  Also, I did not feel confident in asking for this access. 

Lisa began emailing me work lists which directed me toward data they wanted collected, sometimes within one day (e.g. find out how many books each school library has).  There was no discussion around the purpose of the data or whether they would tie into any overall plan.  In emails and meetings with Lisa, I felt that my abilities and work ethic were constantly questioned and that my input was not valued.  I did not share these feelings with Lisa, so it is very likely that she was not aware of this.  My work with the Coalition became primarily about trying to complete the spreadsheets of data (see Appendix C) and collecting various discrete pieces of information that Lisa wanted.  In several meetings I was asked to pursue unrealistic projects that would have required a full-time effort for a period of years, and even then I would have only been able to complete the project for one or maybe two schools.  After attempting to rectify the situation and having no success in trying to improve the process, I decided on February 15, 2003 that I wanted to terminate my participation. 

I told my advisor, Graham, and Don that weekend that I wanted to end my work with the Coalition and we met on Monday, February 18 to discuss the situation.  Don felt that I should continue my work with the Coalition and that he and Graham could reposition my role so that I would have more power over decisions made around data and also be able to gain access to other members of the Coalition.  We would justify this change in roles based on the needs of CBR and the needs of my dissertation.  I reluctantly agreed to continue.  Don sent Marge an email on February 21, 2003 stating that Graham had some concerns in relation to my dissertation.  He stated, "Essentially, he'd like to see Barri design an evaluation plan (in collaboration with [BSU] and other stakeholders, of course) and collect data from [Coalition] stakeholders related to the strategies we talked about in December."  Marge emailed back and agreed to meet. 

When we met at the BSU office on March 4, 2003, the first thing Lisa asked was if I had my work plan.  When I said no, she went back to her computer and printed off an email I had sent with a list of projects I was currently working on and made copies for everyone.  As we progressed through the meeting, Lisa was silent as Marge talked.  Don talked about Graham's expectations for my research and the idea that I would develop an evaluation plan.  He said that the goal would be that my work would shift from a focus on data collection to a focus on design.  Marge's response was that this sounded like "a gift versus an imposition."  She said they needed an evaluation plan to measure progress and asked, "Why didn't you tell us earlier?"  We discussed what the Coalition needed and what the plan would look like.  Don said that we were looking at a consulting model for the data plan and final report, and that we would submit a proposal for the research.  Marge agreed.  At the end of the meeting Lisa asked, "What about these?," referring to my work plan.  I said I would continue to work on the list until I had completed all of those projects.   

From that point forward, my role was supposed to change from that of an employee to that of a participant.  The research proposal included four things: a review of literature on best practices in urban education, a report analyzing the statistical data that I had already collected, an evaluation of what was currently happening with the Coalition based on interviews with various stakeholders, and an evaluation plan to measure the work of the Coalition in the long term.  The review of literature was something they had asked me to do in a previous meeting.  When I completed it, and it was finally reviewed almost a month later, Lisa sent an email to Don on April 4, 2003 critiquing the work and detailing revisions I should make based on recommendations from BSU staff.  After making extensive revisions, I was happy to see a copy of the review on the table of materials at the Coalition general assembly meeting on June 6.  However, I was frustrated to find that it was the first version of the review, not the final draft with the recommended revisions from BSU staff. 

I was reluctant to begin any of the other three areas of the research proposal until the plan was approved.  I sent Marge and Lisa my proposal on March 21, 2003, and it was approved on April 14.  When the proposal was approved on April 14, I began working on the three additional pieces.  I particularly enjoyed the third piece of the proposal that allowed me to interact with teachers, parents, principals, and other members of the executive committee and Coalition general assembly.  I put together a report for the Coalition that described the ways in which the Coalition had already yielded results and suggestions from stakeholders as to how the Coalition could best support their efforts.  I felt like I had provided the Coalition with some useful information.  However, after I sent the report to Lisa and Marge, I never received any feedback in relation to that third report. 

In my effort to change my role, I became excluded from the workings of Coalition.  I was not invited to the executive committee meeting at end of April 2004, where an important discussion occurred in relation to the community indicators.  A principal and the area superintendent for the Coalition schools expressed concern over what they perceived as negative data about the schools being distributed on a monthly basis.  This conversation essentially ended the pursuit of the monthly indicators in which I had invested a considerable amount of time.  As I completed each piece of my research proposal, I continued to receive what I perceived to be negative feedback from Lisa.  I finally fulfilled my commitment to the Coalition when I sent them the long-term evaluation plan on July 15. 

When I contacted Lisa for a follow-up interview almost a year later, when asked if she had any additional comments she said, "Barri did a fine job for us. We have a very broad project and she could have delved into any one of a multitude of statistical arenas regarding high needs, urban, minority, etc. Instead, Barri stuck with the 'Bigger Picture' and brought us some reliable information about all of our subject areas."  I was perplexed.  Had all of the tension and turmoil I experienced during my work with the Coalition been a misunderstanding?  Was Lisa really happy with my work and just did not express it?  What I felt was more likely was that Lisa's subsequent experience with two additional data strategists that were hired after me helped her to realize some of the complexities involved in the research process. When I shared an outline of findings with her, she responded, "Thanks for sharing [these findings].  I feel it is accurate, and that it was a learning experience for all of us and that the experience I had working with you has made life more bearable for our new, full-time data person."  Though it was nice to receive some belated, positive feedback, in the end, I viewed this process of working with the Coalition as one of the more difficult work experiences of my life.

Though this was a difficult experience for me, I did learn several things about myself during this process.  First of all, I learned that when I feel that I am in the role of an employee, I feel that I have less power as a researcher.  Though I do not think that I was trying to force my own agenda on Lisa and Marge, I do feel that I have some expertise to offer that can be useful.  As an employee I felt less confident in sharing this expertise, and I think this lack of confidence impacted Marge and Lisa's view of my expertise.  My status as a graduate student and my socioeconomic background also undermined my confidence in this situation.  I often felt out of place in meetings with Marge and Lisa because they came from different backgrounds than myself.  My lack of confidence, as well as my dislike for conflict, made it difficult for me to speak up about concerns that I had, and it is very likely that Marge and Lisa were not aware of the negative feelings I experienced during this process. 

Within-Case Analysis

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


One of the questions I continued to ask myself as I worked with the Coalition was whether or not I was truly working with the community.  The Coalition would be what Strand et al. (2003a) describe as a mid-level organization and my work with them could be depicted as "doing CBR in the middle" (p. 73).  Though there were grassroots organizations that were part of the Coalition, I did not have access to these organizations as part of my collaboration with the Coalition.  Strand et al. (2003a) point out that doing CBR with a mid-level organization can still be beneficial if the organization demonstrates a "real commitment to their constituent communities.  One indicator of this commitment is that they make ongoing and concerted efforts to be community based" (p. 74).  I often felt confused as to whether the Coalition was really interested in receiving community input.  At times, they made decisions that appeared to seek community input.  For example, at the first executive committee meeting that I attended on November 22, 2002, Lisa said that there were at least two vacancies on the executive committee and they were looking for more grassroots people to involve in the Coalition.  Lisa asked for suggestions from the committee.  She also suggested that they include some teachers on the team. 

Another example that demonstrates that the Coalition actively sought community input was the use of a small grant that they received.  One of the executive committee members, a professor from a local university, wrote a grant for the Coalition that was funded.  In the executive committee planning meeting held on February 3, 2003, the committee decided, based on Lisa's suggestion, to devote the grant money to creating a community team that would help define the work of the Coalition in relation to the community.  This team was made up of teachers, principals, grassroots community people, and university professors. 

Though these examples demonstrate that the Coalition sought out community input, at times I felt that I had to push for this input.  One important example relates to the monthly community indicators that Marge wanted to pursue.  In a meeting with Lisa, Marge, and Rosanna Ibanez (the other co-chair of the Coalition) on December 12, 2002, we discussed the idea of monthly community indicators.  I suggested that we should get input from parents as to which of the data points they would be interested in seeing on a monthly basis.  Rosanna wholeheartedly agreed and Lisa and Marge concurred.  I contacted a representative of Parents Supporting Education (PSE) and gave her a potential list to share with parents.  At the Coalition general assembly meeting on January 15, 2003, Marge decided we should get input from Coalition members on the monthly community indicators.  I created a list and asked general assembly members to choose four items.  After receiving feedback from PSE and tallying the responses from the Coalition meeting, I sent Lisa an email on January 21 detailing the community indicators that parents and the Coalition members had chosen.  I talked through some of the choices based on what I thought each indicator could tell us.  I also recommended that we get input from teachers and principals on the indicators. 

When I met with Lisa on January 24, 2003, we discussed the community indicators and looked at the input from parents and the Coalition members.  There were two common indicators that both had chosen: discipline incidents and attendance.  For the third choice, I suggested trying to collect data on homework completion since it was one of the four indicators that parents selected and was fifth on the list of the Coalition members.  However, Lisa and I agreed that the data collection for this indicator would be more difficult to pursue.  Lisa decided to go with the Coalition general assembly's third choice: number of parent volunteers.  I suggested again that we get input from teachers and principals. 

At the executive committee planning meeting on February 3, 2003, the various members of the committee were divided into groups based on the six reform areas in order to develop some long term plans within each reform area.  The group that focused on completing the planning tool chart for the community strategy area was given the sheet where I had talked through some of the choices for indicators.  Lisa had added that she recommended the number of parent volunteers as the third indicator.  The representative from PSE that was in the group saw that third choice as biased against parents.  However, Lisa felt that this indicator could be seen not just as a way to criticize parents, but also as a way to emphasize the importance of parent volunteerism. 

I began working with the school district assessment office to set up monthly data collection for the indicators.  We were working toward a plan when I received an email from my contact in the assessment office stating, "I spoke with [the area superintendent] this morning and she asked that you contact her directly with your data request."  I let Lisa know, and she said she would talk with the area superintendent.  At the executive committee meeting in April, 2003, which I was not invited to attend, the area superintendent and one of the elementary principals reacted strongly to the idea of the monthly indicators.  When I interviewed the elementary principal later on May 15, she said,

I have a huge problem with [the community indicators] and I'm going to tell you why.  First of all, the [Coalition] is not doing anything that directly impacts that information.  They're not doing anything that impacts our discipline, they're not doing anything that impacts our attendance right now, or our achievement...So when I saw the mockup...all I saw was another way to hammer our schools...I just thought, why do we need again to highlight the things that we're working so hard to improve and all you would do when you looked at that data would either pit school against school or, 'Well, you see we told you these schools were bad schools.'  And honestly, we're killing ourselves to do all the things we need to do.

Since these data could not be collected without the support of the school district, the Coalition had to drop the idea.  I could not help feeling that if teachers and principals had been involved in the discussion from the beginning, we could have negotiated a compromise that would have worked for everyone. 

The fact that parents and teachers were not part of the communication loop of the Coalition was apparent in the interviews I conducted as part of my evaluation of what was currently happening with the Coalition.  In interviews with teachers and parents, most expressed that they had not heard of the Coalition, and those who had did not know what the organization was or what it did. They all said they wanted to know more about the Coalition.  One teacher at one of the high schools said,

Well one I thing is maybe to come and talk to the whole faculty...just let people know you exist.  I certainly know the [Coalition for Schools] exists and I have never been real clear on what all the relationships are with [BSU] and [PSE] and everything.  Who are you?  What do you do?  What do you have to offer?

One of the teachers at one of the elementary schools stated, "We need to see you here too.  What you did this morning has helped a lot as far as my understanding of what you're doing."  The evaluation report that I wrote recommended that the Coalition send representatives out into the schools and to meet with parents.  I do not know if they followed this advice; however, when Lisa was asked in the follow-up interview what the Coalition had gained through my work with them, she did not mention any changes that came about through this report.  Though I understand that the logistical issues of trying to communicate with teachers and parents would be demanding, I do think that this additional communication would bring additional support for the work of the Coalition.


In the context of my analytic framework, I define collaboration as shared decision making (Marlow & Nass-Fukai, 2000).  The potential for effective collaboration is based on the ability to develop relationships between researchers and community partners (Stoecker, 2002a).  This relationship is impacted by communication, trust, and dynamics around power.  When I first began my work with the Coalition, I did think that they wanted to collaborate with me.  In my initial meetings with Marge and Lisa, they seemed receptive to my input, and I did have some say as to decisions that were made in relation to data.  However, as my work with the Coalition progressed, Marge and Lisa made all of the decisions relating to our work together.  When my role was repositioned to that of a consultant, I gained greater decision making power, but there was no longer any sort of collaborative relationship. 


According to Strand et al. (2003a), "In the context of CBR, with its commitment to collaboration, shared power means that campus and community partners participate fully in shaping decisions about their work together" (p. 32).  Most of the articles that have been written about power relationships within CBR partnerships usually focus on the concern of the researcher having too much power (Reback, 2002; Wallerstein,1999).  However, in my position the situation was reversed.  I do not see myself as a person who is generally interested in power.  I feel that I am able to concede power, and I do so willingly when I feel it will be productive toward particular goals.  However, in my work with the Coalition, I had no power to concede because I was not allowed any power in the relationship.  I think a major part of this dynamic was created by the fact that I was being paid by the Coalition.  Though I initially thought that this would not interfere in my work with them, it created a situation where I felt I did not have the power to contradict Marge and Lisa. 

Though Graham and I discussed community-based research in our initial meeting with Marge and Lisa, and I provided them with a summary of my dissertation research which included a definition of CBR, I do not think we clearly defined my role in relation to the work that I would do with them.  According to Verbeke and Richards (2001):

Specifying the roles and responsibilities of participants and their institutions can facilitate the process and enhance its outcomes.  Participants should negotiate in advance to decide who does what.  This reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings along the way based on varying impressions of how things were meant to be done.  Clarification of roles and responsibilities reduces the risk of recrimination.  It also reduces the potential for power struggles.  It forces the participants to focus on the desired outcomes and the means through which the outcomes will be achieved (Roles section, para. 1).

The fact that we did not clarify my roles and responsibilities within the organization meant that I ended up being viewed as an employee.  This was reflected in Lisa's references to my "work plan" or "work list."  This did not happen immediately but became more pronounced as our relationship continued to deteriorate. 

On February 6, 2003, Lisa sent me an email with a "work list" asking me to collect various pieces of discrete data that were not tied to the list of data points, nor to anything else we had discussed.  For example, she asked me to call all the libraries in the Coalition schools and find out how many books they had and what their circulation was.  She also asked me to call other better resourced schools in the district for comparison.  She said she was thinking about writing a grant and this information would be useful.  At this point, I realized that there was no longer going to be any discussion around the strategies and goals and how to connect data with the strategies.  My role was now that of an employee who was hired to collect data.  On February 10, Lisa sent another email adding to my work list.  She asked me to contact a professor at a local university and ask her for a report she had completed on early childhood education.  Though I realized that this information could be beneficial to the Coalition, I felt that collecting this type of information did not require any expertise and I thought I could be more useful to the work of the organization in other ways. 

This approach continued after Don sent an email to Marge and Lisa on February 21, 2003, expressing concerns over my dissertation and the kind of work they would like to see me do.  Lisa sent me an email that afternoon stating that she would still like me to "make a listing of all the things we talked about as part of your work for the near future...I really want to be clear about what we talked about so we can incorporate that in the Tuesday planning session."  I replied to the email with the work list that I was currently working on.  In the meeting with Marge, Lisa, and Don on March 4, Lisa made a concerted effort to bring my work list into the discussion.  I do not think that Lisa completely understood the role I was expecting to play in this research process, partially because we did not clearly define my role within the organization. 

As it came closer to the end of our collaboration, I became aware of a factor that may have added to these issues.  When I interviewed Lisa on June 11, 2003, in a discussion related to funding for the Coalition, she said, "We've got a list of funders, we've got an amount of money that we've raised, but a lot of our money comes from [a foundation] and it goes to [BSU].  And so [BSU] really has control over the budget of the [Coalition]."  As Lisa made this statement, it was obvious that this was a situation that caused frustration for her.  I realized at that point that she may have been feeling that she did not have the power that she wanted to have either.  Her title was director, but, in reality, her position was controlled by Marge Bowline.  I went back through all of my observation notes and realized that though Marge did seek input from Lisa, it was typically Marge who was making the decisions in the meetings that both of them attended.  Later in the interview when I asked Lisa about her views of the role of data in the work of the Coalition, she described data as "dangerous" and potentially alienating.  I questioned whether she really wanted to use data in any of the ways that Marge envisioned.  I finally understood that some of the problems I had encountered might relate to Lisa's position within the organization. 

I wondered if Lisa felt that she had been essentially coerced into working with me, since it was Marge's decision to bring me on board.  As Verbeke and Richards (2001) point out, it is difficult to have a successful collaboration if it is not a voluntary collaboration for all participants.  I asked Lisa in the follow-up interview if she felt that she had input into my hiring.  Her response was, "You were not hired in a competitive process, but were recommended by [Graham] and [Don]. I didn't see any 'red flags' when we met, and so we agreed to hire you."  In a way, I feel like she sidestepped the question.  She said, "We [italics added] agreed to hire you," but based on my observations of interactions between Lisa and Marge, Lisa did not disagree with Marge.  She was always supportive of whatever Marge proposed.  This may have been in part because Lisa was fairly new to her position, but at the time I was working with her, she did not contradict Marge.  Though I did not get the impression that Marge was a person who would not allow her employees to contradict her, I realized that Lisa, like me, may have felt less powerful in the role of an employee. 

I believe it is important in a CBR project that every participant feels that he or she has a share of power in order for the project to be deemed successful.  As stated by Christenson et al. (1996),

I have now come to understand collaboration as creating more power rather than sharing a quantity of power...Empowerment is not a zero sum game.  When a collaborative process works well, it empowers everyone and everyone benefits from the learning and accomplishments of the shared work and relationships (Marilyn Johnston section, para. 2). 

I think that in my work with Lisa we were both, in some ways, powerless.  This lack of power impacted our ability to form a trusting relationship, and it impacted the potential to conduct research in such a way that would empower us both. 


In reviewing twenty case studies of collaborative research, Nyden et al. (1997) found that trust was an important thread in all twenty case studies.  Trust was a quality that was lacking in my relationship with Lisa.  I did not trust her, and things that occurred in our interactions demonstrated that she did not trust me.  An issue that kept recurring during my time working with the Coalition illustrates this lack of trust. 

In early January 2003, I sent a list of potential community indicators to a parent representative from PSE to get feedback from parents.  For some reason, the PSE member emailed her response to a lady named Jane Peterson who works with an organization that is focusing on using data to support community-based work in various areas of the city.  Lisa regularly attends meetings with this organization, and the organization is a member of the Coalition.  When Jane forwarded the email on to the Coalition, Lisa emailed me and asked me if I was working for Jane.  I told her I was not.  When I met with Lisa two days later on January 22, 2003, she asked me again if I was working with Jane.  I told her again that I was not.  I said that I had attended one meeting the organization had in the summer of 2002 with Graham and Don in relation to some CBR work that I had completed with a team of graduate students.  She told me that she did want me to contact Jane, so I emailed Jane and sent her the list of data points detailing what we had collected and what we might collect.  I told Jane to let me know if she wanted any of the current data and copied the email to Lisa.  Jane emailed back and said she did not want any of it at that time. 

On February 6, 2003, Lisa emailed me and asked if I had contacted Jane.  Lisa stated, "I've already attended several meetings [with Jane's organization] and talked about getting this stuff together, and don't want to sound like a broken record at our next meeting."  I replied and told her that I had been in contact with Jane and had let her know the data that we had.  I stated that Jane had said she did not want any of it right now (I had copied this email to Lisa).  On February 14, Lisa emailed Jane to see if she wanted any of our data.  Jane responded with interest so Lisa forwarded the email to me and said,

Barri-before I respond to the email below from [Jane], I wanted to make sure I wasn't 'butting in' to your plans here.  I had to email [Jane] for another reason and I added the question: do you need any of our data?-since I wasn't really clear on what she had communicated to you.  Can you send [Jane] the data we have currently?  Sounds like she's interested. 

I did not mind sending Jane the data or the fact that Lisa had asked her if she wanted it.  However, I felt like she was implying that I had some sort of covert relationship with Jane's organization.  The fact that she questioned me twice as to whether I was working with the organization made me feel as if she thought that I was an untrustworthy person.   

Another issue relating to trust had to do with Lisa's trust in my work ethic.  I do not think I ever gave her any reason to doubt that I would not complete a project that I said I would pursue.  However, when Lisa asked me to collect certain pieces of data, she did not seem to trust that I would actually follow up on her request.  She would continue to ask if I had it yet and would set deadlines for when she wanted the data.  Some of the data I got from the school district were data that were accessible on the web.  If you want data that are not available on the web, you have to pursue it doggedly, which I did repeatedly for a number of different pieces of data.  An issue that was a problem the whole time I worked with the Coalition was getting teacher data (e.g. years of teaching experience, number of unlicensed teachers, number of teachers with advanced degrees) for the current (2002/2003) school year.  When I first started requesting these data in January 2003, the human resources office had not even completed the reports to pull together teacher data for that year.  On February 6, Lisa sent an email asking how the teacher data were coming along.  "Can we have that completed by next week?" she asked.  She did not seem to understand that no matter how many people I called or emailed, I could not control when they would decide to give me these data.  In every meeting that I had with Lisa after that she would ask me if I had the teacher data yet.  When the individual in the school district who was completing the reports finally finished, she contacted me and told me that she had passed my data request along to someone else.  I do not know why my request was passed along to another person, but it was frustrating to me that Lisa did not seem to believe that I was actually pursuing these data. 

Not only did Lisa not trust me, I did not trust her either.  In my interactions with her she often came across as disorganized.  This disorganization impacted me in that I was put in situations where I was often asked to collect data at the last minute and was not able to proceed in the slow and meticulous manner with which I usually collect and organize data.  At times, I was rushed to collect a piece of data that they wanted before an important meeting.  For example, Marge and Lisa asked me the day before the Coalition general assembly meeting on January 15, 2003, to put together some data in a spreadsheet that they wanted to hand out at the meeting.  I rushed through trying the find the data and hurriedly put together a spreadsheet before I went to work for my graduate assistantship that day.  I was frustrated at the meeting the next day when I saw that one of the spreadsheets I had rushed to finish the day before had an obvious mistake on it.  I felt Lisa's lack of organization had impacted my ability to produce quality work. 


If I had been comfortable enough with Lisa to communicate some of these frustrations to her, we could have addressed some of these issues.  According to Verbeke and Richards (2001), collaborators "must be willing to engage in honest discussion about difficult issues.  Differences of opinion must be expressed and settled amicably" (Communication section, para. 3).   However, we were never able to develop a strong enough relationship where I felt comfortable expressing a difference of opinion.  One factor that may have led to this disconnect in communication was the fact that a great deal of our communication was done through email.  Lisa viewed this as positive.  In the follow up interview conducted with Lisa, when asked what facilitated our collaboration, she stated, "We communicated a lot by email, which worked well given our heavy schedules."  The problem with email communication, as Merriam (1998) points out, is that "it lacks inflection, body language, and the many other nuances that often communicate more vividly than words."  This could have impacted the way that I interpreted some of the emails that Lisa sent to me.  Also, the fact that I did not feel heard or respected in face-to-face meetings probably made me more sensitive to what I perceived to be negative comments included in email. 

Lack of Consideration

The final issue that impacted our collaboration was what I perceived to be a lack of consideration for the other obligations I had while working with the Coalition and a lack of consideration for my dissertation research.  Most meetings I had with Lisa and Marge had to be scheduled well in advance because of their busy schedules.  My schedule was a little more flexible, but they often expected me to adjust my schedule at the last minute to accommodate their needs.  After a meeting with Lisa on January 9, 2003, Marge called down to Lisa's office and asked me to stay longer and meet with her to discuss her presentation for the upcoming Coalition general assembly meeting on January 15.  I told her that I was not able to stay because I was scheduled to go to work for my graduate assistantship position.  Marge's secretary set up a time for us to meet on the following Monday. 

Later that day I got an email from Marge's secretary stating "we will not need to keep the 13th meeting time," with no explanation.  I arrived at my home Monday afternoon to find a voice mail message from Lisa stating that they wanted me to call all the schools in the Coalition and find out the percentage of new teachers each school had for that year.  I called around to all ten schools and got most of the information on Monday afternoon and the rest the next morning.  After I had contacted the last school on Tuesday morning, Lisa called again and said Marge also wanted to find out how many teachers each school had that were not fully licensed.  I had to start the round of calls all over again.  But first, I had to call my supervisor for my graduate assistantship and let her know I would be coming in late.  When I got online to send them some of the data I had collected, I had an email from Marge asking me to put together some other data to email them that day to use at the meeting the next day.  They wanted me to try to complete getting some of the demographic data for the current school year that were not yet available on the school district's website.  I had sent Marge these data more than a week before and she had given me no feedback at that time. I was frustrated that they waited until the day before the meeting to ask me to get this information, and I felt that they demonstrated a lack of consideration for the fact that I was scheduled to work for my graduate assistantship that day. 

I also felt they displayed a lack of consideration in relation to the work of my dissertation.  In the initial meeting with Marge and Lisa on November 21, 2002, Graham and I had described the goals and principles of CBR.  They said they understood and were willing to work on this project with me based on those principles.  I also sent both Lisa and Marge a summary of my dissertation research to further clarify the needs for my research and the parameters of CBR.  Lisa responded that she understood what I was doing and thought that they were "involved in some interesting work, and that it is worth studying."  The Institutional Review Board requested that Lisa write a letter stating that she understood my research in order to approve my change of research sites.  I asked Lisa on December 10, 2002, to write a letter to the IRB.  On January 21, 2003, I sent an email with my third request for a letter and told her that officially I was not supposed to collect any data until I had approval from the IRB.  Finally, when I went in to meet with her on Friday, January 23, she typed up the letter during our meeting after I brought up the issue again.  Though I realize that the completion of my dissertation was my agenda, not the agenda of Lisa and Marge, they did agree to work with me based on the fact that I would be conducting my dissertation research as part of the process. 

Knowledge Creation

One of the goals of CBR is that the community partner participates in the production of knowledge that is created during the CBR project.  Ideally, the community partner participates in every facet of the research process including data collection, data analysis, and writing up the results (Strand et al., 2003a).  This requires that the researcher and community partner value the knowledge that each brings to the equation.  In my work with the Coalition, Lisa and Marge's only participation was in determining what data to collect.  They did not participate in any other way except to critique the results of my work. 

Shared Goals

One of the obstacles in developing a participatory relationship in regards to the research process was the fact that we did not have a vision around which to work.  One of the biggest mistakes that I made in this process was that I did not push for a plan that defined goals for data collection before I began collecting data.  According to Strand et al. (2003a) an "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). 

In the email that Don sent to Marge before our initial meeting he stated,

My understanding at this point is that I would take the lead in helping the [Coalition] and its constituent organizations come to consensus around key issues/needs they will address as part of their efforts related to [the Coalition].  Then Barri would take the lead (under all of our supervision) helping organizations operationalize their goals around those key issues/needs, identify indicators, and develop strategies for data collection, some of which she would do on her own; others of which she would supervise or collaborate with others on.

Marge's reply was, "I think we are on the same page about how this might work."  However, during our initial meeting on November 21, 2002, Don brought up the idea about working with the Coalition to reach a consensus on goals.  Lisa and Marge were a little confused because they said that they already had goals.  This issue was not clarified or resolved during that meeting.

In a meeting with Don, Marge, and Lisa on December 11, 2002, Don again pushed for us to define the goals around the six reform areas.  We were looking at the list of potential data points that I had put together (Appendix C) and he suggested that we "collect less stuff and set goals around the data."  Don shared with us a list of guiding principles that he had developed collaboratively with the three high schools that were in the Coalition as part of a reform effort with which he was working.  Each principle was defined and data points were clearly linked to principles.  Don said that we needed to define the reform areas before we could determine which indicators would best measure each reform area.  After the meeting, I was hoping that Marge and Lisa would be interested in having a discussion around defining goals around data collection, but they did not ask for this conversation, and I felt uncomfortable pushing for us to have this conversation. 

After I met with Don on January 20, 2003, he recommended that I develop a data plan based on selected indicators so that there would be a vision around data collection.  I was not sure how I would do this since I still did not have a true sense of how the Coalition defined the reform areas and what sorts of initiatives they planned to implement in various areas.  Don sent an email to Marge and Lisa on January 22, 2003, pushing for a plan that I would design.  Lisa responded that the executive committee would be meeting on February 3 for a planning session, and that they would discuss data.  In the meantime, Lisa stated that she wanted me to work on completing the spreadsheets of data that I had started.  Don sent an email to Graham on January 22, 2003 stating,

I question the value of Barri filling out the data chart in the absence of a larger vision about what the project is about.  BSU appears more comfortable working out a data collection plan before or concurrently with defining that vision, which I'm concerned is putting the cart before the horse and not using Barri's time most effectively.  As the CBR guy, we need your direction about what to do when the client's demands go against the expertise the university brings to the project.

In spite of Don's efforts to push for a discussion around the strategy areas, this did not happen. 

When I met with Lisa on Friday, January 24, 2003, I brought up the idea of developing a data plan.  She said that she wanted to have the executive committee discuss possible data points at the planning meeting on February 3.  She said that they had already defined the reform areas in previous meetings; however, she did not have any sort of written document that outlined this.  She questioned what Don was pushing for, and I do not think I was effective in trying to articulate what we needed to do.  She told me that she wanted me to focus on completing the spreadsheets for now. 

Don pushed for me to develop a plan to ensure that the executive committee defined reforms and discussed data during the planning meeting.  My plan was to talk with Lisa in the morning before the meeting on February 3 and emphasize that each planning team needed to define their reform area and then look at data points that would measure what they had defined.  When I got to the meeting, Lisa was still trying to get everything organized and get materials on the table.  I talked with her briefly, and she said they would be dividing into groups by reform area and that they would be looking at goals and data.  It ended up that a significant portion of the meeting was spent on discussing and making decisions in regards to a grant the Coalition had received.  When the planning teams finally broke up into reform areas, there was little time left.  They were given a planning tool sheet that did not ask them to define the reform area, but it did ask them to list desired outcomes.  Each group was also given a list of potential data points and at the top of the sheet it asked them, "What data do you think we need?"  However, Lisa did not direct them toward this sheet or ask them to turn it in. Most of them did not have time to complete the planning tool sheet and none of them looked at the data.  I asked Lisa after the meeting if I could have copies of the planning tools, and she said she would get them to me later.  I asked for them again twice after that, but I was never given copies of the planning tool.  If I had been given the opportunity to look at the planning sheets, it may have given me some idea of how the executive committee defined the various reform areas.  

I decided to set up a meeting with Marge and Lisa to push for a discussion of the reform areas and data that might link to the reforms.  I emailed Marge and Lisa on February 6, 2003, and asked for a meeting to discuss narrowing down some of the data points based on input from the executive committee.  Before the meeting on February 11, I emailed Marge and Lisa an agenda for the meeting.  The agenda included three points for discussion in relation to data:

1.  Which indicators line up with the [reforms] as they were defined by the teams in the planning meeting?  The indicators could either be used to measure the outcomes that each team listed, or the indicators could be used to determine how to reach the outcomes.

2.  What makes a good indicator?  First, we need to ask what the indicator can tell us and make sure that it aligns with what we want in a particular strategy area.  Second, we need to choose indicators that can be collected fairly easily on a yearly basis.  If the data collection is too detailed or complex, it may be difficult to maintain the collection of these data over a period of years.  Third, the indicators we collect should provide information that is easily understandable to inform the work of the [Coalition].  

3.  Would you like me to propose a plan based on input from the planning teams, or do you want to create this plan together?

When I arrived at the BSU office, Lisa asked me to make three sets of copies of all the spreadsheets I was working on.  Even though I had asked for the meeting and I had created an agenda, the attempt I made to direct the meeting was ineffective.  Lisa started off the meeting by asking me where I was in relation to collecting the teacher data.  The conversation then turned to other matters in relation to the work of the Coalition.  At one point I tried to direct the conversation toward my agenda, but Marge began talking about issues at East Middle School. 

At the end of the meeting Lisa said, "I think right now with all this stuff [spreadsheets] just keep plugging in where we're missing things."  Though the meeting had not gone well in that I was not able to accomplish my goal of having a discussion around goals for data collection, I emailed Don and told him that the meeting had gone fine.  I did not know what to do at that point, and I was trying to make everything work.  When I transcribed the meeting two days later and had more time to consider the situation, I decided that I wanted to quit.  It was then that we decided to reposition my role. 

Views About Data

One of the factors that may have interfered with the possibility to have discussions around the goals of data collection was the fact that we had different views about the use of data.  Marge viewed the purpose of data in the work of the Coalition as a means to startle people out of complacency.  Marge brought up the point in several meetings that she thought data should be provocative.  In a meeting with Marge and Lisa on December 6, 2002, Marge said we wanted data that would "tell a provocative story."  During the executive committee meeting on December 17, I started to talk about what I thought data could do.  However, Marge interrupted me and said, "For the [general assembly] meeting, we want to determine what data will be most compelling to provide people with a sense that they need to support the [Coalition]."  Finally, in an interview with Marge on June 5, 2003, when I asked her about the role of data in the work of the Coalition, she said,  "I think there's nothing as provocative or engaging as having a really good data set presented in a way that tells the kind of story that encourages people to action." 

Though I understood the political nature of the work of the Coalition and the importance of using data to provoke thought or action, I also thought that data could be used for other things such as to inform practice or to support decisions.  I felt that Marge's view of the use of data limited our discussions to certain data and at times led to the reporting of inaccurate data.  During the Coalition general assembly meeting on January 15, 2003, Marge presented average percentages for teacher turnover (29%) and principal turnover (40%) for the Coalition schools.  When I looked at the percentage of principal turnover, I found that 40% was too high.  When I included the correct percentage in the Analysis of Statistical Data report, Lisa told me that it was wrong.  I showed her how I had created the percentage and could not understand how they calculated 40%.  Though I do not think they intentionally chose to misrepresent data, I do feel that the focus was on choosing provocative data rather than ensuring that they were reporting accurate data.  I felt that as the data person I was being represented with this inaccurate information. 

This issue of conflicting views about data may stem from the fact that my training in relation to research has centered on traditional academic research.  Most academic researchers use data in different ways than community organizations may seek to use data.  Though I was responsive to Marge's desire to collect provocative data, in that most of the data I collected were focused on this purpose, as a researcher, I hoped to broaden Marge and Lisa's scope of understanding in relation to how we could use data to further the work of the Coalition.  However, I was not successful in articulating how we could use data in other ways. 

Valuing Knowledge

When Lisa questioned the accuracy of the data that I reported, I felt that she did not value my knowledge or abilities in relation to research.  According the Strand et al. (2003a), "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).  As with the issue of power, the valuation of knowledge usually deals with the researcher respecting the knowledge of the community.  In my case, it was the knowledge of the researcher that was not valued.  This was reflected in constant criticism of my work. 

I believe I am a person who can accept constructive criticism, particularly if the work that I have done has been acknowledged.  With everything that I produced for the Coalition, Lisa critiqued it in such a way that made me feel as if my work was not valued.  Some of her criticisms were valid and others demonstrated lack of understanding.  However, when I would try to explain something to her, I was not always successful in conveying information in such a way that she could understand my reasoning.  Since Don was reviewing all of the work I completed before I sent it to Lisa and Marge, it was interesting to see the contrast in their feedback.  When I sent Don the Analysis of Statistical Data report, his email response on May 13 was, "Nice job, Barri...I especially like how you've linked indicators to [reforms].  Very thoughtful.  This will help [BSU], and I think other organizations around [the city], immensely."  It is important to know that Don is definitely willing to provide praise when it is warranted, but he is also willing to provide criticism if he feels a piece of work is not well done.  When I met with Lisa on June 11, 2003, she critiqued the report.  Some of the comments she made included, "Since the word analysis is in the title, I thought there would be some analysis" and, "This report didn't really tell me anything." It was obvious from some of the comments she made we had different views about the purpose of this report.  I sat in stunned silence during most of the meeting and did not really know what to say.  I could not understand how I could get two completely different responses to the same piece of work.  This contrasting set of critiques occurred with each report that I completed. 

These contrasting critiques may have been partially the result of differing knowledge bases of research.  Don, who is grounded in traditional academic research, understood the structure and language of the work that I completed.  Lisa, though she is a very educated person and has extensive knowledge in certain areas, does not have the same background in academic research.  Her research experience is based within another discipline that works from a different research paradigm.  As the researcher in this role, I was not successful in working with Lisa based on her foundation of knowledge.  I expected her to understand the language and interpretations that I provided in relation to data. 


Another issue relating to the creation of knowledge that continued to reoccur during my work with the Coalition was the issue of timelines.  According to Verbeke and Richards (2001), "It is important to provide ample time for collaboration...Unrealistic time frames are often the cause of frustration and disappointing results in collaborative ventures" (Time section, para. 1).

In the follow up interview with Lisa, I asked what hindered our collaboration.  One of the issues she mentioned was "time constraints on your part as a full-time student-hard to keep up with some of the timelines and to really delve deeply."  During our work together, Lisa consistently sent me reminders on the day of a deadline to let me know that something was due.  Though it may not have been her intention, the implication was that I could not meet deadlines.  However, I felt that I was consistent in meeting deadlines when I had control over the research.  There were delays at times in getting data I requested from the school district, but that was something over which I had no control. 

            Unrealistic Expectations

A final issue relating to our collaboration around knowledge creation revolved around Marge and Lisa's unrealistic expectations of what I could do as an individual, part-time researcher.  In a meeting with Lisa on January 9, 2003, Lisa showed me a document titled "Vision for the Feeder" that was developed through input from the principals in the Coalition schools.  Principals stated goals they planned to pursue in their schools.  One section, under assessment, asked for "[state assessment] data that are disaggregated based on: stability and mobility (both in schools and feeders), attendance, Special Ed., English Language Acquisition (by level), and individual student growth."  Lisa asked me if I could do this for the schools.  I told Lisa that it might be possible to pursue this but that it would be a complete study all on its own and that it would be a time intensive endeavor.  She stated that the principals really wanted this information and she thought they would be useful data.  I agreed that it would be useful, but I reiterated that if I pursued this, it would be all I would have time to do in the next few months.  And even then, I would probably only be able to study one or maybe two schools.  There were other situations that arose where Marge and Lisa discussed the possibility of pursuing an intensive data project.  I do not think they realized the time intensive nature of carrying out any sort of research that would encompass all 10 schools. 

In the follow-up interview that was conducted with Lisa in early April, 2004, she stated,

The only hindrances to our work together were some lack of clarity around what we needed (my part) and the time constraints on your part as a full-time student-hard to keep up with some of the timelines and to really delve deeply. By the way, this was an understandable 'hindrance'! To put things in perspective: we now have a full-time data manager and he has a hard time keeping up with everything!

I do not think that Marge and Lisa understood that to delve deeply into any one particular area would mean a full-time commitment for a period of years in order to complete research at all the schools. However, it does sound like Lisa may be starting to understand the intensity of the workload based on her experience with subsequent data managers.  When I shared an outline of findings with Lisa, she responded,

"I have been working on the very issues you describe-understanding the complexity and time it takes to retrieve and analyze data, the different ways different people view data, etc.  In future, I would be much more targeted in my use of a PhD student for such a project." 

Through continued experience with researchers and data, Lisa is beginning to develop a better understanding of the complexity of data collection and data analysis. 


Since I am no longer working with the Coalition, it is hard for me to assess whether or not the work that I did with them brought about any change.  However, the interviews that I conducted with teachers and parents as part of the evaluation report suggest that I created greater awareness of the Coalition for some teachers and parents.  While I was working with the Coalition, I also periodically provided data to Parents Supporting Education which may have been helpful in their work.  I think it most likely, however, that my work had little impact.  In the follow-up interview I asked Lisa, "What did the Coalition gain through the work that we did?"  Her response was, "We have referred many times to your work, both the statistical data that you compiled in the [reform] areas and the review of literature. I believe it gave us a good jumping off point for future work."  Since she did not refer to the evaluation that I completed or to the evaluation plan, I do not know if those recommendations are being used in any way.  After receiving her feedback from the follow-up interview, I asked her specifically if they were using these two reports; however, she did not respond to this question.  One of the recommendations that I made in the evaluation report was that the executive committee needed to "discuss the use of data and develop a plan."  One thing that has happened in 2004 is that the Coalition created a data team to look at which data should be used in the work of the Coalition. 

The fact that some of the work that I completed may not have had an impact may be due to the repositioning of my role to a consultant.  According to Seargeant and Steele (1998), if those who are receiving the research findings do not have ownership of the consulting work, they will not use the results.  If Lisa felt that she did not have any input into the research that I conducted after we repositioned my role to a consultant, she may not have been interested in the evaluation or the evaluation plan. 

Was This CBR?

One of the issues that I struggled with throughout my work with the Coalition was the fact that I felt like the work that we were doing was not community-based research.  I did not have access to the community, I was not able to develop a collaborative relationship, and I was primarily responsible for creating knowledge, though the knowledge to be created was primarily determined by Lisa and Marge.  When we repositioned my role, I became essentially a consultant.  Though Marge and Lisa may have had more input than in a traditional consulting relationship, it was not really CBR because of the factors listed above. 

Frustration over this experience stayed with me for months until I read a book chapter by Patricia Maguire (1993).  Maguire made the decision to pursue a participatory research project for her dissertation.  However, the title of her book chapter (in the book Voices of Change) is "Challenges, Contradictions, and Celebrations: Attempting Participatory Research as a Doctoral Student."  Maguire points out that she "attempted" to carry out a participatory research project, but some would not view it as being real participatory research.  She continues,

Nonetheless, reflection on the flaws and inadequacies, and even the modest successes of attempting this alternative research approach may help others find the courage to learn by doing rather than being immobilized and intimidated by ideal standards (p. 158). 

Maguire's words gave me hope that regardless of whether or not my work with the Coalition was truly CBR, there is still value and knowledge to be gained from the attempt. 

Implications for the Field of CBR

This case study provides an example of a CBR project that met with limited success.  There were several factors in this experience that interfered with making this project successful.  First of all, one of the most important factors that hindered success was the fact that we did not start with developing a vision or plan for our work together before I began the process of data collection.  If we had worked together to develop a plan, not only would it have guided our data collection, but it would also have facilitated the development of a collaborative relationship.  As part of this process of creating a plan for data collection, the researcher and community partners also have to come to terms with differences in relation to views about how data should be used.  Thus this factor is dealt with up front and does not hinder the ability to agree on subsequent decisions made in relation to data. 

Another factor that interfered with making this project successful was that we did not define my roles and responsibilities within this project.  Though I expected to be viewed as a collaborative researcher, Lisa and Marge viewed me as an employee.  A document detailing my roles and responsibilities would have made it more likely that they would view me as researcher working with them rather than an employee.  It is also important to consider whether the factor of being paid by an organization makes it less likely that a collaborative relationship will develop because of the power dynamics that surround the role of employee.

Another mistake I made in my work with the Coalition was in not developing an effective pathway for communication.  Because of the lack of face-to-face communication and overreliance on email, many relational factors that arose during the collaboration were not addressed.  It is important to be able to have an open and honest discussion when things are not working well.  This is difficult to do when you do not have a relationship, but it is possible that these kinds of discussions can help facilitate the development of a relationship.  If we had developed effective communication, I would have realized sooner that Lisa did not have enough power in the relationship, and I would also have been able to bring up issues in relation to lack of consideration around timelines and the work of my dissertation.   

This chapter provided the within-case description of my work with the Coalition for Schools as well as within-case analysis structured around the themes of my analytic framework.  Chapter five will provide the same information in relation to my work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson in my small town. 

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 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 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.

Chapter 6: Cross-Case Analysis and Interpretation

If you are here to help me, then you are wasting your time.  But if you come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin (McNicoll, 1999, New Perspective section, para. 5).

According to Creswell (1998), when using a multiple case study design, the usual formula is to "first provide a detailed description of each case and themes within the case, called a within-case analysis, followed by a thematic analysis across the cases, called a cross-case analysis, as well as assertions or an interpretation of the meaning of the case (p. 63).  The two previous chapters provided a description of the process of collaborating on community-based research projects in two different settings, addressing the primary question of the study: What is the process of collaborating with a community partner on a community-based research project?  Though there were some similarities in these cases, there are considerable differences as well.  This chapter provides a cross-case analysis of these two contrasting cases by highlighting the differences between the two cases and comparing data from each case to answer the sub-questions of the study: what are the issues that arise when collaborating on a CBR project, what facilitates or hinders the process of collaboration, and what are the benefits for the researcher and the community.  In considering the implications of this study for the field of community-based research, this chapter introduces a conceptual model that was developed based on the insights provided through these experiences.  This addresses the final research question of the study: What can we learn from these experiences to inform the field of CBR?

Cross-Case Analysis

When comparing the two cases, it is interesting to note the differences between the two experiences.  From my perspective as the researcher in this process, my collaboration with the Coalition of Schools was not always successful, and in many ways I would not consider this process to be community-based research, rather, as Maguire (2000) would describe it, it was an attempt at community-based research.  However, the research that I carried out with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, in relation to the immigrant population in my small town, was a successful collaborative process, and I believe this process was community-based research.  In comparing and contrasting these two cases, I return to the four constructs of my analytic framework: community, collaboration, knowledge creation, and change.  Considering these four constructs based on the continuums presented in figure 1 (p. 63), you can compare the facets of these two case studies.  Table 2 provides this comparison.

Table 2 - Contrasting Cases of CBR

Community Collaboration Knowledge Creation Change
Coalition for Schools Mid-Level Organization Limited Collaboration Limited Participation Minimal Programmatic Change
ESL Program Bridge People Working Closely with the Community Shared Decision Making Partial Participation Potential for Substantial Programmatic Change and Structural Change


In considering how to define community, I work from Stoecker's (2002a) definition that the community is the people who are dealing directly with the problem.  Based on this definition, I did not work directly with the community on either of the CBR projects that I completed.  However, the two cases present differences in how closely my collaborators worked with the community and how committed they were to seeking community input.  My work with the Coalition for Schools was what Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, and Donohue (2003a) would describe as "doing CBR in the middle" (p. 73).  The Coalition was a midlevel organization that did have some community grounding, but the organization presented conflicting messages about how much it sought and valued community input.  Though they did invite grassroots community organizations to become members of the Coalition, and they did direct some grant funding toward community collaboration, they did not actively seek community input in relation to certain strategic decisions about data, and they did not seek to communicate with all members of the community.  Also, during my work with the Coalition, I had fairly limited access to the community.

In working with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, I felt a direct connection to the community.  Though John and Maria are not actually the community themselves, as they are not dealing directly with the problems that the immigrant population deals with, they work closely with the community, and they are well aware of the issues that the immigrant community faces on a daily basis.  John and Maria are what Stoecker (2002a) describes as bridge people in that they provide a link to the immigrant population and the broader community around them.  John and Maria also actively seek community input in their work, and they both realized and supported the idea that community input was integral to our research together; we included community input on the structure and content of surveys, we sought community input through the data collected from the surveys, and we began the process of organizing the community so that the immigrant community can have greater input in city affairs. 


I conceptualize the construct of collaboration as shared decision making (Strand et al., 2003a).  The potential to develop a shared decision making process relies on the possibility of developing a relationship (Stoecker, 2002a), and relationships can be impacted by communication, trust, and issues of power.  In my work with the Coalition, our initial relationship did encompass some shared decision making.  However, this initial collaboration became a situation where decisions were made primarily by Lisa Brown and Marge Bowline.  After repositioning my role in my work with the Coalition, I made most of the decisions with only limited input from Lisa and Marge. 

Part of the reason that our collaboration was not successful was that we were not able to develop a productive relationship.  One of the primary factors that limited the development of a relationship related to issues of power.  Since we did not clearly define my roles and responsibilities at the outset, Lisa and Marge viewed me as an employee.  I also felt that Lisa was coerced into working with me, and so she also lacked power in this situation.  Another factor that limited our potential to cultivate a relationship was the fact that we did not trust each other.  Lisa did not trust my work ethic and capabilities, and I did not trust her organizational skills.   If we had been able to communicate effectively, it may have alleviated some of these issues; however, an over-reliance on email probably complicated things further.  Finally, our relationship was hindered by what I felt to be a lack of consideration for my other obligations and my dissertation research. 

My collaboration with John Brewer and Maria Swenson was successful in that decision making was shared throughout our work together.  There were no dynamics around power in the collaboration because all of us agreed to work together and no one felt coerced.  Also, I made sure that my roles and responsibilities were clear from the outset, and that both John and Maria had a full understanding of the work to which they were committing.  Because of the fact that we chose to work together, we were able to develop a productive relationship.  This relationship was based on communication, trust, and consideration for each other's needs. 

Part of the reason that communication was effective was that I took the time to get to know John and Maria and to understand how they communicated.  We primarily met face-to-face and this facilitated more extensive dialogue.  Though communication was effective, it was not always perfect.  There were times that I felt that John contradicted himself, and there were gaps in communication in keeping me apprised of issues relating to our research and gaps in communication between John and Maria.  However, since we had developed a trusting relationship, these issues did not hinder our work together.  This trust was based partly in the fact that we had similar life experiences and similar views of the world.  And this trust allowed us to work past differences of opinion, particularly in relation to my disagreement with John about the approach to community organizing.  Finally, our relationship was strengthened by the fact that we all demonstrated consideration for each other in relation to timelines and other obligations. 

Knowledge Creation

One of the goals of community-based research is that the community should participate in all stages of the research process (Strand et al., 2003a).  There is a reciprocal process of knowledge sharing between the researcher and the community.  Since the knowledge of the community is valued, and the community gains additional knowledge through the research process, this experience can be empowering for the community.  This potential for empowerment is an interesting outcome that may be an aspect of the change that can occur through the CBR process. 

In my work with the Coalition, the creation of knowledge was not a shared process.  The only participation from Lisa Brown and Marge Bowline in the process was to determine what data to collect.  Later, after I moved to a consulting position, they did not even have this input.  One of the factors that prohibited their participation was the fact that we did not start off our work together by defining goals; instead, I began data collection without a plan.  Though both Dr. Green and I pushed for dialogue to define goals, Marge and Lisa did not recognize that this was important.  Another factor that limited participation was the fact that we had differing views about the use of data.  Though I understood Marge's desire to use data as a means to provoke action, I wanted to pursue a research agenda that encompassed using data in a variety of ways. 

Though I did try to work toward a plan for data collection, it was difficult to make progress since I felt that my knowledge was not valued.  The work that I carried out was constantly critiqued in a way that was discouraging rather than constructive.  Not only did I feel like my work was not valued, I was also held to deadlines that were unrealistic either because of unavailable data or because of lack of timeliness in a response from Marge and Lisa.  Finally, Marge and Lisa often held unrealistic expectations of what I would be able to accomplish working part-time.  Because of their lack of understanding and knowledge of research, they did not realize the time intensive nature of collecting and analyzing data. 

Working with John Brewer and Maria Swenson was a very different experience.  John participated in all stages of the research process, and Maria was very active as well.  Though John did not participate as extensively with data analysis and with writing the report, he still had input in those stages as well.  We also sought input from the community in developing various instruments, and community members helped administer the survey.  However, the community was not involved in the other stages of the research process.  Though I view it as a success that John and Maria were active participants, it would have been even more successful if we had worked closely with community members to help determine the research focus and in the data analysis and reporting stage. 

Part of the reason that John was willing to participate throughout was that we worked together to develop goals to pursue based on John's needs and interests.  As I worked with John and Maria, we added additional goals that all related to better serving the needs of the immigrant population.  The reason that we were successful in collaborating to develop these goals was that we held similar views about the use of data.  John viewed data as a way to obtain feedback that would help improve his program, and Maria viewed data as a way to get information in order to make educated decisions.  Also, they both had experience with research so they had reasonable expectations for the work that we would carry out. 

Based on John and Maria's experience with research, they also had expectations for the quality of the data that we pursued which helped add rigor to the data collection process.  As I worked with them, I valued their knowledge of research as well as their knowledge of the community they serve.  They also valued my knowledge and expressed appreciation for my work.  Because of the fact that I valued their input, I was open to constructive criticism and did not view their criticism as an expression of doubt in relation to my abilities. 

Though John and Maria were both timely in working toward the completion of projects, the process of collaboration takes time.  Since John had a busy schedule, it was usually up to me to keep the process moving.  Regardless of the fact that I did try to keep things moving in relation to the completion of all areas of research, I was unsuccessful in completing a demographic estimate of the immigrant population in town.  Though John did not express concern over this, I did feel as if I had not fulfilled all of the expectations for our research.


The ultimate goal of community-based research is social change that leads to social justice (Strand et al., 2003a).  In my work with the Coalition, there was only very little change that occurred through my work with them.  I did create greater awareness of the work of the Coalition for some teachers and parents that I came into contact with through interviews; however, this was a fairly limited group of people.  Lisa stated that some of the work that I completed has provided a foundation for continued work, including the statistical data I collected and the review of literature.  However, it seems likely that my work only led to minor programmatic change, if at all. 

My work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson was much more successful and has the potential to create greater change.  John and Maria both gained research skills through the development of the surveys, and the surveys that we developed will likely lead to programmatic change.  This programmatic change will potentially make the English program more accessible for all immigrants as well as prompt revisions to classes so that they better meet the needs of the students currently attending the program.  In addition to programmatic change, the groundwork that we laid in initiating the process of community organizing has the potential to even lead to structural change within the community in that the immigrant community may at some point have greater power within the community. 

Continuum of CBR

When considering the continuum of CBR in Figure 2, it is interesting to contemplate where each of these cases falls on the continuum. 

Figure 2   Continuum of CBR
Consulting           Mainstream CBR       Radical CBR    

Based on the four constructs, my work with the Coalition could be characterized initially as mainstream CBR, but when my role was repositioned to allow me to have greater input in decisions about data, the process moved toward consulting.  My work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson would be characterized as mainstream CBR, however, we moved toward radical CBR by initiating the process of community organizing. 


The within-case descriptions and analysis addressed the overarching research question: What is the process of collaborating with a community partner on a CBR project?  The cross-case analysis addresses the sub-questions of the study.  Most of the findings presented in this section are themes that emerged in both cases.  

            Issues Arising From Collaboration in CBR

The first sub-question of this study is-What kinds of issues arise when collaborating on a community-based research project?  I define an issue as a matter of concern that could typically arise in any CBR project.  An issue does not have to be a factor that interferes with creating a successful collaboration, but it is something that the researcher needs to consider when carrying out a community-based research project.  The primary issues that arose in relation to this study were access to the community, power, communication, shifting research plans, timelines, the scope of work, and the required range of knowledge. 

One of the issues which I had to consider with both CBR projects was the issue of whether or not I was truly working with the community.  Given that the goal of CBR is social change that leads to social justice, it is important to work as close to the community as possible.  This can be difficult to achieve at times since it may be challenging to find a grassroots organization with which to partner.  Also, what Strand et al. (2003a) define as mid-level organizations are often better equipped to partner with university researchers.  When I was working with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, since I realized that I was not working directly with the community, I did make an effort to bring the community into the research process as often as possible.

Regardless of whether the researcher partners with a mid-level organization or with a grassroots organization, in every CBR process the researcher needs to be aware of the issue of power.  It may not always be something that hinders collaboration, but the dynamics of power are always present.  In my work with the Coalition, my lack of power interfered with my ability to develop a collaborative relationship.  When working with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, as is typically the case with community-based research projects, I had to be more aware of the power I held as a researcher and make sure that our work together was based on shared decision making.  As the researcher gets closer to working with the actual community, issues of power become even more significant.  If community members are not allowed any power in the CBR process, it is less likely that they will become empowered through the work that is completed.

Communication can be significant in making sure that all participants in the CBR process are being heard.  Strand et al. (2003a) point out that in order to communicate effectively, researchers need to make sure that they are not talking in inaccessible jargon and that they are actually listening to the people with whom they are partnering.  In my experience during both case studies, communication was the primary issue in determining whether I was able to develop a successful collaboration.  When working with the Coalition, it was less an issue of making sure that I listened to my community partners than it was an issue of not feeling heard.  However, I was at fault in not establishing a pathway of communication from the beginning so that we could all be heard.  When working with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, communication allowed us to create quality work together and work past any disagreements. 

Communication is also valuable in working through the shifts that are endemic to carrying out this kind of work.  Regardless of the plans that are laid out in the beginning, changes will occur.  The researcher and community partners need to be fluid and flexible to accept and address these changes.  Sometimes, the research cannot be carried out as originally planned for a variety of reasons, and the collaborators will not always able to complete projects as envisioned.  This occurred in my work with the Coalition in relation to the community indicators, as well as in my work with John and Maria in relation to the demographic project.  In these situations, the researcher will have to work closely with the community partner to determine if there is a way to achieve the same results or access the same information through other means. 

Adapting to these shifts in the original research plan can impact the timeline of the research, as can other factors.  Dealing with timelines is an issue in any community-based research project.  The reality is that a successful collaboration that includes the community in all aspects of the process of creating knowledge takes time.  Regardless of how quickly your community partners respond to your request for input, the process is going to take longer than if the researcher is working on his or her own.  The timeline can also be impacted by the fact that most community members have other obligations and cannot devote all of their time to the research.  In some cases, the researcher is the one who has to keep the research project going and keep the process moving along in a timely manner.  In other situations, the community partners may have expectations that the work will be completed sooner than is feasible, particularly if the community partners have not had experience with research. 

Community partners who have not had experience with research may also have unrealistic expectations about what the researcher should be able to accomplish.  The scope of the work is an issue that the researcher needs to consider carefully when determining the research that will be pursued.  My tendency is to over commit and regret it later.  The researcher should start small and allow the research to expand if time and resources allow.  This issue becomes less of a factor when the community is involved closely in the research process.  If the community is also completing the research, they will have greater understanding of the time consuming nature of the work.

Another issue that can impact both timelines and the scope of work is the fact that the community may decide to pursue research in an area with which the researcher is not familiar.  According to Strand et al. (2003a),

Researchers often find that they must develop expertise about a range of topics that lie at least somewhat outside their area of training, and in some cases, a project may require technical expertise from a number of different disciplines (p. 78). 

An example of this from the research I conducted was the demographic research that I pursued with John and Maria.  I knew nothing about demographics and neither did my community partners.  I spent a considerable amount of time accessing information about demographics just to get started.  Once I had a sense of what I was going to do with the project, I began pursuing the data.  At that point, I realized that I would not be able to complete the project as originally envisioned.  Because of the fact that I am not familiar with demographics, I have had difficulty conceptualizing how to pursue data in a different way.  When researchers pursue research in a new area, they have to learn along with the community, which can take time.  In some ways, however, this puts the researcher and the community on the same footing, since the researcher and community partners are both teachers and learners (Strand et al., 2003a).  This could potentially make some researchers uncomfortable if they are used to being seen as the expert. 

Factors That Facilitate or Hinder Collaboration

The second sub-question of the study is-What facilitates or hinders the process of collaboration?  Most factors that facilitate the process of collaboration can also be hindrances, depending on how they play out.  I define a hindrance as a factor that obstructs or impedes the development of an effective collaboration.  However, some factors only facilitate collaboration and some factors can only be a hindrance. 

One important factor that facilitates collaboration is determining the goals of the research at the beginning of the collaboration through the use of dialogue.  According to Verbeke and Richards (2001), "Shared goals are critical to a successful collaboration.  Shared goals make it possible for a collaboration to succeed, even under adverse conditions and unlikely pairings" (Shared Goals section, para. 1).  If the researcher and the community are not able to agree upon goals, then they will not be able to move into the beginning stages of the research process; that is to develop research questions and a research plan.  This factor was a significant hindrance in my work with the Coalition.  Since we did not define shared goals at the beginning of our work, we had no direction for our research.

This initial dialogue is not only important for developing shared goals, it is also essential to the process of developing relationships (Reback, Cohen, Freese, & Shoptaw, 2002).  As Stoecker (2002a) points out, relationships are integral to collaboration.  If there is a relationship between the researcher and community, trust can emerge which will lead to open and honest communication.  However, trust is not something that happens quickly or easily.  It develops as the relationship continues to grow.  The growth of the relationship is strengthened through showing consideration for each other.  This signals to the partners that each realizes that the other is an important part of the collaboration. 

The development of a relationship is facilitated by taking time at the beginning of the collaboration to define the roles and responsibilities of all the participants.  A memorandum of understanding (MOU) that defines these roles can be useful.  According to Nyden, Figert, Shibley, and Burrows (1997), "an up-front written agreement can be provide an opportunity for both researcher and practitioner to think about and discuss their relationship before a research project is under way" (p. 5).  This type of document can help reduce power struggles because it specifies responsibilities (Strand et al., 2003a; Verbeke & Richards, 2001).  It also requires that the participants put their shared goals in writing; thus it creates a document that aids in reminding the participants of what they are working towards.  Developing this type of document can be useful as well in ensuring that all the participants are choosing to participate in the process.  If anyone is feeling coerced into participating, this would probably come forward during the creation of the memorandum of understanding.  Using this type of document in my work with John and Maria helped create a more successful collaboration.

Through the process of developing a memorandum of understanding, it will become obvious how all of the participants view the use of data.  Views about the uses of data can be a significant factor that can either facilitate or hinder the collaboration.  The researcher and community partner need to have extensive dialogue as they clarify goals in order to make sure that there is agreement about the purposes of the data that are being collected.  The community partner's previous experiences with research can influence how they view the use of data.  Though data can be used for many purposes, all parties need to agree on how they will be used in that particular context.  Conflicting views about the use of data was a significant impediment to my work with the Coalition.  However, when working with John and Maria, our compatible views about research helped to facilitate our work together.  Since most researchers are influenced by the paradigm of traditional academic research, those conducting CBR will need to consider how this paradigm can be integrated successfully into CBR work. 

The community partner's previous experience with research can also influence the value they place on the researcher's knowledge and vice versa.  In my work with John and Maria, the fact that they both understood the research process meant that they had greater appreciation for my skills.  I also had greater value for their input since it was based in research experience.  However, if the researcher is working closely with the community, it is very likely that most community members will not have had much experience with research, except maybe as the subjects of research.  In this case, though the community does not have knowledge of the research process, they do have knowledge of the community (Strand et al., 2003a) which the researcher needs to acknowledge and value.             

A factor that impacts the ability to develop regard for each other's knowledge relates to personalities.  Personalities can be either a significant help or significant hindrance in developing a successful collaboration.  Things work best when the researcher and community partner develop rapport based on compatible ways of interacting and compatible views of the world.  However, if there is not this rapport, then it is imperative that the researcher develops the personality traits of patience and flexibility in order to work through difficulties that arise in the relationship.  One of the factors that impeded my collaboration with the Coalition was that Lisa and I were not able to develop rapport.  I was still in the process of developing the necessary skills to support a successful collaboration and was not competent in overcoming the issues that developed around personalities. 

Finally, a factor that is often a hindrance in developing an effective collaboration is the issue of hidden agendas (Verbeke & Richards, 2001) or fluctuating agendas.  If there are hidden issues between community members with whom the researcher is collaborating, this undermines the collaboration.  In my work with the Coalition, I felt that there were issues relating to Lisa's power in the organization which I became aware of toward the end of our collaboration.  If I had been aware of these power issues at the beginning, I would have approached the situation differently.  Also, partly because we did not determine shared goals at the beginning of the collaboration, there were constantly fluctuating agendas in relation to the research that we decided to pursue.  At the same time I was dealing with hidden agendas and fluctuating agendas, I also had my own agenda which was to complete my dissertation.  Since this agenda did not benefit our CBR work, this also impacted our collaboration. 

            Benefits of CBR

The third sub-question of this study is-What does the researcher gain through this collaborative process, and what are the benefits for the community?

As the researcher in this process, I felt I had gains of both knowledge and other less tangible rewards.  One of the reasons that I continue to be interested in pursuing community-based research is that this work provides me with a sense of purpose.  I feel that I am doing something beneficial for the community in which I live.  This sense of purpose is important for me as a doctoral student, but I think it will be even more important when I begin working as an assistant professor.  According to Stoecker (2001), "One of the most important concerns among those in higher education at the dawning of this new millennium is the degree of disenchantment so many academics feel with our institutions and our disciplines"  (p. 14).  I do not want to be in the position of having worked so hard to get to this destination to find that it has no meaning for me.  I feel that participating in the community is something that will provide meaning and a sense of purpose to my work.

Some of the emerging literature about community-based research points to the idea that students gain a sense of empowerment through participating in this kind of work (Willis, Peresie, Waldref, & Stockmann, 2003).  I do not know that these experiences empowered me, primarily because I already knew that I have the ability to create change.  This knowledge comes from previous experiences in my life as a Peace Corps volunteer and as a teacher.  What I am still working on is trying to find my place in the world.  What gives meaning to my existence is the potential to make things better for my fellow human beings.  I am just trying to determine the best way to do this.  Accordingly, carrying out this type of research feels like the right direction for me.  

Along with providing a sense of purpose to my research, this kind of work is also engaging for me.  I enjoy collaborating with people on projects and I find that I am more fully engaged when I collaborate.  As Verbeke and Richards (2001) point out, "One could argue that, as social creatures, human beings are predisposed to collaborate" (Process section, para. 5).  When I am collaborating with other individuals, I feel like the work that is produced is always of a better quality than what I could do on my own.  This is not an indication of a lack of self confidence in my abilities, but rather a realization that the work that is produced through a collaborative process incorporates the knowledge and expertise of all of those involved and is, by definition, a stronger product. 

Along with the relational rewards of conducting community-based research, there are also other more concrete benefits.  Through conducting both of these case studies, I significantly expanded my knowledge base.  I developed knowledge in research areas which I knew nothing about, such as demographics, and I also developed additional research skills.  In my work with John and Maria in designing surveys, I gained significant knowledge about how to construct an effective survey.  Also through my work with the Coalition, I gained knowledge about urban education, and I also developed the skills for designing an evaluation plan.  Though the course work that I completed through my doctoral program provided a foundation for this work, the actual experience of carrying out research has provided the greatest learning opportunities for me. 

In my work with both projects, I developed greater knowledge of different peoples.  When working with the Coalition, I was exposed to the inner workings of the non-profit world and got a view into the dynamics of working with these kinds of organizations.  When working with John and Maria, I developed greater knowledge and understanding of the issues that immigrants deal with along with learning cultural knowledge about the two primary immigrant populations with which John and Maria work.  I think these experiences helped add to my ability to work well with different people. 

Along with the benefits that the researcher gains through conducting community-based research, it is also important that the community benefits as well.  One thing that the community gains is research skills.  According to Hills and Mullett (2000), "Effective community-based research focuses on gains to the community through both the results and the research process itself" (p. 3).  Through the work that I carried out with John and Maria, they gained knowledge of how to design surveys, and John gained knowledge of how to use SPSS, how to analyze survey data, and how to structure the information in a report.  They will be able to use this knowledge to conduct research on their own in the future. 

In addition to gaining research skills, the community also gains useful research results that they do not always have the time or expertise to collect on their own.  These research results might be used to improve a program, to seek out funding, or to provide evidence to funders that a program is providing the services it is required to provide.  As Stoecker (2002a) points out,

They need research, whether it is for a grant proposal or a court case or a policy proposal down at city hall. Sometimes it is research they are perfectly capable of doing themselves except that they don't have time.  Sometimes it is highly technical research they don't have the time to learn or the equipment to carry out.  Sometimes they just need a document that has a 'PhD' on it (p. 2). 

In my work with the Coalition, I provided information that helped lay a foundation for subsequent work.  However, when working with John and Maria, I provided information that they can use now to improve the program and potentially access resources.  

Another benefit that the researcher can provide is access to resources and expertise.  Since both my advisor, Dr. Darby, and Dr. Green were supervising me in both of these projects, I had access to their knowledge in completing this work.  I called upon their knowledge frequently during both projects.  I also connected John and Maria to resources in relation to community organizing.  They now have a contact, Manuel Alvarez, whom they can call on to assist in continuing the process.  Manuel has already agreed to come out for several days in the summer to continue working with the community.  I also connected John and Maria to some financial resources as well.  I applied for and received a scholarship to help fund some of our work, and my advisor also provided financial support through a grant that he had that was directed toward community-based research. 

Finally, the most important benefit that the community can gain through the process of CBR is change.  Though the work I completed with the Coalition did not lead to any change that I am aware of, the work that I completed with John and Maria has the potential to lead to significant change both within the English program and within the community as a whole. 

Conceptual Model of CBR

When considering the final research question of the study-What can we learn from these experiences to inform the field of community-based research?-the most significant thing that I have to offer is a way to conceptualize how to get the most value from a CBR project.  The conceptual model of CBR that I have designed is based on the analytic framework that was introduced in chapter three and incorporates the continuums included in Figure 1 (p. 63).  As you move out toward the positive on each point of the continuum, the work has greater value.  When I say that the work has greater value, I mean that it has greater value for the community.  I define value as the potential to empower community members who are participating in the research process as well as the potential to bring about beneficial change for the community.  I position Stoecker's (2003) construct of radical CBR as the form of CBR that has the most value in that it has the greatest potential to empower community members, and it has the greatest potential to create substantial change.  Mainstream CBR also has value, but has less potential for significant change.  As you move toward the center of the model, the value of the work decreases.  See Figure 3.

 Figure 3  Conceptual Model of CBR

Though Stoecker (2003) points out that the underlying theoretical foundations of mainstream CBR and radical CBR are in some ways contradictory, in my conceptual model, mainstream CBR is imbedded within radical CBR.  I see CBR as a continuum of practices with radical CBR as the goal, as it has the greatest potential for empowerment and change.  This model provides a way to conceptualize the things that need to be in place to support greater value in CBR work.  For each continuum within the model, the researcher must make a decision about how to create the most value for the work being conducted.  In order to understand the model more fully, it is important to consider the four continuums that are incorporated in the model. 

In relation to the construct of community, the goal is to work with those who are marginalized or disenfranchised.  This typically means collaborating with a grassroots organization.  If the researcher is unable to locate a grassroots organization, the options are to assist in the process of creating a grassroots organization or to partner with a mid-level organization.  Working with a mid-level organization means that you move inward on the continuum toward mainstream CBR, and the work has less value; however, this can be counteracted somewhat by using the mid-level organization as a means to facilitate community involvement in decision making during the research process (Strand et al., 2003a).

The goal of collaboration is shared decision making throughout the CBR process which leads to the development of lasting and positive relationships between university partners and the community.  These relationships are developed through communication and can be hindered by issues around power and lack of trust.  If the collaboration is not successful, there is less potential for change, and the work therefore has less value. 

One of the most challenging goals to achieve in pursuing the radical model of CBR relates to the creation of knowledge.  The goal is full participation of the community in all aspects of knowledge creation.  As Stoecker (2002a) points out, "The highest form of participatory research is seen as research completely controlled and conducted by the community" (p. 9).  This can lead to empowerment for the community through the democratization of knowledge.  However, full participation can be difficult to achieve, particularly if community members do not have the time to participate in all aspects of the research.  The greater the participation of the community in creating knowledge, the greater the potential for empowerment.  Therefore, the researcher is obligated "to do whatever is possible to enhance participation" (Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993, Our View section, para. 8).

The further the researcher moves toward the positive on the continuums of community, collaboration, and knowledge creation, the greater potential there is for change.  The goal for change is change that "transforms the structure of power relations so that those without power gain power" (Stoecker, 2002b, p. 232).  If the researcher is partnering with a mid-level organization, it is more likely that the change that will be accomplished will be primarily programmatic change.  Though any change is important in that consistent small changes can lead to greater overall change, limited programmatic change has less value within an individual CBR project. 

It is important to consider why it is essential to reach for the radical model of CBR since this model may not be as compatible with higher education as is the mainstream model of CBR (Stoecker, 2003).  If the goal of CBR is truly social action and social change that lead to social justice, then it is imperative that we pursue the radical model.  As Freire (1970) states,

The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a 'circle of certainty' within which reality is also imprisoned.  On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it (p. 21). 

Existing realities point to the need for significant changes in our society.  As Stoecker (2003) points out, the gap between the wealthy and the poor is continuing to widen, and economic and political decisions are being made primarily by the wealthy.  As Stoecker says, "The only way for the poor to gain a seat at the table, then, is for them to counter the power of money with the power of numbers" (p. 43).  If we want to expand democratic participation to include those individuals who have been excluded because of lack of economic and social capital, we need to push for radical changes.  These kinds of radical changes call for a radical model of research. 

If we push for a radical model of CBR, some faculty and students who are interested in pursuing CBR projects may feel that it is impossible to achieve this goal and thus decide not to pursue community-based research at all.  As Strand et al. (2003a) point out,

We caution the current or would-be practitioner against becoming paralyzed by imperfections from these ideal principles, acknowledging that no CBR practice is perfect in its design and execution and that at some level, we need to do the best we can under our current circumstances (p. 74).

I agree with this statement, and I feel that conducting mainstream CBR is better than not pursuing CBR at all.  However, I do think that those who carry out community-based research should consistently seek to pursue a more radical form of CBR that has the potential to bring about greater change. 

Implications of this Study

This study has several implications for the field of CBR.  First of all, it provides a view into the process of conducting this kind of work.  It allows the reader to vicariously experience the issues that arise when conducting community-based research and the factors that facilitate or hinder a successful collaboration.  By exploring the missteps I made during the first case study and how I addressed some of these missteps during the second case study, a research practitioner who is considering the use of CBR may be able to learn from my experiences. 

This study also demonstrates the importance of developing interpersonal skills that relate specifically to this work.  As a student practitioner conducting CBR, I lacked the requisite skills in my work with the Coalition to establish a relationship at the outset of our work, and I also lacked the requisite skills to deal with the issues that arose in order to address these conflicts.  My experience points to the need to develop course work for students who plan to participate in CBR projects that focuses on strategies that can be used to deal with the interpersonal dynamics that can arise in CBR work. 

Though Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, and Donohue (2003a) have laid out the beginnings of an epistemology of practice in relation to CBR, there is a need for more clearly identified standards within the discipline.  These standards could include offering more clearly delineated guidelines for the stages of the CBR process and what the researcher should do to make each stage successful.  These standards could also address the issue of how to pursue data that are considered valid and reliable by traditional academic standards yet at the same time still serve the needs of the community.  Another area that needs to be addressed that was present in both CBR projects that I carried out was the idea of subjectivity within CBR projects.  Since CBR work is inherently a subjective process, the field should begin to develop an epistemology of subjectivity in order to address the role of subjectivity in CBR work. 

One of the issues that arose in my work with the Coalition was conflicting views about the use of data.  Part of this conflict stems from the fact that my background in research is traditional academic research.  I recognize the value of traditional academic research in providing standards of quality for research and I also recognize the importance of this type of research as a resource for CBR practitioners in the field.  However, in my CBR work, there were times that my views of research conflicted with those of my community partners.  The field of CBR needs to determine how these two research paradigms can coexist within CBR work.  This is an issue that will need to be addressed within individual CBR projects as well as within the university.  CBR practitioners will need to begin to define their place within the academic community. 

As G. Lichtenstein (personal communication, June 8, 2004) pointed out, there are three possible approaches that CBR practitioners could pursue in seeking to make a place for CBR in the academic community.  The first approach is a competing paradigm: CBR versus traditional academic research.  In this approach, CBR researchers seek to position CBR work as the principal form of research within the university and shift the focus of the university toward social change.  The second approach is a coexisting paradigm.  In this paradigm, CBR work has more of a subsidiary role in the university.  The results of the work are valued, but the methodology is not considered to be academically rigorous.  The third potential approach is an integrated paradigm.  Lichtenstein says that within an integrated paradigm,

CBR strives to integrate traditional research goals and goals of community change.  CBR relies on traditional methodology (quantitative and qualitative), but also rejects assumptions of objectivity leading to its own epistomology and methodological discipline and safeguards.  CBR faculty seek to expand academic notions of what constitutes effective research.

As more faculty begin to consider implementing CBR projects, it will be important for faculty members and universities to determine the role of CBR within the institution. 

Finally, this study provides a way to conceptualize CBR work so that the researcher can work toward a collaboration that has the potential to create the greatest value based on the goals of empowerment and change.  The conceptual model that I designed, based on the current literature about CBR (Stoecker, 2003; Strand et al., 2003a), provides one way to consider how to design and evaluate CBR work.  Like any model, it is not perfect, but it is the best explanatory model that I can provide at this point based on the research that I have done. 

Recommendations for Further Research

Based on some of the questions that arose when I was conducting my research and some of the limitations of my study, I have four recommendations for further research.  First of all, it would be beneficial to conduct research that explores the experience of conducting community-based research through the eyes of the community.  Though I interviewed my community partners and tried to incorporate their insights into my study, my study primarily focuses on the researcher's perspective of this experience.  Community members who participate in CBR projects may have different ideas about the issues surrounding this kind of work, and greater perspective on the community's experience would assist in developing an epistemology of practice for CBR. 

One of the concerns that was raised by my community partners John Brewer and Maria Swenson related to the quality of the data.  I believe it would be beneficial for a researcher to explore the research that is produced in multiple CBR projects and determine whether the work is quality work based on both the traditional standards of quality (in relation to validity and reliability) as well as the perceptions of the community as to what they consider to be quality work.  If community-based researchers can demonstrate to the academic community that community-based research produces quality research, it is more likely that CBR will become widely accepted within the academic arena.  

Along with exploring the quality of data, it would be interesting to conduct long-term case studies to explore the impact of CBR projects over a period of time.  I was able to do this somewhat with the first case study I pursued; however, that research project appears at this point in time to have had minimal impact.  It would be more interesting to study the long-term impacts of my work with John Brewer and Maria Swenson, particularly in relation to the community organizing piece.  Again, if researchers can demonstrate that CBR work does bring about important change, it may convince some academics to pursue this work. 

Finally, the case studies that I presented here were case studies of conducting mainstream community-based research.  It would be interesting to read about the experience of conducting radical community-based research.  Though it seems likely that many of the same issues would arise in this work, there may be other interesting issues that would emerge that would lead to a different conceptual model of CBR. 


As I carried out both of these CBR projects, I continued to ask myself why I should pursue this work.  The answer lies with the fact that I believe that my role in the world is to make life more livable for the human beings that surround me.  My life has meaning through what I am able to give to others.  I also believe that my liberation is bound up in the liberation of everyone around me who is marginalized and excluded from living a life of opportunity.  My goal is to be able to carry this personal philosophy into the career that I pursue. 

I believe that we, as the "educational elite" of this country, cannot allow injustice to run ramshackle around us without some attempt to create equity.  In order to be able to do this, there needs to be a place for CBR work in the university setting.  Though traditional academic research will always play a role in academia, I believe that universities need to recognize their role in becoming agents of change versus agents of esoterica.  In the end, what matters is the difference we all make in the world. 


[1] This work was originally written as a dissertation presented to the college of education, university of denver, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree doctor of philosophy

[2] All names of people, places, and organizations have been changed throughout the dissertation in order to protect confidentiality. 


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Appendix A: List of Meetings and Interviews

Coalition for Schools

Nov. 21, 2002             First Meeting with Marge, Lisa, Graham, and Don

Nov. 22, 2002             Coalition Executive Committee Meeting

Nov. 25, 2002             Meeting with Lisa

Nov. 25, 2002             Meeting in Relation to Coalition High Schools

Dec. 5, 2002                Parent Meeting at East Middle School

Dec. 6, 2002                Meeting with Lisa and Marge

Dec. 11, 2002              Meeting with Lisa, Marge, and Don

Dec. 12, 2002              Meeting with Lisa, Marge, and Rosanna

Dec. 17, 2002              Coalition Executive Committee Meeting

Dec. 19, 2002              Meeting with Don

Jan. 9, 2003                 Meeting with Lisa

Jan. 15, 2003               Coalition General Assembly Meeting

Jan. 15, 2003               Meeting with Literacy Specialist from BSU

Jan. 20, 2003               Meeting with Don

Jan. 24, 2003               Meeting with Lisa

Jan. 31, 2003               Meeting with Graham and Don

Feb. 3, 2003                Executive Committee Planning Meeting

Feb. 11, 2003              Meeting with Lisa and Marge

Feb. 17, 2003              Meeting with Graham and Don

Feb. 18, 2003              Meeting with Don

March 4, 2003             Meeting with Marge, Lisa, and Don

March 7, 2003             Meeting with Don

March 13, 2003           Meeting with Don

March 16, 2003           Meeting at Member Organization of Coalition

May 15, 2003              Interview with Elementary Teachers

May 15, 2003              Interview with Elementary Principal

May 21, 2003              Interview with Middle School Teachers

May 29, 2003              Interview with High School Teachers

May 30, 2003              Interview with Coalition Action Team Member

June 3, 2003                Interview with Executive Committee Member

June 3, 2003                Interview with General Assembly Member

June 4, 2003                Interview with Group of Parents from PSE

June 5, 2003                Interview with Marge Bowline

June 6, 2003                Coalition General Assembly Meeting

June 9, 2003                Interview with Rosanna Ibanez

June 11, 2003              Interview with Lisa Brown

June 11, 2003              Meeting with Lisa Brown

June 13, 2003              Interview with High School Principal

June 13, 2003              Interview with Middle School Principal

April 9, 2004                Follow-Up Email Interview with Lisa

Collaboration with John Brewer and Maria Swenson

Sept. 26, 2003             First Meeting with John Brewer

Sept. 30, 2003             Phone Meeting with Carol Dawson

Oct. 3, 2003                Phone Conference with Graham and Don

Oct. 15, 2003              Phone Meeting with John Brewer

Oct. 21, 2003              First Interview with John

Oct. 21, 2003              Meeting with John Brewer and Maria Swenson

Oct. 21, 2003              Meeting with Jennifer Payton

Nov. 5, 2003               Meeting with John

Nov. 5, 2003               Meeting with Maria

Nov. 12, 2003             Meeting with John

Nov. 13, 2003             Meeting with Maria

Dec. 4, 2003                Phone Meeting with John

Dec. 11, 2003              First Interview with Maria

Dec. 11, 2003              Meeting with Maria

Jan. 12, 2004               Phone Meeting with Paul

Jan. 28, 2004               Phone Meeting with Paul

Feb. 2, 2004                Pilot Survey with John's Students

Feb. 5, 2004                Phone Conference with Latino Organization

Feb. 27, 2004              Meeting with Pedro, Idella, and Maria

March 3, 2004             Phone Conference with CBR Professor

March 16, 2004           Second Interview with Maria

March 16, 2004           Meeting with Maria

March 17, 2004           Phone Conference with Community Organizer in the City

March 23, 2004           Second Interview with John

March 23, 2004           Meeting with John

April 4, 2004                Phone Conference with Regional Community Organizer

April 8, 2004                Meeting with Maria

April 9, 2004                Meeting with John

April 12, 2004              Meeting with John

April 16, 2004              Meeting with Community Organizer, Manuel, John, Maria, and Leonora

April 19, 2004              Meeting with Maria

April 19, 2004              Meeting with John

April 22, 2004              Third Interview with Maria

April 22, 2004              Meeting with Maria

April 26, 2004              Meeting with John

April 29, 2004              Third Interview with John

April 29, 2004              Meeting with John

May 11, 2004              Meeting with John's Advisory Board


Appendix B: Interview Protocols

Interview Protocol for Lisa Brown and Marge Bowline



People Present:


I'm talking with you today to get your input on the work of the Coalition for Schools.  I'd like to tape our discussion and I will summarize what you've said and integrate it into my final report.  I will also use some of these data as part of my dissertation research. 

[Have the interviewee read the consent form, answer any questions, have interviewee sign form and give them copy of form.  Turn on the tape recorder and test it]

1.  Since you've been involved with the Coalition have the goals of the Coalition changed or evolved?

[Probe for knowledge/understanding of the original goals]

2.  How do you view the role of the Coalition in relation to the member organizations that make up the Coalition?

[Probe for networking, streamline funding and resources]

3.   What impact do you feel the Coalition has had so far?

[Probe for impact of member organizations as well as the Coalition itself]

4.   How do you envision moving the work of the Collaborative forward?

[Probe for idea of stand-alone programming]

5.   How do you view the role of data in the work of the Coalition?

[Probe for short term and long term]

6.   How can universities help organizations like the Coalition? What kind of knowledge can they bring?

7.  What are some issues that can arise when university people, particularly researchers, work with community organizations?

[Probe for examples from our collaboration]

8.  What are some things that could make collaborations between university researchers and community organizations more successful?

9.  One of the goals of the Coalition is community ownership of student and school success.  How do you define community?

[Probe for all members that make up community of Coalition]

10. How do you think the Coalition can assess community ownership of student and school success?

[Probe based on broad definition of community]

11. Do you have any questions or is there anything you would like to add?

Follow-Up Email Interview Questions for Lisa

When we conducted our previous interview, you signed a consent form at that time.  Please review the copy of the consent form that I gave you.  Remember that you do not have to answer any question with which you are uncomfortable. 

1.  Do you feel like you had input into my hiring and the work that we did?

2.  Do you feel like communication with me was effective?

3.  What facilitated or hindered our collaboration?

4.  What did the Coalition gain through the work that I did?

5.  How is the research that I did being used/shared?

6.  Are there any issues/concerns that you had about the work we did?

7. Is there anything else you would like to comment on? 

Additional Follow-Up Questions

After reviewing the feedback that you gave though the follow-up interview, I had a few additional questions.  If you have the time to answer these, that would be great.  Thank you.

1.  I never got any feedback from you or Marge on the third report (Evaluation Report) that I did based on interview data from teachers, parents, and Coalition members.  Was that report useful in any way?

2.  Is the evaluation plan (or pieces of it) that I developed being used in any way? 

3.  You mentioned in the follow-up interview some of the work that I did that the organization was using.  Do you feel like my work brought about any change?

Interview Protocol (1st Interview with John and Maria)



People Present:

Give interviewee the memorandum of understanding in relation to the research and allow for questions. 

[Have the interviewee read the consent form, answer any questions, have interviewee sign form and give him/her copy of form.  Turn on the tape recorder and test it]

1. Tell me a little about yourself and how you came to this position.

[Probe for experiences that led to interest in working with immigrant population]

2. What experiences have you had with conducting research?

[Probe for research conducted in graduate work as well as current position]

3. What experiences have you had with researchers?

[Probe for experience with researchers in current position]

4. What is your perception of the benefits of research?

[Probe for benefits of research generally and specifically for his/her organization]

5. What is your perception of the limitations of research?

[Probe for past negative experiences with research]

6. What do you understand to be the research that I am proposing to carry out?

[Probe for understanding of CBR as well as my dissertation research]

7. What expectations do you have about my work with you?

8. What do you think we can do to make sure that we communicate effectively throughout this process?

[Probe for preferred modes of communication and important things to know about how he/she communicates.  Share some of my own communication traits]

9. Do you have any questions or is there anything else you would like to discuss?

Interview Protocol [2nd Interview with John and Maria)



People Present:

Remind of participants of consent procedures.  Review consent form signed in first interview. 

1.   Do you feel like you're having the input you want to have on the projects we're working on?

[John, probe for input on demographic data]

2. Do you feel like communication with me has been effective?

[Probe for if they feel like they are being heard]

3. Is the time-frame that we're pursuing things working for you?

[Probe for satisfaction with time commitment]

4. Are there any issues/concerns that you have about the work we're doing?

[Probe for satisfaction with work completed so far]

5. Is there anything else you would like to discuss?  Do you have any questions?

Interview Protocol (3rd Interview with John and Maria)



People Present:

Remind participants of consent procedures.  Review consent form signed in first interview. 

1.   Do you feel like you had the input that you wanted to have in our work   


[John, probe for demographics, community organizing, and surveys.  Maria, probe for surveys and community organizing]

2.  Did you feel like I valued your knowledge?

[Probe for valuing knowledge of community and knowledge of research]

3.  Do you feel like communication with me was effective?

[Probe for feeling heard]

4.  What facilitated our collaboration?

5.  What hindered our collaboration?

6.  What did you gain through the work that we did?

[Probe for gains in knowledge]

7.  What did your organization gain through the work that we did?

8.   How will the research that we did be used/shared?

[Probe for who will be allowed access to the data]

9.   Are there any issues/concerns that you had about the work we did?

10. Is there anything else you would like to comment on? Do you have any questions?

Protocol for Piloting Student Survey



People Present:


I'm from the University of Denver.  I'm working with John Brewer to develop a survey to determine whether students are satisfied with the English courses that they are taking.  We would like to get your feedback on this survey to determine whether it works well for the information we are trying to find out. 

[Discuss informed consent, go through consent form together, have them sign form.  Make sure that they are comfortable with being taped.]

1.  We are going to ask you to complete the survey and then we will discuss it.  You do not need to answer any question that makes you uncomfortable.  [Since it will be a small group, let them know that their answers will not necessarily be anonymous - I will probably know which survey belongs to each person]

2.  As you complete the survey pay attention to these three questions:

A. Are there questions that you don't understand?

B. Are there questions/directions that are confusing?

C. Are there questions that are frustrating to answer because the response options weren't adequate? 

D. Please make notes on the survey if you find a question that does not work. 

3.  As they are taking the survey, time how long it takes most people to complete it. Walk around and notice where someone gets stuck, skips an item, etc.

4.  After they have completed the survey, ask these three questions:

A. How did it feel to take the survey?

B. Anything confusing? Any bad questions?

C. Were there any questions that made you uncomfortable?

5.  Are there any questions that we should ask that we did not include?

6.  Are there any questions that we should remove?

7.  Do you have any other questions/comments? 


Appendix C:  Document From First Case Study

Potential Data Points for the Coalition for Schools

Academic Achievement Measures

1. Demographic Indicators

A. Percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch *

B. Percent of students who are ELL (English Language Learners) *

C. Ethnicity

D. Number of Students Enrolled  

2. Intermediate Measures

A. Average daily attendance *

B. Mobility rate

C. Number of students who attended for three consecutive years*

D. Attrition/Stability (number who started in Oct. and are still at school at end of school year)*

E.  Dropout rate, broken down by ethnicity and grade level *

F.  Achievement motivation - administer survey to a sample of students at each school

G. Number of safety and discipline incidents *

H. Number of suspensions and expulsions *

I.    Student/teacher ratio during literacy instruction

J.   Average class size (do not average in specials - lowers the average and does not provide a true picture)

K.    Teacher to student ratio *

L.  Number of books checked out from the library (monthly, yearly)

M.   Number of AP classes (in proportion to number of students)

N.    Resource Inventory - Use key indicators to summarize resources.  Develop rubrics to rate accessibility of resources.  Look at: technology resources, literacy resources (in rooms and library), science lab resources, other?  Also, staff resources such as number of literacy coaches, support staff, etc. 

3. Outcome Measures

A. State Assessment scores * (1997-2002 - disaggregated)

B. ACT - grade 11 * (disaggregated)

C. ITBS scores (may only be used in pay-for-performance pilot schools)

D. Aprenda (may be eliminated)

E.  6 Trait writing assessment (may be eliminated)

F.  Brigance K-1 (used to evaluate students applying for ECE placement)

G. Basic Literacy Act Assessments (BLA) - administered quarterly

K-2  Observation survey and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) for grade one only

2-5  DRA and Qualitative Reading Inventory I or II (QRI)

6& 7 Scholastic Reading Inventory  (SRI) 

H. District grade level math assessment K-8 (schools using Scotts-Foresman or Everyday Math curriculum will use assessments tied to the curriculum)

I.    LAS testing (levels of English proficiency)

J.   Graduation Rate, broken down by ethnicity *

K.    Number of students that continue on to postsecondary education

L.  Percentage of high school students who complete (algebra 1, algrebra 2, or geometry) or higher

M.   Number of students who pass AP exams

Data to Assess Impact in Reform Areas

1.  Recruiting and Retaining High Quality Teachers

A. Breakdown of staff according to number of years taught * (average number of years teaching also available on web *)

B. Number of teachers with graduate degrees *

C. Number of teachers teaching outside licensure area (ms & hs)

D. Number of teachers teaching without a license or who did not go through a teacher preparation program * (TIR or emergency license)

E.  Numbers of teachers teaching the subject in which they majored (ms & hs) *

F.  Rate of teacher absenteeism *

G. Teacher turnover

H. Survey or interview quality 1st year teachers at each school - what brought them there?

I.    Survey or interview quality 5th year teachers at each school - why have they stayed?

2.  Teacher Professional Development and Support

A. Assess current professional development offerings (Quantity and quality - Does each school have a plan? How is the plan developed?)

B. Survey teachers about professional development opportunities (What is working, what is not, what would they like to see offered)

C. Incorporate questions about professional development into survey/interviews used in strategy one with quality teachers, assess quality of mentoring for first year teachers

D. Assess funding support available to teachers (for books, supplies, field trips, other resources)

E.  Number of professional development days a year *

F.  Number of hours literacy coaches spend with teachers

3.  Principal Leadership

A. Number of years teaching before becoming a principal

B. Graduate degree

C. Number of years experience as a principal *

D. Number of years as principal at that school *

E.  Completed principal licensure program

F.  District school satisfaction surveys

G. Principal self evaluation (assess instructional leadership, how many hours spent in classrooms)

H. How much time in faculty meetings is spent on instructional issues (i.e. looking at student work)

I.    What professional development opportunities are offered for principals (both for current principals and those planning to become principals)

4.  Curriculum and Assessment (I would also add instruction to this strategy)

A. School Observation Measure to assess instruction

B. School Climate Inventory

C. Walk for Learning (elementary schools)

D. Curriculum being used in each school for reading, writing, mathematics

E.  Improvement plan for each school

F.  Graduation requirements (high school)

G. Develop rubric to assess implementation of the literacy plan

H. Number of internships at high school

I.    10th grade passage at high school

K.  How does each school assess student growth?

5.  Family and Community Involvement and Support

A. Attendance at parent meetings, events, teacher/parent conferences

B. Participation of parents and community in decision making at schools

C. Parent organizations

D. Survey sample of students to assess amount of parent involvement, ways parents are involved

E.  Survey sample of parents to report amount of involvement, barriers to involvement, ways they would like to be involved, ability to help with homework

F.  Contact PSE to find out about parent surveys and interviews they have conducted

G. Number of home visits conducted by school

H. Assess instructional opportunities offered for parents

I.    District school satisfaction survey

J.   Survey organizations involved in Coalition (for those not directly linked to education, what do they do to support educational efforts in community?)

K.    Assess partnerships schools have developed with organizations (are goals of partnerships aligned with instructional plans?)

L.  What are the number of community organizations involved with the Coalition

M.   What sort of grant funding are schools receiving

6.  Early Childhood Education

A. Survey kindergarten teachers - readiness of students for kindergarten

B. Number of kindergarten students who had preschool experience (daycare, preschool, headstart - if not, were they cared for at home or by a relative?)

C. Assess current ECE options available for parents in this area of the city

* Data currently available online


Appendix D:  Documents From Second Case Study

Memorandum of Understanding

I would like to work with you in carrying out a community-based research project.  The idea behind community-based research is that university researchers work in collaboration with community organizations and individuals to identify community needs and conduct research that will lead to beneficial change.  For the purposes of my dissertation, I plan to study this process of collaboration.  Some of the key questions I will be focusing on in my study include: 1) What kinds of issues arise when collaborating on a community-based research project? 2) What facilitates or hinders the process of collaboration?  3) What does the researcher gain through the collaborative process and what are the benefits for the community?  and 4) What can we learn from these experiences to inform the field of community based research? There are several requirements of my research that you need to be aware of:

1.  It is important that the research that we conduct brings in the voices of the community that is being researched through surveys or interviews so that we can determine what the community's needs are and if these needs are being served. 

2.  I would like to interview you periodically throughout the process of collaboration in relation to this process.  We would conduct the first interview early in the process and this interview would deal with expectations and past experience with research.  I will provide a consent form before the first interview. 

3.  I would like to tape all meetings as part of the data collection for my dissertation.  I would be the oaccess to these tapes.

4.  When I write up the results of my research in my dissertation, I would be writing about you and my work with you.  I would be happy to share my findings with you as we collaborate on this project. 

Areas of Research Focus

1.  Develop an accurate estimate of the numbers of non-English speaking immigrants.  Since all public services organizations need accurate data for grant writing, we will write one report with numbers that the whole community can use.  [Additional questions to consider: What is the economic impact of the immigrant population?, and Where are most immigrant populations residing within the county?]

2.  Develop a survey to measure student satisfaction with the current courses offered in the English program.

3.  How can we begin to organize the immigrant community to have a voice in the city?  (access information to find out how to start the process)

Ideas for Demographic Indicators:

1.  Get number of non-English population served for past (3, 4, or 5 years) from various organizations including: 

A. School district (number of ELL students or students born outside U.S. - can be leading indicator )

B. Number of students attending English program.

C. Number of clients being served in Diversity Office.

D. Number of births to immigrant mothers (can be leading indicator)

E.  Hospital - Numbers collected by Language Barrier Team

F.  Numbers from city and county police

G. Human services

H. Use of translations services in courts

I.    Churches

J.   Food banks

2.  Develop growth projection using comparisons in growth of total population of city and immigrant population.  Compare to growth of Latino population and do projection based on total U.S. projected growth.  Get state data on immigrant growth.

3.  See if any additional census data is available for this city

4.  Get intended residency data from INS

5.  What data do all parties currently have on the immigrant population?