Making a Difference Through Research – Informed Advocacy, Community Building and Solidarity

Gregory Maney, PhD
Co-Director, Center for Civic Engagement
Professor of Sociology and Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Teaching Professor
for the Study of Nonviolent Social Change, Hofstra University
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. identified six steps toward nonviolent social change. The first step is gathering information. Community-based research (CBR) is generally regarded as a collaborative project that involves community members in designing, conducting, analyzing, and/or using research to contribute to community empowerment. Rather than conducting research on a community, faculty and students are doing research with community members.
There are mutual benefits to forming collaborative research partnerships. The ability of community-based organizations (CBOs) to achieve their goals often depends upon conducting rigorous research. At the same time, public and private funders of academic research are increasingly requiring faculty to partner with CBOs in order to enhance the impact of their awards. The collaborative research process involves iterative cycles of action and reflection. The pooling of academic and community knowledge and skills along with knowledge revision and additional skills results in many benefits beyond what conventional academic research typically provides. These benefits include socially relevant and accessible research, better informed interpretations of data based upon multiple perspectives, the development of theories with predictive power, and the wider distribution of findings to multiple publics.
The Center for Civic Engagement calls upon all faculty, students, and community-based organizations interested in doing collaborative research to contact us to discuss resources and opportunities available. We particularly encourage research projects that hold the potential to deepen democracy, promote social justice and human rights, and ensure sustainability in the natural environment and communities.
As opposed to the academic researcher parachuting into a community, grabbing data, and never being heard from again, CBR requires a familiarity with the local context and sustaining relationships with those being studied. The CCE can assist faculty and students in this regard. We have deep, ongoing relationships with community-based organizations on the local, national, and even international levels, and will endeavor to connect you with groups that share your interests and can benefit from your skills. You can either contact us to facilitate a meeting or attend one of our Community Connections events, which provide networking opportunities that start you on the road to familiarity and trust.
In addition, CBR benefits from a variety of skills not likely to be possessed by one person alone. Skills that are frequently needed include the ability to conduct ethnographic research and other qualitative methods, environmental research, corporate and financial research, evaluative research, geo-spatial research, community health assessments, legal and legislative research, media and public opinion research, statistical analyses, and strategic planning. Here, too, the Center for Civic Engagement can be of assistance by drawing upon relevant resources at Hofstra and beyond to support your collaboration. Many faculty, students, administrators, staff, and alumni are already deeply engaged in communities. As a University-wide institute under the Office of the Provost, the CCE serves as a home for coordinating and synergizing these activities.

So far I’ve only mentioned one of Dr. King’s six steps to nonviolent social change. The other steps are education, personal commitment, discussion/negotiation, direct action, and reconciliation. As with collaborative research, Hofstra University offers a wealth of tools to assist community-based organizations in taking these additional steps. The CCE presents community groups with a tool kit of knowledge, skills, and resources that can be drawn from in the pursuit of measurable goals. In offering these tools, we hope to establish ongoing relationships with our community partners while assisting them in developing the capacities to independently conduct similar initiatives. Our most frequent Hofstra partners include the Center for Educational Access and Success, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law’s Community and Economic Development Clinic, Continuing Education, the Hofstra Cultural Center, the School of Health Professions and Human Services, Honors College, the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs, and the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement. And this just scratches the surface of the resources available at Hofstra.
Please contact the CCE to discuss becoming one of our community partners, and learn more about the specific tools you need to fulfill your dreams of a more just, fair and peaceful world.

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