Change Research: A Case Study on Collaborative Methods for Social Workers and Advocates 9780231525367

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Change Research: A Case Study on Collaborative Methods for Social Workers and Advocates

Table of contents :
List of Tables and Figures
List of Abbreviations
1. Changing Research / Researching Change
2. Reevaluating Evaluation Research: Sowing the Seeds of Distrust
3. Introducing Our Collaborative Research Case Study: Working with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project
4. Quantitative Data Analysis in a Collaboration Research Project: Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia
5. “Everyday World Policy Analysis” and Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia: Walking Through Programs from the Client Perspective
6. From Research to Recommendations: The Politics of Presentation
7. The Challenges of Doing Collaborative Research
8. A Model for Collaborative Research
Appendix A: Resources for Doing Community-Based Research
Appendix B: American Housing Survey Definitions

Citation preview

Change Research

Change Research A Case Study on Collaborative Methods for Social Workers and Advocates

Corey S. Shdaimah, Roland W. Stahl, and Sanford F. Schram

columbia university press  new york

Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York  Chichester, West Sussex Copyright © 2011 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Shdaimah, Corey S.   Change research : a case study on collaborative methods for social workers and advocates / Corey S. Shdaimah, Roland W. Stahl, and Sanford F. Schram.    p.  cm.   Includes bibliographical references and index.   ISBN 978-0-231-15178-8 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-231-15179-5 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-231-52536-7 (electronic)   1. Social service—Research. 2. Housing—Research. I. Stahl, Roland W.  II. Schram, Sanford. III. Title. HV11.S4827  2011 363.5'53072—dc22 2010050818

Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. This book was printed on paper with recycled content. Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 p 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 References to Internet Web sites (URLs) were accurate at the time of writing. Neither the author nor Columbia University Press is responsible for URLs that may have expired or changed since the manuscript was prepared.


List of Tables and Figures  ix List of Abbreviations  xi Acknowledgments  xiii Prologue  xv

Introduction  1 1. Changing Research / Researching Change  16 Change Research and Evidence-Based Practice  18 Top Down Versus Bottom Up  26 Research as a Form of Change Politics  31 Participatory Action Research and Community-Based Participatory Research: What’s the Difference?  32 Conclusion  36 Discussion Questions  38

2. Reevaluating Evaluation Research: Sowing the Seeds of Distrust  39 The Research/Evaluation Nexus  40 The Perversities of Performance Measurement  45 Conclusion  49 Discussion Questions  50

3. Introducing Our Collaborative Research Case Study: Working with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project  52 The Context for Our Research: Affordable Housing Advocacy and Our Research Partners  53 The Role of Low-Income Home-Repair Research in the Advocacy Campaign  59

vi contents

Conclusion  62 Discussion Questions  62

4. Quantitative Data Analysis in a Collaboration Research Project: Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia  64 Data: Why, How, and What We Collected  67 Converting Population Estimates Into Funding Requests  76 Conclusion  80 Discussion Questions  81

5. “Everyday World Policy Analysis” and Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia: Walking Through Programs from the Client Perspective  82 “Everyday World Policy Analysis” and the Maze of Home-Repair Policies  83 Client Stories: Low-Income Homeownership from the Bottom Up  97 Conclusion  102 Discussion Questions  103

6. From Research to Recommendations: The Politics of Presentation  104 Researchers’ Involvement in the Policy Process  105 The Policy Payoff: Advocacy Outcomes  111 Research Presentations: The Politics of Framing  117 Conclusion  118 Discussion Questions  119

7. The Challenges of Doing Collaborative Research  120 “On Tap” Rather Than “on Top”  121 Assessing the Collaborative Process in the Home-Repair Study  122 Advocates and Researchers: Matching Role Expectations  127 Conflicting Interests: Policy Change or Knowledge Production?  129 Creating a Collaborative Process  132 Different Roles, Mutual Trust  134 Conclusion  136 Discussion Questions  138

8. A Model for Collaborative Research  139 Conventional Research  140 Community-Organizing Research  142 A Change Research Stance  145 Developing Research Questions  150 Choosing Methods  152 Implementing the Research Project  154

contents  vii

Creating Hospitable Environments for Change Research  156 Allocating Resources  159 Trust and Power  162 Commitments, Obligations, and Negotiations in the Home-Repair Study  163 Creating a Lasting Partnership: Why and What It Signifies  168 Conclusion  170 Discussion Questions  171 Conclusion  172 Discussion Questions  179

Appendix A: Resources for Doing Community-Based Research  181 Appendix B: American Housing Survey Definitions  184 Notes  187 References  189 Index  203

Tables and Figures

Figure I.1. The Pyramid of Research Knowledge: Ranking the Quality of Evidence  5 Table 1.1.

Research Approaches Reviewed  17

Figure 4.1. Philadelphia Homeowners with Incomes Below $20,000 Annually, Paying More Than 30 Percent of Their Income for Housing, by Neighborhood, 2000  65 Table 4.1.

Low-Income Homeownership in Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods, 2000  67

Table 4.2.

Fourteen-City Statistical Comparison on Housing-Related Indicators, 2000 U.S. Census  69

Table 4.3.

BSRP Income-Eligible Homes, 1999  73

Table 4.4.

Profile of BSRP Eligible Population  74

Table 4.5.

BSRP Cases and Funding by Year  77

Table 4.6.

Home-Repair Problems of BSRP Income-Eligible Homes Rated Adequate, 1999  78

Table 4.7.

Home-Repair Problems Among BSRP Income-Eligible Homes, 1999  79

Table 5.1.

Major Home-Repair and Home-Maintenance Programs for Low-Income Households in Philadelphia  84

Table 5.2.

BSRP Program Tiers by Cost and Eligibility  89

Table 5.3.

Demographic Breakdown of BSRP Households  90

Figure 6.1. Publicizing the Research  107 Figure 6.2. Publicity Counts: A Visually Striking Representation of Our Research  109 Figure 6.3. Philadelphia City Council Ordinance for the Housing Trust Fund  112 Table 8.1.

Creating Guidelines for Your Change Research Project  149

Figure 8.1. The Change Research Process  155



Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now


American Housing Survey


anti-oppressive social work research


Basic Systems Home Repair Program


Community Development Block Grant


community development corporation


Central Intake Unit


community-based participatory research


evidence-based practice


faith-based organization


Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition


Institutional Review Board


Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspection


Neighborhood Transition Initiative


Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development


Philadelphia Affordable Housing Coalition


participatory action research


Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation

PHIL-Loan Philadelphia Home Improvement Loan RCT

randomized clinical trial


Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority


Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families


University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia


Women’s Community Revitalization Project


William Penn Foundation


our first t h a n k s   go to our advocate-partners in Philadelphia, without whom the research reported here would not have been conceived, let alone completed. From the Affordable Housing Coalition, a number of people from different organizations collaborated with us in ways that were invaluable. From the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, we thank Nora Lichtash, Carolyn Haynes, David Koppisch, Jen Curley, K’ay Cid, and Shanika Fraser; from ACORN Philadelphia, Ali Kronley; from the United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia, Brad Baldia and Francis Carney. As part of the campaign, our research benefited greatly from collaborating with Karen Black of May 5th Consulting. We also thank Gerry Wang of the William Penn Foundation for advice concerning grant funding and influencing the policy process. All these folks taught us much and made our meetings lively, sometimes frustrating, and always friendly. Their dedication to the communities that they nurtured and are nurtured by was a source of inspiration. Their political savvy, organizing expertise, and cooperation is a truly effective and awe-inspiring model. We also thank the people who shared their experiences, knowledge, and expertise. City officials, advocates from nonprofit organizations, and agency workers all helped us to better understand the programs that serve Philadelphia’s low-income homeowners. They also shed light on interagency dynamics and the nuts and bolts of how programs work (and do not work) on the ground. We are most grateful to the people who let us into their homes so that we could better understand what home repair concerns look like when one has to live with them. Thanks to Lauren Dockett (with the able assistance of Avni Majithia-Sejpal) for shepherding the book at Columbia and Annie Barva for her careful editing and enthusiasm for the project. Thanks also to Virginia Eubanks,

xiv  acknowledgments

Ben Kaufman, Vicki Lens, Judie McCoyd, Nancy Naples, Joan Schram, Roni Strier, and Charlie Wolfe for feedback on parts of the manuscript in its different iterations, to Amichai Shdaimah for his help on figure 8.1, and David Consiglio for help preparing our statistical data for analysis. One might assume, because we chose to share our hard-won expertise in collaboration, that our own collaboration was always easy, smooth, and selfevidently rewarding. As the story in this book shows, any worthwhile collaboration that truly challenges and stretches us will have bumps. As we suggest in this book, what kept this project together and made it stronger was our shared commitment to a vision for social science research, social work practice, and social change. Perhaps more important, however, were the respect and friendship that we have shared while doing, thinking about, and sharing our research. We have learned much from one another, and working on this project has been personally and professionally rewarding.


The Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) knows that low-income homeowners are struggling to keep their homes safe and habitable. They know that Philadelphia’s home repair programs just do not meet the needs of most people. They are in the neighborhood, in the houses, and this is what they have seen and heard. But the “anecdotes” of advocates are suspicious. What they need are credible data and, most importantly, numbers. Those numbers should be crunched by someone with a Ph.D. We’ve been sitting here for what feels like hours. It is summer and humid, and it seems like we are circling around and around this question of numbers. Sandy is trying to explain why we cannot mix data from the American Housing Survey and the U.S. Census, two different databases that use different units of analysis. We all agree that if we could combine all of the questions and information, it would be much better for our analysis and for our case. But what about the numbers? Can’t we come up with a round number that would stick in people’s minds? The advocates are trying to impress upon us the importance of having information that is easily digestible and stays in people’s memories. Numbers, they say, that will resonate. They are as exasperated with us as we are with them. We take turns, Sandy and Roland and I, as do our advocate partners, asking and answering each other’s questions in a different way in the hopes that maybe this time around we will understand each other. This is where it helps when we can turn to David and ask how his family is or turn to Jen and ask her how her classes are going. Can somebody pass a donut? I’m so glad that Brad got us coffee. This is going to be a long meeting. It’s a good thing we’ve grown to like each other, and we know that we’re all good at what we do because we’re in it for the long haul.

xvi prologue

Months later we are all together at City Hall. There is a meeting with City Council staff. Neighborhood residents are here to testify. Nora and other WCRP staff are there, talking to City Council staff. They are handing out material, as are our other community partners. Karen is outlining the details of the glossy, condensed report and informing the City Council staff that they can refer to the detailed report. This is the one with the data: our report. Sandy is going to testify. This is it. We found some numbers, we have collected stories. We are out there. City Council is listening. A few months later there is more money in the City budget for home repair. This is what it feels like when it works. —From Corey Shdaimah’s reflections, summer and fall 2004 This book is about research. Contrary to most books about social research, it is not about how research has to be done independent of the people and communities who are affected by that research. Instead, it is about how researchers can maintain their credibility as researchers while collaborating with those in the community who are pushing for social change. Our story shows that researchers who collaborate with community partners can conduct credible research while empowering their clients and community partners to obtain the social changes they seek and do so in a way that helps promote more dramatic changes in the future. Our book is also different because rather than talking about research principles and procedures in the abstract, we tell a story to illuminate how research and advocacy can be combined to produce social change. Our story is not a depersonalized account about other people’s efforts; it relays our own experiences and the experiences of our advocate partners. This sort of firsthand account provides an effective way to understand the relationship of research to advocacy by examining it from the inside out, from the bottom up, and from personal experiences to more generalizable principles. We share our experiences of being involved as social work researchers in a successful campaign that resulted in a significant change in public policy. Our involvement was exciting for us; we hope this story is educational for others.

Change Research


the story w e t e l l shows that social workers who collaborate with community partners can conduct credible research while empowering their clients and community partners to obtain the social changes they seek. Participatory action research (PAR) and the less inclusive but more recently popular communitybased participatory research (CBPR) can take many forms but always involve working in partnership with community representatives to conduct research. Partnering with advocates helps inform researchers’ efforts to address concerns that confront communities. Many social workers and scholar-activists practice this type of research; we think that others should consider it (Greenbaum 1993). Social work researchers and other social scientists who engage in social research that is grounded in communities follow the lead of great scholaractivists such as Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, who provide a model for how to combine research and advocacy in order to affect social change. Piven and Cloward’s studies helped to energize the welfare rights movement in the 1960s and later to push for voting rights for the poor (Piven 2000; Piven and Cloward 1971). Their work demonstrates that social workers can perform meaningful roles as researchers in social change efforts that contribute to what we call “radical incrementalism,” where working for incremental change in the short run can lay the groundwork for more transformative changes in the long run (Schram 2002). For social work researchers to participate effectively in social change initiatives, they must think carefully about how to combine research and advocacy, particularly if they want those efforts to have lasting effects. Research can be a tool for reinforcing the status quo as much as a tool for change. Our story seeks to highlight how social work researchers can better ensure that their efforts are dedicated more to the latter than to the former.

2  introduction

This book is about imagining how research can be made more centrally part of the effort by social work and related fields to change society for the better. It is also about rethinking what should be included in the category of good research. The idea of combining research and advocacy is currently often frowned upon as unprofessional or unscientific. Social research today is taught mostly as a highly rigorous activity. It is to be conducted in what often seems a rulebook fashion, with its own vocabulary and set principles associated with collecting data that enable researchers to demonstrate causal relationships or to predict the likelihood of events occurring under particular conditions. Research is seen as a legitimating symbol that says a practice needs to be taken seriously because it is associated with science. Many students and practitioners view research with some degree of skepticism. Social research often seems divorced from the world of social work practice, like an appendage to their studies and their work. Since the research methods most often taught are relatively esoteric, learning research is often seen as far removed from what attracts people to social work in the first place or to efforts to make social change happen. For similar reasons, many social work practitioners see research as an activity divorced from the spirit of caring about others and trying to help them cope with the difficulties in their lives. Rather than the passion of caring, research calls for the dispassion of objective analysis. As a result, students and practitioners approach the requirement or expectation to learn how to conduct research with trepidation. They do not see it as a way to realize the passion that one has for one’s chosen area of practice. At worst, they perceive it as a distraction from the real business of helping people and changing communities. At best, it is that necessary evil that helps rationalize and legitimate practice. Rarely do students and practitioners see it as the fundamental basis for what they are learning or trying to do. Nonetheless, the call for research persists and grows ever louder. Teachers require it in courses, supervisors demand it, and policymakers call upon it as if it were an antidote to bias, a way of making those who want to do good prove they are operating on the basis of more than emotions (Haskins, Paxson, and Brooks-Gunn 2009). Scholars, professionals, and policy analysts must provide objective research in order to be taken seriously. Those who do not are viewed as incautiously reliant on mere feelings, passions, and commitments. Because of the narrow view of what constitutes good research, and because of the perceived necessity of separating commitment from the production of knowledge, what often happens is an unfortunate bifurcation of practice or

introduction  3

action and research. This divide can be compounded by the fact that those who are good at research may not be as good at taking on the substantive issues in their chosen field and vice versa. Personal preferences and strengths also shape our choices. The more contemplative among us may be more comfortable studying problems, whereas others may be more prepared to attack problems now rather than wait for the studies to be completed. Research has its place in this schema as a distinct activity that can make its own contributions, but the bifurcation between research and practice does neither any good in the long run. They risk becoming worlds unto themselves, disconnected in ways that are detrimental to both. This book is designed to help rethink researchers’ drift toward an unquestioned faith in science (i.e., scientization) and the hyperspecialization that comes with it so as to try to reduce the disconnection between research and practice. We offer a way of doing and thinking about research that reconnects it to commitment and practice. One inspiration for this book is the recent interest in research that does not produce knowledge for its own sake, but in order to address real-world problems as experienced by the people we study and serve (Naples 2003). This book is designed to help us all rethink what research is so that it can be made more relevant to social workers and others who are dedicated to ensuring that their practice empowers clients and communities. How to better connect research and practice is a major challenge facing social work in particular and the social sciences in general (Schram 2002). Collaborative research is one way to improve that connection (Fischer 2003). We do not argue that collaborative research must replace other forms of social work research. Instead, our hope is that our book provides good reasons for taking seriously the idea that collaborative research is an important form of social work practice and should be included among other useful approaches. Collaborative research is always tied in some way to helping community research partners better understand the problems they are struggling to address. It sometimes produces generalizable knowledge. At other times, it produces knowledge that is specifically tailored to understanding the circumstances that are unique to a local community. Although there are often debates about who among a broad range of heterogeneous constituents represents the “real” community, community collaborative research is fundamentally about producing research that helps inform community efforts to realize communitydefined goals. Yet even the most narrowly focused collaborative research can have uses beyond the local context. Local research can provide case studies that others can learn from, which is our intent with this project.

4  introduction

Situated reasoning requires paying attention to the particular context in which people operate. At a minimum, a study of context suggests the importance of the perspectives of people who live a particular phenomenon, experiencing it on a daily basis in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities. A key thesis of this book is that it is better to collaborate with community partners, not just to consult with them. Although other forms of research might be particularly relevant to some forms of social work practice, we believe that community practice, policy advocacy, and related forms of social work and social change efforts are likely to be improved when collaborative research is made part of those efforts in order to enhance contextually sensitive, situated reasoning that helps communities address problems. Collaborative community-based research should not be dismissed simply because it might appear biased in favor of the client groups with which researchers work. Instead, it should be embraced as a practice that, when well done, can help clients to better identify and address problems, practices, and policies that affect their lives and their communities. Case studies have fallen on hard times in recent years as social sciences have become more interested in systematic studies that have wide generalizability. Although there is merit in studying social problems in the abstract in order to articulate a general rationality as to why things are the way they are, there is also a need to counterbalance this interest in general rationality with concern for the situated reasoning that comes from understanding specific phenomena within a particular context (Toulmin 2001). Research is currently most often dedicated to understanding the general at the expense of the particular. Researchers often investigate the causes of economic downturns, the causes of poverty, or the causes of clinical depression, but as a result we know little about how a specific community is handling its economic misfortunes, how a particular neighborhood deals with poverty, or how particular clients should be treated differently from what the generic theories suggest. We must right the balance between abstract rationality and situated reasoning so that research can inform the latter as much as it currently does the former. In social work, case studies were once considered the best way to get to know an area of practice one client at a time. Social work has now been very much assimilated into the wider push across the allied helping professions for an “evidence-based practice,” which we discuss further in chapter 1. Proponents of evidence-based practice typically place case studies on or near the bottom of the “pyramid of knowledge” (see figure I.1). Systematic reviews or meta-analyses of clinical trials are considered the sine qua non of evidence-based practice. Bent Flyvbjerg (2006) has challenged the conventional view of case studies, suggesting that it leads us to undervalue case studies as an important

introduction  5







figure I.1  The Pyramid of Research Knowledge: Ranking the Quality of Evidence Source: Adapted from Melnyck and Fineout-Overholt 2005; Stetler et al. 1998.

source of knowledge, especially for improving practice. Flyvbjerg notes that case studies are especially important sources of knowledge for practitioners because they enable us to see how practice is affected by the context in which it takes place. Demonstrating the context-specific nature of knowledge teaches us that universal, generalizable knowledge inevitably must be adjusted to the specifics of the setting in which we find ourselves; otherwise, it will be of little use. This point is especially relevant when, as in social work, we are dealing with people and their relationships. Given the subjectivity of human interactions, we must be attuned to how they play out differently in specific situations. Flyvbjerg also shows through numerous examples that carefully selected case studies can be generalizable. Drawing from the natural sciences, he outlines a variety of strategies for selecting instructive cases to be studied that can lead to making important generalizations; these instructive cases can most certainly have relevance beyond the specific circumstances in question. Of particular importance is the “paradigmatic” case study, one that reflects the general characteristics of the problem being studied. Carefully chosen cases

6  introduction

where it seems that success is highly likely can serve as a litmus test; if an intervention fails when circumstances seem optimal, the likelihood of success in more difficult cases will be even lower. Flyvbjerg also uses the famous example of Karl Popper’s “black swan,” which can show the falsity of general theories or assumptions (such as “all swans are white”). Carefully selected studies such as those focusing on a paradigmatic case, the optimal case, or the black swan are useful for much more than simply generating hypotheses that are to be more systematically tested in clinical trials or experiments. Case studies are well suited to combat the bias toward considering only what has been previously established in research, a common problem across research areas. Case studies provide up-close, detailed knowledge of the subject being studied that is difficult to deny, often causing researchers to give up preconceived notions (Geertz 1995). Case studies therefore can be sources of “insistent” data that impose their own discipline upon the researcher. Although Flyvbjerg notes that it is dangerous to summarize case studies, he argues that this problem is resolvable by creating opportunities to report cases in depth (as we do in this book). Case studies are important sources of social work knowledge that can help social workers think about how to improve their practice. Ours is a paradigmatic case study demonstrating how in social change efforts social work researchers can play important roles beyond the ones the researchers themselves initiate. In other words, just as we argue for an alternative form of research, we do so through an alternative presentation of research. We do not use statistics in an explanatory causal analysis based on a large number of cases in order to prove that collaborative, community-based research is an important alternative form of research. Instead, by way of a narrative approach we demonstrate the importance of social work research in advocacy efforts; that is, we tell a story. Stories are their own form of truth. In our highly scientific times, stories are often dismissed as neither objective nor rigorous. Stories are like folktales, rumors, or gossip. They are to be treated suspiciously and not as the basis for concerted social action of any kind, let alone public policymaking to make change happen in communities. If we step back from the current biases that blind us from seeing a variety of sources for knowledge and truth, however, we can see more clearly that stories have historically been considered their own important source of knowledge, especially when it comes to mobilizing people to work for social change (Schram and Neisser 1997). Stories provide examples or models of how to engage in a particular practice. They are their own source of power and can motivate

introduction  7

people to think differently and change the way they do things on the basis of the inspiration provided. This is often the case when people share personal experiences (see Kilbride and Farley 2007). Sociologist Andrew Greeley, a prolific researcher and an equally prolific novelist, has written on the power of personal stories: “The storyteller, the seanachie (the professional storyteller), wants to share his life with you, whatever the risk might be, because only by doing so can he intrude into your life and stir up reactions within your memory that will enable you and him to share experiences. One tells stories not to edify or educate, much less to indoctrinate, but rather to illuminate . . . , to send forth from the story interlude the listener with a heightened sensitivity to the possibilities of life, to give you greater insight into things you dimly thought might be true or hoped to be true” (1999, 176). Whereas research textbooks often articulate basic rules or guidelines for conducting research, this book provides a story that illustrates how to address the challenges of collaborative community-based research. The story we tell is about our collaboration with activists who were leading an affordable-housing campaign in Philadelphia. These activists asked us to help them do research on the problems associated with low-income homeownership and home repair in their city. We recount how we became involved, how the collaboration unfolded, the tensions that developed between researchers and advocates, and how we managed those tensions successfully in ways that contributed to our research. Our research played a small but significant role in helping create Philadelphia’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We discuss how the campaign for affordable housing relied on specific findings from our research and how the campaign succeeded in part because it was backed by credible research that demonstrated the existence of a specific problem in particular communities and the concrete remedies available to address that problem. Our story of collaboration can also be read as a story of hope. It is easy for educators in the arena of social policy to be disheartened by accounts of social policy, in particular social welfare policy, that are depressing and even paralyzing to emerging social workers. They often find themselves working to educate students and telling them it is their duty as social workers to strive for social justice and to make a difference. However, there are too few inspirational stories to provide examples of how that might happen, what it might look like, and how to assess “success” in the complex arena of politics and policy (Shdaimah 2009b). This is one more reason why it is important to tell stories that show how research can be a critical part of advocacy campaigns to create real social change.

8  introduction

One recent story of hope is told by former community organizer President Barack Obama. In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes about how his belief that we can change things for the better by working together motivated him to be active in politics: I talked to anyone who would listen. I went to block club meetings and church socials, beauty shops and barbershops. If two guys were standing on a corner, I would cross the street to hand them campaign literature. And everywhere I went, I’d get some version of the same two questions. “Where’d you get that funny name?” And then: “You seem like a nice enough guy. Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty like politics?” I was familiar with the question, a variant on the questions asked of me years earlier, when I’d first arrived in Chicago to work in low-income neighborhoods. It signaled a cynicism not simply with politics but with the very notion of a public life, a cynicism that—at least in the South Side neighborhoods I sought to represent—had been nourished by a generation of broken promises. In response, I would usually smile and nod and say that I understood the skepticism, but that there was—and always had been—another tradition to politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of the country’s founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done. (2006, 1–2)

The hope that by working together we can change things for the better was what motivated us as researchers and activists. Given our different roles in the Philadelphia affordable-housing project, tensions often arose, but we viewed these tensions as an opportunity to learn from one another rather than as intractable differences between researchers and advocates. Our collaboration highlights research as one tool that social workers can use to foster social change initiatives at the same time that social change initiatives can help to drive researchers to learn from the people they study. This story is as much about changing research as it is about conducting research for change. Research is not just made more relevant when it is engaged with activism; it is improved, especially in its capacity to help people solve problems. When research related to social change efforts is conducted in collaboration with com-

introduction  9

munity partners, the efforts to produce social change can be made stronger in quality and credibility rather than being compromised and diluted. This story shows the important role that research can play in social change efforts. Research need not be seen as some irrelevant and onerous technical exercise. It is our hope that others will find this story not just educative but inspiring and that they, too, will want to perform or incorporate researcher roles in social change campaigns. Social workers can practice in ways that will help empower clients to pursue the changes they perceive to be necessary. It is a role that social workers are ideally suited for and one, we hope, that students in particular will be inspired to take on. If they do, it will likely result in more effective advocacy efforts because such efforts are informed by sound research. We tell this story of a case study not only to situate our theoretical argument, but also to explain the values that inform our research. These values are tightly interrelated with the values that have long grounded the profession of social work. Many social workers and social work researchers, ourselves included, believe that our professional values compel us to pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. This is why the American, British, and International Social Work Codes of Ethics explicitly state that social workers should work toward achieving social justice and combating marginalization and oppression with and on behalf of individuals, families, and communities (British Association of Social Workers 2002; International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work 2004; National Association of Social Workers 2008). Social workers’ social change efforts should focus primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These efforts promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. In addition to substantive values, social work codes of ethics also call for a collaborative approach to social work in the obligation to work for access to needed information, services, and resources; we should similarly work toward equality of opportunity and meaningful participation in decision making for all people (British Association of Social Workers 2002; International Federation of Social Workers and International Association of Schools of Social Work 2004; National Association of Social Workers 2008). Another important dimension of social work ethics is the assertion that social workers should be dedicated to empowering people rather than to trying to control them. Consistent with this philosophy is the idea that social workers should work with clients, even when studying them or the problems

10  introduction

that affect them (Strier 2007). Community-based research is well suited to meet this challenge. For the project profiled in this book, we consulted with our advocacy partners at every step. Our collaboration went further and involved our taking direction from our research partners, whose knowledge about affordable housing was more intimate than ours. Our roles as social work researchers were enhanced by our giving up our territorial claim to the role of the “expert” who must be deferred to. Our relationship with our advocate partners provides important lessons for social workers and social researchers alike. We are well aware that our story is not the only story that might be told of our collaboration. Researchers and community activists play distinct roles. Although we can tell our own story about our role in the collaborative process, we can provide only a portrayal of our partners’ experience that is mediated through our own lens. To provide some insight into our collaborators’ views and to report on their efforts, we solicited their perspectives in interviews and checked with them as we worked on this book. We report our findings from this process evaluation with our collaborators to inform our analysis and to draw out the lessons that they would like us to share. But this story is nevertheless framed and limited by our own standpoint. We recognize that our advocate partners would likely tell different stories and that their stories about this experience would further our knowledge about community-based research collaborations. When community partners tell their stories about research collaborations, all of us learn more about how to do such research well (Hillier and Koppisch 2005; Shlay and Whitman 2004). We begin our story in chapter 1 by providing background on collaborative, action-oriented research. We discuss the increasing interest in grounding all forms of social work (community based as well as clinical) in research that provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of practice. We note the dangers, however, of basing practice on research that is disconnected from the context in which it will be used and divorced from consideration of the expressed concerns of those it purports to serve (Shdaimah 2009c). We suggest that, at a minimum, this sort of “top-down” research needs to be supplemented with “bottom-up” research that presents an understanding of the problems studied from the perspective of the clients and communities that are directly affected by the proposed treatments, interventions, services, or programs in question (Schram 1995). In chapter 2, we discuss how community-based practice must increasingly document effectiveness through research that systematically evaluates

introduction  11

whether community-based programs and services produce intended results, especially when funders demand this type of accountability. Although accountability is undoubtedly a legitimate goal, we argue that the type of evaluation research that is demanded in the name of accountability often leaves a great deal to be desired (Ferguson et al. 2006; Loseke 1989; Rossi and Wright 1984; Schwandt, Lincoln, and Guba 2007). We also note the equally troubling problems with documenting effectiveness via evaluation research, even though there is a growing preoccupation with doing so. Accountability systems associated with evaluation efforts are often questionable in their design, methods, measurements, and interpretations. These systems also disconnect researchers from their community partners to the point of suspicion and distrust instead of promoting the synergy and increased effectiveness that can come from combining forces to revise and improve practice. We propose a different role for social work researchers beyond interacting with community partners in order to evaluate them. A healthier relationship in working with the community, we suggest, can be developed through collaboration with clients and community partners to conduct bottom-up research that will reflect their perspectives on the problems they are confronting and working to address. Researchers should ally with community partners so that their collaborative research can “speak truth to power” and leverage social policy change.1 Such collaborations have the value of being informed by the agendas of disadvantaged populations and consider how people imagine changing their lives for the better. This added level of insight—framing research in terms of client and community collaborators’ change agenda— makes change research potentially a process that is much more intelligent. An additional feature of such research is that it is structured to empower client and community collaborators by arming them with credible empirical evidence about problems that they wish to address. In other words, collaborative research enhances both the quality of the research and the advocacy efforts with which it is associated. All of these features make research much more compatible with social work ethics. To illustrate such an alternative relationship between researchers and the people they study, chapter 3 relates the story of our own collaborative efforts. It is told from our perspective as researchers who were invited to join an affordable-housing coalition’s efforts to address problems of low-income home ownership and repair in Philadelphia. We recount the development of the coalition and describe our key advocacy partners. We highlight the strategic concerns the partners had with regard to the role of research in helping

12  introduction

them gain credibility with policymakers and other stakeholders. We discuss the challenges and conflicting commitments that researchers and advocates often face. The in-depth examination of our research collaboration provides examples of what to do and what not to do when serving as a researcher in this type of collaboration. Chapters 4 and 5 present the essential components of our research. In chapter 4, we discuss our initial investigations using available census and other survey data. We report our findings regarding the state of low-income housing in Philadelphia. Our statistical research is presented in detail in this chapter to demonstrate that our methods of data collection and analysis were credible according to conventional social scientific standards—in other words, that researchers need not compromise on the quality of the research in the name of advocacy for a cause. We also show how community partners’ concerns can be addressed through quantitative data analysis in a way that enhances their ability to advocate for desired changes. Chapter 5 presents the results of our field interviews with low-income homeowners, advocates, and key informants in the local policy arena. This discussion demonstrates how qualitative research can contextualize quantitative data and thus provide a more nuanced and concrete understanding of what the “numbers” mean to people and policymakers. Chapters 4 and 5 together demonstrate the richness of the mixed-method research approach that evolved from working with our partners at all steps of the research process. As we report on our findings, we also discuss how collaborative research influenced the data that we collected, our interpretation of those data, and our presentation of these findings to the Philadelphia City Council. Chapter 6 shows how recommendations that we developed from our collaborative research efforts were presented in the policymaking process. We report both our recommendations and our reflections on how the collaboration process affects findings, including how, when, and where to frame and present them. This chapter focuses on our work with community partners to ensure that our research would effectively inform their advocacy efforts. We report on how policymakers in Philadelphia viewed these efforts and how the research entered into the legislative process to help create and frame the response to housing challenges faced by low-income homeowners at both the city and the state levels. We highlight how participation in the presentation of findings to the broader public and to relevant policy actors is an essential part of the research process, one that affects how research is interpreted and used. Opting for collaborative, community-based PAR

introduction  13

methods enabled us to learn more about our own research by seeing how it was framed and received. Chapter 7 broadens the discussion to reflect back on our research collaboration more systematically, focusing on the tensions and challenges that we faced in this particular research–advocacy collaboration. This chapter adds some drama to our story, highlighting that the success of our collaboration was not easily achieved. We supplement our own reflections about the collaboration with our partners’ perspectives, which we solicited through retrospective, semistructured interviews. In this retrospective study, we learned to see the collaboration differently. It was a humbling and surprising experience because the various participants’ reflections led us to rethink and alter our own perspective specifically on the project and more generally on collaborative research. We offer suggestions for making collaborative change research more successful. In particular, we emphasize how research collaborations can take advantage of the healthy differences in opinion that are bound to arise. They lead to a more robust research process that better serves advocacy efforts. Finally, we show that collaborative efforts are not without a price. Social workers committed to community collaboration and client empowerment need to be willing to apply the additional time, effort, self-reflection, and compromise that successful collaboration requires. Chapter 8 builds on our case study to offer a model for collaborative social work research in agency and community settings. All good collaborative social work research involves adapting to the environment into which researchers are invited. In such projects, social workers must be “on tap” rather than “on top.” Social work change research is primarily in service of empowering those on the bottom of the service system. Our model is based on our experience that research and advocacy are made stronger when they work in ways that are mutually informing. Just as we are skeptical of generic research that is disconnected from the social context in which it is to be applied, our model comes with a warning label that reads: “To be applied with sensitivity to the specific setting to which it is to be adapted.” Indeed, the very nature of such research requires researchers’ willingness to expect the unexpected and to be open to their community partners’ needs and concerns. A major point we make is that good collaborative social work research involves listening to client and community partners and allowing them to set the agenda for how research can help them to pursue their desired social changes. Finally, we offer some concluding thoughts about the relationship of research to practice in social work today. We pose challenges to those entering

14  introduction

the profession by insisting that they take research seriously as an important component to doing good social work. At the same time, we provide support for the demand that research be made relevant to the specifics of any particular form of social work practice and the setting in which it is conducted. We suggest that collaborative, community-based PAR provides great potential to pursue radical incrementalist practice that achieves small, short-run political gains that can contribute to making possible more significant political transformations in the future. Social work research carried out in collaboration with social workers and community activists, even when there are limited financial resources, is an example of social work research that is both relevant and feasible. It can make a difference in the lives of people and communities. Anyone can be a part of it. A broad variety of knowledge sources and ways of knowing can be respected and employed. We are confident that social workers will find that the role of researcher in such a setting is a good fit for them, and we believe that this role can make them more effective partners in working with clients and communities to promote social change. To demonstrate how we all can be part of the process of questioning the role of the research we do and use as social workers, each chapter ends with a set of discussion questions. These questions encourage students to engage with the more general implications of each chapter and to consider the theoretical and ethical issues posed by drawing on their own experiences. Dialogue is part of the research process, as we show in the story we tell about our research collaboration. Let the dialogue begin!

Discussion Questions This set of questions highlights special features of social work research and its connection to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Go to the association’s Web site at for the Code of Ethics. 1. What part of the social work mission speaks to you? (a) How do you imagine implementing it in your chosen field of practice? (b) What general ethics do you see espoused in the code that you think might appeal to others outside of social work? (c) How might social work be a model to both professionals and lay people?

introduction  15

2. Think of a problem that you have encountered in your personal life, a job, field placement, or volunteer position. (a) What information would you like to know about this problem? (b) How might that information help you pose a solution to that problem? (c) Who would be the target audience to which you would pitch your solution and why? (d) Which potential partners would you enlist to work with you? 3. Think of how stories and case studies can inform your area of social work practice or any social problem you are interested in addressing. (a) Provide examples of how stories and case studies can help you decide how to act in your area of practice or how to address a social problem. (b) What are the advantages and disadvantages of basing your practice and social change efforts on stories and case studies? 4. Choose an area of social work practice or a problem area where people are working to achieve social change. Think of an example that would qualify as a “black swan.” Specify why the case is a “black swan” and how it can serve as a model for other efforts in that area or as an example others can build on. 5. Consider to what extent research in any form is important to your area of practice or the social change efforts you wish to participate in. 6. What types of research might best inform those efforts and why?

Students can also look at the International Federation of Social Workers Code of Ethics at and the British Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics at Default.aspx?tabid=64.

1 Changing Research / Researching Change That’s a hard thing because when you’re an organizer you’re not worried about being scientific, you know? I know exactly what people are telling me, I understand what people are fighting for, and that might not be highly rational and I don’t know if that would make it to our study. I just know that social processes are very different than the research that is being done about social processes. And I can see the research helping guide the social process and I can see how research that backs you up can help your cause. Do I feel like I am able to influence the research one way or the other? I think we did, but that was done before I got into the picture really. I think the fact that you were doing that research was in and of itself, yeah, well, we need a research to back us up in this campaign because when we have, this, whatever university saying that we’re not crazy. It gives us a more, like, “We told you.” —WCRP organizer

social work j o b s can vary from clinical practice with individual clients to col­laboration with communities in order to restructure social policies and change the way community institutions operate. Social workers practice at all levels of society in which people, agencies, and systems act. Not all of the roles social workers are asked to perform, however, will necessarily facilitate social change. Social workers may be embedded in institutions and agency settings that constrain their ability to help their clients or to promote broader structural change, and their partners sometimes want changes that will privilege some members of society over others. Such situations raise questions about who really speaks for the community or which people should be served. In these situations, social workers are at risk of being implicated in the injustices that institutions and community partners impose, thereby losing their tie to the profession’s commitments to promote social justice (National Association of Social Workers 2008). In these situations, we risk becoming “unfaithful angels,” as Harry Specht and Mark Courtney (1994) have famously argued in their widely read polemic. Social workers are often

changing research / researching change  17

placed in roles that consolidate power. Rather than empowering their clients or changing communities for the better, they may work in settings or with policies that require them to discipline their clients and thus help preserve the status quo (Ferguson and Lavalette 2006). Where, how, and with whom social workers practice their craft greatly affects their ability to promote social justice for individuals and communities. Of course, the same is true for social work research. In this chapter, we provide an overview of social work research trends that pose challenges for doing research related to advocacy. Although these approaches to research are not mutually exclusive in theory, they can conflict in practice. The main focus, goals, and source of authority for each trend may also conflict, leading proponents of each to question the premise and value of other trends. Table 1.1 lists the research approaches we review in depth in the book, depicting

Table 1.1  Research Approaches Reviewed Research Discipline/

Cited Sources

Central Focus

Approach Field

Evidence-Based Medicine, Gambrill 2006, Practice (EBP) Social Work 253–85

Practice grounded in the best-available empirical evidence

Community-Based Public Health Israel et al. 2005; Participatory Research Minkler and (CBPR) Wallerstein 2003

Community input to ensure the appropriateness, receptivity to, and success of intervention

Participatory Action Stringer 1996; Research (PAR) Wicks, Reason, and Bradbury 2008

Collaborative social change through targeted activities

Anti-oppressive Social Work Dominelli 1997; Social Work Strier 2007 Research (AOSWR)

Community-led, bottom-up research and practice for self-determination and to identify and combat oppression

Power Analysis* Community Alinsky 1989; Organizing Gecan 2002

Identifying locus and methods of power to plan and ensure success of organizing efforts

*We review this trend in chapter 8 but include it here for ease of comparison.

18 changing research / researching change

their disciplines of origin and practice, central sources cited for each, and the chief focus for the research approach. Over the past two decades, social work research has increasingly focused on conventional academic research. The most dramatic development in recent decades is the growing call to ground social welfare policies, social work practices, and interventions in what is referred to as “evidence-based practice” (EBP) (Haskins, Paxson, and Brooks-Gunn 2009; Jenson 2005). The ascendency of EBP in social services has been remarkable. Even the Obama administration has emphasized it as the main criterion for funding communitybased initiatives. This push toward EBP, as important as it is on its own merits, has increasingly drowned out voices that argue for a balanced approach to social work research in which conventional and collaborative approaches complement rather than supersede each other. Although EBP approaches and collaborative research are not mutually exclusive, they have often been viewed this way in both practice and interpretation. Since EBP has been very much at the forefront of contemporary discussions regarding social work research, in the next section we discuss concerns with it in greater detail as they relate to advocacy research.

Change Research and Evidence-Based Practice There are numerous existing definitions of EBP (Gambrill 2007; Gibbs 2003; Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research 2008; Thyer 2008). According to the Social Work Policy Institute, “In social work, most agree that EBP is a process that involves creating an answerable question based on a client or organizational need, locating the best available evidence to answer the question, evaluating the quality of the evidence as well as its applicability, applying the evidence, and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution. EBP is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience, ethics, client preferences, and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services” (2008). What is problematic is that the call for EBP has spread from clinical social work to community- and policy-oriented forms of practice. The longstanding push for EBP in clinical interventions focuses on trials and controlled experimental design to test interventions (Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research 2008; McNeill 2006). However, there are also calls that social work practice with communities be grounded in an evidentiary base

changing research / researching change  19

that comes from systematic research (see Haskins, Paxson, and Brooks-Gunn 2009). Even public-policy advocacy, which is a more subjective and contested site of social action, is now seen as a form of practice that should be guided by objective research that will allegedly prove which forms of advocacy are most effective (Hoefer 2005; Hoefer and Ferguson 2007). Medicine is often credited as the originating site for the turn to EBP (Gilgun 2006). Proponents claim that it arises from a desire to hold professionals accountable for the practices and procedures that they perform on laypersons, who generally do not share the same expertise and knowledge base. EBP holds that professionals should choose the “best” practices that are known to “work” (Schram 2002). Whatever practices they perceive to work or have faith in need to be tested and weighed against the evidence. Our imaginations, wishful thinking, values, and preferences tend to blind or incline us away from or toward certain practices; these biases can trick us into acting in ways that may not have the effects that we intend. Proponents of EBP hold that we must be transparent about what we do, subject it to testing and critique, and be willing to accept, revise, or reject practices based on how well they hold up. Though EBP is generally accepted as a beneficial practice, much about it has inspired debate (Schram 2002; Shdaimah 2009c). In particular, there is much debate about what kind of evidence is an acceptable guide for practice and even about the definition of EBP (Rubin and Parrish 2007). Not all research claiming to be EBP meets the criteria of the more careful definitions (Gambrill 2007). Others have questioned how evidence is selected and compiled (Littell 2008) and whether EBP is suited to all areas of practice (Barth 2008). There are also concerns about “the profession’s turn to knowledge development at the expense of a moral base” (Bisman 2004, 114) and the drift toward overemphasizing a scientific base to social work practice (Schram 2002). Such concerns have given rise to calls for practice that views evidence and EBP through the lens of professional social work values and commitments (Shdaimah 2009c). Grounding social work treatment, interventions, services, and practices in research that demonstrates their effectiveness sounds unimpeachable. Why, then, would practicing social workers and clients even think of complaining about a shift toward EBP, which strives to guarantee improved practice? Yet EBP has a fundamental flaw that makes it problematic even for direct practice. The problem, which often goes unrecognized, is that nothing can be more disempowering to both clients and communities than reducing social work to a set of practices that researchers alone objectively determine are best

20 changing research / researching change

for the people being served; in practice, this is how most EBP is carried out. There are many problems with EBP, but this omission is probably its most relevant flaw. Among the many dangers associated with the insistence on EBP is the failure to include a more diverse set of voices and methods in assessing practices. Although some forms of EBP give clients a peripheral role in the decisionmaking process, most definitions of EBP do not call for the systematic inclusion of individual clients and communities as active participants in the research that determines what is supposedly best for them. Such exclusion is particularly troubling when the most vulnerable populations are more likely to be recruited for risky clinical trials (Fisher 2009). This recruitment is rationalized by suggesting that participants in these studies will gain access to necessary treatments that would be otherwise unavailable to them. Such rationalizations, however, overlook the risks involved with participating in experiments that test unproven treatments. Disconnected study of a particular practice cannot demonstrate its appropriateness for a particular individual client, family, neighborhood, or community. Not all practices will be right for everyone, regardless of what the research says. EBP often fails to appreciate the fact that context matters (Witkin and Harrison 2001), and in the case of social work the context includes people whom social workers are trying to empower by drawing on existing strengths to foster them and their communities as self-determining agents in pursuit of change. Researchers who stand apart from the people ostensibly served by the programs and policies they develop and evaluate may say that they do so in order to be more dispassionate in their assessments of what works. What they fail to recognize is that detachment comes at a price: the loss of insight and relevance that collaborative research provides (Strier 2007). Moreover, detachment does not ensure objectivity (Haskell 2000). A refusal to be influenced by those with whom they work requires that researchers be actively engaged in resisting certain forms of knowing, knowledge, and knowers. Such active resistance may become second nature over time. Socialization as a “scientific” researcher of social problems often fosters this sort of disconnect from the people whom researchers study (Cook and Fonow 1990; Howard, McMillen, and Pollio 2003). Active refusal to consider seriously research subjects’ perspectives, even if not done consciously, may serve other constituents, values, and agendas. Researchers often fail to acknowledge these implicit biases, thereby unreflectively remaining within the dominant academic and professional paradigms that continue to privilege the

changing research / researching change  21

perspectives associated with some groups over others (Shdaimah, Stahl, and Schram 2009). EBP emphasizes a “what works” agenda at the expense of a “what’s right” perspective (Ferguson and Lavalette 2006). As a result, an instrumental rationality or technicism can take over researchers’ thinking and lead them to do simply what the research says is shown to work; they perhaps forget about value questions such as “Is it fair, equitable, and just to deliver this service this way?” The answers to these questions are not always straightforward and often depend on who is consulted under what circumstances. One example from the medical literature involves choosing what kind of dialysis works better (E. Gordon 2005). The example poses a seemingly basic but irresolvable question: Is it possible to weigh longevity of life against quality of life? If different interventions lead to one rather than to the other, how must these incommensurable outcomes be weighed? Social work takes a social a field where “ambiguity always lurks” (Mary Douglas as cited in Webb 2001; Floersch 2002; Parton 2000). Social work outcomes are unpredictable. Even when researchers can foresee outcomes, who should decide which outcome is better? Based on which evidence? Produced from which questions? Asked of whom? Interpreted by whom? In what context? To what ends? Such questions cannot be answered without acknowledging power or who gets to decide. Indeed, whether these questions are even posed or not is a function of power. Stephen Webb (2001) claims that EBP ignores both power and politics. We would go further and claim that not only does it ignore power and politics, but it may also obscure them. It seemingly leaves aside values in favor of “facts.” Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are set as the gold standard in what has been termed a “hierarchy of evidence” (Barry 2006). This sort of research focus ends up privileging expert knowledge over situated knowledge as well as expert knowers over those who live and experience the phenomenon under study (LaForest and Orsini 2005). Further, the value of RCTs is in their ability to decontextualize, or isolate, phenomena. Such research often treats social work interventions and services as if they were pills, easily dispensed and always having the same wrapping, ingredients, and interactions. But even pills have different effects for different people depending on their unique body chemistry. The rigor of RCTs has been championed as a way to clear out what some people consider noise, thereby contributing to a better understanding of a phenomenon. However, much of that noise is exactly what we need to study. Most community organizers or clinicians work in particular contexts with specific clients, so many social work practitioners feel that such randomized

22 changing research / researching change

research is irrelevant because it fails to appreciate the conditions in which EBP is being implemented. It is not surprising, then, that a growing number of social work researchers acknowledge that tools such as RCTs should be balanced by research techniques that make up in relevance what they lack in rigor (Padgett 2008). These researchers value the inclusion of the messy, ambiguous, and contextual information of research participants’ lived experience. However, such messy research is devalued in the academy, by funders, and in political venues in ways that are both blatant and insidious (McCoyd et al. 2008). Furthermore, any kind of research that is conducted by laypeople may be devalued (Shdaimah and Stahl 2006). Consequences of the troubling disconnect that EBP reinforces between researchers and nonresearchers, whether they are practitioners or clients, go beyond the relevance of research. Such practice makes policymaking (medical, social, or economic) dangerous because it ignores the realities on the ground. The kind of research that is often touted as evidence based does not originate from the bottom up, regardless of who sits at the bottom. It is driven by research experts who are situated largely in the academy or think tanks and tend to be removed from practice given the professional division of labor. It is thus more likely to produce unintended consequences, potentially harming those whom researchers intend to help (Shdaimah, Stahl, and Schram 2009). Practices that exclude those who are most likely to be affected by the research effectively decrease the knowledge and power that they have over research, which in turn decreases their ability to take part in and influence policy discourse. Several scholars claim that the state may use EBP to tame researchers and research agendas (Barry 2006; LaForest and Orsini 2005). They argue that state funding is geared largely toward research that is compatible with prevailing government interests and channels researchers away from asking critical policy questions. It is no coincidence that the important work being carried out in social work today at large research universities is slanted toward medicalized, individualized interventions rather than toward broad-scale policy critiques (Schram 2002). Debbie Plath (2006) suggests that combining the core EBP values of transparency and the subjection of one’s belief to discussion and critique can be refracted on EBP itself. There is evidence in the literature, at least in social work, that EBP proponents are open to reassessing and changing their conceptions of EBP; it can and should include situated knowledges and bottomup input. Some social work researchers advocate for methodological plural-

changing research / researching change  23

ism; Jane Gilgun (2006) asserts the compatibility of EBP with some forms of qualitative data analysis that rely on interviews with client groups. However, such an approach to EBP would require a broader definition of what gets to count as good evidence (see figure I.1, ranking evidence from worst to best) as well as who gets to be defined as an expert. It would also require turning critical reflection not only on the evidence, but on the practice of EBP (DeVries and Lemmens 2006). This more critical approach to EBP would make social workers who follow it more like the “reflective practitioners” that Donald Schon (1983) has long suggested they should be. A reflective practitioner resists the atrophying of consciousness that can come with falling into the trap of thinking that good practice results from simply relying on research as a guide for action. A reflective practitioner will resist all forms of routinization and standardization, working hard to custom fit treatments, interventions, and services to the needs of the specific clients they are helping. If the more thoughtful proponents of EBP are right, then there are good ways to compensate for the biases in EBP as it is currently constituted. It remains to be seen whether this sort of reflexivity can be incorporated into EBP approaches and whether the acknowledgment of a variety of “evidences” and of the diversity of experiences and practice settings is anything more than lip service. Our concern is that although EBP is supposed to lead to more competent practice, it may actually promote more routinization and detachment from meeting clients on their own terms. The problems of EBP are compounded when it is applied to community and policy settings. We are skeptical about whether these tensions in EBP will be resolved to the benefit of the people and communities whom social work is committed to serve. Reflecting on the implicit biases in all research is essential, to be sure. However, the push toward EBP raises much larger issues than simple researcher bias. It risks ignoring how research is never entirely autonomous and is often tied to the relations of power that serve to stabilize the existing social order without any more change than is necessary. Roni Strier states the problem starkly: “The power exercised by those who initiate a particular research project can be immense if they conceptualize a project in ways that affirm their position as those in charge. The power that accrues for those who bring a research project into being, as well as funding agencies’ control on setting research priorities, cannot be ignored. Indeed, the principal beneficiaries of the research might be the researchers themselves, rather than the subjects of the inquiry. Social work research agendas and methodologies have been strongly conditioned by government interests” (2007, 859).

24 changing research / researching change

The need to account for the political bases of research is all the more necessary when the research is focused on promoting changes in public policy, community practice, and agency interventions. Failing to address the embedded political implications may limit the potential of research to serve the best interests of the people whom social workers are trying to help. These implications should be front and center in any discussion of research practices in a profession that espouses the values of empowerment and human dignity (National Association of Social Workers 2008). Social work has a long history of valuing the collection of evidence as a basis for social policy and frontline practice, whether it is the social surveys and mapmaking of Jane Addams and her partners at Hull House in Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century or Mary Richmond’s social diagnosis and the empirical practice movement of the same period (Morago 2007; W. Reid 1994; Thyer 2008; Zimbalist 1977). Addams is an example of an individual who not only understood the importance of learning from evidence, but also knew the importance of relying on the people she studied to help choose the problem, formulate the question, gather the evidence, and then put research to work in a political arena (Schram 2002). All of these elements were informed by Addams’s living among those with whom she worked, which was the basis for the settlement house movement. Settlement was its own advocacy research method, though we seemed to have forgotten the important connections between Addams’s embeddedness in her community and her research. Hull House was the epitome of contextualized practice and contextualized research. Perhaps most important, any reexamination of Addams’s Hull House provides an opportunity to illustrate in stark terms the moral foundations of social work obligations to serve the most vulnerable among us in a way that recognizes the values of human dignity, equality, and self-determination. Research can be an important resource for producing social change, but only if it is done in a way that is sensitive to the quintessentially political issues associated with the relationship of the researcher to those being researched. It would seem, then, that the question is not so much whether to espouse practices grounded in evidence, which social work has done since its inception in one form or another, but what kind of EBPs to espouse. Instead of again turning outside our profession to improve our research, practice agenda, and the connection between the two, we should go back to the roots of social work. As a value-based profession that explicitly works to combat oppression and to promote empowerment and social justice, its mission and values can inform practices grounded in empirical data, including EBP. Social work can

changing research / researching change  25

inform other fields in which researchers are struggling to incorporate a variety of disparate voices and diverse forms of knowledge from a rich array of sources and perspectives. In this way, the often neglected concerns of marginalized constituencies can be included at the critical stage of thinking about what practices are worth recommending to frontline providers. If we look at what EBP shares with the more politically conscious social work perspectives, we can see a laudable agenda of transparency, critical analysis, openness to dialogue, and the inclusion of multiple perspectives. Strier’s (2007) response to EBP is what he calls “anti-oppressive social work research” (AOSWR), an approach that is inspired by Lena Dominelli’s (1997) call for an antioppressive social work practice. Anti-oppressive social work actively and reflectively seeks to empower clients rather than to reproduce oppression. It does so by being consciously and explicitly in allegiance with clients instead of trying to control and discipline them. At times, this allegiance can involve challenging and resisting the imposition of existing policy and program requirements. For Strier, research is an important component of anti-oppressive social work practice. The same can be said about the Hull House settlement workers’ research efforts. Their research was grounded in the community, drew upon local knowledge, involved client groups, and used mixed methods to best understand problems rather than to perfect techniques; they saw these research efforts as intimately connected to the production of social change. Hull House workers lived among the people they studied and became their neighbors (Addams 1911). These neighbors were not subjects to be studied like specimens, but sources of indigenous knowledge, active partners in the research process, and important agents for bringing about needed social changes. Addams and her colleagues’ treatment of their neighborhood research partners was consistent with her belief in the transformative power of democracy, exemplified by her oft-cited aphorism: “The cure to the ills of democracy is more democracy” ([1902] 1991, 12). Although collaborative, community-based approaches to research have a venerable social work lineage, it is also the case that the leaders of the profession and social work educators have not and do not always validate them. Many are keen to insist that social work as a profession has a scientific knowledge base that is objective and independent of partisan attachments. Indeed, the development of knowledge may have come at the expense of the profession’s ethical obligations, which such knowledge is supposed to serve; in this way, we see a reversal of the means and the ends (Bisman 2004; Belcher, Pecukonis, and

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Knight 2011). The various forms of AOSWR, therefore, are not always seen as an appropriate way to conduct research, even on issues of public policy. Research must not be viewed independent of critical discussions regarding which kind of research can provide us with the best guidance to improve the policies, programs, services, and treatments with which social workers and their clients are involved. Collaboration, along with many other forms of participatory research, is an example of research that is consistent with AOSWR; it has the potential to help improve the policy and programs for and with the people that social workers serve. The project that we describe in this volume is grounded in evidence as well as in ethics. The research and implementation strategies we employed were compatible with ethically informed, inclusive definitions of both EBP and AOSWR. We agree with Jane Addams and the Hull House progressives who worked with her regarding the importance of empirical evidence to social change efforts. We also agree with those who argue today that empirical research should remain an essential component of most advocacy work. Not everyone agrees with the value of empirical research, however. For instance, some feminists today are critical of it as falsely neutral, masking latent and explicit male biases. In an irony of history, the reverse was true when the women of Hull House were conducting empirical research to inform their advocacy efforts (Deegan 1990): the male theorists of the University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology dismissed them as mere number crunchers (L. Gordon 1994). This tells us that the perceived value of research is often more about who is conducting it (and to what end) than about the research per se. It is our position that advocacy regarding how to address social problems can indeed benefit from empirical research that provides facts about those problems. Such research may not always inform practice (Van de Luitgaarden 2009) or policy (Lens 2005), even if this goal is agreed upon, yet it can help advocates convince existing powers that they have a firm grasp on the problems they are concerned about and can provide advocates with tools to challenge assumptions about underlying problems and proposed solutions.

Top Down Versus Bottom Up It is in this inclusive sense that research must engage stakeholders that we believe that community practice and policy advocacy need to be evidence based, and we offer a model for EBP that is bottom up and participatory. We

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recognize the importance of evidence, but we also emphasize that evidence is produced, interpreted, and consumed by human beings who should make informed choices about the creation and use of knowledge. The choice we have made as social work researchers is to conduct research in a way that makes both the process and product useful to our community partners in their efforts to advocate for the changes they seek. These considerations have become critical in recent years. There is a growing need to recognize that the way research is conducted affects what role it will play in helping clients get the services they need. Calls for “assessment” and “accountability” are all too often about getting people to comply with researchers’ or policymakers’ understanding of social problems rather than considering the extent to which policies, programs, and services have been accountable to the people they are supposed to serve. Program evaluations are most often focused on making sure public funds spent on low-income people are used in accordance with the policies laid out from above, at the policymaking level. In the conservative climate for social reform of the recent past, which brought us “welfare reform” and “abstinence-only” programs, this focus often involves finding out if clients change their behavior in ways that policymakers had hoped. Rather than figuring out how to get people to comply, what if we turned accountability on its head and asked what people wanted to see of policies and how to hold policymakers accountable to those affected by policies? Collaborative researchers who partner with clients and community advocates can introduce forms of assessment and evaluation that are geared to holding programs accountable to the people they serve. This sort of “bottom-up” research can add an important perspective to public discourse, one that is associated with determining the efficacy of specific social welfare policies. Without engaged research collaborations, client and community groups will continue to be denied a voice in a public-policy process that emphasizes empirical evidence for determining the value of particular public policies. Collaborative research can also help promote a more reflective practice. It asks practitioners to step outside of their daily practices and to think critically about what they are doing; it prompts them to examine their beliefs and opinions about the efficacy of their practices in relation to the goals they set for themselves with regard to empirical evidence and to revise both practices and goals accordingly (Schon 1983). Conventional research and evaluation studies may not be sufficient to help create policy change on behalf of those disadvantaged by the prevailing structures of power (Schram 2002). In fact, there are those who argue that only

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social science research that is consciously tailored to inform ongoing efforts to create such change will be of use; social science research that is preoccupied with testing generic causal models or refining research technique will not be as valuable (Flyvbjerg 2001). Calls for relevant research that accounts for the contextualized experiences of the people affected by policies hearken from a variety of disciplines: social work, political science, sociology, and urban planning. Stanley Aronowitz (2005) suggests that it is social scientists’ duty to choose what they study carefully and to engage public discourse concerning issues that matter. Michael Burawoy (2005) calls for a public sociology in which the sociologist practices an engaged social science that is geared to promote social change. As part of this process, Burawoy sees public sociologists as “creators of publics.” Frances Piven (2007) asks: Why not a political sociology focused on an explicit agenda of activating the oppressed? Rose Brewer (2005) goes so far as to suggest that truly critical thinking is most likely to emerge from subordinated groups rather than from the academy. Indeed, such a perspective may not acknowledge the public groups that do not wait for social scientists to “create them.” Existing groups can provide topics for exploration and relevance that many social scientists seek. Subordinated groups lack the necessary means to participate fully in the policy process. Collaborating with engaged social science researchers can provide these resources. Such collaborations also add laypeople’s perspectives to policy debates, which are missing in most policy analysis conducted in both the academy and the halls of government. Our analysis rests on the premise that social science research makes a difference in the policy arena, and it does so best by providing situated knowledge relevant to specific cases in particular contexts (Flyvbjerg 2001; McCoyd and Shdaimah 2007; Schram and Caterino 2006). Social scientists who engage in dialogical relationships with the people they study make their praxis more compatible with the mission of a critical policy analysis that rejects the researcher’s false neutrality. These mutually informing relationships invite challenges and explicit value discussions with study participants and other stakeholders (Fischer 2003). Whether social scientists acknowledge it or not, their work affects others. They make choices about what they choose or refuse to study, the questions they ask, the frameworks they use and create, and the way that their work operates and is used to legitimize, stigmatize, and privilege some people, practices, and understandings over others (Fine et al. 2000; Sandoval 2000). Social science researchers who wish to explore the potential impact of their

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work, trying to shape it through engagement with community groups, must first forego the pretension that they stand outside their subject matter. Such a perspective, which Donna Haraway (1991) refers to as a “God’s eye view,” has been criticized as humanly impossible. Researchers who engage with communities reject the claims of objective science in favor of explicitly aligning themselves with those who are directly affected by the problems under study. Bottom-up approaches are especially important in trying to understand the effects of public policy, most especially social welfare policies that affect marginalized populations whose views are often ignored in the policy process (Schram 1995). Trying to understand a social welfare problem based on a topdown, Olympian view encourages what James Scott (1998) calls “seeing like a state.” Policy analysis all too often mimics the public policymaking process by following this top-down approach (Fischer 2000; Yanow 2003). In “seeing like a state,” researchers and policymakers fail to apprehend the way policies play out in the lives of people affected by those policies. Nancy Naples (2003) argues that researchers who align themselves with people affected by policies should take an “everyday world” approach to policy analysis, which seeks to understand how social policies play out on the ground. Such research can promote policy change that better serves clients, citizens, and society by providing researchers and policymakers with a more comprehensive viewpoint from which they can operate. Over the past few decades, calls for bottom-up approaches to research have increased (Brewer 2005; Naples 2003; Schram 1995). Bottom-up research solicits clients’ “local knowledge” (Yanow 2003). It interrogates dominant discourses and creates possibilities for resistance to the processes of subjugation associated with the rationalizing power of such discourses. Taryn Lindhorst and Julianna Padgett define a bottom-up approach as emphasizing “the subjective, narrative, and situated nature of experience. Much welfare policy research assumes a managerial perspective that has limited relevance to the day-to-day problems confronting women who rely on the social welfare safety net. Examining policy implementation processes through the bottom-up lens refocuses attention on the accounts of those who have the least access and power in the discourses concerning welfare policy” (2005, 406). Ann Tickamyer and her colleagues note the power of a bottom-up analysis for challenging the myopia of the more top-down perspectives that tend to see poverty as a problem to be managed rather than solved. People are affected by welfare policy that is often designed to urge recipients to change their behavior. These policies are framed in ways that are insensitive to how

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such policy looks and feels for those people who are affected by it: “[This bottom up approach examines] the behavioral assumptions embedded in political discourse on this topic and shows how the voices of women on welfare illustrate the underlying contradictions in the way policy is politically justified and implemented. The views of focus groups of welfare recipients in four rural Appalachian Ohio counties demonstrate the disparities between the top-down goals of welfare policy and the bottom-up perceptions of their outcomes” (2000, 174). Tickamyer and the others go on to provide a remedy to the disconnection between policymakers and the targets of policy, encouraging full participation in the creation and evaluation of policy: If those who design welfare policies are to democratize the process of interpreting needs, welfare participants must be positioned not merely as clients but as citizens. As welfare reform moves into the evaluation phase, evaluators of policies have a second opportunity to consider this bottom-up perspective. Making welfare reform successful requires that one’s status as a client not be conceived as antithetical to one’s status as a democratic citizen—that clients become participants, not merely spectators in the shaping of their futures. (190)

These authors’ bottom-up research reveals that welfare recipients are motivated by more than simply economic incentives, which serve as the basis of U.S. welfare policy. Single mothers on welfare often think in terms of providing care for their children and long-term family relationships, factors that may override their responses to economic incentives and penalties. Such factors can include ethical, cultural, or other value-based reasons and may be dictated by the perception of what is necessary to ensure long-term survival. In this example, bottom-up research serves as an important counterbalance to the insensitivity of top-down perspectives and the limited knowledge they can provide. The advantages of working to understand social programs from the bottom up are gaining a wider appreciation in the social sciences today. In relating her own research to that of other critical medical anthropologists, Nancy Nelson echoes Sanford Schram’s (2002) call for bottom-up research: Most scholastic research claiming to be objective has, in fact, not even questioned contemporary discourse about poverty, nor ventured to ask new

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questions from alternative perspectives. In response, Schram calls for “historical and political-economic analyses that take a broader and more contextualized perspective” (pp. 114–115). Further, to achieve this, he advocates for “bottom-up” research based on the struggles of people involved in trying to obtain social justice. . . . Although policy makers might be tempted to interpret the findings presented here along only limited technocratic and bureaucratic lines with little political relevance, all of the subjects we address are embedded in much broader political and ideological systems that are continuously being challenged, changed, and reinforced. . . . I take heed of Schram’s warning and demonstrate that if one focuses on the very specific local conditions such as we have done, and then contextualizes them within larger regional, state, national, and international aid dynamics, certain important patterns emerge. (2005, 103–4)

Nelson puts the value of bottom-up research in a contemporary light. Globalization is increasingly recognized as a powerful homogenizing force; Nelson reminds us, though, that complex developments are best understood in their various manifestations across different local contexts (see also Appadurai 2006; Lemert 2005). These developments are even better understood locally from the bottom up. What is often lost in the literature on bottom-up research is that when these studies view subordinated groups as subjects rather than as authors or collaborators, they remain supporters of top-down research in the respect that the researcher, as outside arbiter of these groups’ experiences, retains power. We hope to offer this additional lesson in the current case study. We argue here that without inclusion, bottom-up perspectives are insufficient. Policy analysis must be collaborative and dialogical if it is to contribute to a more deliberative policymaking process that includes the perspectives of people who are directly affected by policy (Fischer 2000).

Research as a Form of Change Politics As we noted earlier, the social work profession has viewed research as an important factor in helping to produce change since its inception. We have already shown how PAR conducted from the bottom up is consistent with the pragmatism of Jane Addams in her work as one of the founders of the settlement house movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

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(Knight 2005). Research that is problem driven is also based on a willingness to combine different forms of data collection to study a problem as thoroughly as possible. Settlement house workers lived in communities and learned from them, all while applying a diversity of methods in the name of helping empower clients to publicize the problems they were confronting and to fashion solutions. At a time when many would-be helpers viewed their role as reforming immigrants and poor people by teaching them middle-class American values, Addams’s approach was a radical departure. Her premise was that those who came to help had to learn first and foremost about the day-to-day realities of low-income urban families, how and what this population desired to change, and how they survived and thrived in the face of extreme difficulty (Schram 2002). All of this is to say that it was long ago established quite dramatically that when researchers overcome the “us versus them” divide between social scientists and those they study, both thought and action are made more reflexive by dialogical process. This result must come from spending time together and working together. It also requires openness to the experience, expertise, and knowledge that each partner has and in a way that does not privilege one over the other. When academic knowledge is viewed as superior, especially by those with decision-making powers, it is difficult to overcome hierarchies that privilege researchers and their ways of knowing. The very act of collaborative research is subversive in such a context. The research process, regardless of findings or outcome, becomes a form of social change.

Participatory Action Research and Community-Based Participatory Research: What’s the Difference? Bottom-up policy analysts who see their research as a form of change should consider participatory methods that go beyond merely soliciting and reporting the experiences of those at the bottom, even though doing so is a step forward from top-down analysis. In the project that we review in this book, we adopted a PAR framework because of its commitment to research as a potentially transformative process for the researchers and their collaborators as well as for the more informed and relevant social science findings that it produces. PAR grows out of involvement with people trying to change their circumstances by challenging entrenched power relationships that constrain such change (Naples 2003).

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PAR contains two essential elements: the first or “participatory” part indicates that it is driven by and engages with people who are affected by a particular problem; the second or “action” part indicates that its purpose is to create change (Teram, Schachter, and Stalker 2005). PAR is premised in the idea that through collaboration researchers learn from their “subjects” what needs to be done to address effectively the problems being studied. In particular, the dialogical process required by PAR approaches helps researchers learn what is important from an “insider” point of view, especially the impact of existing social problems and policies on people and communities. PAR strategies became more popular in the 1970s, and although variations of PAR have survived and are still employed, the more recently popularized form of engaged research is CBPR. There are those who view various forms of participatory-research methods as interchangeable (Stoecker 2004). In an oft-cited definition that emerged from a conference sponsored by the federal government, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines CBPR as “a collaborative process of research involving researchers and community representatives; it engages community members, employs local knowledge in the understanding of health problems and the design of interventions, and invests community members in the processes and products of research. In addition, community members are invested in the dissemination and use of research findings and ultimately in the reduction of health disparities” (2001). Public-health advocates and others in allied fields have embraced CBPR as an inclusive practice designed to equalize relationships between service providers and community members (see appendix A). Many proponents of CBPR view it as an empowering and inclusive form of action research. According to Nina Wallerstein and Bonnie Duran (2003), CBPR is anchored on the more radical side of the participatory-research spectrum rather than on the more instrumental side, tracing its lineage from the work of Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. The widely cited collections of scholarly writings about CBPR, replete with examples of research in a variety of settings, unequivocally call for participation in all phases of the process (Hofman and Rosing 2007; Israel et al. 2005; Minkler and Wallerstein 2003). CBPR advocates, such as Randy Stoecker (2004), explicitly grapple with the relationship between research and social change, noting how it must be determined by and with communities in relation to particular project goals. CBPR models demonstrate that complex medical and scientific problems can be made accessible to laypeople for exploration and debate, but only if researchers are willing to invest the time and effort to engage with laypeople (Bonham et al. 2009; Hessel et al. 2009).

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Despite the apparent similarity between PAR and CPBR, a closer look at the literature and different approaches reveals critical differences that are important for social work researchers to recognize. The same document from which the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality definition is taken provides a rationale for CBPR that notes that communities have not had input into health goals. As a result, these communities have not bought into the programs and practices advocated by public-health agencies. CBPR, then, is designed to seek engagement and participation in order to better learn how heretofore unengaged communities (in particular minority or marginalized communities) experience a defined health problem; researchers must collaborate with them and come to understand how to get them to endorse and enact public-health practices in ways that are culturally appropriate. This means that CBPR researchers often come into communities with goals already in mind. These goals are largely related to health, and researchers may not ask community members what they believe to be most important. PAR, in contrast, seeks community engagement not in order to enhance compliance or participation around preselected topics, but from a conviction that communities know best how to identify and prioritize the problems that they face. Top-down approaches to CBPR do not really examine the full range of methods to address community problems. We recognize that many CBPR advocates may have the intention to collaborate and cooperate fully; there are in fact many important examples of their doing so (Becker et al. 2009). However, a superficial reading of CBPR approaches gives the impression that much of CBPR research is about figuring out how to get marginalized communities to adopt practices that would improve health in a variety of areas, such as obesity (Filbert et al. 2009), cervical cancer (Christopher et al. 2008), and behavioral health (Bogart and Uyeda 2009). These practices often do not include meeting (or even identifying) demands for housing, jobs, universal health care, or conditions that might give rise to the behaviors and illnesses that the interventions are designed to address. Much of the research is focused on individual or cultural behaviors or on medically oriented prevention, diagnosis, and intervention. There is little focus on systemic or environmental factors such as pollution or poverty that likely have an impact on individual and community health practices. We also believe that CPBR is sometimes based in pragmatic rather than ethical concerns, and we thus call into question where it falls on the spectrum of the participatory practices as delineated by Wallerstein and Duran (2003). Even though it is respectful of cultural differences, its attempts at cultural

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competence are more for practical purposes in that they inform researchers how best to design interventions or to seek acceptance of practices in minority communities. In a review of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Web of Knowledge for articles published in 2009 using the search term communitybased participatory research, we found that very few of the articles listed mentioned power dynamics and control of the research process (for an exception, though, see Bloom et al. 2009). This lacuna may in part be a result of CBPR’s grounding in public health and medicine. Many of the health concerns are inarguably serious and have social justice implications, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and cancer. Large institutions such as hospitals, medical schools, and government agencies may not have deeply rooted and more individual connections with community groups in spite of the fact that many have programs that are community based or that work with local advisory boards given varying levels of input into research agenda and practices. The work of some radical health activists, such as physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer (2005), is rooted in collaboration and centers on questions of power and the connections between health and inequality. Proponents of CBPR have also noted that even though an increasing number of researchers are shifting from conventional research approaches to CBPR methods in the wake of calls to do so by funders and governmental agencies, many of them have trouble conceptualizing and implementing research that is fully participatory, incorporates community voices, and provides community members with a real opportunity to impact the research process from start to finish (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health 2009). We contend that CBPR can be compatible with bottom-up participatory research only if it is on the more participatory end of the spectrum and less on the instrumental. We therefore suggest that those social work researchers and others who are interested in AOSWR should use this model cautiously, with an eye toward maximizing participation and power sharing. PAR approaches are more thoroughly grounded in the moral obligation of equality, shared governance, and the right of people to have a greater say in the political agendas and policies that affect them (Stringer 1996; Wicks, Reason, and Bradbury 2008). Social workers can contribute to discussion of the relative merits of different participatory approaches and should strive to ensure that whatever research approach they adopt is infused with an ethical, value-based component that informs the practice and evaluation of methods. Researchers who choose a truly participatory model agree to relinquish control of goals, research agendas, and the actions that flow from the research findings.

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Virginia Eubanks (2011) provides eloquent testimony to the power of PAR. She offers a case study of her own research collaboration with other women, many of whom were welfare recipients seeking to educate themselves about the role of technology in perpetuating the oppression of low-income women in their community. Eubanks captures much of what we are trying to say in her explanation of why she joined forces with other local women: Too often in academia—as in most specialized technical fields—we lack the opportunity, motivation, or support to follow where community members outside of our universities lead us. . . . Participatory action research increases accountability and transparency in the research process, as the academic researcher bounces analyses off of her community-based colleagues for further discussion and interpretation. I spent two years—sometimes daily—in the YWCA community before I asked a single interview question. Had I begun my research with more traditional methods, I would have gotten this all terribly wrong. I would have simply reproduced the prevailing wisdom of the time, seeing only a group of women who were “technology poor.” (2011, 33)

Taking Eubanks seriously means understanding that research will most often get better and produce more useable knowledge only when it is done in collaboration with the people for whom it is undertaken in the first place. For such collaboration to happen effectively, researchers must give up their privilege as the possessors of expert knowledge and begin to listen and learn from their community collaborators. Only then can research and advocacy create the synergy needed to bring about real social change.

Conclusion In this chapter, we lay out our claim that social workers have a professional obligation to work with and for groups that are marginalized, to fight oppression, and to strive for a society that fosters equality, access, opportunity, and inclusion. The values of the profession apply to all the activities that social workers do: research, direct practice, and policy work. As professionals who work in a value-based profession, social workers can and should serve as an example to other practitioners and academics who espouse similar values.

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Social workers who engage in research must not put their value base to the side; their social work values are to inform all the decisions that they make. They can thus bring critical questioning to the table when they examine research projects and research methods. We have reviewed a number of approaches to research, all of which ostensibly support research that benefits people who may be marginalized. However, as we demonstrate in this chapter, not all research seeks full engagement of those whose lives will be affected by the interventions and policies that are formulated or justified based on research. CBPR and EBP are two recent movements that began, respectively, in public health and medicine and have crossed disciplinary boundaries. Both arise from a concern for people impacted by research, but neither of them requires, either morally or instrumentally, full input from those people. Instead, the input is at all points circumscribed by decision makers, whether they be funders, researchers, or policymakers. PAR, as an alternative approach, comes from a moral perspective that requires the input of stakeholders at all points in the decision-making trajectory. Although this approach opens research and policymaking to greater uncertainty than more exclusionary practices allow, we claim that it also makes them more ethical and more likely to be considered “successful” by a broader spectrum of stakeholders and to produce knowledge that is fully informed by the participation of more groups. Participatory-research models such as CBPR or PAR are important innovations. These research approaches, however, also must meet the ethical principles that social workers and others subscribe to: informing programs and practices based on knowledge that is attuned to elements of culture and provision of benefits with the least amount of harm. To make such practices even more ethical and in line with social work values of full participation, empowerment, access, and equality, researchers must supplement them with research and decision-sharing approaches that maximize input from and direction by those affected by the research, policies, and interventions. This process entails power sharing, which in turn requires recognition of the knowledge and expertise that only those affected can provide about their lives and the goals they have for themselves, their families, and their communities. Approaches such as PAR explicitly embrace and grapple with power dynamics and therefore serve as an important complement or caution to these newer approaches. PAR also adds the importance of engagement for action, which does not stop once knowledge is produced but continues to influence through knowledge dissemination and the subsequent implementation of policies and programs.

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We have offered here a theoretical underpinning for change research. Simply stated, it is research that brings about change. It is also a normative claim for a change that impacts how, why, and with whom social workers do research. Participation in research itself, irrespective of the results, is a political act and a form of change that can be either oppressive or empowering. In the next chapter, we specifically address evaluation research and how it can be informed by the theory of change research that we have outlined.

Discussion Questions This chapter discusses different approaches to research. Think about a problem in your community—perhaps the problem you thought of in the previous chapter. 1. Sketch a design for a research project that you can carry out without the input of stakeholders affected by that problem. 2. Now think about how you would go about designing a project that solicits input from those stakeholders. (a)  What components might you add? (b) How would those additions change the project? (c) How might they change the way you address the problem? 3. How would you go about designing a research project in collaboration with stakeholders affected by the problem? (a) How would making your project collaborative complicate it? (b) How might the project be thus enriched? (c) What accommodations do you think you might have to make due to collaboration with this group? 4. Compare your three research designs. (a) In what ways do they differ? (b) What are the advantages and disadvantages of each one? (c) Think about how you might “sell” a collaborative project to a funder or to an agency. 5. Choose a social work treatment, intervention, or service. Contrast EBP and collaborative PAR as ways of deciding whether that treatment, intervention, or practice is appropriate for a particular community or clientele.

2 Reevaluating Evaluation Research Sowing the Seeds of Distrust

Most funders leave out the advocacy piece. We’re very lucky in that we work with a funder who cares about it. But again, she’s from a foundation that may care less than she cares. And probably cares a lot less than we care, you know? I mean I think figuring out how you can get the money to pay for these things and make them as strong and powerful as they could be really has a lot to with organizing. And very few organizing funders fund research—they don’t really get it. They don’t see the connection so strongly. I mean they see the connections for the kind of research I was talking about in the very beginning, which is something that is much more limited—really geared to an advocacy campaign as opposed to figuring out what your advocacy campaign is going to be. —WCRP executive director

collabora t i v e , community-based PAR is an effective antidote for addressing some of the potential biases we have noted for both EBP and CBPR. It is undoubtedly the case that the push for EBP is most heavily felt in clinical social work practice and other individualized forms of assistance in allied helping professions, such as medicine, nursing, and related areas of behavioral health services (Littell, Corcoran, and Pillai 2008). In these areas, collaborative approaches with clients are unlikely to be popular with professionals keen to insist that client participation in structuring practice research may contaminate the quest to prove effectiveness. Clinicians are also under tremendous pressure from a variety of sources, including third-party payers such as insurance providers, to maintain control of their clients and to structure their relationships in ways that can ensure they are relying on research-proven treatments and interventions (Floersch 2002). Therefore, there is good reason to think that collaborative research with clients in clinical settings, where individualized casework, therapy, and interventions dominate, is likely to be the

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most challenging to embedded expert biases associated with “best” practices. Manualized protocols, structured interventions, and therapeutic procedures all reduce the opportunities for clients, individually and collectively, to have a role in deciding how they are to be treated (Cabassa and Hansen 2007). On the one hand, it is precisely for these reasons that researching practice from the clients’ perspective will be the most radically destabilizing and the most challenging to established power relations, especially in settings where expert clinicians call the shots for their less-informed clients. On the other hand, in spite or because of this radical potential, collaborative research with clients in clinical settings might be the most difficult to realize. How to empower client groups in individualized treatment settings is something we will leave to others (see Ferguson and Lavalette 2006). Our own experiences speak to the potential of collaborative research in community-based settings (see Stoecker 2005b). Yet even in the arena of community-based service provision, we see similar challenges. The major research concerns often take the form of worrying about the growing role of evaluation research as a condition for continued receipt of funding to provide social services to communities, families, and individuals. Gone are the days when a community-based agency could rely on its strong ties to a community and its strong commitment to serving that community. Now it is increasingly common that a funder will make funding contingent on evaluation research that demonstrates that the agency is producing the outcomes it promised. Evaluation research has become central to most community-based agencies’ continued viability (Shadish, Cook, and Leviton 1991; Stoecker 2005a).

The Research / Evaluation Nexus Research and evaluation are treated synonymously in many social work research texts (see, for instance, Grinnell and Unrau 2007). The tendency to see research as largely if not entirely about evaluation of service provision does a disservice to both, however. The study of social problems irrespective of whether it is to evaluate any particular treatment, intervention, or service is important in its own right and must be promoted independently of the need for evaluation. The tendency to equate evaluation with research also sidelines questions of what is morally right or wrong. The process of judging the merits of a particular treatment, intervention, or service often eschews normative considerations and reduces the task to answering

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questions about whether some practice or program works irrespective of whether it is fair or just. Let us stress that we recognize that evaluation of the effectiveness of social services or even of social change initiatives more broadly construed has its place. Evaluation can help program funders and practitioners figure out whether they are doing what they think they are doing and whether their work produces the consequences that they intend and does not produce other negative, unintended consequences. However, such evaluation should not replace questions about whether the program’s goals are worth pursuing and who should be consulted in selecting interventions and directing resources in the first place. In an age that valorizes science, our courses of action as social workers unfortunately seem to be increasingly at risk for being judged largely on empirical grounds of whether the practice in question works. When evaluation is so closely tied to empirical research and when social workers learn to evaluate social work practices largely according to empirical evidence as to the effectiveness of the practices in question, evaluation is at risk of being hollowed out and stripped of normative considerations. In an effort to be unbiased in our research, we may unwittingly avoid many ethical questions at the heart of social work. These concerns do not appear to have taken center stage among social workers, however, and textbooks on research and evaluation are most often no help in this regard (e.g., Rubin and Babbie 2007). The crux of the problem we raise is not about evaluation per se, but about equating evaluation with empirical research of a very particular narrow sort (Stoecker 2005a). This problem has special implications for social change initiatives that rely on community involvement to find out first what it is that people think is the problem, why, and what should be done about it. When conventional research methods that insist on a detached point of view are dominant in the push by funders for evaluations that demonstrate the effectiveness of community-based initiatives, it becomes all that much more difficult to convince funders that collaborative research approaches are legitimate. It is here that the insistence on detached, objective, scientific evaluation poses a risk to any community agency’s ability to maintain its commitment to the community. In order to meet funders’ expectations for and about research, agencies most often seek outside evaluators who are not tied to either the agencies themselves or the community. Yet this use of outsiders only compounds the problem, for it suggests that the very mechanism for deciding what an agency does and how it should think about revising its practices is something that must be performed independently of the both the agency and

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the community. How can a community agency be true to its mandate if it does not actively involve the community it serves in planning its operations and evaluating them? Randy Stoecker (2005a, 2005b) has been an eloquent proponent of alternative forms of evaluation that are designed to offer more opportunities for community involvement. He has also provided thoughtful rebuttals to those who dismiss his call to counteract detached evaluation with what he calls “participatory evaluations,” where evaluators collaborate with agency personnel to craft an evaluation that is informed by what agency people think they need to know to make their program better. Stoecker notes that social scientists have often been taught that there is nothing worse than when their research “affects the system.” Social scientists are supposed to be objective. Like journalists in an urban war zone, they are supposed to stand passively by while innocent bystanders are gunned down around them, even though they may have easily saved them by yelling “Duck!” Some funders still believe that an evaluator who becomes invested in helping a project succeed rather than simply measuring the extent to which it does not succeed cannot possibly be objective. And they are correct. Taking such a stance is not objective, but Stoecker argues that the evaluators’ job is to convince funders that there are many paths to producing a useful evaluation and that funders should prefer an evaluation method that produces both accurate measurements and increased project success. Stoecker adds that this job is getting easier through the leadership of the Kellogg Foundation and the acceptance of participatory approaches by an increasing number of government and private funders (2005b, 203). Regardless of how promising this picture looks, we have two concerns. First, Stoecker’s “participatory evaluation” falls short of offering the kind of participation we are seeking. Why limit community involvement to the agency personnel at the expense of the clients and the broader community? Stoecker’s idea of participation is to involve program staff in framing, designing, implementing, and interpreting evaluations. He is not really talking about a robust form of client involvement here. His vision of alternative, more participatory kinds of evaluation retains the hierarchy of privilege associated with experts being “on top” rather than “on tap.” Second, Stoecker’s optimism about what funders will accept as a legitimate evaluation is undoubtedly a hopeful sign. Whether those who control the purse strings are ready for more collaborative, participative forms of evaluation remains to be seen. Stoecker does provide some insight as to why we can and should be hopeful that change is coming

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to the way that community agencies are evaluated, despite the challenges: “Popular education emphasizes the people teaching themselves, rather than being told by outsiders what they should learn and how they should learn it. And that is a particularly challenging leap for those of us in Community Informatics to make. . . . [F]ew of us can imagine a person who has never sat down in front of a computer being able to work it without us. But that is also what they said about politics, and popular educators have shown them to be wrong there” (quoted in Eubanks 2011, 33). It may be that a new era of popular evaluation is on the horizon. That would be something to celebrate. Engaged researchers and advocates would still need to work hard to establish credibility and accuracy, as should all researchers. Credibility should be assessed with reference to the particular methods and safeguards that researchers choose rather than based on assumptions about research capabilities and biases that often serve as criteria. Evaluation that involves community at this level of deep engagement would less likely be a threat to building and empowering communities than it often seems to be now. At this time, however, it is still a stretch for even the most forward-looking proponents of new forms of evaluation research to get beyond the limitations of conventional methods in order to put clients and communities in charge of evaluating the social services that are offered them or having them control the evaluations of initiatives they participate in to improve their communities. The idea of letting clients control the assessments of community-based service agencies’ operations or of local social change initiatives has yet to make it beyond the theorizing by a limited group of researchers (see Strier 2007). Poignant examples come from the burgeoning area of faith-based organizations (FBOs). With the increased interest in this sort of community-based social service provision in recent years, there is a growing demand that we not take it on faith that faith-based social services are what we need to be providing in many of the most disadvantaged communities. Although there is recognition that evaluation methods can easily short-change our understanding of what is good about FBOs, there remains a reluctance to get beyond client input of the most controlled and limited sort. No amount of mixing methods can compensate for a failure to understand FBO services in the terms that clients see them. This is especially the case when the clientele’s faith may not be the same as the faith embraced and promoted by the FBO, which produces a clash of perspectives operating at the very base of the agency and the services it provides. Faith-based services may have much to offer the right set

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of clients in certain areas of treatment (for instance, religiously devout drugaddicted clients in a treatment program), but these services are not likely to be seen the same way by those who are not committed to sharing that faith or do not have faith that belief in a higher power will get them to a better place on this earth. Evaluations of faith-based services without examining the clients’ faith and their belief in the power of faith are incomplete. Questions regarding research design and empirical measurement bleed over into the larger questions of control and who has the power to decide when, where, and how research and evaluation of community-based services and social change initiatives are done. Evaluation can bring accountability to both community-based service provision and community-change initiatives. Evaluation can aid us in assessing social services designed to help people cope with difficult circumstances or social campaigns focused on the way policies and practices affect people in communities. Yet evaluation is all too often narrowly construed to mean empirical research that measures outcomes. Although some forms of evaluation, such as formative or process evaluations, look at developing programs or examining how they are being implemented respectively, these forms tend to be more prone to subjective assessment and not as often focused on producing the precise statistical measurements we find in outcome evaluations (Royse, Thyer, and Padgett 2010, 108). Outcome evaluations with precise numbers tend to be what funders are seeking (Stoecker, 2005a). Yet in this environment there is the risk that a kind of myopic empiricism will crowd out more thoughtful, if subjective, assessments about whether a program is operating appropriately. This is especially the case when measurements of outcomes must be produced in the short run in order to renew funding even though the expected improvements in people’s lives are only likely to be experienced in the long run (Ferguson et al. 2006). The problem is often compounded when a misplaced desire for concrete data sets emphasizes what is measureable over what is meaningful. Some of the most important outcomes from services or social actions may be less measureable than some of the more trivial outcomes. Evaluation research that emphasizes statistically measureable outcomes risks looking at programs and political initiatives only where the measuring spotlight can reach, when in fact the more important and meaningful changes may be happening in the shadows. These internal criticisms of evaluation need not be fatal, and they should not lead us to resist evaluation. The more serious problems that relate to the main theme of this book are associated with the participatory effects of evalu-

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ation. The pressure to demonstrate credible, measureable results crowds out more meaningful forms of evaluation that will not only judge social services or social change initiatives but improve them. This pressure to produce measureable results leads to relying on outside evaluators who are not associated with the efforts to build community and empower its members. Foregoing a more collaborative participatory approach to evaluating services and change efforts leads us away from important sources of knowledge about what works and what does not. We forego the opportunity to create performance standards and evaluation criteria that community members can use to improve services in terms of what they think is important and ought to be the goals of any particular service. We then end up once again minimizing the insights and wisdom of our clients, who understand what we are evaluating from the bottom up (Strier 2007). We are unlikely to elicit comprehensive, candid, and meaningful client perspectives over the long term until we commit ourselves to conducting evaluations with clients and communities rather than standing outside to judge them. Only when we see “popular evaluation” fostered and gaining credibility will evaluation be an effective means of judging what happens and of helping to make it happen better.

The Perversities of Performance Measurement Evaluation research today is but the tip of the measurement iceberg for social service agencies. We live in a new era of contracting for social service provision that has its own measurement conflicts that reach beyond the problems of evaluation research. A “new public management” (Kettl 2005) has grown in recent years as an attempt to “reinvent government” (Osborne and Gaebler 1993). The new public management has sought “to replace traditional rule-based, authority-driven processes with market-based, competition-driven tactics” (Kettl 2005, 3). Devolution to localities, privatization, and performance-measurement systems to monitor contract agency performance are the hallmarks of the new public management. In the process, by extending the reach of government via contractual relationships with market and civilsociety organizations, the new system of governance enables the state’s power to grow even as the public sector shrinks. Performance management is the critical lynchpin in making this new system of neoliberal social service provision work. Community-based social service agencies that contract with the government are increasingly experiencing its

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effects. “The beginning of the twenty-first century,” Donald Moynihan writes, “finds us in an era of governance by performance management” (2008, 3). This is especially the case for social service agencies. However, performance management is not just a system of measurement to hold contract agencies accountable. More important, it functions as a system of discipline (Soss, Fording, and Schram 2011). Those who champion performance management as a tool for enforcing contract compliance, however, rarely conceptualize it in the latter fashion. Instead, they offer it as a way to use the market logic, the power of incentives and penalties, and the credibility of scientific measurement to enforce public accountability on contract agencies. The implicit promise is that local actors will be free to go their own ways and then later will be judged by their performance and given the information they need to improve. The reality, however, is much messier (Moynihan 2008; Radin 2006). Performance management is characterized by the focusing effects of outcome benchmarks, the pressures of competition, the prospects of incurring rewards or penalties, and the awareness that one is being closely monitored. These features do more than just make agencies accountable; they change how agencies perform. Performance management is therefore disciplinary, not simply in the sense that involves the deployment of penalties, but in the deeper sense suggested by Michel Foucault ([1977] 1995). It is a tool used to shape how actors, under conditions of apparent autonomy, direct their own conduct. Performance management is an organizational technology for cultivating particular habits of mind—specifically, habits of mind that encourage local actors to regulate their own uses of discretion in ways that are consonant with prevailing institutions, values, and interests. There are longstanding criticisms of measurement associated with performance management (Moynihan 2008). As good as performance management sounds in theory, in practice it has a long history wherein contract agencies deviate from this script in “rationally perverse” ways (Soss, Fording, and Schram 2011). Performance indicators often present local organizations with ambiguous cues that get “selected, interpreted, and used by actors in different ways consistent with their institutional interests” (Moynihan 2008, 9). Performance pressures, as a result, often fail to produce the desired results because agencies seek to meet their statistical benchmarks to the exclusion of ensuring the quality of their service-provision efforts—in a word, they “suboptimize” or choose to meet their statistical quotas for outcomes in name only (Moynihan 2008). The tunnel vision created by performance numbers can lead con-

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tract agencies to innovate in ways that subvert important programmatic goals. For example, meeting the goal of placing welfare recipients in jobs can be achieved cheaply and quickly by pushing them into low-paying jobs, which leaves them poor and in need of cycling back onto welfare. Performance pressures may divert attention from important but unmeasured values and activities (Radin 2006), and in an effort to boost their numbers organizations may engage in “creaming” practices, such as the direction of “services to those already close to being ‘job-ready’ at the expense of those with barriers to employment” (Considine 2003, 71). Again, the problem is not performance measurement per se; measureable goals can undoubtedly inform government, funders, and citizens. But the single-minded focus on such goals regardless of how they are achieved and what they mean for the people about whom they are derived creates the danger of producing adverse consequences and a picture that is misleading in its partial nature. A reduction in welfare rolls does not necessarily mean that children are better off economically than when their families received cash assistance. In order to assess the “success” of welfare reform, we must also learn how these goals were achieved and what actually happened to the children whose families no longer receive assistance. Answering these questions in addition to looking at easily measurable outcomes can help us hold contract agencies accountable and alert us to unintended or programmatically perverse consequences. Although the problems of measurement in performance-management systems are not insurmountable, it is naive to think that the pressure to meet performance benchmarks is merely an objective, outside standard for judging agency performance. Instead, it is almost always an active force in changing agency practice, for better and worse. This relationship should give rise to more critical reflection on performance measurement and the evaluation that it so often drives. We especially need to worry about how such measurement systems risk drawing the community agency away from the community and making community participants into a commodity to be manipulated so as to achieve good statistical outcomes according to whatever standard is being used. With performance-management systems, this process happens in real time, making daily interactions with the community that much less collaborative than what we would expect to be at the core of the mission of any agency that calls itself “community based.” In the brave new world of the new public management, the most significant problem that performance-management systems pose for community-based agencies is not how best to measure potentially ambiguous or conflicting outcomes, but rather how to safeguard against

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the risks that performance measurement poses to community participation in the work of community-based agencies. These dangers of disconnection from the community are all the more apparent when we examine the broader context in which the new organizational forms and information-management systems are operating. Devolution, privatization, and performance measurement that are ubiquitous in this era of globalization are associated with the ideology of neoliberalism that assesses social activities according to market logic, as if they were commodities to be bought and sold. These organizational innovations facilitate the neoliberalization of social service provision (Ferguson 2004). Neoliberalism is arguably the reigning ideology championing globalization and the push to integrate more and more human activity into globalizing markets. We might say that neoliberalism is the evil twin of Marxism, which in its critique of capitalism noted that everything was ultimately explainable in terms of its relationship to the market. Neoliberalism puts forth the same explanation, but in a positive rather than a negative light. In this assessment of marketization, more sectors such as social service provision are seen as appropriately evaluated by strict market logic in terms of how they stand up first and foremost as cost-efficient activities. Marketization imposes a neoliberal discipline on social service agencies, pressuring them to adopt a bottom-line mentality focused on lower costs and maximizing output. Social services are increasingly expected to act in ways consonant with market rationality in order to produce clients who will fit more seamlessly into the market-centered society associated with a globalizing economy. The growing commodification of social service provision makes social service programs more easily assimilated into markets and more open to being assessed in terms of whether they do or do not help to make society more efficient and economically competitive locally and globally. Under these conditions, it becomes permissible to evaluate services to immigrants in terms of whether they promote the growth of an imported class of low-wage laborers that make the national economy more globally competitive, and child-adoption services may now be evaluated in terms of their efficiency as measured by prices in emerging global baby markets. The antidote to the neoliberal commodification of social service provision is more community involvement of those receiving services. This involvement must start with a process in which affected clients and communities help to formulate how any performance-management system is to run and what it should emphasize in evaluating performance. This cooperation might

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lead to a very different system of management, with standards that differ from neoliberal assessments of whether a service is economically efficient. With such a shift, contractors and agencies would be accountable not just to different standards, but also to different stakeholders. Not all measures of economic efficiency will be proven irrelevant with this shift. And not all contractors or agencies will agree to this more radical form of scrutiny or to the standards that are generated by service recipients. Political debate must occur to provide an opportunity for the affected client populations and communities to bargain publicly over these standards. Such dialogue, although potentially conflictual and messy, would be a more democratic means of monitoring community-based contractors. Without movement in this direction, the push for performance measurement, like the push for outcomes measurement in evaluation research, will create further feelings of distrust from communities and a greater divergence of goals and visions between agencies and the communities they serve.

Conclusion Community-based social service agencies and community organizations working for social change in the past had long been able to rely on their ties to the community and their reputation of being committed to the community. Those days are gone. Under the regime of the new public management, the community-based equivalent of EBP has overtaken social ties and reputation. Community-based agencies must prove they are good in ways that can be quantified statistically according to neoliberal standards associated with market efficiency. They must demonstrate that they produce measureable outcomes consistent with established goals that are largely set by funders and contractors. Such requirements are enforced primarily through outcome-oriented evaluation research, which is increasingly de rigueur for any grant and performance-management systems implemented with contract agencies that receive money from the government. Although both evaluation research and performance-management systems are fraught with measurement problems that often lead to emphasizing quantity over quality, this sort of internal criticism is by no means fatal and should not be used to resist the calls for accountability. Instead, the more serious problems of evaluation research and performance-management systems are associated with their potentially disempowering effects, especially

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when evaluation standards are grounded in strict market logic of what is cost efficient independent of what is good for the community. Such standards risk undermining bonds between funding agencies and organizations and between the clients and communities they serve. Consistent with the theme of this book, the antidote in both cases is more community involvement and dialogue at all stages of both evaluation research and performance-management systems design. Community actors’ involvement can provide deeper knowledge of the programs, thereby enforcing a more comprehensive accountability. Biases that might arise here can be counterbalanced by outcome measurement and the employment of evaluation research tools within the context of ongoing dialogue. Such an approach is certainly more time consuming and labor intensive, but the democratic consequences are well worth it (Polletta 2002). In the process, communitybased agencies and organizations can remain true to their name, which signals the heart of their mission and is an important source of their legitimacy. In the next chapter, we introduce the partners in our case study of participatory-change research. Our collaborators resisted neoliberal standards of evaluating the lack of affordable housing in Philadelphia as a problem to be understood according to strict market logic. They instead sought to adopt alternative community standards that included market considerations as well as deeply held community values such as neighborhood stability, fairness, and community cohesion.

Discussion Questions Choose an area of community-based social service provision or social change effort. 1. What outcome measures would help you understand whether those services or change initiatives are working? 2. What is good and bad about focusing on outcome measures in this area of social service provision or social change work? 3. What other information about the program or the population served would be useful to you: (a) As a program planner? (b) As a funder? (c) As a community member?

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4. How would including community partners in evaluation from beginning to end influence your evaluation? 5. How might it improve your evaluation? 6. What obstacles or complications would community participation pose? 7. Provide examples of how performance measurement would improve community-based social work practice. 8. How might performance measurement actually undermine efforts in community-based social work practice?

3 Introducing Our Collaborative Research Case Study Working with the Women’s Community  Revitalization Project

A study provides both advocates and researchers the opportunity to learn from each other. . . . This was only possible if a trusting working relationship characterized by good communication and a willingness to work through disagreements and differences of viewpoint existed between researches and advocates. This was especially important because a close collaboration between researchers and advocates and a focus on process rather than immediate outcome often caused a certain level of confusion and frustration on both sides. Yet this nonlinear approach to doing research provides many more opportunities to learn from each other. —Notes from an interview with a lead organizer from the WCRP

Collaborative, community-based PAR does not involve the loss of what social scientists bring to their craft because true collaboration does not involve a melding or loss of identity. Social work researchers’ roles force them to remain different in significant ways from the activists with whom they work despite many shared goals. These differences emerged from our own work with our partners when in 2003 we began our collaborative, community-based effort to research the state of low-income housing in the city of Philadelphia. This chapter provides context for understanding the insights that we took away from our experiences. It also provides a backdrop for understanding how social work researchers can conduct competent and professional research while working with community advocates who are pushing for social change. Under the right conditions, neither the integrity of the research nor the effectiveness of the advocacy need be short-changed. Although we found that achieving both is not easy, we also discovered that it can be accomplished when trust

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and mutual respect prevail over all the other conflicting demands of collaborative community-based research.

The Context for Our Research: Affordable Housing Advocacy and Our Research Partners We were originally drawn into housing advocacy research in Philadelphia when we were contacted by the WCRP, the Women’s Community Revitalization Project. A small, grassroots organization, WCRP was at the time proving its creative resourcefulness in addressing housing problems of lowincome women, many of whom were escaping an abusive relationship. The agency looked forward to celebrating twenty years of community work in Philadelphia. It had by then established itself as a community-based agency that worked from the bottom up to empower its clients to get the assistance they needed. The agency had experience in the political arena, so its leaders knew the importance of combining grassroots activism with its efforts to develop, build, and manage housing for low-income women within the community it served. Its work was therefore predicated on the idea that women are at the heart of the community. WCRP saw women as a source of power and change in their own communities, with expert knowledge about what changes are most urgent and most likely to benefit their own communities. In its own words, “The Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) is committed to social and economic justice for low-income women and their families. We develop housing and neighborhood facilities; provide supportive services; advocate for policy change; and honor leadership, dignity, and equity in our communities” (WCRP 2008). WCRP has longed believed that communities have knowledge about their own needs and what programs or policies might best meet those needs. WCRP employs a number of people who are trained as master’s degree–level social workers as well as community organizers who do not have graduatelevel training. Under the leadership of Executive Director Nora Lichtash, who is a social worker, WCRP is an organization that other community activists, funding agencies, and local politicians consider politically savvy, well connected, and strategic. It has been successful in receiving a number of grants to carry out its housing agenda as well as resources to lobby and conduct research to further this agenda. It has also been a leader in partnering with and engaging other organizations across Philadelphia in cooperative

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ventures. WCRP’s collaborative approach and the importance it places on connections also means that it values and fosters ongoing relationships and sees them as integral to the success of its work. One example of such collaboration is its involvement with the Philadelphia Affordable Housing Coalition (PAHC). PAHC was established in 2000 (Rom 2004) and has since disbanded, although the member organizations continue to work together closely. This coalition was composed of nonprofit organizations, including community-development corporations and grassroots organizations such as WCRP. Lichtash had served as a director of this coalition. The cornerstone of PAHC was the creation of the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund, modeled on similar projects in cities across the nation, to provide for the creation and support of affordable housing in Philadelphia. The group’s members sought to further a political agenda that they believed would be more persuasive if it was grounded in empirical research. Working with several other community-based organizations, WCRP actively conducted its own grassroots fact-finding missions and data collection. Using people trained in community organizing and relying on direct contact with people in the surrounding neighborhoods, WCRP was well informed about the difficulties of obtaining and maintaining safe and adequate housing faced by low-income residents of the neighborhood in which WCRP is located and throughout Philadelphia. Three of the graduate-level social workers with whom we worked had some research training, as did at least one of the other community organizers, and WCRP employed their expertise. WCRP valued research for a variety of reasons. Although WCRP is a community-based organization, many of the people who work there are paid professionals; not all of them live in or come from the community in which they work. Even if they did, communities are heterogeneous, and living in a community or even connecting with some members or groups that live and work there does not ensure that their perspectives are representative (Diamond 2000). Doing community-based research always involves the challenge of questioning which segment of the community is being represented (San Sebastian and Hurtig 2004). Is the organization being collaborated with representative of the community in all of its diversity of needs and interests? In our case, this challenge was to some extent mitigated by the fact that not only were the organizations we were working with very much grounded in the community, but they also worked hard to reach out to individuals and families in their neighborhoods to get an even stronger sense of community concerns regarding housing. Going out and talking to people

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who live in the community allow the WCRP to connect with a wider range of stakeholders and potential constituents as well as to solicit their concerns, priorities, and visions for their neighborhood. Community research is also an advocacy tool. Every door that WCRP workers knock on and every home they visit give them the chance to introduce themselves and their work and to be known as an organization that is rooted in community. WCRP workers also value research because it allows them to test their own understanding and assessment of problems and their desired resolution. When they do come up with a plan or have a sense that there is a problem, they want to make sure that it resonates with their target community. Outside of the immediate neighborhood work, research is useful in helping WCRP plan advocacy campaigns. Research helps WCRP assess the depth and breadth of a problem and to brainstorm solutions. Is the problem tied to a particular neighborhood, or is it citywide? Is it unique to Philadelphia, or is it found in other cities? Have other cities tried to cope with this problem, and if so, how? In its advocacy work with the Philadelphia City Council, WCRP has learned that research backs up its advocacy claims and that empirically grounded data are more persuasive to policymakers. In this context, however, WCRP workers have also learned that making their research legitimate and persuasive in the eyes of policymakers requires expertise, professional vetting, and the cachet that academic researchers provide. City council lobbying experience has also taught them that statistics are very important and that individual stories or even rigorous qualitative data alone are insufficient. At the time of our collaboration, WCRP had already engaged in at least one contractual partnership with academic researchers to further its lobbying goals (Hillier and Koppisch 2005). The William Penn Foundation (WPF) supports advocacy in the Philadelphia region and funds projects that it believes will have a tangible community impact. On its Web site, the WPF declares: “The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that foster rich cultural expression, strengthen children’s futures, and deepen connections to nature and community. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance a vital, just, and caring community” (n.d). The WPF fosters ongoing relationships with community organizations and identifies grant areas of interest for targeted funding. Its 2009 annual report reiterates its commitment to knowledge building and community dialogue as important for its own funding decisions:

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Participation of the public, as well as that of other grantmakers and Foundation directors and staff, is sought to clarify issues of community concern and is facilitated through our role as a convener. Collegial relationships, collaboration, discussion, debate, and exchange of information are encouraged. Learning: Grantees’ accomplishments and the Foundation’s activities, including evaluation and education efforts, provide means to promote learning and convey information to interested others. Foundation members, directors, and staff value learning opportunities that enhance the wellbeing of the region and its citizens. Communication: Communications advance the Foundation’s mission by enhancing the impact of our grantmaking and the effective use of our resources. Members, directors, and staff value clarity, coherence, and simplicity in communications. They listen and seek to learn from others in order to function with maximum efficacy. (28)

A review of the projects funded and our own experiences with the WPF, however, provide ample evidence that its staff not only look for areas of interest that can impact communities, but also have strong ideas about what types of projects bring about change. The WPF measures success in large part on whether there is a concrete outcome or change in the policy arena that appears to be a result of the work. The WPF has a particular interest in collaborative projects between researchers and academics. In funding projects, it seeks a combination of political savvy and local knowledge; an ability to lobby and communicate professionally, clearly, and persuasively; and rigorous research to back up problem identification and proposed solutions. WPF has found that advocacy groups may have political savvy and even lobbying expertise, but that they more rarely have the necessary resources and skills required for rigorous research. Even if such groups have such expertise in house, policymakers often view their research as biased or untrustworthy. Thus, policy analysis is usually considered more credible when it is produced by academic researchers. WPF has also found that academic researchers rare­ly have the other skills that are required. In 2004, WPF identified support for housing and low-income homeownership as a grant area of interest. The WCRP sought funding under this grant area, despite its existing focus on rental and transitional housing. It did so because housing and low-income homeownership were related to their area of interest and because it knew from its own work with community

  introducing our collaborative research case study  57

members that homeownership was important to the community. However, it also did so because this area came with funding and therefore provided an opportunity to support the WCRP’s advocacy efforts financially. Part of the challenge was to fit the grant to the advocacy campaign, but WCRP proved up to that challenge. In providing the WCRP with a grant, WPF made a number of requirements based on experience and a belief concerning what makes for successful projects. These requirements were compatible with WCRP’s experiences. Although the grant was made to WCRP, it required that WCRP join forces with academic researchers to inform and support their policy advocacy. WPF also worked with WCRP to identify how the academic research could be “translated” to a policy audience. WCRP had prior experience in working with researchers. It viewed such work as very successful, although that work involved a number of difficulties that we detail in chapter 7. Academic qualifications were an important criterion in determining with whom the organization would collaborate, but WCRP also assessed potential partners in other ways. In addition to the preexisting relationship that formed an initial comfort level, two of the key criteria were (1) a willingness to collaborate at all stages of project and (2) a willingness to speak out in a public, political forum. The housing advocates chose Sandy Schram to be the principal investigator for the research team because they trusted him for several reasons. Carolyn Haynes, a key person at WCRP, was Sandy’s former student, and she vouched for him as a researcher who had interests in seeing his research connected with policy advocacy. Second, Sandy had not only conducted advocacy research over the years (though mostly on the limitations of cash assistance for single mothers with children), but also written extensively on the importance of scholars’ trying to make research relevant to the policy process. He had argued that researchers cannot really be neutral. He has long claimed that researchers need to be sensitive to how politics infiltrated the research process at all points in any project: which topics are selected, how they are framed, how they are researched, what methods of study are used, and how findings are interpreted (Schram 1995, 2002). Although Sandy was not a housing policy expert, he had the sense that it was his approach to research, especially the bottom-up approach to help promote change, that made him a good fit for working with WCRP on this project. Roland Stahl and Corey Shdaimah were then doctoral students who had worked closely with Sandy and expressed an ongoing interest in engaged work

58  introducing our collaborative research case study

that makes a difference to real people in real situations. Both had come to doctoral education after careers as practitioners. Corey was a lawyer with extensive volunteer experience in civil rights and grassroots organizations. Her research focused on the work that lawyers and clients do together to change systems that both groups view as resistant to change and to the claims of lowincome individuals and communities. WCRP’s recognition of women’s roles in grounding communities through their attention to everyday concerns and responsibilities very much resonated with Corey’s desire to ground her own research in the day-to-day concerns of people affected by policy. Roland had been a social worker in Switzerland who was engaged primarily in the area of addiction and harm reduction. He worked directly with individuals at the street level and had an opportunity to see firsthand how policy can affect individuals and communities. The idea of working with WCRP was very much of interest to Roland as an opportunity to collaborate with a community group. All three of us believed that such groups, although often described by others as lacking in power, in fact have substantial resources, despite limited funding. These resources include valuable expertise and resilience. We also believed that groups that are committed to and knowledgeable about their community are well situated to move change research in directions that are most likely to benefit their own communities and individuals who live in them. We interacted regularly with WCRP workers. In interviews, all of our partners stressed the importance of interpersonal interactions to the research process. Such interactions reflected openness to bringing the advocates’ needs and concerns to bear in the production of a rigorous academic product. They helped build trust, gave the advocates a sense of the level of commitment they could expect from us, and allowed them to gauge our willingness to be part of a political action campaign. They also fostered our own commitment not only to the research, but to the agency and the community it served and provided us greater confidence that our work would make a difference. WCRP and WPF wanted to ensure that a professional advocate, who was also viewed as an “expert” and familiar with research methods, convey the research findings to policymakers. To this end, they also hired a policy analyst who had worked on housing-related lobbying efforts across the state. Karen Black had prior experience as a lawyer; she had worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and served as a consultant for a range of government and nonprofit organizations. An independent

  introducing our collaborative research case study  59

consultant, Black was viewed as someone who could successfully “translate” rigorous academic research for a policymaking audience while retaining the legitimacy of an analyst with the neutrality that WCRP, as an advocacy group, might not have in the eyes of Philadelphia policymakers. WCRP also believed that researchers rarely possess such translation skills and that even if they do, they may not be willing to engage in dialogue in public or political arenas. The policy analyst was not tasked merely with translating the finished product. WCRP saw the importance of her input at all stages of the process, and she was therefore present from the outset as a member of the research team.

The Role of Low-Income Home-Repair Research  in the Advocacy Campaign WCRP was sophisticated in its understanding of the role research can play in the policy process. The organization was the focal point for energy and initiative in the affordable-housing advocacy campaign in Philadelphia, and it devoted significant resources to the campaign. Nora Lichtash, WCRP’s executive director, was long recognized as an effective advocate for affordable housing for low-income families and individuals in the city. She had been appointed to a number of important advisory positions in city government that called for her to represent people in need of housing assistance. She was therefore not just a community agency executive who focused on the administration and management of her housing agency. She was an activist who had success in organizing and mobilizing the community to push for change in policies that affected affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. David Koppisch, one of the community organizers and advocates at WCRP, had worked on the campaign nearly full-time for several years when our research collaboration transpired. He was our primary point of contact, though most of the monthly meetings included representatives from other community groups as well as client representatives and other WCRP staff, including the director. The WCRP leadership saw the research process as collaborative from beginning to end and felt it was essential that researchers meet and discuss their work with advocates and clients on a regular basis. At any stage in the research process, researchers might lose their connection to the campaign’s advocacy goals, so collaboration at all stages was critical. How

60  introducing our collaborative research case study

the investigation was framed, what questions were asked, how data were to be collected, how the findings would be interpreted were to be decided on the basis of ongoing deliberations with the advocates. The WCRP leadership was explicit about these concerns and was purposeful in how it negotiated and contracted the way the research would be conducted. Based on their prior experiences, WCRP staff had thought long and hard about how research can play a meaningful role in the advocacy process, but only if embedded in a particular set of relationships. Therefore, a central reason for their insistence on an ongoing collaborative research approach was this sophisticated understanding of the role that research can play in the policy process. Research was necessary to establish the credibility of WCRP and its partners, all members of the PAHC, so that its proposal would not to be dismissed as the work of amateurs with little understanding of the problem or of the politics and resource constraints. For this reason, WCRP’s research program had a number of focuses. The program was designed to examine and frame the citywide context through statistical data. For the affordable-housing project to be considered legitimate, WCRP needed to present data that would be accepted as dispassionate and “objective” in the way that only numbers and graphs are currently accepted. This type of data was also important because it displayed an understanding of citywide trends and provided a picture of the breadth and depth of the problem. Citywide statistical data could also help to prevent a “divide and conquer” counterstrategy that would single out or pit neighborhoods or councilmanic districts against one another. Although our research did not find that home-repair funds were concentrated in particular neighborhoods for political reasons, the type of research we conducted could document such instances and be used to challenge them. WCRP’s broad-based research agenda was promoted through collaboration with two other organizational partners on the research team: United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). These organizations played a role in targeting three different areas in the city. They, too, believed that statistical data were respected as authoritative in the political arena. WCRP was also aware of the impact that personal stories have on the political process. In their advocacy campaigns, WCRP advocates were keen to pack all government agency and city council meetings with clients and community constituents. Real people with real problems were always front and center. Their stories were always featured. Although such stories alone are rarely persuasive, they are powerful and useful in galvanizing support from community

  introducing our collaborative research case study  61

organizations. WCRP understood that individual stories and personal testimony were also important to their constituent community members. Their research provided an opportunity to build capital in the neighborhood that they serve and was a useful organizing tool. Establishing an affordable-housing trust fund was the major policy goal, but procuring more funds for home repairs for low-income homeowners was bound to win the support of many of the low-income families who owned their own homes but had trouble maintaining safe and livable dwellings. Resonance within the neighborhood would likely help the advocates respond to the community’s needs. It would allow them to better understand and thus better work with other organizations and individuals in the community. By encouraging individuals who had experienced difficulties keeping up their own home to testify, they were helping other people find a way to have their grievances heard (and recorded) before city council and its committees. The focus on low-income home repair could also ingratiate advocates with the city council. Politicians, including then Mayor John Street, had hopped on the bandwagon in encouraging homeownership among low-income families in order to help them acquire assets and grow wealth that with time could move their families out of poverty (Sherraden 2005). Although the leadership at WCRP would eventually indicate that they did not necessarily share this vision of low-income homeownership as a vehicle for becoming middle class, they saw the advantages of helping low-income families stay in the homes they already owned. They also saw the strategic advantage of linking the PAHC to the popular assets-building agenda. Including the concerns of low-income home-owning families also broadened the WCRP’s constituency, which prior to this project had consisted largely of renters and people who experienced various types of homelessness. WCRP workers were savvy about research in other ways. For instance, they pushed the research team to present nationwide data, which allowed WCRP and its partners to show how poorly Philadelphia ranked in comparison to similar cities in putting up funds to help low-income families maintain their homes. It showed that Philadelphia, similar in many respects to other deindustrialized cities, has special opportunities as well as special challenges. This request for national data also showed WCRP as knowledgeable about innovative programs and solutions that other cities used, which could serve as models for Philadelphia to fashion its own program. WCRP and PAHC staffers were not misty-eyed pipe dreamers or unrealistic radicals, but realistic advocates who had done their homework.

62  introducing our collaborative research case study

Last, WCRP focused very much on packaging their presentations. Once the research was completed and approved by consensus, Black put together a glossy flier that combined graphs, numbers, pictures, and quotes from personal stories. As we discuss in chapter 6, this publication was colorful, with text that could be easily read and digested even if it did not go into great detail. It provided a synopsis of what the research meant and the conclusions that flowed from our analysis—that is, the need for more money in the homerepair program’s budget. This report referred to our more in-depth study (Shdaimah, Stahl, and Schram 2004) and the research we reported therein, so it was clearly backed by and grounded in rigorous academic research.

Conclusion In this chapter, we have introduced the backdrop to our case study: WCRP’s examination of the home-repair and home-maintenance needs of Philadelphia’s low-income residents. WCRP is a longtime, politically savvy, and wellrespected player in Philadelphia nonprofit housing community. It was the center of energy for the PAHC. It believed it had a solid understanding of a neighborhood and citywide problem as well as a way to solve it. In the eyes of WCRP staff and in the eyes of its funders and research partners, the research project was a bridge between what the organization believed it knew and how that goal could be achieved even more than it was a means to gather new knowledge. In the participating academic researchers’ eyes, the research project was a chance to gain knowledge and explore new areas while being able to put that knowledge to use to the benefit of WCRP and its constituents. As we shall see in the following chapter, the combination of these views generated a fruitful partnership.

Discussion Questions This section introduced the different partners in the research project and their different goals for the project. 1. What are some of the advantages of projects that mix people from different backgrounds with different agendas? 2. What are some of the problems with such collaborations?

  introducing our collaborative research case study  63

3. What is the role of a community organizer? (a) Social workers often serve as community organizers. What professional and ethical tools do social workers have that enhance this role? (b) What personal skills would you draw on if you were acting as a community organizer? How would these skills enhance your work? 4. The Philadelphia project had a “translator.” Social workers often serve as translators. Try to imagine yourself in this role. (a) How might translation impact the interaction of the parties with whom you work? (b) What guidelines would you follow? 5. We have described WCRP as politically savvy. How do you think individuals and groups can become politically savvy? (a) What are the different resources that can help them achieve this? (b) How would you go about cultivating these resources? (c) How do you think this description might differ from the public perception of such organizations? Why do you think this is the case? 6. Choose an area of concern that you think needs more research. Think about how funders might frame that research in ways that are or are not helpful.

4 Quantitative Data Analysis in a Collaboration Research Project Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia

I think that research projects are important because the data—the numbers— can be used to convince people in power and people who are making policy that things need to be changed. . . . I think it holds them accountable in a different way. I think they do know it. In some ways it’s a form of power to be able [to say]: “These are the data. We’ve been saying this to you and you probably know it already and it’s here.” And it’s sort of undeniable at that point. I think that policymakers and society in general are very concerned with science and data that things need to be true and that people’s experience, advocates and people who are living it saying that that’s what’s happening isn’t—it’s just not valued in the same way as having numbers and hard data is. —WCRP organizer

In the spring of 2003, we were recruited by the WCRP in Philadelphia to collaborate on its campaign to persuade the city to increase assistance to enable low-income homeowners to stay in their homes. WCRP works primarily to create safe, affordable housing for women who are becoming independent, often by leaving an abusive partner. As a small, grassroots, self-help organization, WCRP over time became a developer and manager of housing and built a successful, multipurpose social welfare agency. At the time of our involvement, however, WCRP was spearheading the ambitious PAHC, which by the fall of 2005 would get the city to create the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. The fund was funded in excess of $10 million dollars in its first year through a new dedicated real estate transfer tax. Approximately 10 percent of that fund was earmarked for low-income home repair to be administered by the city’s severely underfunded Basic Systems Home Repair Program (BSRP), which does repairs to stabilize deteriorating homes (Eichel

figure 4.1  Philadelphia Homeowners with Incomes Below $20,000 Annually, Paying More Than 30 Percent of Their Income for Housing, by Neighborhood, 2000 Source: Neighborhood Information System, available at

2005). Our research was part of the advocacy campaign that led to these promising developments. WCRP joined with two other advocacy groups, ACORN and United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia, to organize low-income homeowners in three very low-income city neighborhoods with high rates of low-income home­ownership: Fairhill, South Philadelphia, and Strawberry Mansion (see figure 4.1). In this chapter, we present our quantitative findings from the home-repair study that served as the basis for WCRP’s political campaign to get more home-repair funding for programs that serve low-income families. Some of

66 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

the findings were not surprising to WCRP staff; other findings were not what they intended to uncover with the research. As we noted in chapter 3, from the very beginning the advocates from the three organizations sought researchers who would act as partners and collaborate in the research process. They wanted to ensure that our research would be responsive to their input in regards to what we planned to do, how we did it, and what we found. They did not aim to doctor our results but instead to refine our research questions and search for evidence that they thought would reflect a deeper and more accurate understanding of the problem. They wanted to be sure we would study the issue in ways that would be most effective in informing their advocacy efforts. Our partners were longtime housing advocates with firsthand knowledge of the problems of low-income home ownership and maintenance, so their ongoing involvement in our work proved invaluable. Although extremely labor intensive, involving monthly meetings over a two-year period, this interactive process enabled us to refine continually the framing and analysis of our empirical research. It helped us to ask better questions and to study the more critical issues surrounding low-income housing policy. The advocates were interested in low-income home repair as part of WCRP’s affordable-housing campaign not necessarily because they bought into the asset-building approach that had become increasingly popular in city and federal government. Instead, they were interested in helping low-income homeowners stay in the homes they already owned. Because of the bottom-up approach we and our partners took to low-income homeownership, we gained a better understanding of why homeowners want to stay in their homes and how their understanding of the issues differed from what might otherwise seem compatible with the assets-building approach. We also came to understand that if home owning is shored up with home-repair and home-maintenance assistance, it may indeed be the stabilizing force for families and neighborhoods in many of the ways touted by proponents of the assets-building approach. We came to agree with our advocate partners, who saw helping homeowners maintain their homes as especially important for Philadelphia because of its very old, low-value housing stock and the fact that a majority of such homes is disproportionately owned by low-income families and in dilapidated condition. Given this housing stock and the population that owned these homes, helping lowincome homeowners was an essential strategy in trying to ensure that each and every resident of the city has a safe and affordable place to live. For our advocate partners, helping many low-income families maintain their owned homes was closer to a homeless-prevention program than an asset-building strategy.

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  67

Data: Why, How, and What We Collected First, we started out by providing citywide data to portray the state of homeownership for low-income families in Philadelphia and describing the kinds of homes they own. We wanted to situate the three target neighborhoods within this context. Table 4.1 compares the low-income homeownership rates for the three target neighborhoods in the city—Fairhill, South Philadelphia, and Strawberry Mansion. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, our three organizing neighborhoods have distinctly high rates of homeownership by families with incomes less than $20,000 a year (see table 4.1). Whereas 26 percent of the homeowning families in Philadelphia had incomes less than $20,000 a year, the corresponding percentages for our three organizing neighborhoods were: Fairhill, 56 percent; South Philadelphia, 39 percent; and Strawberry Mansion, 49 percent. Our three neighborhoods also had disproportionately high percentages of low-income homeowners who spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing, a level that many policymakers, including Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD), consider potentially unsustainable. Citywide, only 14 percent of homeowners with income less than $20,000 a year spent more than 30 percent of that income on housing, but the percentages for our three organizing neighborhoods were higher: Fairhill, 27 percent; South Philadelphia,

Table 4.1  Low-Income Homeownership in Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods, 2000 Neighborhoods Owners


% Homeowners

% Homeowners

with Family with income Income less

less than

than $20,000

$20,000 a year

a year (2000)

spending 30%

on housing







South Philadelphia





Strawberry Mansion










Source: Neighborhood Information System, available at

68 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

20 percent; and Strawberry Mansion, 21 percent. These three organizing neighborhoods were among the poorest quintile (thirteenth) of neighborhoods in the city that had at least 19.75 percent of their home-owning families with incomes less than $20,000 a year paying at least 30 percent of their income on housing. WCRP organizers on our team interviewed more than one hundred homeowners in the three target neighborhoods to learn what home-repair problems they faced and how these were being addressed. Many told us about their lack of financing and the limitations of the city’s assistance programs. The interviews were also an excellent organizing tool, enabling our advocacy partners to spread the word about the PAHC’s efforts and to recruit low-income homeowners to these advocacy efforts. The information we obtained from the interviews was instructive; some of the stories people told us became central to our efforts to put a human face on the problem. We report on our in-depth interviews and other components of our qualitative data in the next chapter. To put Philadelphia home repair in context, we first turned to the 2000 census to compare statistical estimates of the housing situation in the city to those of other cities. Table 4.2 compares Philadelphia to thirteen other large and midsize cities on the East Coast and Midwest with which it is often compared. Detroit and St. Louis are often described as cities of similar size with high nonwhite populations and relatively stagnant economies. Specifically for housing, Philadelphia until recently has been compared with other “weak market” cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. We added the following East Coast cities: Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New Haven, New York, Newark (New Jersey), and Washington, D.C. (C. Reid 2004). As noted earlier, this kind of comparison is useful in a policy arena. It can show whether Philadelphia has unique strengths or needs with respect to other similar locations and suggest what innovative programs have been tried in cities with similar problems. Our main findings were: • Philadelphia’s poverty rate at 23 percent for 2000 was not unusual. • Philadelphia has a relatively old housing stock, with 58 percent of its housing built before 1950. • The median value of owner-occupied homes in Philadelphia is relatively low at $61,000 compared to a high of $221,000 in New York. Only Pittsburgh has a lower median value ($60,700) of its homes than Philadelphia.

Source: U.S. Census 2000.


% Owned Housing Units   Without a Mortgage





% Poor Who Own Homes


Median Dollar Value of   Owner-Occupied Homes




% Homes Built   Before 1950




Total Housing Units


Total Poor Renters   and Owners


% Population Below   Poverty Level




Total Population

Washington, D.C.

% Occupied Units Owned 59




















Miami Atlanta

Table 4.2  Fourteen-City Statistical Comparison on Housing-Related Indicators, 2000 U.S. Census




























Chicago Baltimore Boston



% Homes Built   Before 1950

Median Dollar Value of   Owner-Occupied Homes



% Poor Who Own Homes

% Owned Housing Units Without a Mortgage

Source: U.S. Census 2000.



Total Poor Renters   and Owners




% Occupied Units Owned 55














































Total Housing Units





% Population Below   Poverty Level





Total Population

Pittsburgh New Haven, Conn.


Detroit St. Louis Newark, N.J. New York

Table 4.2  Fourteen-City Statistical Comparison on Housing-Related Indicators, 2000 U.S. Census

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  71

• Homeownership rates are higher in Philadelphia than in any of our comparison cities: 59 percent compared to a range from a low of 24 percent for Newark to a high of 55 percent for Detroit. • Homeownership among the poor is higher in Philadelphia than in any of our comparison cities: 38 percent compared to a range from 8 percent in Newark to 33 percent in Detroit. • In spite of the fact that Philadelphia has a relatively high homeownership rate, it surprisingly has the highest rate among all our cities for housing units without a mortgage: 44 percent compared to a range from 27 percent for Atlanta and Newark to a high of 42 percent for Pittsburgh.

The 2000 U.S. Census provided us with additional information on the lowincome Philadelphia home-owning population and enabled us to compare the city’s low-income homeowners to those in other cities with respect to certain key variables. For instance, the census indicates that low-income homeowners in Philadelphia are likely to live in houses built before 1950: 36,398 (73 percent) of low-income homeowners live in housing units built before 1949. Available census data could take us only so far in developing an in-depth portrait of the low-income home-owning population in Philadelphia, though. To develop a more in-depth portrait, we examined data from the 1999 American Housing Survey (AHS; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999). The 1999 AHS for Philadelphia provides a carefully selected sample of 530 heads of households that allows for rough estimates of the number of low-income homeowners in need of home-repair assistance.1 From the AHS, we estimated that • 129,109 households in Philadelphia with incomes less than $20,000 pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing; • 83 percent of renters and 64 percent of homeowners in Philadelphia with incomes less than $20,000 pay 30 percent or more for housing; 70 percent of poor households that pay 30 percent or more for housing actually pay 50 percent or more for housing; • there are at least 30,000 fewer affordable-housing units in Philadelphia than needed for rental households with incomes less than $20,000. (Hillier and Culhane 2003)

As these data show, Philadelphia has a “wealth” of old, poorly maintained homes. They are chiefly nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century two- and

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three-story row homes, which are largely unmonitored by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspection (L&I). In some ways, this situation is beneficial to individuals and families who live on low incomes in that it makes it easier for them to become homeowners. Unmonitored and unmortgaged, many low-income homeowners in Philadelphia are able to forego expenses other homeowners often have trouble shouldering, such as insurance and mortgage payments. Less recognized, however, is the fact that low-income homeowners are also likely to be burdened with greater expenses both absolutely and proportionately to their income. Low-income homeowners proportionally spend a much larger percentage of already tight incomes on homes. This phenomenon is acknowledged in the literature and by the city, which reports high percentages of extremely low-income households living with high (more than 30 percent of income) and extremely high (more than 50 percent of income) housing cost burdens.2 Because the homes that such households can acquire are often in poor condition, they also incur more costly maintenance and repairs. They have more secondary problems caused by disrepair, such as damage to an electrical system caused by a leaky roof. Home-repair problems also incur larger related costs, such as the increased expense for gas or oil incurred by poorly sealed windows. Among our partner organizations and even among city and program officials, the concerns about low-income homeowners accessing home-repair assistance were first and foremost about ensuring that more low-income families have a decent place to live. These organizations and officials’ approach, however, was decidedly more about preventing homelessness and abandonment than it was about building assets. In order to understand the scope of home-repair problems, we next combined information from the AHS with data from the city’s major home-repair program, the BSRP. Given that our research focused on providing evidence on the extent to which this critical but underfunded home-repair program should be expanded, we decided, together with WCRP and their partners, that it was important to provide a statistical portrait of the BSRP target population. BSRP guidelines specify an income cutoff at 150 percent of the official U.S. poverty line. For example, for a household size of four, the monthly income limit was $2,087 for 1999. Using data from the 1999 AHS, we first determined the number of low-income households in the city of Philadelphia that met the BSRP income cutoff. We found that an estimated 125,703 (33 percent) of home-owning households fell below the BSRP income cutoff and thus were income eligible for the program.

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  73

In order to capture critical repair and maintenance problems for those families owning homes, we used data from the AHS. We chose an index available in the AHS that captures multidimensional standards of housing quality. The index levels represent internal and external conditions of housing units as adequate, moderately inadequate, or severely inadequate. The AHS describes a housing unit as severely inadequate if it either has no plumbing facilities or no electricity or has major heating equipment problems. A housing unit can also be severely inadequate if a combination of less severe problems exists, such as outside water leaks, inside water leaks, holes in the floor, cracks in the walls wider than a dime, areas of peeling paint or plaster larger than eight and a half by eleven inches or if rodents are seen in the unit. For a full description of the index, see appendix B. The AHS describes moderately inadequate units as units that are otherwise not severely inadequate except for the presence of some of the following conditions: the unit lacks complete kitchen facilities; there were three or more toilet breakdowns lasting six hours or more in the past ninety days; or an unvented room heater is the main heating equipment. We combined the second and the third levels of the index because the repair problems captured by the “moderately” and “severely” inadequate levels are similar to the types of problems for which BSRP provides funding for home repair. This combination gave us a profile of moderately or severely inadequate housing. In our analysis of the BSRP target population using the AHS, we found that an estimated 13,770 households who owned their homes in Philadelphia in 1999 were BSRP income eligible and had homes that were in moderately or severely inadequate condition (see table 4.3). This means that approximately

Table 4.3  BSRP Income-Eligible Homes, 1999

% BSRP Homes No. of Homes

Total homes owned by families with incomes below BSRP cutoff



Homes rated severely or moderately inadequate



Homes with at least one significant problem*



Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999. *Homes with at least one of the following home-repair problems: peeling paint, cracks in the walls wider than a dime, holes in the floor, parts of roof missing, outside bricks missing, buckling outer walls, boarded windows, crumbling foundation, or holes in the roof.

74 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

3.6 percent of all households who owned their homes and 11.0 percent of all such households with incomes below the BSRP income cutoff lived in inadequate housing in dire need of repair. This population was most at risk of housing abandonment and homelessness if they did not receive assistance to address their home-repair problems. Table 4.4 compares the demographic characteristics of all of the city’s homeowners with those whose incomes were less than the BSRP cutoff and who lived in houses that the 1999 AHS categorized moderately or severely inadequate. It shows that whereas 48.3 percent of all homeowners in the city

Table 4.4  Profile of BSRP Eligible Population BSRP Target All Homeowners


in Philadelphia


% Number

% Number











American Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo Asian or Pacific Islander







Other Race





Spanish Origin* (%)






Younger Than 26

% Number

% Number




























Age (mean years)


53 (continued on next page)


Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  75

Table 4.4  Profile of BSRP Eligible Population  (continued) BSRP Target All Homeowners


in Philadelphia


% Number

% Number











  Received SSI, AFDC, or PA ***

% Number











% Number

  Year unit bought (mean)



Year built (mean)



  Current market value of unit (mean)



  Household income (annual mean ) *  Homeowners



with homes moderately or severely inadequate and with incomes below 150 percent of the

poverty line. ** 

Spanish Origin is the term used in the AHS.

*** SSI = Supplemental Security Income, AFDC = Aid to Families with Dependent Children, PA = Public Assistance. Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999.

in 1999 were white, only 14.6 percent of the BSRP target population were listed as white. Whereas only 6.2 percent of all homeowners in Philadelphia were listed as “of Spanish origin,” a full 22 percent of the target population were. The median age was similar for both the overall home-owning population and the target population: fifty-three and fifty-two years old, respectively. The heads of home-owning households were slightly more likely to be female for the target population: 63.2 as opposed to 57.5 percent. They were also much more likely to receive public assistance: 28.5 percent in-

76 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

stead of 5 percent. On average, the target population had bought its homes more recently, 1984 in comparison to 1979, but their homes were more likely to be older by nine years (built in 1925 rather than in 1934), and the market value was likely to be considerably lower ($30,203 in comparison to $73,865). The target population’s average annual family incomes were also strikingly low even for a population with annual incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line: $7,294 compared to $41,665 for all home-owning families in Philadelphia. These data indicate that the BSRP serves an extremely marginal population. In fact, one city official referred to BSRP as “the biggest homeless-prevention plan,” indicating the city’s view of the program as an important tool in staving off homelessness.3 Even with these admittedly rough estimates of the number of low-income homeowners in need of home-repair assistance, we could see that BSRP was severely underfunded and served only a fraction of families who needed home repairs and who met the income criteria.

Converting Population Estimates Into  Funding Requests Our research provided a rough estimate of how many eligible families could benefit from the BSRP program’s services. It showed that a sizable number of low-income families who owned homes still needed assistance to make their homes livable or to maintain their homes. In order to lobby for assistance, advocates needed to be able to convert these population estimates into funding requests. This conversion presented its own research challenge. We had extensive discussions in a series of meetings with our advocate partners from WCRP, ACORN, and United Communities about how to create what came to be called a “cost estimate.” Using the figure from table 4.3 of 13,770 BSRP income-eligible households with moderately to severely inadequate housing, we estimated the total cost of what it would take to extend BSRP services to all of them. This was a rough estimate based on available data supplied by the BSRP, which unfortunately were not very systematic.4 Using these figures, we estimated that repairs to each of these 13,770 properties would cost an average of $5,298. This figure was very close to the estimated $5,160 cost per property referred to the BSRP from the city’s Consolidated Plan for housing and community development (Philadelphia OHCD 2003, 24). If that average level of BSRP repair

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  77

Table 4.5  BSRP Cases and Funding by Year Number of Cases Funding

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Year 24 (July 1998   to June 1999)





Year 25 (July 1999   to June 2000)





Year 26 (July 2000   to June 2001)





Year 27 (July 2001   to June 2002)





Year 28 (July 2002   to June 2003)

not available

Year 29 (July 2003   to June 2004)*



* No

total funding figure is available for Year 29, but the Year 29 Consolidated Plan (Philadelphia OHCD 2003) lists $3,600,000 for Tier 1 and $12,660,000 for Tier 2 for a total of $16,260,000. This amount appears to have been reduced during the budget year due to a reduction of the city’s NTI funds that were used for Tier 2 repairs, resulting in a revised total of $15,110,000. NTI was initially to provide funds in the amount of $12,300,000 for Tier 2 repairs. This amount was reduced by $1,150,000 (NTI 2004a, 9; 2004b, 10).

service were extended to each of the 13,770 BSRP income-eligible homes that we estimated were in moderate or severely inadequate condition, the total cost would be approximately $72,953,460 a year. Based on BSRP funding in recent years, which has varied in the range of $8 to $16 million dollars annually (see table 4.5), the BSRP would need to see its funding increase eight- to tenfold if it were to extend the average amount of home-repair services to just the most critical cases. This estimate was conservative because many more families with incomes below the BSRP cutoff owned homes that were in need of serious repair even though they were rated as adequate by the AHS. To estimate the size of this population, we calculated the frequency of home-repair problems of different types for homeowners with incomes below the income cutoff for the BSRP. Of these homes owned by income-eligible households, even though they were rated as adequate, an estimated 7 percent (7,988) had extensive peeling paint, and 6 percent (7,079) had cracks wider than a dime on the interior walls. Regarding the exterior, approximately

78 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

Table 4.6  Home-Repair Problems of BSRP Income-Eligible Homes Rated Adequate, 1999 BSRP Cutoff (150% Below Poverty Level)



Interior  Peeling paint (more than 8 x 11 square inches)



Open cracks wider than a dime





Holes/cracks in or crumbling foundation



Outside walls missing siding/bricks



Exterior Water leak in roof

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999.

15 percent (15,608) had a water leak in the roof, 5 percent (5,428) had a crumbling foundation, and 4 percent (4,495) had outside walls with missing bricks or siding. On the one hand, there is reason to believe that many of these homes were livable. On the other hand, the data reported in table 4.6 indicate that the number of homes owned by families with BSRP eligible incomes that could benefit from BSRP services exceeded the 13,770 homes estimated to be inadequate. Adding these homes to the 13,770 inadequate homes among families with incomes below the BSRP cutoff significantly increased the estimate of how much more funding would be needed to attack the low-income homerepair problem in Philadelphia. Another estimate could be obtained by simply indicating the number of homes that were owned by families with incomes below the BSRP eligible cutoff of 150 percent of the poverty line that had at least one significant homerepair problem regardless of whether the home was rated as adequate or inadequate (see table 4.7). Table 4.7 indicates that 23.4 percent of the homes owned by BSRP income-eligible families had any one of the following significant home-repair problems: peeling paint, cracks in the walls wider than a dime, holes in the floor, parts of roof missing, outside bricks missing, buckling

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  79

Table 4.7  Home-Repair Problems Among BSRP Income-Eligible Homes, 1999

% BSRP Homes Number

Total Homes Owned by Families with Incomes Below BSRP Cutoff



Homes rated severely or moderately inadequate



Homes with at least one significant problem*



*Homes with at least one of the following home-repair problems: peeling paint, cracks in the walls wider than a dime, holes in the floor, parts of roof missing, outside bricks missing, buckling outer walls, boarded windows, crumbling foundation, or holes in the roof. Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999.

outer walls, boarded windows, crumbling foundation, or holes in the roof. The 23.4 percent figure translates into an estimated 29,371 homes. If each of these homes were extended the average amount of BSRP service, the total cost would be $155,707,558. This figure represented approximately twenty times the annual BSRP budget. If adequate funding is not continually provided to address the low-income home-repair problem in Philadelphia, the result will be even greater costs associated with increased housing abandonment and homelessness. Research indicates, just as OHCD officials believe, that the BSRP program is effective in reducing abandonment and homelessness (Research for Democracy 2001). The costs of abandonment in Philadelphia are substantial; in 2004, they were estimated to be about $22,000 per house for demolition (Twyman 2005). The costs of homelessness that might be associated with abandonment are also substantial. The Mayor’s Task Force to End Homelessness reported that “Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Shelter (OESS) serves approximately 15,000 people in shelter.” Social costs are also great, with “nearly one out of every four shelter residents (22 percent) under 18 years of age; 10 percent were children 5 years old or younger. Of all households in shelter in April 2005, 13 percent included children under 18 years of age” (2005, 8). Depending on the rates of abandonment, demolition, and subsequent homelessness, the substantial costs of unassisted low-income homeownership are burdensome not only to homeowners, but also to the city. Our research demonstrated that homeownership can be more a liability than an asset for many low-income homeowners. Without significant increases in funding

80 quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project

to help them address the home-repair problems they have, that liability is a growing problem for homeowners and the city.

Conclusion In this chapter, we reviewed our major findings from analysis of the quantitative data that we obtained from public sources and city agencies. These findings provide a bleak picture of the context for Philadelphia’s low-income home-owning families, with some evidence that the city’s low-income renters (and certainly its homeless residents) fare even worse. We were able to ascertain that although Philadelphia is similar to many other cities to which it is often compared, it also has unique strengths and opportunities in its high rates of homeownership. However, these opportunities are squandered by a lack of support for low-income homeowners. Our research partners were aware of these facts from their work in the neighborhoods, and they had asked us to corroborate and support them with our research. This chapter also outlines the difficulty of coming up with the precise numbers that policymakers often expect from statistical data. Researchers are charged with portraying the most accurate picture possible of what they are asked to investigate and describe. Statistical research is sometimes messy, though. Researchers have to match data that provide only approximate answers to the questions that are asked, and they need to consult a variety of sources in order to begin to get a better view of the problem being studied. In our study, we relied on several data sources to paint a statistical portrait of low-income home repair in the city. Although each source provided an important piece of the puzzle, none was complete. By taking into account the limitations of our data sources, we were able to fit pieces of the puzzle together and sketch the general contours of the problem. One challenge was to make sure we used the different data sources responsibly. This challenge was further complicated by our research partners’ desire for information that was both accurate and succinct enough to be memorable and persuasive, a problem that we discuss later in more detail. Researchers and collaborative research teams must be knowledgeable, flexible, and creative. When they are, the results can be both credible and politically relevant. In this case, we were able to balance these potentially conflicting demands responsibly. We provided a picture of the broader context of the problem and, perhaps most important, a guideline for what the city should provide to meet its low-income homeowners’ most minimum needs. But are

Quantitative data analysis in a collaboration research project  81

numbers enough to move community groups and policymakers to action? Do they tell the whole story? In the next chapter, we discuss how and why we supplemented our quantitative data with qualitative data gleaned from field research and in-depth interviews.

Discussion Questions In this chapter, we present statistical data that we gathered at our advocate partners’ behest. 1. Why do you think these kind of data are useful in the policy arena? 2. Think about how would you present such data to different audiences and why: (a) City council members and their staff (b) Low-income families (c) Members of the PAHC (d) Social workers (e) Researchers 3. What are some of the drawbacks of statistical data (think about the problem of coming up with a “number” for BSRP funding)? 4. What other information would you want to have and why? 5. How might you go about getting that information?

5 “Everyday World Policy Analysis” and Low-Income Home Repair in Philadelphia Walking Through Programs from the  Client Perspective

[It is important] to be in contact with people yourself or at least really hear the perspective of people as they’re coming in through advocates or the qualitative research. . . . Without a connection to people’s lives, it seems condescending to write about other people’s lives without any experience of what it’s like firsthand . . . like actually seeing what someone’s house looks like when they’re in need of services. —WCRP advocate

the desire t o u n d e r s t a n d how people experience policies led us to ask how a homeowner seeking home-repair assistance from the City of Philadelphia experiences the programs that we reviewed in our report. Once again, our research partners were critical in shaping our research to ensure that it would be relevant to their advocacy efforts. The perspectives on current policies that they saw and heard from clients rarely penetrated into the policy arena, so they wanted research that would enable policymakers to see like a client instead of “seeing like a state” (Scott 1998). Using interviews with more than fifty different informants actively involved in the policy process and supplementing them with an extensive review of relevant published and unpublished official documents, we were able to detail the city’s major public policies affecting low-income home repair. We rounded out these official perspectives with client interviews. Although each client story is unique, detailed analysis of how particular clients experience the city’s programs is useful in exposing where programs meet needs as well as where they fall short in implementation, even with the best intentions and sufficient funding. The following section provides a general

“everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair  83

description of low-income home-repair policy in Philadelphia from the applicant’s point of view and in-depth profiles of three Philadelphia homeowners who sought assistance for their respective home-repair and maintenance needs.

“Everyday World Policy Analysis” and the  Maze of Home-Repair Policies The lack of assistance for low-income homeowners has been a major problem in Philadelphia, but the way available assistance has been structured and provided is an additional problem. We can understand this situation better if we study the existing programs from the perspective of the people who try to use them. Nancy Naples (2003) has called for “everyday world policy analysis” that looks at public policies from the perspective of the people who are most directly affected by them. Such an approach works best, she adds, when the research is conducted in collaboration with activists who can help researchers stay sensitive to how programs affect people. We pursued this approach when we turned to studying the major public policies in Philadelphia that were related to the home-repair problems of low-income homeowners. Reflective of this approach, after a brief overview of the city programs, we take our readers on a “walk-through” from a client’s perspective. This tour is followed by a more in-depth picture of the experiences of three low-income Philadelphia homeowners. In Philadelphia, several programs support low-income homeowners’ repair needs. They fall into two general categories: grant programs and loan programs. Nearly all have income-eligibility guidelines and require that applicants be documented homeowners occupying the residence for which assistance is requested. The maze of programs can be confusing to homeowners in need of assistance (see table 5.1). Many of the programs offer meager assistance or assistance that low-income families cannot afford to accept due to down-payment or payback requirements. The chief loan program is the Philadelphia Home Improvement Loan (PHIL-Loan) (the third-to-last program in table 5.1). This city program is administered by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (RDA) using federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and other sources that are channeled through the OHCD. Qualified homeowners can borrow up to $25,000 at either 3 or 5 percent interest, depending on their income level, with no application or recording fees and no closing


Homeowner match loan with grant

Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP)a

Targeted BSRP NTI

Mostly ­ ommunity C ­Development Block Grant (CDBG) money

Up to 80% of ­Average Median Income for the area (AMI)

150% of the ­Federal Poverty Line

For eligible a­ ctivities including major systems, ­exterior façade improvements, pointing and sidewalk and step replacements

Home ownership; Only certain types of repairs; Repairs must bring house to acceptable level at a cost not to exceed $12,500

by criteria criteria

Grant of up to ­maximum of $12,500 (or $15,000 for façade treatment)

Tier 1—Up to 3,500, Tier 2— 3,500–12,500

An estimated overall target of 240 propertiesf



2700 await initial inspection/assignmentsc 750 Tier 2 applicants are assigned to service representativesd; 760 approved cases await Tier 2 services and 200 cases received some repairs and await repairs to additional systemse

(approximately) waiting list

a Unless otherwise indicated, information is from the PHDC Web site, interviews, and program documents. b Unless otherwise indicated, figures are for FY 28 (July 2002–June 2003). c Most of these cases fall under the roof-only category. All are approved for Tier 1–level services, but inspection may result in ineligible problems, Tier 1 repairs, or referral to Tier 2 services. Program officials estimate that half of these applications will be approved for service. d About half of these applications are likely to be approved. e  This is a snapshot as of December 2004, as are Targeted BSRP figures. f This estimate is based on the fact that ten CDCs were given contracts, two of which dropped out, and it assumes that the eight remaining CDCs will spend $150,000 of their contracts on repairs and average $5,000 of grant money per property. g The CDCs did target outreach for the program, so it is likely that there are few to no people awaiting services.

PHDC, channeled through non-profit agencies (mostly CDC’s)

Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation (PHDC)



eligibility Other Scope of




income people served

type of

administered Funded

Table 5.1  Major Home-Repair and Home-Maintenance Programs for Low-Income Households in Philadelphia




Heater Hotlineh


Adaptive Modification Program Mostly CDBG; some TANF money through the Dept. of Community and Economic Development; some PA state Access Grant money

CDBG; Aging Block Grant (from PA lottery and Federal Aging Block Grant)

OHCD through PHDC

Up to 50% AMI

150% of Federal Poverty Line

Any disabled person

Over age 60, with a priority point system including clients over age 75, those who live alone, disability

Priority to the Elderly

by criteria criteria

Up to $25,000 with special permission, first come / first served with multiyear waiting list

Up to $1,300, but usually around $600 worth of minor repairs

Basic heater repairs up to $2000 (if replacement necessary, will refer to BSRP)




917 households as of 12/07/2004

1165 households as of 12/07/2004

1,400 eligible households have not received service from Heater Hotline either directly or via referral to BSRP

(approximately) waiting list

h All information on Heater Hotline was provided by Cheryl Porter, project manager for Heater Hotline, Energy Coordinating Agency. i From September 2003 through August 2004. The number here includes only households whose heaters were repaired through this program. An additional 1,138 households were visited by Energy Coordinating Agency mechanics, who referred households in need of more extensive repairs to the BSRP.

Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging

Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging

Energy Coordinating Agency



eligibility Other Scope of




income people served

type of

administered Funded

Table 5.1  Major Home-Repair and Home-Maintenance Programs for Low-Income Households in Philadelphia (continued)




PHIL-Loan Funded at $5 million for 2004, 1 million CDBG and 4 million RDA bonds

Federal Dept. of Energy, Office of Building Technology; State and Community Programs; and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Block Grant. Administered by PA Dept. of Community & Economic Development For 5% loan, unlimited. For 3% loan guidelines (based on household size and income, for example family of four—$78,430)

150% of the Federal Poverty Line

Prime product so that credit history must be good

Must be a tenant or homeowner living in property

by criteria criteria

Up to $25,000 at 3% or 5% depending on borrower’s income level, for a maximum term of 20 years

81 in Fiscal Year 28 (July 2002– June 2003)


Not applicable

550–660 people await appointment letters to be scheduled to applyj

(approximately) waiting list

j These figures were provided by program officials and are for people who have expressed an interest but have not been invited to attend an orientation session. Only after attending such a session and procuring the required documents is eligibility for services determined.

RDA; Housing Counseling Agencies; Private Banks; The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC)




eligibility Other Scope of




income people served

type of

administered Funded

Table 5.1  Major Home-Repair and Home-Maintenance Programs for Low-Income Households in Philadelphia (continued)






Targeted to low and moderate income borrowers but available to up to 115% of area median income

Targeted to low and moderate income borrowers but available to up to 115% of area median income

At least 50% of the loan must be used for home improvement, but rest can be applied to high costs debts, utilities or hiring project manager to oversee repairs Sub-prime product so that credit history criteria are more relaxed (although they do exist)

Home-owner occupied; 1–4 unit homes; Sub-prime product so that credit history criteria are more relaxed (although they do exist)

by criteria criteria

k Figures are from the time the program was launched in July 2003 through October 2004. l Figures are from the time the program was launched in July 2003 through October 2004.

RDA; Housing Counseling Agencies; Private Banks; GPUAC

RDA; Housing Counseling Agencies; Private Banks; The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC)


Up to $25,000 at fixed interest rate, determined by lender, but less than HOEPA caps, for maximum 20-year term Rates reducible by up to 1% after 24 consecutive timely monthly payments

$1,000–$10,000 at a fixed interest rate, determined by lender, but less than caps set by the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA)

104 loans have been processed, of these 44 were closed. 46 have been conditionally approved. 33 have been denied, and 6 applicants withdrew, and the remainder are in process.l

43 loans have been processed, of these 16 were closed, 10 have been conditionally approved, 18 have been de­nied, and 5 applicants withdrew; the remainder are in process.k

Not applicable

Not applicable

(approximately) waiting list


eligibility Other Scope of




income people served

type of

administered Funded

Table 5.1  Major Home-Repair and Home-Maintenance Programs for Low-Income Households in Philadelphia (continued)

88  “everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair

costs. However, this loan is a prime lending product, which means that borrowers need to have a good credit rating. Private lenders determine eligibility for the loan and assess credit rating. Nearly all those interviewed, including government officials and advocates, made it clear that loan programs are not helpful for low-income homeowners for two connected reasons. The first reason is that people living on low incomes often have to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul.” They therefore likely have poor credit ratings, which makes them ineligible for PHIL-Loans. It also makes them prime targets for predatory lending. The city and housing advocates have started to address this problem with two new subprime loan products, both funded through the city’s Neighborhood Transition Initiative (NTI). The Mini-PHIL provides for loans of $1,000 to $10,000, and the PHIL-Plus provides loans of up to $25,000. Both have reasonable interest rates on loans that can be used for emergency repairs and to help pay for existing debts that have higher interest rates. Most of our informants were also skeptical that people with low incomes can afford loans, even if they have a good credit rating and are eligible for the creative subprime programs developed by the city, banks, and advocates. Loans must be paid back. If incomes are small, they may not support even very modest loans. One person who worked closely with the city’s loan program was optimistic, however, noting that there seemed to be some indication that although the ceiling for these loans is set at approximately $79,000 annual income for a family of four, applicants with annual incomes of $30,000–40,000 for a family of four have also been applying. This of course does not address the needs of the homeowners with incomes below this level or whether homeownership is sustainable over the long term. The latter group includes people with extremely low incomes who are income eligible for BSRP as well as those whose income exceeds the BSRP cutoff but falls below the $30,000–40,000 range. The most viable programs available to low-income Philadelphia homeowners are grant programs. Most of these programs have traditionally been funded primarily through CDBG monies, which at the time of our interviews had been shrinking due to Philadelphia’s population loss. Some programs serve special populations, such as the Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP) for the elderly, or meet specific housing needs, such as the Weatherization and Adaptive Modification programs (see table 5.1 for information on each of these programs). The chief program meeting the most basic needs of all income-eligible homeowners is BSRP. Although this program has been funded by CDBG

“everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair  89

grants, for fiscal year (FY) 2004 it was funded out of a combination of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), NTI, and state funds.1 At the time we conducted our research, the unusually high level of funding that BSRP enjoyed ($15 million that year) was not expected to continue, although the program did expect to receive slightly more funding in the following year than in years prior to FY 29, or July 2003 to June 2004 ($11 million instead of $9–10 million). Funds are secured by OHCD, and the program is administered by the Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation (PHDC). Due to funding constraints, BSRP addresses only certain types of repairs that the city prioritizes (e.g., electrical, plumbing), and it will address those repairs only on an emergency basis (for example, for roof repairs, it will open a file only if the applicant indicates that she can see the sky through the roof).2 Furthermore, it will undertake repairs only if the house can be brought up to a safe level within the budget limitations (discussed later). Last, as noted, eligibility is limited by income criteria based on family size (for example, the income threshold for a family of four is $2,263 per month) despite the fact that many others who need home repairs cannot afford them. City officials explicitly acknowledge program limitations and attribute them to resource constraints as opposed to perception of need or deservingness. All BSRP criteria might be justifiably expanded if the program were better funded. The program is divided into two tiers as indicated in table 5.2. Tier 2 has a lengthier wait time, in part due to additional requirements such as a wholehouse inspection and the prevalence of multiple repair needs. Tier 3, which used to provide for repairs of up to $25,000, was discontinued in FY 29 due to lack of funds and the need to prioritize resources.3 BSRP authorizes repairs on an “all-or-nothing” basis. This means that if BSRP cannot make eligible repairs

Table 5.2  BSRP Program Tiers by Cost and Eligibility Tier 1 Tier 2

Repair Cost

Not to exceed $3,500

Between $3,500 and 12,000


Whole-house inspection not required

Whole-house inspection required

Ownership and Eligibility Can be verified using city’s Documentation computer system

Must provide original documents proving ownership and eligibility

90  “everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair

Table 5.3  Demographic Breakdown of BSRP Households race

number percent

  American Indian households: 5   Asian households: 13   Black households: 2004   Hispanic households: 257   White households: 181 Total:

0.2% 0.5% 81.5% 10.4% 7.3% 100%

Female head of household:



Aged 65+ head of household:



Handicapped head of household:



Source: Basic Systems Home Repair, Unpublished data.

to bring the house up to the standards set by federal housing guidelines within the Tier 2 limit of $12,500, it will not undertake even partial repairs. For the 2,460 units counted for Tier 2 services during the second quarter of FY 29, BSRP program officials provided the demographic breakdown given in table 5.3, which they indicated has remained relatively stable over time. We compared this breakdown with our AHS profile of the population we estimated to be eligible for and in need of BSRP services. There is some difficulty in comparing program participants’ racial/ethnic origin to our estimation of the population eligible for BSRP profiled in table 4.4 due to the different categories employed. However, what is clear is that African Americans make up a larger portion of program participants (81 percent) than their proportion within the eligible population (56 percent), and all other categories are underrepresented. Hispanics (so labeled by BSRP) or persons of Spanish origin (so labeled by the AHS) are underrepresented in the BSRP program compared to the population we estimate to be eligible and in need of services: 10 percent as compared to 22 percent. Asians (as they are labeled by both data sources) are also severely underrepresented among BSRP participants (7 percent of the estimated eligible population versus less than 1 percent of BSRP participants). The extent to which a significant portion of this population may not be native English speakers shores up advocates’ concerns that language is a barrier to program participation. Senior citizens comprise 31 percent of the estimated eligible population and 28 percent of the BSRP participants. Senior citizens are eligible for other

“everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair  91

programs, such as SHARP, although none of the other programs engages in the same type or scope of repairs that BSRP provides. Female heads of households are also overrepresented, composing 83 percent of the participating heads of households as compared to 63 percent of the eligible population. Although we cannot be sure of the reason for this overrepresentation, it might be that women who are more likely to head households with children are, as such, more likely to come in contact with service agencies that may refer them to BSRP. Inaction in the form of lack of outreach likely influences levels of participation. BSRP admittedly does not concern itself with advertising the program precisely because funds are insufficient to accept all applicants even without advertising. Further, although it does print pamphlets in English and Spanish, it does not generate any written information in any other language. Because there is no government outreach for BSRP and knowledge of the program is spread largely through word of mouth or by community organizations, higher levels of participation tend to be in districts with community organizations that actively steer residents to the program. Lack of outreach also means that the need for the program is much larger than indicated by applications. Although the BSRP was viewed favorably by most of the officials we interviewed, it is clearly insufficient to meet the needs of all eligible Philadelphia homeowners. The program is notorious for long waiting lists, which can often stretch over a year. Many of our informants suspect that this factor deters low-income individuals from applying, which in turn contributes to an underestimation of need for services. The long waiting list exacerbates many problems that make homeowners eligible for services that are by definition dire from the outset. BSRP serves eligible applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. The exception to this rule is when an applicant has a special need that is related to the necessary repair—for example, if she relies on dialysis equipment and the requested repair is to the electrical system. According to informational pamphlets that BSRP gives to prospective clients, waiting time varies. Lag time from acceptance of application to performance of repairs is affected by the type and scope of repair as well as by the availability of contractors for the repair. The shortest wait period is for Tier 2 heating repairs and for priority situations such as water shutoffs or problems directly related to addressing disability needs—estimated at 15 days between approval and assignment to contractor and 55 days between client call and assignment to contractor. The

92  “everyday world policy analysis” and low-income home repair

longest wait time is for “general” Tier 2 repairs, which is estimated at 400 days between approval and assignment to contractor and 440 days between client call and assignment to contractor. Note, too, that these estimates are only until a contractor is assigned to implement the repair. The estimates, therefore, do not include the additional time it takes for the contractor to begin and ultimately complete the approved work; thus, the time to complete the repairs makes the wait period longer. The estimated time to completion varies widely with the type and scope of the repair. It is commonly suspected (a suspicion reinforced in the neighborhood homeowner surveys that our advocate partners conducted) that participants drop out or refrain from applying in the first place because they are unable to wait for the services and end up finding alternative means of addressing their home-repair problems. However, these alternatives are largely improvisational and thus may solve the problem only temporarily and in some cases may make the problem worse. Due to resource constraints, improvisations are often carried out informally by relatives, friends, or neighbors who may be unlicensed and uninsured and lack the requisite expertise. In these situations, homeowners have no recourse when informal work remains incomplete or faulty, even if they were intentionally misled. In addition to some of the hurdles in accessing low-income home-repair and home-maintenance services noted so far, other factors present difficulties. Respondents noted a lack of coordination among the various city agencies. A city council staff member told of a constituent who required and received BSRP services for damages from water leaking into his home from an adjacent abandoned property. His home was repaired, but the source of the problem was not addressed because BSRP could not repair a home that was not occupied by a homeowner, even if the homeowner would have requested such repair. As might be expected, the problem recurred, resulting in another repair that was also carried out by BSRP. The problem in the adjacent home was addressed when the constituent contacted the council member, who intervened. This is one instance where cooperation between BSRP and L&I (both funded by the city) might have saved BSRP money and prevented both aggravation and property damage suffered by the homeowner. Perhaps the most fundamental hurdle is the lack of a comprehensive vision that considers the needs of all Philadelphians. The NTI focuses on neighborhoods that it considers to have potential for stabilization or “upward” movement. NTI proponents largely ignore those individuals or neighborhoods that they feel do not exhibit this potential, justifying their choice as a strategic

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allotment of resources and claiming that it will somehow revitalize the city as a whole. Although such a utilitarian approach may be a wise strategic use of resources, it leaves many citizens and neighborhoods high and dry. They do not enjoy the bulk of city funds designated to address housing needs and thus are left at a relative disadvantage in terms of the state of their homes and communities. This approach also further alienates low-income homeowners in those “unstrategic” neighborhoods, sending the message that the city considers their needs (arguably the most pressing of all city residents’ needs) a low priority. In the period that we did our research in Philadelphia, the NTI’s strategy was contested with the argument that the city has a responsibility to all homeowners and neighborhoods. The NTI had a coordinating role and a generous pot of funds; if NTI failed to incorporate the needs of low-income homeowners, they would likely continue to be grossly underfunded. Although NTI staffers were sympathetic to low-income homeowners’ concerns, they saw these concerns as the province of other agencies. Such perceived division of responsibilities and concerns did not lend itself to coordinated policies. It reinforced the suspicion that in attempts to attract developers, little would be done to help the city’s low-income population, particularly if development incentives were not directly linked to or made contingent on assistance to these populations in any clear or coordinated way. Many of the people we interviewed, including homeowners, were skeptical of a policy that seemed to be geared, as one person said, to “clearing the blight and letting the market take over.” This perception had been exacerbated by NTI’s demolition focus. On a more positive note, NTI did prove in some measure responsive to the demands of those groups and agencies concerned with low-income homeowners’ home-repair and home-maintenance needs. In response to PAHC’s efforts, monies from NTI were directed to BSRP on a one-time basis for the fiscal year that ran from July 2003 to June 2004 (FY 29) as well as to the Targeted BSRP program. In addition, the proportion of funds to be spent on demolition was decreased to free up these funds for other uses. Some NTI funds were channeled into specific projects, such as the repair of retaining walls in a number of council districts, budgeted at $1 million for FY 29 (NTI 2004b).

City Programs from the Perspective of an Applicant

We have provided an overview of the city’s programs designed to address home-repair needs, with a focus on the BSRP, but how do these city programs

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actually function? This section walks us through the process from an applicant’s vantage point. When an applicant calls in to the BSRP hotline, a case is “created” over the telephone. Information on income and eligibility, home ownership, and the type and scope of the problem is recorded. If the repair appears to be Tier 1, and if the applicant seems eligible and her ownership information matches with the city database, then a triage inspection is scheduled for within a few weeks. If the homeownership information does not match up, but the applicant otherwise appears eligible, she is asked to bring documentation to the BSRP offices in order to confirm homeownership. Once the triage inspection takes place, the case is placed in the queue if it is confirmed as a Tier 1 case. It is then assigned to a contractor who will perform the work. Cases that consist solely of roof repair also go straight to contractors. Although BSRP prefers to use its own roofing inspectors if resources permit, the initial inspection is generally carried out by the contractor. If it appears from the inspection that the house requires Tier 2 resources, the applicant is then referred to the Central Intake Unit (CIU) for orientation and processing as a Tier 2 case. The CIU schedules half-hour orientation meetings for groups of about twenty people. This group meeting is immediately followed by an individual meeting, where the case is discussed and the applicant must show proof of ownership and proof of income. If an applicant passes through this hurdle (initially or through follow up) and is approved for Tier 2, her home is scheduled for a whole-house inspection. If the inspector ascertains that the work can be done within the budget limit and that the repairs are of the type eligible, then the applicant is assigned to a contractor who will perform the work. A large percentage of applications does not result in completed work. According to BSRP pamphlets, “Many of [the cases introduced to the system] will be canceled.” In fact, BSRP’s estimate of cases to be approved, which generates the estimated dollar value of work committed to their clients, is based on an assumption that only 40 percent of cases will be approved. However, BSRP cannot provide a detailed picture of where in the process these cases drop out or a breakdown of the reasons for cancellation. BSRP rejects some cases if the repairs are too expensive or if applicants are not income eligible. It also cancels cases for reasons that originate with the applicant, such as the failure to provide a document or to follow through in some other way; BSRP does not follow up with the applicant to find out why the applicant did not follow through or to remind her or to provide assistance because the program is already oversubscribed.

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Contractor work is guaranteed for a period of one year—except for roof work, which is guaranteed for five years. According to BSRP, most contractors respond directly to program participants who have complaints about the work, and they have incentive to do so in order to remain on good terms with the program. An estimated 25 percent of complaints are referred back to BSRP, which mediates between the contractors and dissatisfied homeowners.

A Walk-Through of the Philadelphia Home Improvement Loan

As noted earlier, the PHIL-Plus is one of the loan products designed in response to concerns around predatory lending and the knowledge that the PHIL-Loan, which provides favorable rates for qualified homeowners, is largely inaccessible to many low-income homeowners who have a mid- or low-range credit rating. The PHIL-Plus provides up to $25,000 to a homeowner who occupies a home that contains no more than four units. The loan is to be used for home-improvement expenses, although a portion of it can be used to pay off existing debt. The prospective borrower first sits with a housing counselor at one of the housing counseling agencies, which are located throughout the city. The housing counselor provides an explanation of home improvement and repair and reviews loan options based on the applicant’s eligibility. This review includes factors such as credit, the amount requested, and the homeowner’s income. The counselor also explains what the homeowner is to expect during the application process and home inspection. The housing counselor also discusses lender options. The applicant may work with any branch of any of the eight participating private lenders. In order to help the applicant choose a lender, the counselor provides her with the list of rates that the banks submit to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC), a nonprofit organization that administers the program. This list is updated monthly. At the end of the counseling session, the counselor takes whatever information and documentation has been provided and forwards that to GPUAC for review. If GPUAC ascertains that the applicant is eligible, it makes the initial contact with the bank and then instructs the housing counselor to inform the applicant that the bank is expecting her and which loan officer to contact at the bank she has chosen.

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It is up to the homeowner to pursue the loan process with the bank. At the bank, the applicant receives a loan application, and if she meets the bank’s criteria, she is given conditional approval and a list of the documents that she must procure to secure the loan. Conditional approval is based on several factors. Some of them pertain to eligibility and the documentation that the banks review in greater depth, such as deed of ownership and a more in-depth credit investigation, even though the housing counselor and GPUAC may already have reviewed these documents based on applicant self-report. Other criteria are related to more complex issues, such as the ratio of the loan to the value of the property to be repaired. If the applicant is given conditional approval, she returns to the housing counselor for help finding an inspector to prepare a report. The homeowner bears the cost of this front-end inspection. However, housing counselors have a list of three inspectors who are well regarded by both the city and the housing counseling agencies; these inspectors will conduct inspections at a fixed cost of $300. Many banks will front this cost to the applicant, rolling it into the loan. The home inspector reviews the proposed repairs and carries out a safety assessment of the home, including its structural integrity. The homeowner must first address home safety before initiating any desired repairs. This step may cut into the amount of money available for intended repairs or in some cases might even swallow up the full amount of the loan. The homeowner might need to reassess whether she wants to take the loan, the type and scope of repairs that she will be able to do, and whether she will need to seek additional funds from other sources. The counselor also advises the homeowner on how to find a contractor, negotiate, and procure a work estimate. At this point, the counselor gives the applicant a certification letter to present to the bank. The applicant returns to the bank with the documentation, including the certification letter. The bank reviews the documents and, if they are acceptable, arranges a loan closing. The applicant then works with the contractor directly, although the housing counselor remains available to assist the home­ owner through the repair process until the final payment is made. Even if the applicant does not request assistance, the counselor is to follow up with the applicant after thirty days in order to check the contractor’s progress. The counselor confers with the RDA to request a back-end inspection to ensure that the work was done correctly. A back-end inspection is provided at no charge to the homeowner and carried out by an RDA employee. After twentyfour consecutive on-time monthly payments, homeowners may apply for a one percent rate reduction on the loan.

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Client Stories: Low-Income Homeownership  from the Bottom Up Walking through the major city programs from the client perspective suggests that many of these programs are inaccessible, take too long to provide the needed assistance, and are limited in terms of their funding and the types of assistance that they can provide. The marginal status of these clients’ homes suggests that home owning for low-income families in Philadelphia can often be more a liability than an asset. And the walk-through suggests that the available programs can make the liability of low-income homeownership even worse. Clients’ stories buttressed these findings. Our team knocked on doors throughout the three organizing neighborhoods and collected stories from more than one hundred families about their home-repair and maintenance problems. These stories informed our analysis by providing a more in-depth understanding of low-income homeownership from the perspective of lowincome families in the target neighborhoods. The following profiles are indicative of both the variety and consistency of the stories we heard. Although each homeowner’s story is unique, all point to the pervasiveness of persistent home-repair problems and the limitations of city programs in being able to assist effectively in addressing these problems.4 As one Philadelphia homeowner put it, “I had got [this house] off my brother for little—for nothing. That’s why I say, ‘Be careful what you ask for if you get it for nothing.’ If I had to do it all over again, I don’t know if I would have. I put so much money into that house, trying to get it together. It wasn’t even livable—just to make it livable for my kids. . . . I had to do the floors; we had no kitchen . . . no cover to the vent, having to cover the kitchen ’cause of the draft coming out of there. I said, ‘Me and my kids [are] not living in here another year.’ ” Cecilia Simpson, who got a house “for nothing,” eventually entered into a predatory loan in order to repair the house because she and her children could not weather another freezing winter. This loan not only depleted her other assets, but also put her at risk of losing her home; at the time of the interview, she was fighting foreclosure proceedings with the help of a legal services lawyer. Veronica Barrows’s story provides more details that point to home owning as more of a liability than an asset. She lives in a house inherited from her mother that after her mother’s death was occupied by her mother’s friend. When Veronica moved in, she discovered extensive damage, particularly to

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the upstairs, which is currently stripped of dividing walls, drywall, or any other kind of finish. Much of the ceiling is damaged, there are exposed wires, and the upstairs bathroom is damaged. The living-room ceiling on the entrance floor has a crack greater than a foot in length that leaks intermittently, apparently from an upstairs bathroom. Water leaks constantly from the kitchen ceiling, which Veronica catches in a bucket placed on a counter under the leak. There is a third leak in a large pipe located in the basement, which she has unsuccessfully tried to stem with rags. Veronica originally turned to the PHDC’s Weatherization Program while unemployed. Program representatives inspected her home and referred her to BSRP due to her home’s extensive structural damage. When she contacted BSRP, she was told to attend a group forum at the agency’s offices, where she was informed that she qualified by income and by her description of the problems. She was told to return to the offices with the deed to the house. Upon providing the deed, she had a home inspection after “a couple of months,” which she felt was a reasonable wait. She was subsequently notified in a form letter that her “application for repair assistance, through the BSRP has been canceled due to the following reason(s)”: “the required repairs exceed the cost limit of the BSRP” and “other.” Under the category of “other,” there was no further explanation or indication of what the other reason for the cancellation might be, although the form contains a space for this information. There was no information provided about any alternative programs. The form further indicated that although Veronica could reapply, her application would be considered new and would enter the queue accordingly. She did not want to challenge this decision because she was afraid that her house might be condemned. She had also secured employment by the time of the interview, thus placing her income just above the BSRP eligibility criteria. Even if she were not afraid to reapply or if she could do some of the repairs on her own in order to reduce the cost of the repairs to make her property eligible, she was no longer financially eligible for the program. After her rejection by BSRP, Veronica read about Philadelphia’s NTI in a city newspaper article that described how NTI was helping to bring high-end businesses into her neighborhood; she thought that perhaps they might also assist low-income homeowners. When she called NTI, she was directed to a community organization, where she eventually was put in touch with someone who told her that her only option was the city’s PHIL-Plus loan program. At the time of our interview, that person was assisting her to secure a loan. It appeared that the major obstacle to receiving the PHIL-Plus loan is her credit,

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which is bad due to her difficulties making ends meet during her previous bout of unemployment. Veronica seemed somewhat optimistic that she could surmount this hurdle within the next six months. However, the $10,000 maximum amount that can be made available to Veronica Barrows is insufficient to cover her home-repair needs. She estimates that this amount is what she would need just to repair the roof. She is also afraid that if she touches one thing, it will lead to or expose other problems. Martha Grant’s story corroborates that low-income homeownership in Philadelphia is at best a mixed blessing. Martha has been in her home for thirty-two years. She told us that home owning is costly because everything that goes wrong is “on you.” It is important to “hurry up and fix it or it gets worse.” When she had roof damage due to leakage, she could look up through the ceiling and needed extensive repairs to the whole room below the hole by the time the city responded. Martha knows the houses that low-income residents live in are old but says, “We’re in them.” When her windows and doors became too drafty, a friend referred her to “1234 Market Street” (the offices of PHDC and many city programs, including BSRP). She called and was given an appointment. She returned two or three times for a variety of reasons, estimating that the whole process of having her home repaired took about three years. Repairs included windows (done under the Weatherization Program), back doors, electrical rewiring, yard work, roofing, and plumbing. Repairs to windows and doors were satisfactory, and Martha was grateful that the program replaced every window in her home; these repairs included more windows than she was entitled to have replaced. However, she has had trouble with the plumbing and electrical work. When BSRP contractors rewired under the floors, they put back the old floorboards. About a year after or even sooner, she could feel the floor weakening, and since then she has experienced problems with sinking floorboards on the first and second floors. Plumbing was also repaired. After the new pipes were installed, the insulation came loose, and the pipes burst downstairs. Martha did not believe they were repaired correctly because it had been only three years since the job was done. Although all the work was approved, no one explained to her what to do or who to call if something went wrong. She mused that the house is old, and maybe this is just the way it is. Martha did not call BSRP or try to contact the contractor directly. Although she was given some papers, she felt it was too much of a hassle to pursue. She instead took out a bank loan, using her home for collateral, to cover repairs of the upstairs floors and bathroom. Her son-in-law repaired the floors, and her

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brother painted. She paid for the sheet rock and other materials and was able to borrow equipment. However, they could not repair the first-floor bathroom floors because to do so they would need to lift up the supporting beams under the floor, which requires special equipment and training. When we visited Martha in her home, it was apparent that the floor of the first floor bathroom was sinking. The problem was so severe that the floor had become separated from the bottom of the bathtub, creating a gap two feet long along the side of the tub and a few inches deep between the floor and the tub. This sinking slope could be felt in the hallway as well. Martha’s brother and husband are disabled and cannot help her. She thinks the city ought to be doing more to help people, in particular those with low income or on a fixed income. She believes you have to surmount many hurdles to get assistance; going down to 1234 Market Street is difficult. In her words, “You can be dead and gone by the time you get there.” She did contact the Philadelphia Corporation for the Aged, which completed small repairs for disability-related problems, but she was informed that the corporation does not handle problems such as her sinking floors. Martha paid off her loan and did not want to take out additional loans in order to fix the downstairs hall and bathroom floors because she is on a fixed income and did not want to pay interest or go back into debt. She was trying to save to pay for repairs later. Whereas Martha Grant’s problems suggest that public programs sometimes can make individual home-repair problems worse, Frances Galloway’s story shows how properties can be adversely affected by neighborhood conditions. She lives next door to an abandoned home. At the time of our interview, she had been calling L&I for more than three years to report it. She could not exactly remember how far back her first phone call was. When she called L&I, she would speak to anybody. They would say the office would send someone within fifteen days, but no one ever showed up, except once about three years ago when someone came and boarded up the property. A person claiming to be the owner came and said she would be doing repairs and even set up a dumpster. Frances thinks the owner tore out the kitchen because she can see parts of it in the trash that litters the backyard. Nothing more was done to the property. L&I demolished a property across the street from Frances in the summer of 2003 and at that time told her that the property next door was on the list to be demolished. They never did come as promised. Whenever Frances called L&I, she would tell them about the house again and provide information while they listened. She said that by now she has called so often that when

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she provides them with the address of the vacant property, they know that it is she, Frances, and greet her by name. L&I employees inform her that there is a long waiting list and that it is best to get other neighbors to call in as well. She tried to get the neighbors on the other side of the property to call but says that she had trouble communicating because of a language barrier, and she does not know whether they too have tried to speak to L&I. Frances believes that the vacant property is unsafe and adversely affects her enjoyment of her own home. It is also the source of home-repair problems. The front door of the vacant home is falling; wind has blown out windows on the second floor, and they remain wide open. The wood around the door is falling, which she fears presents a safety hazard to the kids who play on the steps. It draws nuisance crowds, with lots of noise. Frances cannot raise her own windows because of the odor and the fleas from the vacant property. The yard is full of junk, and other neighbors continue to throw their trash over the fence into the yard. Frances is unable to heat her home due to the conditions of the vacant property. Even when she sets her thermostat to ninety degrees, she cannot get the house warm in winter, particularly where it is adjacent to the abandoned home, which is open to drafts through the broken windows and doors. When it rains, water comes in through the walls of her home, leaking into her basement. Further, she cannot get home insurance. At one time, she had insurance, and her insurance company would come out and check her home and neighborhood periodically. Then one year they refused to renew her policy because she lives next door to an abandoned home. Her latest attempts to address the problem were through her city council representative’s office, which at first said it would call but did not. The week prior to our interview, Frances went to a community meeting that was supposed to be with the councilperson, but the councilperson sent a representative instead. The representative contacted Frances promptly and said that the office would look into the problem and get back to her. Frances hoped that this intervention would finally ensure that L&I would take care of the vacant property next door. These stories are from three neighborhoods where low-income homeowners are a relatively large group and where a disproportionate number of the extremely low-income homeowners (families with incomes less than $20,000 a year) spend a relatively high percentage of their limited incomes on housing (more than 30 percent). Many other neighborhoods in Philadelphia also have large numbers of low-income homeowners who are similarly stretched

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to cover their housing costs. These profiles are not intended to suggest that all low-income homeowners cannot treat their homes as assets that will enable them to acquire the wealth necessary to escape a life of poverty. Instead, what we find is that although homeownership might be a strategy that works for some low-income homeowners in some neighborhoods, for many other lowincome families it is not a realistic way to acquire assets; it is more a way to be burdened with liabilities.

Conclusion Our “everyday world policy analysis” grew from the recognition that policies look different on the ground than they do on the books, particularly if you are looking up from the bottom. We tried to understand this perspective first of all through our advocate partners, who together with us formulated the research questions and pushed the analysis of the quantitative data reported in this chapter. They drew from the knowledge that came from working as community organizers who were situated within the community that they attempt to serve. To go even further, they requested that we describe a “walkthrough” in order to simulate the path that low-income homeowners have to take in their attempts to access city programs. We also visited low-income homeowners in their homes to better understand the home-repair and homemaintenance problems they face. Our findings from this part of the study enhanced our understanding of the quantitative data. We learned that owning homes is important to homeowners, even if the homes are in disrepair. People are understandably attached to the homes that they (or their relatives) have lived in. For many, such homes provide more stability than rental homes. Low-income homeowners, like all people, are influenced by the public discourse and the value that society places on owning a home. People are proud to be homeowners, and many believe that with homeownership comes an increased investment in community and neighborhood. In order to respond to the desires of people affected by policy and programs, researchers and advocates must first listen to their concerns and provide a platform for them to be heard where it counts. As researchers, we met this goal by insisting that our research include not only community advocates and policymakers, but homeowners. Our partners at WCRP have a long tradition of trying to include community voices in their lobbying efforts. They encourage people to protest, to be present at council hearings, and to testify. The stories that we present

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here are only a few of those that informed the advocacy efforts in which we participated. They added detail to the numbers and put faces and context to the data, helping to make them both multidimensional and compelling.

Discussion Questions

1. This chapter describes the way that lay perspectives and individual stories can be told in a research project and in a policy arena. What are the advantages of including these stories? 2. What are some of the drawbacks in including lay perspectives and individual stories? 3. Many people believe that different ways of knowing (how we figure out what we know) have important consequences for how we understand a topic. (a) How do ways of knowing based on people’s experience with a social problem or issue differ from knowledge that researchers access, process, and present? (b) How do they differ from policymakers’ knowledge? 4. Are researchers’ presentations of such stories different than (a) Firsthand accounts? (b) Journalist accounts? (c) The way that they might be presented by community groups? (d) If so, in what ways? (e) Why are they different? 5. We have noted that these stories are compelling. How do you think they would fare if they were not accompanied by the quantitative data? Why?

6 From Research to Recommendations The Politics of Presentation

Foundations should “ask questions when projects are proposed.” This is because “the goal is knowledge production and policy change.” A foundation that has this dual focus for their projects “must make sure that groups that they fund have a certain level of political experience that will allow them to actually push for policy change effectively” and “connect the academic world of knowledge production with the political world of policy change.” —Notes from our interview with the WPF funding agent

collaborati v e re s e a rc h can pay dividends on multiple levels across all stages of the research process (Staley 2009). Working with community partners from PAHC, we learned more about our topic than if we had gone through the research process alone. Our collaborators pushed us to ask different questions, analyze different types of data, and consult different informants than we would have on our own. Working with community advocates led us to think more seriously about how the presentation of our findings could affect how various audiences, including policymakers, would consider what we found. We had always believed that research could contribute to the advocacy process. It also became clear, once we were involved in the project, that advocacy could help improve the research. The synergy of such collaborative work is rarely discussed and deserves attention. Working with community advocates can undermine researchers’ independence and compromise the integrity of research. However, researchers who are attuned to this possibility can work to ensure the quality of their research even as they cooperate with community partners to make that research more relevant to their advocacy efforts. In the case of our work with the WCRP and the other coalition partners, a series of incidents and decision-making points required us to evaluate how both the research and the advocacy could benefit

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from the collaboration. The process was particularly fraught when we moved from studying the problem to strategizing about how best to get policymakers to address it. This chapter relates that part of our story.

Researchers’ Involvement in the Policy Process Part of the process to ensure that our research informed the policymaking was our willingness as researchers to stay involved long after we had completed our research. We worked hard with advocates and consultants to make our research relevant to the policy process and to increase its visibility. We invested time over several months to shape materials specifically designed to influence policymakers. We attended public forums and spoke to city councilpersons and their staffs about our research. We attended hearings in the chambers of city hall. We even helped write testimony that the advocates gave during the policy deliberations. We continued to advise the advocates after the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund was created and political backlash started to set in, which helped the policy to survive and even thrive. Five years after the completion of our report, our advocate partners told us that the research continued to have a “life” after the campaign ended and that our research and prior research that they had commissioned were still part of their ever-developing understanding of how to do their work. Our case study shows that there can be a symbiotic relationship between research and advocacy that can make each stronger. But this combination is not simple. It requires time and effort. One rarely discussed but important dimension is how participation in the policy process affects researchers’ thinking about how to do their research or revise their research without compromising its integrity, so that the research becomes more relevant in answering the specific questions that arise during policy deliberations. Our experience suggests that it is important to rethink what is research and what is advocacy: When does one end and the other begin? Advocacy benefits from research that helps create a knowledge base for the claims that advocates make. Yet research benefits from the combination as well. Based on our experience in working with advocates for the Housing Trust Fund in Philadelphia, a good case can be made that research can be improved if it is seen as continuing after the collection of data and even after the analysis of the data, even into the writing of reports and the testifying in public forums. The research process includes anticipating how findings will be received publicly and then doing

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more research once one learns from public reception what questions are the most relevant for making policy change possible (O’Connor 2002). Taking into account how research will be received helps to ensure that it is done in a way that improves its potential to inform action for change. The synergy between research and advocacy was present throughout our participation in the home-repair project, but it was most apparent during the deliberations concerning the drafting of our report. It was then that we learned exactly how the advocates planned to use our research. We worked hard to draft our report in ways that could speak to the advocates’ specific strategic concerns regarding how the research could help enhance policy advocacy in this case. In particular, we showed, using statistical data, to what extent increases in funding could translate into housing improvements that would keep families in their homes and decrease the need for other public expenditures to house them elsewhere. Our advocate partners, who knew the political arena and the city council audience, pushed us to provide them with accurate but also clear and memorable estimates that they could use without compromising the integrity of our research. Our data could say only so much, however, and at times it seemed the advocates wanted us to say more. They also wanted for our findings to be computed in numbers that were easy to remember and presentable in a format that was comprehensible to a policy audience. After much discussion, everyone realized that making the data say more than they really could was counterproductive to the cause of assisting low-income families and undermined the credibility of the research. We agreed upon estimates everyone could live with. Estimates thus had to be accurate and credible according to research standards, and we could not use them to say more than they could legitimately support. The estimates we were able to provide, given the limitations of the data, were rough, to be sure, but they showed in concrete terms what increases in home-repair funding for low-income families could produce. We provided evidence of the need for increased funding for home repair and demonstrated that the proposed amounts would in no way come close to solving the entire problem, giving the advocates the needed credibility that they were talking about a real problem. The PAHC’s funding requests appeared (and were!) realistic and reasonable because they were grounded in the data that we produced. Adding strategic considerations to the drafting of our report helped to ensure its relevance by focusing our presentation on the issues of importance to our partners and allowing us to frame the presentation in a way that a policy audience could understand and consume.

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At a tactical level, interesting developments helped us to achieve an analysis and presentation that were simultaneously relevant and credible. Karen Black, the key consultant to the project, worked with us throughout the project. During the later stages of drafting our report, she became more prominent in the process. Not only did Karen advise on the writing of the draft report so that we could begin to tie our research more effectively to the policy debate about affordable housing, but she also prepared a shorter report that presented highlights from our research. The report in this form was likely to be more widely used by policy actors (WCRP, ACORN, and United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia 2005) (figure 6.1). Karen’s report distilled our report to a short narrative, a series of bullet points, and a number of charts and graphs. The condensed report was printed in color on high-quality, glossy

figure 6.1  Publicizing the Research

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paper and had the look of an expensive brochure. She added pictures of lowincome homeowners and quotes that tied a face and a story to the data we had collected. The brochure was eye catching and compelling. It was the main document widely distributed to interested parties inside and outside the local government. It helped spread the word about our research, increased the visibility of the home-repair and home-maintenance needs in Philadelphia, and was a part of the process of moving the issue of affordable housing up the agenda in city hall. It was also very much grounded in our data and relied on our full report, which was distributed to key city council stakeholders and anyone else who requested it. It was in some ways shocking to see our research boiled down to such a short document. It reminded us that as academics we often take the long way around to explain our findings, if only to be sure that the basis for our conclusions is detailed and transparent. As researchers, we worry about the credibility of our work more than anything else. This concern leads us to provide nuance, detail, and an explanation of the decisions we made in order to increase the ability of stakeholders (and other researchers) to assess our research. On another level, it was exciting to see our research displayed in such a readily accessible and attractive format (figure 6.2). Our advocate partners clarified the necessity of creating a document that a wider audience could read and digest. This audience included the policymakers and their assistants as well as the media and the wider public of citizens who would be asked to support increased assistance to low-income homeowners in their role as constituents, taxpayers, and sometimes advocates. The brief, accessible brochure allowed us as researchers to have a broader impact. Although we might want to denigrate attractively packaged documents as sacrificing research quality for publicity’s sake, this document reported sound research findings. Further, it cited our comprehensive report, which could be consulted to assess the methods we used to produce our findings. The combination of the two documents worked best: we could maintain the integrity of the research and demonstrate its quality to those interested in examining the larger document but at the same time make a handy, eye-catching publicity document available to enhance the work that advocates were doing to attract attention to the problem, mobilize concern, and compel people to take action. With the two documents, we were able to satisfy our own and other researchers’ concerns for research integrity and advocates’ concerns for presenting the research in an accessible way that could lead to wider support for the proposed publicpolicy changes. One activist summed up the effectiveness of the report: figure 6.2  Publicity Counts: A Visually Striking Representation of Our Research

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The fact is the data [were] collected, both quantitative and qualitative, as part of research [that included] organizers who were hired in different parts of the city to speak to people about their perceptions and understanding of the problem. In our advocacy summary it was blended, and it was very compelling. So when we took the next step to try to push the decision-makers, our elected officials, to do something about it, it really made sense to them. We had the strength of your thinking about how to combine the qualitative and quantitative data. But [we] also [had] the stories which gave it a face. So it was [altogether] very powerful.

The Policy Payoff: Advocacy Outcomes Our story includes significant policy accomplishments in which our research played a role. One reason why our research contributed to policy outcomes is that our advocacy partners were strategic. They were especially thoughtful about the role of research in their efforts to persuade the City of Philadelphia to adopt a housing trust fund for affordable housing, part of which would be earmarked for low-income home repair. As a result, our research had a direct effect on the city’s public-policy response to home-repair needs. We believe our project contributed to making the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund a reality, and our partners told us that this was the case. An examination of the policy outcomes also suggests that research played a role in this successful advocacy campaign. In order to create the fund, the Pennsylvania State Legislature had to amend Act 137, passed in 1992, which allowed cities and towns in the state to create housing trust funds. Despite Philadelphia’s desperate need for such funding, the city was not authorized by that law to create a fund. An amendment to that law passed the state legislature in 2004, and the Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance in 2005 establishing the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. According to the Web site of the Housing Trust Fund Campaign, The Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund will provide nearly $15 million per year in new resources for housing. The Trust Fund’s primary mission will be to support housing production—both rehabilitation and new construction— by non-profit community development organizations, including partnerships with for-profit developers. The Trust Fund will allow Philadelphia to build and rehab about 275 homes each year, increasing housing production by

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figure 6.3  Philadelphia City Council Ordinance for the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund Source: Available at

roughly 60 percent, and will leverage up to $36 million annually in outside public and private resources that would not otherwise come to Philadelphia. (Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund Campaign n.d.)

It is noteworthy that the city council’s ordinance creating the fund was prefaced by findings that reflected the main points emphasized in the campaign (figure 6.3). Effective advocacy, including the adroit use of research,

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played a role in framing the resulting policy, especially the emphasis on the current poor state of housing in the city. Although policy is often made without considering research, there are times such as this one where research is reflected in the final product. It was a testament to the campaign’s efforts not only that the trust fund was created, but that this successful policy initiative was framed and structured in a way that reflected the campaign’s major concerns. A good case can be made that research, including our specific project, played a role in helping bring about this outcome. In the case of our specific research project, the findings that started the enabling ordinance that would create the fund very much reflected our major research findings showing the extent to which housing in the city was in disrepair. The need for affordable housing was justified not only on the basis of a shortage of affordable housing in a changing market, but also because people continued to live in homes that were not safe or habitable. It followed, then, that the trust fund’s goals would be not only to build new housing, but also to repair existing homes so that low-income homeowners could continue to reside in them. The relevant sections of the enabling ordinance were explicit in this regard: §21–1602. Establishment of the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. (1) The Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund (“Trust Fund”) shall be created by the Finance Director as a separate Fund held by the City of Philadelphia into which shall be deposited revenue collected pursuant to Section 10–1001 of The Philadelphia Code for the purpose of funding the Trust Fund. (2) It is the intention of the City Council that the Trust Fund be used for the purposes of this Ordinance. Therefore, any assets remaining in the Trust Fund at the end of any fiscal year shall be carried into the next fiscal year, including all interest and income earned, as well as any repayments or forfeitures of loans and/or grants. §21–1603. Creation, Distribution and Use of the Trust Fund’s Assets. (1) In addition to funds otherwise deposited in the Trust Fund, recording fees collected pursuant to the authorization of this Ordinance shall be deposited in the Housing Trust Fund. (2) Funds appropriated from the Housing Trust Fund shall be used to fund programs and projects for the benefit of households whose annual income, adjusted for size, is less than 115% of the median income of the

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Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, that: (a) Increase production of affordable housing for sale or rental; (b) Increase the accessibility of new and existing affordable housing to physically disabled occupants and increase the supply of visitable housing; (c) Preserve affordable housing, including but not limited to grants for basic systems repair or improvement of owner-occupied homes, adaptive modification, or for the targeted improvement of facades; and (d) Prevent or reduce homelessness, including but not limited to emergency assistance to prevent and/or end homelessness or near homelessness by maintaining households in their own residences when eviction is imminent through rent and mortgage arrearage assistance, or for security deposits, utility assistance, and long-term hotel, motel, or boarding home rental assistance. (3) As much as 15% of such funds may be used to pay for the City’s administrative costs associated with funding and administering such programs and projects. (4) On a yearly basis, 50% of such funds that are used for purposes other than to pay for administrative costs shall be used to fund programs and projects that benefit households with incomes, adjusted for size, equal to or less than 30% of the median income of the Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Department Of Housing And Urban Development and 50% shall be used to benefit households with incomes between 30% and 115% of the median income of the Metropolitan Statistical Area. (5) On a yearly basis, at least 50% of such funds that are used for purposes other than to pay for administrative costs shall be used to fund programs and projects that increase production of affordable housing for sale or rental. (6) In each project subsidized by such funds, a minimum of 10% of the total number of new construction units shall be accessible to individuals with mobility impairments and a minimum of 2% shall be accessible to individuals with sensory impairments. All such new construction units must be made visitable or, alternatively, an amount equal to $3,000 multiplied by the total number of new construction units built in the project shall be required to be spent to make as many of such units as possible visitable, which amount shall be adjusted for inflation on an annual basis. Visitability and/ or accessibility requirements may be waived or reduced for a project if such

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requirement(s) renders such project financially infeasible, or if site conditions are unsuitable, but this provision shall not exempt any project from any other applicable requirements regarding visitability and/or accessibility. (7) It is the intent of this Ordinance that such funds will provide net new resources for affordable housing activities in Philadelphia, but such funds may be used to supplement funding levels for housing production, accessibility, preservation and homelessness prevention in the event current funding or sources of funding are reduced or eliminated. (Housing Trust Fund 2005)

The legislation stipulated that the trust fund was to be funded by a real estate transfer tax. This type of funding is a way in which the city is able to directly utilize monies from its gentrification efforts to the benefit of lowincome residents who are so often adversely affected by such trends. The new law required the payment of fees collected under existing Philadelphia codes for various housing-related transactions and notary public commissions (Housing Trust Fund 2005, §21-16-2[1]). This tax has so far generated approximately $10 million annually for the fund, though $15 million were expected. The problems of the home mortgage market starting in 2008 were already at work when the trust fund began, and they affected the revenue stream. Then the subprime mortgage meltdown overtook the entire global economy in late 2008 and revenue dropped even lower. By then, real estate sales were flagging, in large part because banks were no longer giving mortgages as easily as before. As the housing bubble burst and the economy began to move into a recession, home prices were also sinking. As a result, the real estate transfer tax that funded the trust fund began to collect even less revenue (Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund 2010). This situation is somewhat ironic because the idea of promoting homeownership was originally one of the factors that led to us to focus our study on low-income homeowners. Nonetheless, because low-income homeownership was now a goal approached with greater caution, the need to help low-income families who live in homes they already own became an even greater priority. In spite of lower-than-expected funding, the trust fund was by 2008 a firmly established initiative not about to be repealed. Instead, it became an important part of the city’s housing policies. Philadelphia’s new mayor, Michael Nutter, was elected in 2007. Nutter promised to improve the trust fund and ensure that it would help low-income homeowners stay in their homes:

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In the face of declining federal resources, the City took a step in the right direction in 2005 by creating the Housing Trust Fund, which I actively supported while in City Council. The Trust Fund was expected to receive $15 million in first year funds, but it received only $10 million. That shortfall reduces by one-third the already modest goals of the Trust Fund. As Mayor, I will fully fund the Housing Trust Fund at $15 million. I will direct City housing officials to pursue the goal of producing 1000 units per year of low and moderate cost housing using the proceeds of the Trust Fund, a portion of the revenue derived from expiring Ten-Year Property Tax Abatements, and the incremental increase in revenue from the existing Real Estate Transfer Tax. As Mayor, I will expand supports that allow Philadelphia homeowners to maintain their homes and avoid catastrophic losses due to failing roofs and aging plumbing. A fully funded Housing Trust Fund will pay for over 900 home repairs each year and prevent nearly 1000 owners from losing their homes each year. In addition, I will aggressively promote participation in existing home repair programs managed by the City, including the Basic Systems Repair Program and the Adaptive Modification Program. (Michael Nutter for Mayor 2007)

Affordable-housing advocates were instrumental in the successful Nutter campaign for the mayor’s office. They influenced candidate Nutter’s support for the trust fund. The policy was established, and Mayor Nutter’s backing likely helped the trust fund survive the tough times that the home mortgage debacle brought to the global economy. While the city braced itself for the approaching economic slowdown, the trust fund remained intact, and the new mayor remained committed to it even though funding did not remain at the levels he promised during his campaign (Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund 2010). Long considered an ally of WCRP and its constituents, Nutter not only promised to fund the trust to its originally estimated levels but underscored the need to invest in low-income home repair as an important part of the housing puzzle in Philadelphia. Therefore, it seems safe to say that the affordable-housing campaign had succeeded in achieving its main policy goal and that the campaign’s concern about low-income home repair had an impact on the policy process. Our review of the legislative provisions regarding the trust fund and the new mayor’s commitments to it provide evidence for the effective role of re-

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search. The campaign’s success was arguably due in part to how advocates and sympathetic politicians used research to legitimate policy claims that they made on behalf of creating a trust fund for affordable housing. Specific attention to low-income home repair suggests that our project was part of this successful mix of advocacy and research.

Research Presentations: The Politics of Framing One central assumption underlying all of our efforts in the policy-advocacy phase of the project was that our research could help frame how policymakers thought about low-income home repair and affordable housing more generally. In recent years, framing in the policy process is a much discussed subject (Lakoff 2004; Schon and Rein 1995). Less discussed is the role of research in the framing process (see Schram and Soss 2001). Research is framed by how we conceptualize the topic being studied, but it in turn can help frame policy deliberation. Affordable housing as a policy concern was for the most part previously framed in terms of making more low-cost rental housing available and then more recently by the push to extend homeownership to more lowincome families (Sherraden 1991, 2005). Working with our advocacy partners, we helped frame the issue of affordable housing in terms more relevant to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, as we have detailed, there was a surplus of low-cost but severely dilapidated housing that was often owned by low-income families. Therefore, the affordable-housing issue could best be approached by a multipronged strategy that emphasized building more affordable rental housing, encouraging homeownership where it was appropriate, and helping low-income families who already own their homes stay in them with sufficient support for repairs and maintenance. Reframing the affordable-housing issue to encompass both rental housing and homeownership helped move the discussion in directions most appropriate for Philadelphia. In public forums, briefings, and hearings, advocates emphasized this framing of affordable housing in Philadelphia. That framing not only helped ensure that the housing would be considered in ways that would lead to more effective public policy, but also helped make the appeal for an affordable-housing trust fund more politically palatable. Helping low-income homeowners stay in their homes was bound to be more popular with both the low-income homeowners themselves and the taxpaying public, who are often reluctant to support costly initiatives to build more rental housing. It

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was politically more attractive to support homeowners who are often seen as trying to act in responsible middle-class ways by owning their own homes. Showing a need to support homeowners helped increase the Housing Trust Fund even though only part of the fund would go to home repair. For these reasons, we believed that elected officials would be more responsive to our research team’s framing of the affordable-housing issue. Our contextualized, situated, collaborative research helped clarify the parameters of the lowincome home-repair problem in Philadelphia at this point in time, even if it did not produce more generalizable findings applicable to other cities. It helped inform a politically effective way of framing affordable housing in Philadelphia in ways that eventually led to improvements in public policy that still contribute to how the city addresses the particular housing problems confronting low-income families in Philadelphia today .

Conclusion Research and advocacy can support each other. Research can strengthen advocacy, and advocacy can improve research. The combination of the two encourages us to rethink both practices. Advocacy can be better if it includes research to support the claims advocates make regarding public problems and what to do about them. And research can be better if it is approached as a process that includes consideration of how relevant publics will receive research findings. Researchers need to think about how research is received as part of the process of public deliberation; research can also impact how public problems are framed in political discourse. As we discussed in chapter 3, all three of us have pursued research agendas that make a difference. Our choice to be social work academics and to conduct PAR was driven by this desire. In order to translate such wishes into reality, researchers must be willing to learn. They must also be willing to cede power to advocate partners when doing so is appropriate, but they must stand their ground when appropriate. This process is not easy, and there is no template for distinguishing when researchers should compromise and when such compromises affect the quality of the research negatively. Researchers must have these conversations, as we did, with their advocate partners. We also found it helpful to talk about these concerns among ourselves. Researchers who are working alone can turn to mentors or peers in order to clarify how to handle individual situations as they arise.

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Research and advocacy can be combined in ways that balance competing concerns. Our research was disseminated in multiple ways to ensure it would be widely publicized and easily interpretable and at the same time be thoroughly documented and open to critical examination. Our methodologically sound research helped advocates gain influence in the public deliberations about affordable housing in Philadelphia. Rather than making trade-offs between maintaining research standards and striving for research to be politically relevant, researchers and advocates can work together from the start of the research process to after public policies are implemented. In the next chapter, we provide concrete examples of conflict that the tensions outlined here engendered. We use these examples as a guide to illustrate the kind of problems that can arise in researcher–advocate collaborations. We also use our experiences to illustrate how with WCRP and our other research partners we navigated the problems we encountered.

Discussion Questions In this chapter, we provided a description of how we presented our findings to the Philadelphia City Council and other political stakeholders and media. 1. Thinking about our description, discuss the following: (a) What makes an issue capture public attention? (b) What makes a public problem capture policymakers’ attention? (c) How do media presentations impact the way we view public concerns? 2. Think about a topic that you would like policymakers to address: (a) How would you present it to the audiences listed in the previous question? (b) What kind of “packaging” or “poster child” would you choose to represent your issue and why? (c) What are the advantages of representing it this way? (d) What are the disadvantages of representing it this way? (e) If you had to provide a succinct and compelling case, what information might you have to synthesize succinctly? 3. How would you address the need to represent the problem accurately and with sufficient nuance? 4. What aspects of the problem are more and less amenable to brief synopsis and policy appeal?

7 The Challenges of Doing Collaborative Research I do think from my perspective the major issue was over the quality of the numbers. This situation was the . . . major source of my frustration because I had to become the data police, and everyone laughed about it. But it was a real source of concern for me that our research would be misused and we would be seen as producing shoddy work. In the end, I really worried that the numbers would fall flat and hurt the campaign. They did not, and the campaign was successful. Happy ending after a long struggle over numbers with lots of tensions, misunderstandings, etc. —Notes from internal correspondence among the academic research team

the researc h re p o r t e d in this book was the result of a collaborative process. This chapter describes in detail the challenges of participating in that process. Collaborations between academic researchers and community groups are increasingly popular, evidenced by the growing number of reports on the topic in academic journals and elsewhere (Hillier and Koppisch 2005; Lennett and Colten 1999; Peterson et al. 2006; Viswanathan et al. 2004) and the recent scholarly debates about CBPR that we reviewed in chapter 1. This means that more and more people are contemplating this type of research and are eager to learn how to manage collaborative partnerships. Yet the increased popularity of collaborative research can misleadingly suggest that it is a simple process devoid of its own distinctive set of challenges. In order to contribute to an understanding of the critical challenges of doing collaborative research, this chapter reports the challenges of our research collaboration with WCRP and its partners. We rely on interviews with members of the collaborative research team that designed and implemented the home-repair study. We asked all respondents to reflect on the collaborative process that we used in the study. We used an interview guide to facilitate the interviews, but they were conducted in conversational style, letting our re-

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spondents shape the discussion and bring up topics that we did not anticipate. All expressed an interest in this study and were eager to share their thoughts about the collaboration. Each interview lasted approximately one and a half hours and was recorded on audiotape. We reviewed all tapes several times and selectively transcribed those portions upon which we based our analysis. Two of the interviews were not taped, so we relied on handwritten notes recorded during the interview. In order to provide a level of confidentiality to our study participants, we refrain from attributing comments to specific participants and refer to them by their roles rather than by their names. We describe and discuss how the collaboration between advocates and researchers evolved over the course of the home-repair study. In our interviews, we specifically asked the members of the research team to describe and assess the collaborative process from their perspectives. Among the core issues that emerged from the data were the importance of acknowledging the distinct roles of researchers and advocates, the tensions between knowledge production and strategic considerations, and the importance of trust and process. We show how we increasingly succeeded (but sometimes failed) in integrating the distinct functions of advocates and researchers and how our complementary roles contributed to a more comprehensive study that resulted in actual policy changes.

“On Tap” Rather Than “on Top” The challenges to our collaboration began with the specific terms under which we were enlisted to join the affordable-housing advocacy campaign in the city of Philadelphia that produced the research described in this book. Under the terms of the 2003 grant that WCRP received from the WPF, WCRP was required to seek academic researchers to help it document home-repair problems faced by low-income homeowners. This requirement was not an onerous one for WCRP, which had a tradition of working with academic partners. However, the decision-making structures that its staff set up when they contracted with us as researchers who agreed to work within their vision were different from the structures established in WCRP’s prior collaborations. They were well aware that this state of affairs—with the advocacy group dictating terms—was not the norm in such partnerships, which are usually driven by academics. The academics were thus “on tap” rather than “on top”:

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I think the way you are different from some of the other researchers—I’ve talked about whatever we call this work together in different places and I was on a panel . . . with other people who are researchers, and their perspective is that the money always comes—they raise the money, not the advocates raise the money for the research. Like the ideas for the research don’t come from grassroots or advocates. . . . I have very close friend [who is an academic] who for years worked [on] . . . education research and [she’s] very progressive. But the idea that we would raise money and define the research questions based on some ideas we had, some things we needed to figure out on a campaign related to housing, felt backwards to her. And I felt like you were so open to that process. You know it’s not necessarily the academic or the researcher who’s raising the money and creating the questions and then pulling in some folks who are in the neighborhood or folks who are practitioners.

As we described in chapter 3, the academic members of the core research team for the home-repair study consisted of this book’s three authors. Two representatives from WCRP, the contracting agency, and an outside lobbyist/researcher were also members of the core research team and attended nearly all of the meetings dealing with the research. Three WCRP community organizers and the executive director were involved with the study but did not attend all of the ongoing meetings. Two other advocacy groups, United Communities of Southeast Philadelphia and ACORN, sent representatives from time to time. After the most active phase of the research ended, Sandy Schram, the primary investigator for the study, met more regularly with both David Koppisch, the advocacy person assigned primary responsibility for the affordablehousing campaign, and Nora Lichtash, the WCRP executive director.

Assessing the Collaborative Process  in the Home-Repair Study Our interviews suggest that the success of the home-repair study both in terms of knowledge production and its impact on the policy process can be attributed to the participatory nature of our collaboration. Close collaboration with our partners at WCRP substantially increased the effectiveness of the data gathering and analysis. The academic researchers’ involvement in turn led to a more critical debate about the effects of low-income homeownership

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in general and increased the impact of WCRP’s policy-advocacy efforts. Yet these benefits came at a certain price, most of all the “time-consuming”1 and difficult need to constantly negotiate both academic researchers’ and community activists’ roles and concomitant expectations. Several of the activist members of the research team knew of or had prior experience collaborating with academics in other local housing-related studies (Hillier and Koppisch 2005; Shlay and Whitman 2004). They in fact had worked with a team of academic researchers for several years before we got involved. Although the report on affordable housing that was issued from that collaboration proved to be very informative, the advocates sought a different sort of relationship. They did not want the researchers to be so independent and end up producing a document that was not directly related to the organization’s advocacy needs. This is why WCRP came to our collaboration with certain conditions that they deemed crucial to a successful partnership. First and foremost, WCRP wanted to be fully involved in all steps of the research because its staff felt that they already had a solid understanding of the home-repair problem of low-income homeowners in Philadelphia. “As advocates, we’re commissioning research where we know the situation. We may not know the details, but we know it’s that,” one person commented. Control over the process was the best way to ensure that the research would be both informed by and relevant to WCRP’s strategic advocacy on behalf of low-income homeowners. To this end, WCRP also expected the academic researchers to play a role in the dissemination of the findings and in any advocacy efforts that would stem from and rely on those findings. WCRP workers more generally expected that our contribution to the project would not just clarify and quantify the extent of low-income homeowners’ home-repair problem; they hoped that the study would lend a sense of “objectivity” and “legitimacy” to their efforts before the Philadelphia City Council. Research projects are important because the data, the numbers, can be used to convince people in power and people who are making policy that things need to be changed. . . . It’s a form of power to be able [to say]: “This is the data. We’ve been saying this to you and you probably know it already and it’s here.” And it’s sort of undeniable at that point. I think that policymakers and society in general are very concerned with science and data . . . and that people’s experience, advocates and people who are living it saying that that’s what’s happening is just not valued in the same way as having numbers and hard data is. And so, in some ways, it isn’t important to spend

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two years or whatever filling in the pieces because we already know that it’s true, but in terms of convincing policymakers it is important.

Funders also see the importance of research to advocacy efforts, as was evident from the WPF’s requirement that WCRP team up with academics as a condition of the grant. Indeed, the funding agent we interviewed for this study underscored how important academic–activist partnerships are to the foundation’s view of what it considers successful projects. But research is not sought out by funders or advocates merely for the veneer of legitimacy it might provide. WCRP also sought our expertise to obtain more precise information so that they could better understand the home-repair problems and explain them with more authority. Talking about research from a prior collaboration with academics, one team member described how helpful she found it to be “armed” with “knowledge” produced by academic researchers, even at the level of neighborhood organizing, particularly when the research resonates: “[The research] gave me a background, and in the ideal world that’s how it should work when you’re doing any kind of organizing. . . . [The other study] was extremely helpful for me as an organizer to understand, to learn the layout of the ground, so that was really amazingly helpful because I was in the field with a knowledge, with something that I could come with that I was not ready with any weapons to be able to talk to people. So that, for one, was great. Second, the research, it was confirming [for] me a lot of stuff.” Another advocate told us that although research can often get “tedious,” she feels it is necessary to advocacy because it helps those involved in advocacy campaigns to understand “patterns” and to “[see] things differently.” Commenting on the relationship between advocacy and research, she said that “one without the other is only going to take us so far.” Collaboration in the home-repair study was accomplished in a number of ways. From the outset, WCRP was actively involved in formulating the research questions. This process was lengthy and involved several meetings to clarify the focus of the research. The results of these consultations were captured in a written document, which all the parties in turn revised several times. This “Scope of Services” became the blueprint for our study and represented the initial plan for the research team. During the implementation phase, all team members met every few weeks. Together we reviewed data selection, from considering interview candidates and documents to making collaborative decisions about which statistical data

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to analyze out of available data sets. Before each meeting, we academic researchers provided the rest of the team with our working research draft, which enabled the research team to revise the research questions or to consider new areas of investigation. For example, when advocates had questions that we could not answer adequately given the available data, all of us discussed other ways of asking and finding answers to the questions. Our interim analysis often raised new questions and spurred further data gathering and analysis. The meetings allowed all members to deliberate about whether these threads or tangents were worth following and feasible given time, funding, and strategy considerations. A large volume of emails always circulated among research team members before and following meetings, which also led to revisions. This constant back and forth could sometimes become frustrating, particularly when there was wrangling around the quantitative data and what conclusions could or could not be drawn from them. One of the organizers talked about how exasperating this focus on the data felt, particularly when she had pressing concerns: “I felt that the concern for accuracy or data was taking energy out of doing organizing or talking to people or making change in that arena. . . . [T]he amount of time that was spent at what at times seemed very small details . . . was at times frustrating, and I think it’s why I stopped going to meetings, because I didn’t have time.” At very early stages, WCRP staff used our data analysis to inform advocacy efforts. They often would question our interpretation or “check” with us as to whether the data would support their analysis and interpretation. As we detail later in this chapter, there was lively debate at the meetings and a great deal of frustration, but disagreements were explicit and thus allowed for open discussion of contentious issues. Once our report was finalized, it became one of the bases for a WCRP policy brief. Our collaboration culminated with a public hearing at a city council meeting, which all members of the research team attended. The result of the combined advocacy efforts was, according to one high-level city program administrator, an addition of $4–5 million to the 2006 BSRP budget. As noted in chapter 6, we have also been told that our report has had a life after the chief campaign, continuing to inform WCRP’s advocacy efforts (which we discuss further in chapter 8). “I really feel like [without the report] we just wouldn’t know how important it was to do this work with homeowners. So it has implications in terms of research, it has implications in terms of advocacy, and it has implications in terms of kind of the most basic services. Creating jobs, helping people save on their energy bills, helping people save and get a capital investment in their houses so they’re going to be

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safe and secure in their houses for a number of years. And that came directly out of the research. So it has a lot of opportunities.” As this WCRP advocate indicates, it is difficult to predict ahead of time the direction that research can take advocacy efforts. If done well, though, research can help advocates further develop their work on behalf of communities and deepen their understanding of their own constituency—two contributions of our collaborative work that WCRP advocates specifically noted in interviews. One of the advocates commented that for him the collaborative process between advocates and researchers was an integral part of the research outcome. He sees all of his work as tied to the connections and networks that he builds. Organizing and advocacy can rise and fall on such connections, and this relationship is certainly true for Philadelphia, where WCRP works hard to cultivate working relationships with other community groups, city council members and their staff, and the city’s housing agencies. Collaboration has proven to be a successful strategy that has led to the allocation of additional home-repair dollars a number of times as well as the recent institution of the Housing Trust Fund. For WCRP, one of the markers of success or failure is the extent to which any research project helps to foster those connections. When asked for an example of the researchers’ (our) effort to focus on process, one of the advocates recalled our willingness to sit down to talk with them on a regular basis and the camaraderie and banter that inevitably accompanied such sessions. Through these informal sessions and the brainstorming and connection making that came of them, we discovered that one of us had a social connection with a city council staff member, which proved to be useful. WCRP workers felt strongly that there must be a willingness to discover and foster such ties and to understand their importance. In large part, they viewed this goal as one of the purposes of qualitative research. WCRP’s request that we interview high-level personnel at city housing agencies and city council staff was designed as much to foster connections and make those individuals aware of the extent and level of the research effort as it was to glean information from them for the study. Process was also very important in building trust. When communication faltered or research team members were frustrated with each other, we could express our discontent with the knowledge that our partners would listen. This process was not a smooth one. Most of our interviewees reported tensions at one point or another. When tensions emerged, they also brought forth questions around control: control of the research and control of information. All of us academic researchers had been drawn to this project because it was

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to be led largely by the advocates. This framework came through even when we were negotiating the research contract: we were to be paid by WCRP, and our payments were to be meted out in installments based on satisfactory completion of work phases (as reviewed by WCRP’s lawyer, who sometimes requested additional information). Further, we did not receive full information about some of the major components of the work, including what all the components were and who would be carrying them out; what was to be included in the final report and how it was to be presented; and who we would have access to for the research.

Advocates and Researchers: Matching  Role Expectations One very clear finding that emerged from our interviews with advocates was their insistence that a successful collaboration between researchers and advocates depends on the researchers’ willingness to engage the political aspects of the problem being studied. One of the participants told us that WCRP’s prior experience in similar collaborative research projects led them to the conclusion that they wanted to collaborate only with academic researchers who agreed from the outset to examine and enter the real world of political debates surrounding low-income housing problems in Philadelphia. Another respondent put this requirement in the following way: “I wanted an academic who’s been in the real world, if possible. Somebody who actually understood how government works and wouldn’t be providing kind of pie in the sky remedies that were just not relevant to the current situation.” The funding agent said that she expected academics who collaborate with community groups to be willing “to take the leap” from doing rigorous and cautious research to suggesting actual policy solutions. Still another of our interviewees told us that WCRP insisted on this point because he believes that “kindred spirits” work better together. Thus, according to him and others, WCRP was not only (or even primarily) looking for professional expertise in a narrow substantive field, but also looking for researchers who exhibited a commitment to action as well as an expertise as social scientists. They specifically chose the Bryn Mawr team because they knew that Sandy, the principal investigator of the home-repair study, had a reputation for “combining advocacy and academia,” despite the fact that he “wasn’t involved in housing.” As still another said, WCRP sought researchers who would “stand with us

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at the microphone at the press conference.” This advocate also noted that because we were not strongly linked to city government or other agencies, they believed we would be more willing to criticize city programs should such criticism be warranted. Our desire to have our social science work play a role in the policymaking arena (Flyvbjerg 2001; Shdaimah and Stahl 2006) helped ensure a matching of expectations. Our interest in a participatory action project was predicated on this desire and met WCRP’s demand for engaged researchers. The importance of a shared vision and a good potential working relationship was reinforced by the funding agent, who told us that “forced marriages that don’t work are bad. We need to think about putting together teams that’ll work.” Advocates and researchers must share some common ground. In our case, this common ground was based in shared values and a compatible vision of the project. Reflecting on the evolution of the collaborative process in a prior housing study in 2002, David Koppisch, one of our advocate collaborators, and his University of Pennsylvania coauthor write that “coalition leaders expected that the researchers would stand with us at a public rally and press conference to present their findings and to make clear demands of public officials. We disagreed with the researches about whether it was appropriate for them to stand with us” (Hillier and Koppisch 2005, 41). Another advocate, reflecting on this prior study, concluded in an interview that in this case WCRP should have paid more attention to activists and researchers’ expectations regarding the political process prior to entering that collaboration. He argued that doing so would have mitigated tensions and made their collaboration less conflictual. Matching role expectations seems central to successful activist–researcher collaborations. It does not mean that researchers should turn into advocates or that advocates should become researchers (Shdaimah and Stahl 2006). Nor will matched expectations preclude tensions between advocates and researchers, particularly when research uncovers unexpected information or raises new questions. This is true even more so of collaborative change research, which is contextualized (and therefore needs to account for changing political realities) and engaged (and therefore needs to respond to activist partners’ concerns). Instead, as we discuss in the next section, matching expectations involves an open process with explicit discussion of the purpose and use of study results and careful debates around any tensions that arise, in particular those that come from conflicts between advocacy groups’ strategic needs and re-

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searchers’ commitment to rigorous analysis of the problem. The distinct roles of advocates rooted in community and of researchers situated in the academy can lead to tensions during planning, implementation, and dissemination of a study. We and our collaborators contend that these tensions are healthy if they are managed with respect and open communication. They contribute to a more effective process and demonstrate that although researchers and advocates are committed to a collaborative process, they can retain distinct roles. Explicit recognition of differences helps researchers and advocates better understand when they need to stand their ground, why they must, and how they can do so while continuing to work together.

Conflicting Interests: Policy Change or  Knowledge Production? The most prominent tensions in the home-repair study concerned different assumptions about strategic considerations, the scope of the problem, and the relevance of underlying causes. In particular, the researchers involved in the study became increasingly concerned about focusing on low-income homeownership as part of a more general political agenda toward increasing homeownership levels in the United States (Shlay 2006). WCRP designed a study that would document maintenance and repair problems faced by homeowners, and thus the study was not intended to question low-income homeownership as a fundamental tenet of current local and national policies. But our data analysis made it impossible to ignore the conclusion that homeownership, as an exclusive strategy for low-income families, may be an unhelpful and even detrimental policy for the most disadvantaged because of the high costs associated with owning a home. From our perspective, this finding was important because it indicated the underlying causes of home-repair problems facing low-income families. We included these tentative conclusions and a critique of low-income homeownership as an exclusive housing policy in the interim reports distributed to all members of the research team. WCRP, however, feared the inclusion of this critique in the final report because it might undermine the organization’s goal for the home-repair project: “Since WCRP had decided to address the repair problems of low-income homeowners it made no strategic sense to include a critique of low-income home owning in a document that was intended as a tool to increase the services available for low-income homeowners. It was important for WCRP to

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stick to a clear political message: low-income homeowners in Philadelphia had major repair problems, and additional resources needed to be provided to address these problems. A more general debate about low-income homeowning policies and politics would have complicated a straightforward political message.” Not only would a critique of homeownership confuse the message, but it also offered no concrete remedy because it was so general: “[As an advocate], I don’t ever see an advantage to talking about a big problem like that in abstractions.” This view caused difficulties for researchers and advocates. On the one hand, not writing about the more fundamental problem would be to ignore what the researchers viewed as a key finding and therefore undermine the rigor of our study. On the other hand, including a critique of low-income homeownership might jeopardize a political strategy that we hoped would bring additional home-repair assistance to low-income homeowners, which our findings confirmed was necessary. During the interviews we did for the collaboration study, it became clear that WCRP had in fact been acutely aware of the contradictions between advocating more extensive home-repair services, on the one hand, and the problems with low-income homeownership as an exclusive strategy, on the other hand. This contradiction is something WCRP staff find themselves torn about in trying to be responsive to what individuals tell them versus what they themselves see from an advocacy perspective: “We shouldn’t be pushing homeownership as a way out of poverty for people because it doesn’t work . . . but it’s important to people to own their own homes regardless of where [they] are getting the message.” Another respondent explained that WCRP had already made the calculus of leaving a more general critique of low-income homeownership off the table for the purposes of the home-repair campaign, but not abandoning the critique altogether in its advocacy or direct service work, which includes building rental properties for low-income homeowners, “mostly for women in the shelter system.” Still another WCRP advocate told us that WCRP’s focus on home repair and home maintenance was a means to advance its more general goals: “Because we had the funds to do that. But that’s always something that we, I don’t know, as organizers, we struggle [with]. We get money to do something . . . but heck, there’s no funding to do organizing by itself, so you can use any tool, any excuse, to do organizing.” Judith Lennett and Mary Ellen Colten (1999) describe a similar dilemma around whether to focus on the relationship between drug consumption and

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domestic violence in a study about the problem of domestic violence among TANF recipients. Advocates in their study argued that focusing on drug use might shift the attention from the link between TANF policy rules and the consequences of domestic violence to an analysis of the predictors of domestic violence. The researchers consequently agreed to keep their focus on the effects of domestic violence rather than pursue the etiology of the problem. This example raises questions about potential differences in compromises at different stages of the project. Lennett and Colten specifically kept this factor out of their data analysis, which prevented them from understanding connections that they in fact believed to be relevant, thus limiting their knowledge production, which is arguably more troubling from a social science standpoint. In our study, we retained the critique of low-income homeownership in our more comprehensive research report (Shdaimah, Stahl, and Schram 2004) and in an additional policy brief (Shdaimah and Stahl 2006), and we have continued to explore the topic in our own research (Schram 2006; Stahl and Shdaimah 2008). We also assuaged our own concerns by continuing to discuss the problem with our advocate partners in order to inform future advocacy and policy (Schram 2006). WCRP, working in the policy arena, eliminated the critique from the widely disseminated advocacy brochure (WCRP, ACORN, and United Communities Southeast Philadelphia 2005) and did not discuss it specifically during the key city council briefing. Tensions between an advocacy group’s immediate strategic or political interests and researchers’ mandate to analyze carefully and report on a particular social problem are an unavoidable aspect of collaborative research. So long as advocates and researchers put their sights on collaborative projects, these tensions between knowledge production and policy must be negotiated when different perspectives pull in different ways. Although our partners were at times frustrated with us, they saw the drawbacks as a worthwhile trade-off. Advocates recognize that research and the “big picture” are no less important even when the latter is not where they choose to put their energy. “Without Bryn Mawr, very little energy would have gone into looking into large data sets and in looking into the larger theoretical issues around home repair, and I think that piece is important, and it would have been missing. I think especially [for] nonprofits, there’s not the time and the energy—because you all spent so much time doing that research and have the skills to do it—and without the community groups there wouldn’t have been a connection to what people are experiencing, and I think [that] is also really important and missing from research.”

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The more social science is praxis oriented, the more likely such tensions will plague collaborative efforts. As researchers and advocates’ agendas evolve and sometimes collide, they must be addressed explicitly and continuously; as one of our informants said, “The more collaboration, the messier it becomes.” This process can be difficult and time consuming. Yet in our study it increased the effectiveness of the data gathering and analysis and led to a more critical debate about the effects of low-income homeownership. It also increased the impact of WCRP’s advocacy efforts.

Creating a Collaborative Process Given the importance of clarifying researchers’ and advocates’ different roles and interests in order to manage collaborative projects successfully, it is not surprising that most of our interviewees acknowledged the significance of a trusting relationship. An advocate who takes care to make personal connections stated: “The best that can be done if researchers have a clear commitment to their work being useful for advocacy and organizing is to take some time to establish a way to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” This point is consistent with the findings in prior studies (Hill 2004; Reid and Vianna 2001; Smith and Bryan 2005). Creating relationships and structures that foster trust may be particularly important when participants perceive power imbalances, which are (and, according to the advocate quoted here, should be) accompanied by suspicion. “[Suspicion] isn’t necessarily bad because there are power issues. It can be bad when you’re not talking to each other or challenging each other—when you don’t trust each other enough to challenge. I think sometimes when you’re suspicious and defensive, you just don’t say anything because you don’t trust the person to hear what you have to say. So I think it’s finding people and within the relationship trusting enough to be able to challenge each other’s perspective and to see the importance of things like accuracy.” To build trusting relationships in our collaboration, we and the other research team members met on a regular basis and kept in touch via email and telephone conversations. Doing so was not always easy because regular communication and open access felt burdensome to both advocates and researchers. From the interviews, we learned that the activists, in particular the community organizers who joined us intermittently, often felt that meetings and the open communication were a “waste of time.” Even when they acknowl-

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edged the importance of research to the project, they worried that it wasted precious resources: simultaneously necessary, even useful, but frustrating. No matter how much goodwill there may be, the roles of researchers and advocates are distinct, as is evident from our description of the debate about the critique of low-income homeownership. The importance of a “broker” was mentioned several times in our interviews. We have already noted how the lobbyist served as a “translator.” Several of the WCRP team members spoke of the importance of the prior relationship that one of them had with a researcher from another university who was able to smooth over and mediate the conflicts, misunderstandings, and distrust that emerged in their somewhat rocky collaboration. In our study, one of the WCRP team members also spoke of the role that one of us played in serving as a bridge between the academics and the activists, redirecting the conversation when communication broke down. In all of the examples that the activists provided, the broker relies on a quasi-friendship in facilitating communication that helps mediate conflicts. Another helpful measure in mediating tensions was WCRP’s decision to hire a lobbyist with a research background and expertise in housing policy to act as a translator between the researchers and outsiders, whether they were policymakers or homeowners. The lobbyist told us that her role was “to know what would be persuasive to the politicians we needed to move” and “to put very technical details into sound bites.” She clarified: “[WCRP] also had done a prior academic study on housing affordability, and they were distressed when it was over that they didn’t have a document that they could use that their constituents could read, process, and move on. . . . So [WCRP] actually put me in the grant request to write a translation paper.” The “translation paper” (WCRP, ACORN, and United Communities Southeast Philadelphia 2005), based mainly on the original report but also on additional research conducted by the lobbyist, was the primary advocacy tool for WCRP and was distributed widely among WCRP’s constituents. Translating is not only about language. WCRP team members noted the importance of personal relationships in mediating conflicts, misunderstandings, and distrust that emerged in the collaboration. One type of mediation or brokering concerned roles and functions. For example, one of the organizers said that another activist “saw the importance of [research and advocacy] and so was able to bring both perspectives in while also challenging the research to be in line with what we were doing and what we care about.” She likewise noted what we call “role affinities” shared by the qualitative researcher and community organizers: “I felt that [the qualitative researcher] saw, really

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saw, the importance of working with people in the qualitative piece in your research that is very connected to the work that we do on an everyday basis.” Successful brokering can also be facilitated by a collaborative process that fosters ongoing relationships. When one advocate was asked why he felt that our process was so important to the success of our collaboration, he recalled our regular meetings, in which part of our time was spent in informal, personal networking and conversation. Indeed, conversations that began with “Do you know . . . ?” not only ended with research leads, but also demonstrated that our relationships were not just about getting the work done. They were part of a broader relationship-building process. This connectedness fostered a willingness “to stick it out when tensions run high.” According to the funding agent, tensions are inevitable in researcher–advocate collaborations, and “the best collaborators are those who are comfortable with the process and the tensions so that they will stick it out and negotiate through the rough spots.” Connectedness is an important component of building trust. When communication faltered or we became frustrated, we could express our discontent with the knowledge that our partners would listen. Against a backdrop of trust, tensions, rather than festering the process, bore fruit: “I’ve come to see tension as a really positive thing. . . . [T]ensions exist whether or not people talk about them. [What makes one able to work through the tensions] is not being afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. And I felt like in the meetings mostly that people said what they needed to say even if it might have been hurtful—not hurtful, but might have been dismissive of another perspective. And I don’t think it was done in a disrespectful way, but it was just honest.” Regular meetings gave us the chance to mull things over and the knowledge that there would be future opportunities to talk if a meeting ended on a more contentious note. Our collaboration was structured to make the “translation” between researchers and advocates ongoing. WCRP’s questions about the interim reports that we researchers produced led us to reexamine our own assumptions. They also served as a feedback loop, ensuring that our research remained relevant.

Different Roles, Mutual Trust From the outset of this particular research project, it was important to clarify the researchers’ roles and interests. We, as researchers, were mindful of our

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role as collaborators who were involved in the project at the request of our community partners to help them play a critical role in the policy process. Our collaboration proved to be hospitable to combining sound research with committed advocacy. Rather than a situation in which each participating group takes away from the other, we eventually discovered that as advocates and researchers we complemented each other. The conditions described here and the collaborative structures that both researchers and advocates put into place created the right sort of synergy. We credit this synergy to our mutual willingness to think creatively together and the advocate partners’ prior experiences with such collaborative ventures. There were ups and downs in the relationship, to be sure. Researchers and activists had differing perspectives that grew from their different roles. Before the outset of the research, the activists who contracted our services as researchers were clear about what they wanted us to find—or, rather, what they want us to prove for them—so that they could take our results to authorities, and the results would be given more weight and legitimacy. It would have undermined our own professional integrity, however, to take an exclusively instrumental approach to the research. This concern for our craft brings some level of detachment not from the subject matter, but from the goal. It is not objectivity because who we are, our intellectual curiosity, our politics, and our values come to bear, but our technique and our training give us a different perspective. It is this difference, to some extent, that led to our choice to become academics who use our academic training for activism (among other things) rather than to be full-time activists. This difference is also part of the reason that social scientists can lend legitimacy to activism. We would like to believe that the degrees we hold and the role we play are not merely or even chiefly to confer legitimacy, but rather to serve as an expression of our commitment to the intellectual community of our peers and others beyond our working group. Once inside a participatory project, academic researchers are exposed to power differentials within organizations and between organizations and the constituents they serve. In the particular case discussed here, this tension remained largely unexplored until the interviews we conducted with our partners, when we learned that WCRP team members had different visions of the project and that at WCRP (as in any organization) there was a hierarchy of knowledge and control. This hierarchy was exemplified in the question of access to constituents. From the outset, we requested to speak to homeowners, despite the fact that WCRP directed us to interview high-level city and program officials and the staff of community organizations. We were even-

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tually given contact information for only three homeowners to interview in depth. At various times, there was also talk of our coming to a neighborhood meeting, but we were never involved in the planning to ensure that we could attend one during the course of the collaboration. Later, during the interviews, we found out that some WCRP activists did not want us to speak directly to homeowners but preferred that WCRP remain the only direct link to the homeowners. In contrast, we heard from other WCRP staff that they would have liked us to speak to homeowners. One staff member talked of the initial survey as taking something from the neighborhood and thought that there should be some reciprocity; this person believed that one way of giving back would be to talk about our findings in order to give people the “weapon” of knowledge and the affirmation that “they are not crazy” by validating that what they know “with their emotions” is also a “reality” that others can see from the outside. The contradiction among these three positions is interesting: organizers who wanted us to speak to homeowners; our own putative but not well-articulated desire to talk to homeowners; and a reticence on the part of higherlevel WCRP decision makers to bring together the academic researchers and the homeowners. Although these differences may have been a source of tension in our project, they also proved to be positive. We “surprised” our collaborators by bringing them new information when they explicitly told us that they had not in fact expected us to learn new things about the home-repair problems we studied. The research process ended up producing surprises for us as well. The advocates’ persuasive rationale for adhering to their agenda grounded in what people in the community believed about why homeownership is important to them made us view our data through a different lens and suggested alternative ways of interpreting our findings.

Conclusion Collaborative research models are based on the premise that all aspects of research with academic research partners are always open for renegotiation. This premise was taken to an extreme level in our contract research structure when WCRP, the contracting agency, retained the decision-making power in its own hands. We researchers could make requests, but WCRP called the shots. We sometimes worried that the power imbalance had tipped too far in

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the other direction, and we felt the need to make sure that our integrity as researchers was not compromised. Academics, however, do hold the power of knowledge, and to a large extent WCRP’s desire to retain control through the contractual process was balanced by our expertise. We believe that this area is important for future collaborations to consider explicitly: Who retains power over which decisions, and how are differences to be negotiated when satisfactory resolutions are not readily apparent? The interviews we conducted with advocates and others helped us better conceptualize how researchers and advocates understand and negotiate their distinct roles in collaborative projects. They shed light on how social scientists can engage in fruitful collaborations with community advocates. Close collaboration between community advocates and academic researchers raises more general questions about the relationship between social scientists and the public sphere. The primary goal of the advocates involved in our collaborative study was to challenge existing policy to provide more and better home-repair services to low-income Philadelphia homeowners. Our goals as researchers were somewhat more complex. Social scientists’ primary contribution is their ability to “complicate” debates about specific social problems, practices, and discourses both by looking closely at the relevant empirical facts as well as by asking what these facts mean (Shdaimah and Stahl 2006, drawing on Geertz 1995). Rather than just describing social phenomena, social scientists should develop knowledge that is praxis relevant. Engaging in collaborations with community-based advocates is a particularly effective way to do so. Bent Flyvbjerg represents this position when he argues for a return to relevance in the social sciences. “The goal . . . is to help restore social science to its classical position as a practical, intellectual activity aimed at clarifying the problems, risks, and possibilities we face as humans and societies, and at contributing to social and political praxis” (2001, 4). The broader significance of our home-repair study and similar researcher– community advocate collaborations should be seen in light of recent debates calling for a relevant social science research that contributes to public debate about public problems (Burawoy 2005; Dominelli 1997; Piven 2000; Schram and Caterino 2006; Shapiro 2005; Strier 2007). Social scientists should actively contribute to debates about real social problems rather than merely provide objective empirical facts and then let political players and policymakers worry about substantive solutions to complex problems. In a social science that seeks to contribute to improving social conditions, knowledge production is the means toward this end rather than the end itself.

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Collaborative approaches are well suited to study social problems because they force researchers to engage with people who encounter such problems on a daily basis. If nothing else, collaborations with community groups force researchers to acknowledge the complexity and situatedness of real-world research topics that researchers study. Yet collaboration is easier said than done. When we asked our community partners to assess the value of the collaboration between researchers and advocates in our home-repair study, we learned—not surprisingly—that collaborations between academics and community groups require careful matching of expectations in the initial stages and the maintenance of a trusting relationship throughout the collaborative process. Doing both is frequently time consuming and frustrating. Our case study suggests, however, that the collaborative process is well worth the effort and frustration and that it can contribute to more effective research and a greater political impact in advocacy endeavors.

Discussion Questions This chapter discussed some of the tensions that arise in working in a diverse research collaborative. 1. What were some of the sources of tensions here? 2. How might such tensions impede the research process? 3. How might such tensions affect the research that is produced? 4. What do you think we mean when we assert that tensions can be fruitful? 5. How do we strike a balance between encouraging fruitful tensions and unproductive or harmful confrontation? 6. What skills do social workers have that might contribute to the success of collaborative partnerships? 7. How might social work approaches help to downplay or minimize the contributions that such tensions can make? 8. We have provided some techniques that helped to make our collaboration work. (a) What other techniques might be helpful? (b) Not all techniques work in all situations. What kind of techniques have you used in collaborative ventures or group situations to cope productively with tensions?

8 A Model for Collaborative Research We did the legislative breakfast, the breakfast with City Council after the report was finished and it’s kind of how we put the report out there. Not long after there was a vote of City Council on a budget and the home repair budget was increased more than it had ever been increased in the past. And that was directly out of the people who were affected by the issue. And so to me that is a way of matching research and knowledge with building the leadership of every one of us who are part of that in a way that has a future. It is really about the leadership for that campaign but also the leadership for any campaign that comes in the future. —WCRP executive director

The story of our research with WCRP serves as a case study that illuminates how researchers can play a meaningful role in social change initiatives. Our story suggests that to carry out that role effectively, researchers might need to adapt their understanding of how to conduct research. Rather than clinging to models of social research that postulate objectivity as the absolute goal of knowledge production, researchers interested in facilitating social change should think about the benefits gained by collaborating with people who are seeking changes. This chapter offers a model for doing just that. Broadly speaking, we can identify three different approaches to research. The first, which we refer to as “conventional research,” is the approach adopted by most academics and academic disciplines. It calls for the production of objective knowledge about social problems. The second, which we refer to as “community-organizing research,” is the approach that many community organizers take. This approach is rooted largely in power analysis that focuses on understanding the power relationships among those who can affect change related to a specific social problem. The third model, which we call “change research,” is what we propose here for academics and organizers who are interested in collaborating to make a difference in the real world. This third

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model has roots in both the academic community and among community organizers. Our concept of change research draws on our own experiences in practicing research with WCRP and its partners. It relates to the growing literature in conventional and community-organizing research that seeks to find a way to modify both of those methods. It reflects a deep commitment to academic research and community activism in order to make both more relevant and compelling (Fine 2005; Naples 2003).

Conventional Research What we refer to as “conventional research” grows out of an academic environment. Research in such an environment is planned and conducted largely by experts who are trained in research of their particular disciplines. As we noted earlier, academic research in the social sciences originated from the dominant paradigm that emphasizes learning about social problems in an objective, dispassionate manner in order to better understand them. As Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and other early social scientists believed, such an understanding would help us determine how to ameliorate social problems using solutions that would be recognized as rational, regardless of personal philosophies (and today we might say regardless of political persuasion or alliance). As we discussed in chapter 1, we now have more than one hundred years of social science and philosophy of science questioning the basis of objectivity even in the physical sciences, the model that much social science aspires to (see, among others, Feyeraband 1975; Kuhn 1962; and Toulmin 2001). Such critiques question the concept of objectivity and the ability to come to an agreed upon understanding of social problems, their causes, and how best to address them. Stephen Toulmin (2001) and Bent Flyvbjerg (2001) in particular have effectively highlighted how the social sciences are better equipped to provide knowledge that addresses specific problems rather than to produce universal truths about the human condition. Such problem-driven research is more likely to be both credible and useable. Working with people in communities to research the specific problems they confront is entirely consistent with these critical perspectives that suggest the social sciences should give up the dream of producing decontextualized objective knowledge that has universal applicability. For Toulmin (2001), this does not mean we should give up the quest for universal rationality, but that we would be better off if the social sciences worked to right the balance between the emphasis on gen-

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eralizable knowledge and contextual reasoning. Social science research that pursues the quest for universal rationality at the expense of helping inform contextual reasoning might be grand in its ambitions, but it foregoes what it is arguably better suited for: helping people understand their particular circumstances and what to do about them. Academic researchers undoubtedly can use research to pursue goals that are specific to their academic contexts. These goals include pursuing knowledge in a field of interest, furthering or maintaining careers, and working with colleagues. Academics are supposed to be open to unexpected findings and are not supposed to be invested in particular outcomes. Social sciences are scientific in that they use empirical evidence in a systematic and transparent manner to better understand the social world. In this more limited sense, conventional social science offers its own model for critical reflection, which is openness to learning the unexpected. This is a good model for those who wish to do any kind of social research, including PAR or CBPR (Lennett and Colten 1999). Critical reflection has also taught us to be humble about scientific endeavors. We must be suspicious of all knowledge claims, so the basic tenets of research integrity require that we be transparent about our commitments and viewpoints. Most researchers are located in academic institutions, where high value is placed on contributing to generalizable knowledge. In helping professions such as social work, there has been a push toward developing a research base to enhance our abilities to help others and reduce our chances of doing harm (see chapter 1 for a discussion of evidence-based practice). Development of knowledge in the academy is purportedly for the greater good, and many researchers strive for this result. However, knowledge production is also influenced by the desire for professional recognition, career maintenance, and advancement. Consequently, the conventional model has a subjective bias in favor of universalistic, decontextualized knowledge that is ostensibly independent of the perspectives, values, and biases of the people being studied. Any research that naively claims to be independent of particular perspectives, values, or biases in fact makes such research susceptible to infiltration by the biases of those who seek to control and dominate the people being studied (Schram 1995). Given the biases of conventional academic research, engaged research has been looked down upon and marginalized in many disciplines. Junior faculty are discouraged from participatory research in a variety of ways (Cancian 1993). The time- and resource-intensive nature of engaged research is further

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disincentive, particularly when such research is less likely to be funded. Academics are also often under pressure to publish in major journals, which emphasize decontextualized research instead of the addressing of specific practical problems. Research inevitably becomes more focused on understanding key concepts such as “development” and “resilience” rather than producing knowledge on how to further development and resilience in particular communities. Researchers who forego the former for the latter risk being seen as not serious about their scholarship. Many academics consider collaborative research the “weak sister” of the social sciences. This attitude reflects a male bias that objective, detached research is better; it also leads to the unfortunate consequence that social science research is less often helpful to ordinary people attempting to address the problems they confront in their daily lives, communities, and policymaking endeavors (Fonow and Cook 2005).

Community-Organizing Research Community organizers approach research from a different perspective and have often been vocal critics of academic researchers, particularly for their aspirations of neutrality and disengagement. Saul Alinsky, longtime icon of radical community organizing, gives one of the more extreme presentations of the way that activists view academics in his preface to the vintage edition of Reveille for Radicals: “I still feel the same contempt for and still reject socalled objective decisions made without passion and anger. Objectivity, like the claim that one is nonpartisan or reasonable, is usually a defensive posture used by those who fear involvement in the passions, partisanships, conflicts, and changes that make up life; they fear life. An ‘objective’ decision is generally lifeless. It is academic and the word ‘academic’ is a synonym for irrelevant” (1989, ix). Many community organizations and activists, as we have noted, use research in service of specific goals that they have already set. Once a problem has been identified, possibly through research such as the kind that WCRP engages in, there is no further need for research except in the service of “proving” the problems identified by constituents. In fact, community members or advocates may remain ambivalent toward research throughout the research process. First, research itself is resource intensive. Given the choice to invest money and personnel on research or on activities that appear to have more tangible results and purposes, such as organizing, canvassing, lobbying,

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demonstrating, outreach, and education, organizations and activists may see research more as a luxury for armchair activists (or academics). Even if other resources exist, activists are more influenced by the immediacy and pressure of unmet needs (what has been famously called “brutal need” in the 1970 U.S Supreme Court case on welfare rights Goldberg vs. Kelly [397 U.S. 254 (1970)]). People oppressed by poverty and marginalization may not want to delay action in order to carry out research. Research also brings with it the danger of unknown findings or findings that may portray an otherwise sympathetic group in a negative light (Lennett and Colten 1999). These findings can derail or jeopardize advocacy efforts and may shake constituents’ or supporters’ certainty. Power analysis is a popular form of research among community activists (Gecan 2002). It is often used secondarily once a goal has already been identified. Some of the differences between academic research and power analysis are revealed when we examine what community organizers write to describe the way we use research to help further strategic goals. Power is a central con­ cept in both community organizing and advocacy for social change. For any given solution to a problem, advocates must analyze who has the power to give them what they are seeking. Organizations that want to make the most of their capacity, experience, and size must be able to analyze their own power in relation to their ability to win a given goal. Michael Gecan, a long-time community organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation, organized by Saul Alinsky, effectively states the role of power analysis in describing his response to an inquiry: The assistant to a university president called. We had scheduled a meeting with the president, and the assistant was preparing a briefing sheet for him. She had already done some research on us, so she began by saying that she understood our group was a kind of community development organization. I said it was no such thing. It was a power organization. . . . It would have been easier to let her description—innocently offered and partly true— stand. Just as it would be easier to explain to any curious person or inquiring reader that we are a housing organization, an education reform coalition, or a faith-based group. We would then fit more neatly into the current map of the world. . . . When you say that you seek power, want power, you are heading into terra incognita. You are no longer a do-gooder holding hands with your brothers and sisters and singing “Kumbaya.” . . . Of course, then you stop

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being a spectator, a critic, or a high-minded activist with a rational analysis, supporting data, and six enlightened recommendations. . . . You enter the arena and place yourself squarely in the mix—as a fellow owner of what may or may not happen, as someone willing to be held accountable, not just hold others accountable. You become more engaged, more suspect, more threatening, and more exposed. . . . That’s why, when we are called by the neighborhood or religious leaders of a city, we tell them that we won’t come to solve a housing problem or an education problem or a lowwage problem. No, we say we’ll try to help them solve a more fundamental problem—a power problem. No matter how terrible the conditions may be and no matter how intense the current crisis, we will spend a year or two or three with them not addressing these immediate and important issues and concerns. We’ll use that time to build the organization and develop a firm base of power, so that the groups will someday have the punch and impact needed to instigate and preserve lasting change. (2002, 7–9, emphasis in the original)

One of the first steps to building an organization that can operate from a base of power is to analyze the existing political, economic, social, and cultural terrain. By doing so, we can see where power lies, how it is activated, by whom, and to what effect. Power analysis is the main form of research for organizers such as Michael Gecan, and it is critical to their successes. Yet advocates also engage in other forms of research, including conventional data collection designed to understand the contours of a specific problem in a particular setting so that they can decide how to act in that case (Bobo, Kendall, and Max 1996). Activists and organizers often use research instrumentally as an organizing tool. Our interviews with institutional stakeholders in the Philadelphia housing context provide a good example of this use. Although these interviews were helpful for us in learning about the problem and formulating our report, most of them elicited information that WCRP knew or that they could easily access. So having a member of the research team interview stakeholders was not solely about gathering and interpreting information. Perhaps as important from our advocate partners’ perspective, those interviews gave “notice” to these high-level stakeholders that WCRP, ACORN, and United Communities were on the trail and that they were serious. The community organizations had hired us (Schram with the assistance of Shdaimah and Stahl) as supposedly neutral expert researchers (who were not experts on housing) to examine their programs, assess the

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claims they made, and examine their goals more broadly against the backdrop of the city and in comparison to other cities. These sorts of interviews show that research can not only find out about power and problems as they currently exist, but also be an enactment of power. Researchers can help challenge those power relationships in the name of promoting change by addressing a specific social problem in a specific place and time, as with affordable housing in Philadelphia in the current period. But community organizers’ emphasis on power and organizing may at times be overdone. Whereas mainstream academic research rarely looks at power and the political context in a way that makes much of a difference for society, community-organizing and power analysis overly amplifies power, especially of public officials and community leaders. It undervalues the importance (the power, if you will) of academic research. Barbara Cruikshank (1999) and Clarissa Hayward (2000) have noted that the study of power all too often is tied to overly optimistic notions about how much freedom people have to affect the structure of political, economic, and social relations. Rather than focusing on who has power, it is often better to understand how a situation is structured. The latter approach takes the focus from who created the problem or should be held responsible and turns the light on how can we understand problems in ways that enable us to do something about them. The power analysis of community organizing, with its emphasis on relationships, can be combined with realpolitik and the more detached stance of academic scholarship to make change. Research on the problem can heighten consciousness and mobilize concern within and outside of the policy process by focusing on the structure of the situation and what to do about it. This sort of research in and of itself is its own form of power that can leverage change. The more actors know about a problem, the more likely they will be predisposed to act on it (Haskell 2000). Research on topics of concern can change how community members think about problems they face. It can help reframe what are considered private troubles as public problems, thus making them a legitimate object of concern to be addressed by the policy process (Mills 1959).

A Change Research Stance There is growing recognition among both practitioners of conventional social science research and activists who engage in power analysis that there are deficiencies in their respective methods. As we have noted, the politically

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savvy WCRP has come to recognize the value of research in its campaigns. It distinguishes between the advocacy research that it does internally and the conventional research that policymakers view as “legitimate,” with the imprimatur of scientific rigor. Even if not objective in the conventional social science sense, outside research that is characterized by a critical and more distanced perspective includes the possibility of the unexpected and the unflattering. Funders such as the WPF also realize the impact and importance of credible research by outsiders and are calling for partnerships that force advocates to work with researchers. With more and more calls for accountability, and with the shrinking of the generally available pool of funds in the current economic crisis, advocacy groups will need to pay attention to different forms of research. In the academy and beyond, there is a growing discontent with research that has no impact or, worse, that has a negative impact on people and communities (Berk and Rossi 1999; Hasenfeld, Hill, and Weaver 2002). Across disciplines, as we have noted, scholars are seeking to engage in work that is meaningful beyond their own careers and disciplinary concerns (Flyvbjerg 2001; Naples 2003). Funding concerns reach into universities as well. Why should state and federal governments support research that does not contribute to the general welfare of people and communities? Yet many academics, even if they are well intentioned, are poorly situated to engage with communities (Strand et al. 2003). They may have skill sets and temperaments that are suitable for research (and possibly even teaching), but not for work in community settings. Researchers who want to make a difference are drawn to community organizers and other advocates and activists to help them achieve relevance and understand active political and social arenas in ways that can enhance the impact of their work. A good example is the work of Barbara Ferman, a political scientist at Temple University. She is the founder and director of the University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia (UCCP), started in the late 1990s with the objective of leveraging some of the university’s research resources for community purposes. One poignant summary of UCCP’s efforts states: Recruiting a colleague from the Fox School of Business, T. L. Hill, UCCP worked with grass roots and other community-based organizations, supplying the research that could aid in their advocacy, program development and/or fundraising activities. Most of the projects addressed community development issues (e.g., affordable housing, commercial corridor revital-

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ization). Approximately seven years ago, UCCP began working in the area of youth civic engagement, a development that grew out of a concerted collaboration with a colleague at Loyola University of Chicago, Dr. Philip Nyden, who heads the Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), around cross city community-driven policy work. It was also inspired by recurring complaints by community leaders: There was a decline in the number of younger leaders to replace them. Nyden and Ferman also noticed that foundations working on youth were interested in their work, so they put together a proposal that blossomed into a very good program. The program was called Youth VOICES, and it was created initially with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. “The idea was that the young participants would engage in research for policy change.” (“Scholarship in Service of Community Enrichment” 2007)

The UCCP’s initiative is a sign of progress. It implies that succession planning has come to collaborative, community-based research. This remarkable development signals the maturation of the field as well as the creativity of academics such as Ferman who imagine the need for a new crop of community leaders who understand how and why research may be useful. These partnerships with academic researchers on projects are a model of research-informed community-change initiatives. These initiatives highlight how academic research can make a difference in community on multiple levels, from studying problems to recruiting the next generation of leaders. They also set a starting point for new community leaders who come to be connected to the academy early on in their careers, creating even more potential for similar partnerships in the future. More research on the relationship of researchers to community activists can help improve these partnerships and lead to initiatives like the one undertaken by Ferman’s UCCP. UCCP’s efforts underscore the fact that academics and activists are now recognizing and responding to the forces that shape their different roles and agendas (Strand et al. 2003). Despite institutional pressures and varied understandings of the role of motivations, people from both groups are trying to piece out how to work together in ways that help them tap into power together for shared (if sometimes different) purposes. Doing so requires balancing power between them, which they will negotiate differently in different collaborations. In fact, power analysis within collaborations is therefore crucial to the success of collaborative research projects and to ongoing working relationships between activists and academics.

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To conduct a power analysis of our own collaboration with the WCRP, we focused on the flashpoints in the partnership. For this analysis, we emphasized the mutually beneficial nature of the power dynamic: our working with activists and advocates helped both us and them acquire more power. Power is often, as we have noted, structural and subtle (Hawkesworth 2006) and not just the perceptible forcing of one’s intent over another. Knowledge can be a form of power, enabling those who obtain it to influence public discourse (Foucault [1977] 1995; Gusfield 1981). Research can be like a ticket of admission to the policy process that allows excluded groups to be heard because they have information that is relevant to the policymaking process. Once policymakers see that there are competing lenses to view a policy, alternative responses become more plausible (Schram and Soss 2001). Research that is informed by the alternative perspectives that community groups provide can be an important impetus for reframing how a public problem is viewed by actors in the policy process and thus for shifting the focus of the debate. Collaborative, community-based PAR therefore can be its own source of power in the policy process. Change research provides a useful middle ground between detached academic study of social problems and community organizing that proceeds without in-depth study of the specific problem it seeks to address. It offers a way to be relevant without being rash. It studies problems in their specific form in a particular context or situation so that actors struggling to address that problem can attack it in a more informed way. It suggests responses that are tailored to the needs of those working to address problems as they experience them. A core aspect of change research is that it requires researchers as well as community members to adopt a specific outlook on the potential and the limitations of conventional research. One major reconsideration of conventional research involves paying closer attention to the people being studied. Although this change need not take the form of deep immersion that some cultural anthropologists or political ethnographers practice when they choose to live among community collaborators (Schatz 2009), it does involve getting to know community partners in terms of how they experience the problem that a researcher studies. How do they define the problems they study? How would they want to remedy the problem? How do they think that studying the problem might help them address it? Taking this premise seriously means that all potential constituents of a research project—especially those who have the fewest resources—should have a say in its development and the use of its results.

Table 8.1  Creating Guidelines for Your Change Research Project Project Process Guidelines elements

Identifying the Change Who are the members (institutions, individuals, perceived or Research Team actual constituents)? What are their respective skills and knowledge base? What are their respective roles for this project? What institutional, funding, or political supports or hurdles might exist? Setting Up the Change What level of communication is there? Research Process What methods of communication are used (emails, meetings, phone conversations)? What is the frequency of communication? What kinds of information or decisions should be discussed? How are decisions made (consensus, majority, veto, final say)? What are the budget and funding sources? Who has the power to decide (might be different for different decisions)? How, when, and why may decisions be revisited? What is the process for requesting and conveying information or knowledge that may be necessary for informed decision making? Clarifying the What is the problem? Research Question(s) Who is affected by it? What do we already know about it (from the literature, from advocates, from community members)? What is the public perception/framing of this problem? Who has the power to do something about it? Identifying Appropriate What method can best answer our research question(s)? Research Methods What resources or limitations do we have (financial, time, individual expertise, access)? What tools are available to use (database, data analysis tools, recording equipment)? What kind(s) of research does our target audience find most persuasive? What strategic benefits, if any, might be derived? That is, can the method also serve organizing, empowerment, or publicity goals? Implementing the Who carries out which tasks (based on expertise, access, time, Research training)? What is necessary for implementation (interviewing skills, data entry, background knowledge about a particular community or political environment)? Who will provide the training? When and how will it be provided (timeline, process for reporting progress)? Creating a Who needs to know about the plan? Dissemination Plan Who can do something about it? Who might benefit from the knowledge? What form of information should be provided to particular audiences (depending on attention span, forum [popular media, public hearings, election debate, rally])? What is the audience’s level of education and knowledge about the problem?

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Table 8.1  Creating Guidelines for Your Change Research Project  (continued) Project Process Guidelines elements

What components of the problem are the target individual/group most interested in and able to do something about? Who in the group can best communicate the relevant information to each relevant audience? Who has knowledge, clarity, charisma, perceived standing/legitimacy/sway with that audience?

Collaboration with the constituents of a research project is the lynchpin of change research. It can be mutually beneficial to the research and the advocacy. James Jennings (2009) has aptly noted that when researchers rely on the people working for change to inform their research, they gain key informants who have firsthand knowledge of the issue being studied. Including firsthand perspectives in the framing of the research, allowing community members’ voices to be heard in the discussion of the substance of the problem, and relying on constituents to help interpret the data collected can make the researcher more knowledgeable and the research more informative. Collaboration makes research more robust. Yet collaboration also works to benefit advocacy by making it more thoughtful given that it is based on a thorough study of the problem at hand. Change research also has its own challenges, though. Who exactly is included in collaboration and how the collaboration is structured depend on the specific context, the goals, and the available resources of all involved constituents. In the following sections, we discuss various aspects of creating and implementing a change research project. Table 8.1 contains a list of guidelines that may be useful to researchers and advocates to set up their own change research projects.

Developing Research Questions The development of research questions is a crucial step in a change research project. Although this may be true for any type of research, the consequences of not clarifying the research questions carefully can be more problematic in a change research project. Researchers who conduct noncollaborative research and have failed to work out their research questions properly will eventually have to remedy their omissions. Doing so will likely

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cause some conflict among members of an academic research team or a few sleepless nights for a single researcher. The same will be true for a change research project team, but because a change research team consists of people who have different perspectives, resources, and agendas regarding the project at hand, any type of conflict will likely be more complex and will require more time and resources. Such challenges may also be more intense in change research projects, where the goals are generally more immediate and concrete. It is a good idea, therefore, for all members of a change research team— including community members—to invest enough time and effort into carefully clarifying the research questions. As a first step in this process, it is important to determine what the team already knows about the problem and what it needs to know. To do so, they need a thorough handle on the available literature, including the results and methods of empirical studies previously conducted on the same or similar problems as well as the theoretical perspectives that have guided previous research. This, of course, is a basic step in any research project, conventional or other. In a change research project, one important type of knowledge is added: the everyday knowledge of the research team’s community members. This type of knowledge consists of everything that communities (through their different representatives) know for sure, kind of know, are unsure of, believe, hope for, and so forth. Working through these different types of knowledge and then figuring out what kinds of questions should follow from it will test the commitment to collaboration in any change research team. It is at this point that the different perspectives of academic researchers and their community partners will often become apparent. An effective way for the research team to approach the research-development process is to try to explain why they want to know more about a particular issue in addition to what they want to know more about. If they really want to understand their research questions, they need to be able to provide a clear rationale as to why they want to study them. In the social sciences, questions are frequently grounded in unspoken assumptions or theories related to why something is or is not the way those concerned about it would like it to be. In our own collaboration with WCRP, this meant that we agreed that lowincome homeowners were most likely to be overwhelmed by the challenge of maintaining their homes because they did not have the necessary resources to do so. And because we were troubled by this situation, we also agreed that these homeowners should be provided with the necessary means to maintain

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their houses. Two research questions followed from these two premises: (1) Why were homeowners overwhelmed with maintaining their homes? and (2) What would it take to help them? Once unspoken assumptions are considered, researchers and community collaborators must keep in mind that they may have different agendas when it comes to articulating what the problem is and what should be done about it. In most projects, community members will be much less interested in carefully analyzing the problem because what they really want is to get to the necessary remedies, which they may even have in mind from the outset. Researchers, in contrast, are trained to be very careful when analyzing a particular problem and less likely to have particular remedies in mind during the stage of problem investigation. Researchers know that practical and experienced-based knowledge might not capture all aspects of a particular problem because practical and experience-based knowledge are highly dependent on context and goals and are therefore selective. But the difference between academic researchers’ and community members’ agendas can be productive. When these different agendas are integrated constructively during a collaborative process, they together become one of the strengths of a change research project. However, at one point or another— the earlier the better—the difference between ideas about what should be changed and the research questions developed for a particular project should be clarified. This is an important step in the initial phase of a change research project. Recognizing these differences in approach then allows the entire research team to understand and articulate why they chose certain research questions over others.

Choosing Methods Another important aspect of planning any study is choosing the best methods to answer the questions. The choice of methods in change research projects is driven by the problems being confronted and the goals that community activists and academic researchers set. They are “problem driven” as opposed to “theory driven” (Shapiro 2005). As a consequence, we believe that the focus on choosing between interpretive methods that emphasize understanding what things subjectively mean to people and positivistic methods that focus on specifying objective causes is misplaced. Collaborative PAR should be focused instead on using whatever different methods, separately

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or jointly, are necessary to best understand and address the specific problem at hand (Flyvbjerg 2001). The goal is not to refine techniques or to build more elaborate theories. It is to help facilitate change in a particular instance, so researchers must be willing to use whatever methods help provide greater understanding and awareness of various dimensions of the problem. Whether hierarchical linear modeling produces “truer” knowledge than a grounded-theory approach to analyzing data is irrelevant without regard to what kind of knowledge is sought and the agreed upon goals for the project. Based on this understanding, the research partners can then ask: (1) Is the chosen method both efficient and effective in providing answers to the problem-driven research questions being asked? (2) Are the resources available that enable the research team to use a particular method (methodological skills, technical resources such as statistical computer software, resources such as time and money)? and (3) Are these methods compatible with the research project’s goals? The answers to each of these questions might not lead to the same methods of research, but all must be considered and assessed as members of a collaborative research team decide which methods to employ. These multiple questions that particular collaborative research teams must answer in specific contexts mean that no one method of data collection is inherently better than another. Methods are tools that are used to do a job, much like a screwdriver. It makes no sense to ask a carpenter whether a screwdriver is good or bad. It is good if the problem is one that can be solved with screws, and if using it will cause no unintended harm. It is bad if the task at hand is to saw a piece of wood in half. Different methods—whether they are sample surveys, experiments, or in-depth interviews—imply different understandings of what is happening in the social world and can contribute to our understanding of particular topics. The choice of methods is more about which methods of data collection will best help inform understanding of the specific topic and whether they are suited for the agreed upon goals. The choice must also be informed by what consequences different methods might have in relation to chosen values and goals, such as whether certain methods might be practiced in ways that empower or disempower marginalized groups (Shdaimah 2009c). All members of the collaborative research team should weigh such considerations, and special heed should be paid to the concerns of the community partners who are struggling to ameliorate the oppressive conditions they confront.

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IMPLEMENTING THE RESEARCH PROJECT In conventional research, the design of the study is clarified before the project actually starts. In change research projects that take place in complex political arenas, in contrast, it is frequently impossible for members of a research team to grasp all aspects of a problem completely before beginning to study it. Planning a study will frequently overlap with implementing a study. This overlap may seem inconsistent with the traditional insistence on the importance of clarifying the research questions before implementing the project. However, dialogue is necessary both in setting up a change research project and in carrying out the process of research, which in a real-life setting is ongoing and dynamic. Political, social, and economic climates as well as resources, unintended and intended consequences, and agendas in the real world change; change research projects take this fact into account and provide a framework for evolving with these circumstances and amending themselves as the collaborators learn. A collaborative team adapts the research process according to how its members view and discuss interim results (figure 8.1). In our collaboration with WCRP, adaptations happened frequently because neither the researchers nor the community activists knew all possible aspects of low-income homeowners’ maintenance problems in Philadelphia. As a consequence, we added several detailed questions to the project during implementation. In one case, we decided to look at additional survey data in order to be able to answer new questions that our findings raised. In other words, revising a research plan is frequently called for in change research projects because problems or phenomena are studied close to the ground rather than from an abstract distance. This means that context matters a great deal. Because context is really another word for real life, the problems or phenomena under investigation are complex. The research team must consider changes that occur on the periphery of a change research project, such as policy changes at the local level. Although they may not be able influence such changes, they should consider how such changes may affect the implementation plan of a study and what adaptation can be made in response. Adapting the research plan while a study is implemented is not unique to change research projects. In qualitative research, it is common practice to adapt questions or to follow serendipitous leads to methodological changes, as in the case when an interview study leads a researcher to conduct observations at a respondent’s suggestion. Adapting a research plan during implementation, much like developing the research questions at the outset of a study, requires adequate time and resources. Change research projects must therefore at the outset of

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figure 8.1  The Change Research Process

a project include some flexibility in deliverables and allocate time and other resources to potential alterations of the research design. Change research is of necessity dynamic. It needs to adjust its focus, switch its methods, and collect different types of data depending on how partnerships evolve and the advocacy agenda morphs in light of ongoing political developments. If research is actually to speak truth to power, researchers must be willing to adapt to shifts associated with the strategies for challenging power. Research is not something that can be taken “off the shelf.” The

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entire research process is assimilated to the advocacy process, and change researchers must be willing to move with the twists and turns associated with advocating for change. Research should never be seen as something that can be redone just to accommodate changing political circumstances. Change researchers are bounded by their professional commitments and research integrity; within these boundaries, however, they commit to a flexibility not provided within conventional research models. This makes change research a resource-intensive and unpredictable activity, but one that can pay bigger dividends in helping address social problems.

Creating Hospitable Environments for  Change Research Whether change research will be a viable reality for most academic researchers is highly dependent on the extent to which it is respected and allowed to flourish within institutional structures and disciplines. We have seen signs that forms of collaborative research are increasingly welcome in the academy. Although we have encountered some resistance to our work, we also have been able to publish in respected journals and have seen other signs of receptivity from colleagues and mainstream research institutions. As we noted, calls for the more limited CBPR abound, and the National Institutes of Health (2006) have adopted this practice as worthy of support. In this section, we provide a number of suggestions for fostering a receptive academic environment in order to increase acceptance where institutional structures and practices in the academy continue to present hurdles to the more political forms of PAR. In the classroom, educators can incorporate readings that discuss collaborative forms of research and supplement these readings with stories or documentaries from the field. Such examples might be of change research; they can also be of community groups that conduct their own research and advocacy, which highlight them as potential partners. We offer this book as one such resource. Use of materials that model change research helps students imagine how it might be done and what challenges they might face should they become researchers who work with community groups or should they become community organizers or administrators in agencies or grassroots organizations. The promotion and use of these materials also send a message to students that change research is accepted and legitimate in the eyes of authority figures (their instructors) and the university. Faculty can support student

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social change efforts that are compatible with change research efforts, such as those highlighted in the recent NASW News (Sfiligoj 2009), and can help students tie such projects to research. More difficult than making changes inside the classroom with students who might be open to change research is winning over the larger institutional forces that conspire, often more subtly, against change research. Hiring and promotion practices in many universities send messages about what kind of research is valued (Cancian 1993). In schools of social work, the research valued has increasingly been focused on sophisticated, decontextualized quantitative methods. Particularly at self-described research institutions, faculty members are encouraged to favor large grants over teaching and collaborative work with community groups. What is often referred to as “community service” is relatively undervalued in tenure processes for research-oriented universities (Belcher, Pecukonis, and Knight 2011). We have been supported in our own efforts, and here we outline how we have been assisted in our own pursuit of change research. Mentoring has been crucial. Sandy has mentored both Corey and Roland. Kindred spirits and mentoring senior faculty at each of our institutions have encouraged our work and advised us on how to describe it so that it would be viewed as acceptable to other audiences and decision makers. Support from our respective deans and administrators has also been crucial to our ability to carry out change research, especially when our community partners have little or no funding for that research. This support has come in the form of student research assistantships and flexible faculty spending accounts that can be used for collaborative projects or conference travel. Each of us has been able to devise courses where we engage students in change research of varying levels of collaboration as part of our regular teaching load. These courses afford students the opportunity to learn by doing while receiving course credit, and they leverage resources for our community partners. It is also crucial for us, as change researchers, to create this path for others. We must take it upon ourselves to remind our institutions and, when we are in positions of authority such as hiring or tenuring committees, to explain to our colleagues that change research is legitimate and that it can be assessed for quality according to its own standards. We must also help junior colleagues identify funding, creative ways of leveraging resources, and journals where they can publish their work. Academics interested in change research must be aware of other institutional hurdles that may impinge on change research efforts and learn how

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to navigate them. Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), designed to protect vulnerable populations and ensure the equitable and benign practice of research (U.S. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects 1978), are required to review all research involving human subjects at any institution that receives federal money. IRBs often unwittingly impede change research efforts desired by the very populations they are designed to protect. Drawing from our experiences with our own institutions, such hurdles have taken several forms. Long waiting times for review can stretch from four weeks to several months; such timelines might be unrealistic for our organizational partners, who require flexibility and may have more immediate needs. Some IRBs also require all members of the research team, no matter what their role on the team, to complete extensive training and assessment. When no alternative mechanisms exist to assess grassroots organizers’ or community members’ understanding of research-related ethical principles and concerns, these hurdles may be insurmountable and thus impede their involvement in an academic project. These hurdles may also take the form of community partners’ levels of literacy or access to computers, neither of which should preclude them from participating in research endeavors. IRBs may hold up projects due to their own lack of familiarity with participatory methods, such as photo voice techniques (Thompson et al. 2008). This lack of familiarity leads to more careful scrutiny and requests for clarifications and amendments to which conventional researchers are rarely subject. Last, IRBs may seek to exert their jurisdiction over activities that may not fall under the category of research with human subjects, and differences of opinion regarding whether a given project qualifies can take precious time and may delay or even completely derail collaborative research projects. We do not suggest that IRB members (Corey serves on her university IRB) shirk their responsibility. It is important, however, for IRBs to be flexible and to make sure that their commitment to ensure the safety and inclusion of vulnerable populations does not become a hurdle to these populations’ inclusion in research projects as investigators and not just as subjects. The hurdles that we have described here are pervasive and in need of exploration, as evidenced by the formation of a cross-institutional “collaborative group at work developing a curriculum for IRB members that identifies and explores ethical issues in Community-Engaged Research” (Eder 2009). Academics interested in change research must become involved with IRBs and help them understand and navigate the challenges that change research involves and create

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practices that will foster inclusion and participation without compromising the IRBs’ mission.

Allocating Resources Like participants in most other projects, collaborative research partners have to develop a plan that structures the allocation of resources. Developing a budget and finding funds for a research project may be considered a tedious endeavor. However, it is a crucial part of accomplishing research goals and setting priorities that can be chosen depending on these available resources. A rich literature provides information on fund-raising and proposal writing to acquire the necessary resources to conduct a research project (Bray 2008; Ogden and Goldberg 2002). Resource concerns that can affect the contributions of collaborative research require clarification of participants’ obligations. Collaborative projects often employ both volunteer and paid contributions. Because the people selected by a community to serve as its representatives in a research team may not participate in a professional capacity, it is important to recognize that they may have other overriding commitments, such as paid employment or family obligations. Although academic researchers will most likely be paid for their participation in a research project, they too might have other obligations, such as teaching or publication, which require them to plan their involvement carefully. Members of a collaborative research team should candidly discuss why certain team members will get paid for their work and others will not as well as the different motivations, interests, and expectations that drive their work. In the best of circumstances, it will be possible to pay all members commensurate with the investment required to complete their tasks. If this is not possible, the research team will have to develop and agree upon a financial (and time) resources budget. Creating such a budget is vital in order to conduct realistic change research projects that are as efficient and effective as possible. If any of the team members or the community at large feel that he or she is being shortchanged, undervalued, or unfairly burdened, resentment and other problems in the collaborative process will almost certainly ensue. Even when remuneration is not a concern, advocate partners might be driven by different motivations and interests. According to one of our advocate partners in the Philadelphia home-repair study, collaborative projects work best when they are compatible with both researchers’ and advocates’

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self-interest. She cautioned us that it was important for us and for WCRP, in thinking about partnerships, to explore these interests: So I don’t want to reduce it, but I think it comes down to self-interest. And maybe I’ve been brainwashed by the organizers that I know, but I think that we can be of use to each other. . . . And so there are some criteria that I’m conscious of and some that I’m not conscious of that helped me select an academic partner. Or anyone who is a partner in research, a partner in the coalition. I just think you have to be so aware of your own self-interest. Like what it is you want to do in your career, why your publishing is important, or why your teaching is important, and what you want to convey. You all know that. And we know there are these things that come up over and over again and haunt us. And we have to have answers to them.

Explicit discussion of how potential projects might tap into partners’ existing interests and motivations can help partners navigate their collaborations more successfully. Interests are often related to the knowledge and the skills that change research team members bring to the table. Identifying and inventorying areas of expertise and talent at the outset of a project enable team members to contribute as much as possible to the project and to decide whether additional outside expertise has to be acquired to handle a particular aspect of the project. It will usually be the case that the community collaborators have a more indepth and detailed understanding of the particular problem that afflicts their community because they live with it on a day-to-day basis. They know the relevant people, the structure of the community, and facets of the problem that researchers will not know to explore. Researchers, however, are trained to think about the problem in a systematic manner and can contribute to in-depth analysis. They assist communities in trying to differentiate between causes and consequences of a particular situation as well as to think about the broader context, other potential constituents, and distribution of various resources in and around a community. It is also likely that researchers have greater access to the literature and empirical evidence available concerning a particular problem. Skills refer to the abilities required to conduct a research project. The most important set of skills that academic researchers bring to the table in a change research project are their methodological and data-collection expertise. In other words, researchers know how to collect and analyze data in a fashion

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that makes research more credible on methodological grounds because they have knowledge that helps them choose appropriate methods and identify and mitigate potential data collection problems. Their expertise and dialogue with their community of peers also require researchers to report and explain methodological choices and limitations; such transparency enhances the credibility of research and enables other researchers and stakeholders, such as policymakers, to assess its value. Community members’ expertise regarding their community and the problems it faces is also crucial to the development and implementation of a change research project. As mentioned, community members know how their community works and how best to engage or organize that community. The combination of these two types of knowledge enables methodologically appropriate decisions that are not only scientifically sound, but feasible. If researchers learn from community members on a project team how the community works, for example, they will know who to approach in a community, when to knock on doors (and when not to), and how to pose a research problem that will yield information. Activists, organizers, and community members on a team may also provide access when other community members do not want to talk to outside researchers. Communitybased members of the research team can broker initial contacts or can provide the ongoing facilitation necessary to implement the study. Our collaborators told us that in their initial work with academics, they viewed academic researchers as a tool. The more they worked with researchers, however, the more they came to appreciate the skills that researchers bring to the table. They viewed these skills as supplemental to their own expertise in community and advocacy. As one of our advocate partners told us, I remember feeling like this data needs to prove what we feel needs to happen, which is that there has to be more money for affordable housing. Like we know every day people are suffering—some terribly suffering because they don’t have enough affordable housing. So we just need a researcher who can show this. And I think, over time, doing research like that first research project that we did with Penn, it just helped me see where the data comes from, what you can get, what you can’t get. How hard it is to really be clear that you don’t have an answer before you know it. You know, I think I had to slow down and say, “You know there’s some things I don’t know. I don’t care how deep I am in any community—there’s some questions that I may have assumptions about that are happening for some reason, and I really need to step back for a minute.”

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Just as our advocate partners viewed our expertise as a central component of the work they wanted to do, we viewed the opportunity to work with grassroots activists as a fundamental part of the project we envisioned. This opportunity enhanced the relevance of our contribution and deepened our understanding of the topics we studied. The mutual appreciation and interdependence that grew from our respective knowledge bases and expertise deepened over time.

Trust and Power The challenges of change research go beyond technical matters of how to participate in the research process. There is also a social–psychological dimension to change research. Change research involves a different sort of sensibility about how partners think about their involvement in the research process. The overarching aspect of change research is attitudinal. As we have indicated, research in real settings with actual people in a dynamic environment cannot be reduced to a template. Therefore, the most important characteristic of change research is the stance with which researchers and their advocate partners approach each other. The two groups must approach change research with an openness and a willingness not just to change policies that they confront, but to be changed by each other. In this sense, collaborative research is similar to organizing—it involves serious reflection dedicated to developing interpersonal relationships rather than the Kumbaya-like cooperation that glosses over important and fruitful tensions (Gecan 2001). Without openness to learning from each other, the core value of collaborative, community-based change research will be lost. Change research partners can draw on their mutual respect for (if not always agreement with) each other’s professional knowledge, commitments, and ways of making sense in order to weather the difficult moments and disagreements that will inevitably arrive. Mutual respect and a commitment to learning from one another sets up a framework according to which all other recommendations or plans can and should be modified as the research progresses; this is the only inviolable prescription for change research that may not be compromised without irreparably altering the process. All of our other recommendations remain at the level of suggestions, if for no other reason than the fundamental insight from our own experience with change research is that the research must be conducted provisionally, with sensitivity to context and with a focus on the relevance of the research to the

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community partners’ change efforts. Change research is all about fitting into efforts to bring about meaningful change that makes a difference. It forgoes the attempt to produce universal truths and decontextualized knowledge and instead seeks to help address social problems in specific contexts, settings, and communities. Change research, given its ties to the people involved in specific change initiatives, is a dynamic and cooperative undertaking that requires communication early and often among all the diverse participants involved. This communication should happen at the initial stages, and partners should clarify and be open and honest about their goals as well as their concerns. It might be helpful for advocates and academics to inform each other about their “silent” stakeholders—that is, those who influence the advocates and academics’ work even if they are not apparent participants in the project. For advocates, such silent stakeholders might include board members or funders to whom they have obligations or with whom they have an influential relationship. For researchers, they might include students or other faculty or administrators.

Commitments, Obligations, and Negotiations  in the Home-Repair Study We now draw from our collaborative study to highlight the theoretical points and practical advice provided in the previous sections. Our commitments prior to the Philadelphia collaboration were to being good scholars and to retaining the respect of our colleagues, journals, and the academy more generally. Would other academics evaluate our research as good? Would the journals accept our research as publishable when we submitted it for review? Since the end of our participation in the research project, the answers to these questions have not always been positive. But we have also found a receptive audience for social science research that makes a difference, and we have come in contact with communities of colleagues across academic disciplines who are grappling with similar questions and concerns. Our research is not mainstream, but there are practitioners and academics alike who accept collaborative work not only as a legitimate paradigm according to social science standards, but also as an academic pursuit that helps to validate social science itself as a worthwhile and productive social endeavor. We have learned that academics as well as advocates must examine and follow their commitments and convictions despite concerns about audience and the receptivity to their

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work. Although such concerns should not be ignored, they are only part of the landscape for decision making in change research. Our Philadelphia partners’ prior commitments proved equally thorny. They had commitments to their clients, constituent groups, funders, and others that often led them to hesitate when it came to thinking about what we should research and how. The undue influence of private philanthropic foundations over social research inside and outside the academy has received growing critical scrutiny (O’Connor 2007; Roelofs 2003). One meeting with WPF officials early on in the home-repair study research process underscored the complexity of this relationship. WPF officials were very much caught up in the growing popularity in the foundation world, centered at the Ford Foundation, of “asset building” as the solution to poverty (see Miller-Adams 2002 and Sherraden 1991; for a critique, see Schram 2006). Homeownership was seen as the main way for low-income families to build assets in the United States and thus to become middle class (Miller-Adams 2002; Sherraden 2005). It was claimed to produce all kinds of positive changes in the behavior of low-income families and communities from better school performance by children to increased voting participation by parents (see, for instance, Manturuk, Lindblad, and Quercia 2008). WPF officials wanted to fund research associated with the PAHC’s advocacy and suggested the home-repair focus as compatible with its own interest in home ownership as a way of building assets among low-income families and thereby improving these families’ chances of becoming middle class. Foundations’ interest in homeownership as asset building suggests the conservative biases that are reflected in foundation funding practices (Roelofs 2003). Foundations want to use their resources to promote change and address social problems; however, many are also equally concerned to do so in ways that are consonant with the dominant values of society. They tend to promote moderate reform and try to avoid exacerbating political conflict. Most foundations will not fund research to better understand how to improve organizing workers in unions, for instance. Foundations therefore tend to be agents of promoting reform in ways that displace more radical change efforts. They view favorably those asset-building projects that help low-income families act in ways consistent with middle-class work and family values. This change strategy is entirely consistent with the dominant biases of society as it is currently structured (Schram 2006). It is not surprising that asset-building and homeownership initiatives have been popular projects among foundations in recent years, at least until the mortgage meltdown of 2007–2008.

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The mortgage meltdown was in no small part due to pushing risky and ultimately unaffordable “subprime,” adjustable, and other unconventional mortgages on low-income families who really could not afford them. There was undoubtedly much deceit and illegality in the attempts to get often illinformed borrowers to sign on the dotted line. Yet the idea that low-income families would necessarily benefit from owning homes, often of poor quality and in economically questionable neighborhoods, was itself in need of questioning (Baker 2008). What Dean Baker (2008) has called the “homeownership ideology” is deeply embedded in American culture and has served as a cornerstone of U.S. public policy. President George W. Bush proclaimed that promoting homeownership was his major housing policy (Goldstein 2004). Liberals joined with conservatives in pushing for increased homeownership among low-income families, as witnessed by policies that had their roots in Bill Clinton’s presidency. The evidence that homeownership by low-income families in poor neighborhoods will improve their socioeconomic standing has been under critical scrutiny for a long time, however (see Denton 2001). This scrutiny did not stop foundations such as the WPF from jumping on the asset-building bandwagon and seeking to tie research to efforts promoting homeownership. WCRP advocates recognized that the focus on homeownership was part of the price of getting funding from the larger foundations and so treated it appropriately. They were never seduced by this homeownership ideology. They knew quite well the housing situation in Philadelphia and the unusually high rates of low-income homeownership in Philadelphia compared to other cities. Therefore, the alternative idea that home repair should be part of the solution to increasing affordable housing in the city made sense to them. In this way, WCRP operated under the WPF funding constraints and the latter’s commitment to the homeownership ideology; WCRP also saw how it could maneuver within those constraints to participate in a funded research project that would further its own advocacy goals. The “homeownership ideology” constraint flowing from the WPF to the WCRP and then to our own research project was one of the major sources of communication problems in our project. This example highlights the need for open dialogue among the partners in a change research project. Because researchers and advocates are often engaged in activities that the other group may not fully comprehend, both must be willing to explain their choices. Both groups must thus have patience with questions that might seem to have obvious answers to them or that might be interpreted as challenging their

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authority. Change research partners have to set aside such interpretations and recognize that fundamental and apparently basic questions and dialogue are necessary for informed, collective decision making. Such questions and dialogue also impact trust and mutual respect. Explaining or justifying oneself to a collaborator conveys a sense of that partner’s worthiness and acknowledges the centrality of the partner’s role in the shared process. As problems arise, open channels of communication ensure the continuation of collaborative rather than degeneration into a conflict of wills or movement in a direction that is unsatisfying to one side or the other. Such communication takes time and effort. As we have noted, relationship development, trust building, and common commitments create added incentive to work out differences. All three are maintained and fostered by communication. Ongoing meetings worked for us in our Philadelphia collaboration, as did frequent email and telephone communication when necessary. Continual communication allows no conflict or misunderstanding to grow too big. It also allows for more frequent input and the raising of questions so that all the partners can be more aware of and participate in a greater number of decisionmaking points. Not everyone needs to meet all the time; in the Philadelphia project, there were layers and levels of communication among those working together closely, and fuller meetings were held approximately once a month during the more intensive phases of the project. The place where meetings were held also rotated: inviting others onto one’s “turf” and being willing to go to another’s turf are also means of conveying respect and enhancing the understanding of each other’s settings and work context. Change research is of necessity predicated on researchers’ willingness to abdicate privilege and to participate in arenas where they do not traditionally have much power. The power dynamics in change research can be more complex than they are in traditional research. The effectiveness of change research is also predicated on advocates’ willingness to make themselves and their constituents vulnerable to what is done with the academic researchers’ findings and expertise. Advocates and researchers’ willingness to work together rather than to strong-arm one another is a distinctive difference of participatory methods (see Hasenfeld, Hill, and Weaver 2002; Strand et al. 2003). Mechanisms have to be created for power sharing and be built in to all stages of the research process. Although advocates and researchers may be able to identify loci of power outside themselves, they may be less willing and able to turn their gaze inward. However, the two groups’ different agendas, commitments, and trainings give rise to conflict and are also manifestations

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of power (Abu-Lughod 1990). Discussions about power and power sharing should take place in the earliest stages of the research. Indeed, power struggles often do take place at this point, although they may not be recognized as such. Explicit discussion is necessary in order to understand whether any one party has control over various phases of the research process and how differences might be settled. Mechanisms that ensure a level of equality or voice to all, no matter where the raw power lies, are essential to change research. Again, the issue of funding is noteworthy. In our project, WCRP held the purse strings; it was the recipient of funds from WPF, and our research work was as a result subcontracted. In our meetings with WCRP’s attorneys, some power dynamics emerged in the determination of how payments would be scheduled and in the organization’s request of project “deliverables” or milestones that must be met before payments would be made. Funding does loom large, both in our specific case study and in collaborative change research more generally. Yet it can be overemphasized. Although some might assume that the power of money trumps all, WCRP advocates had prior experiences that taught them this was not the case. They were confident that they could maneuver around or within the constraints posed by funding. They wanted to make sure that we would agree to work with them in this way throughout the advocacy process. We agreed that we would (and could) remain independent of the influences or pressures of other stakeholders such as WPF and city government. They told us that they were hesitant to choose more experienced housing researchers because they were concerned about preexisting ties to city agencies and funding sources that might make such experts reluctant to criticize city policy or agencies. As discussed earlier, this was one reason that they were not uncomfortable with our lack of expertise in the field of housing; it put us all on a more level playing field as learners. The WCRP advocates’ vast knowledge of Philadelphia politics, the housing activist community, and housing in the city that they had attained from years of working in the field balanced well with our knowledge and expertise in the research arena and with our knowledge regarding poverty policy more generally. This balance in knowledge meant that both groups were more mutually dependent than might otherwise be the case, which we believe made a positive contribution to the research project because it created a more even balance of power among the collaborators. The mutual dependence manifested in our project highlighted the fact that power sharing involves the willingness to relinquish controls. Communicating knowledge and rationales, although necessary, is not sufficient.

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Power sharing requires taking this next step and allowing for decisions to be made jointly. Each group in our collaboration allowed the other to influence research decisions at all stages, from beginning to end. Both groups shared the decisions regarding what questions to ask what databases and which informants to choose and participated in open analysis, a process that is normally the province of researchers. Many shared decisions, such as which city officials to interview, were the result of shared brainstorming and negotiation that drew on our mutually informing expertise. Real power sharing must rest on mutual trust and respect. Power sharing cannot go so far as to allow advocates to compromise the legitimacy and rigor of research. Researchers should not use their expertise as an automatic or false trump, however, and should carefully consider all input to try to incorporate advocates’ concerns. If trust is there, advocates will know that researchers will listen to them and do what they can and that they will set lines and boundaries only where necessary rather than automatically or for reasons of expedience. For their part, advocates must also be willing to listen to researchers’ concerns. In our case, we needed to show that we could be trusted before WCRP would allow us to talk to their constituents and to do work in the organization’s name. Altering strategies based on our assessments of what could and could not be claimed legitimately from a research perspective meant that they too had to entertain our concerns, and we had to trust their strategic political concerns as thoughtful and necessary rather than dismiss them from a research perspective. Change research requires a willingness to share power and to recognize that, based on shared goals, researchers and advocates can work to combine their power to enhance their shared potential to create meaningful change.

Creating a Lasting Partnership: Why and  What It Signifies In spite of the tensions associated with our partnership, its value was proven when WCRP requested that we establish an ongoing relationship with the agency independent of the efforts associated with the push to get the Affordable Housing Trust Fund enacted. One of our advocate partners described the potential value of ongoing relationships to WCRP: It would be great if we could establish [an ongoing] relationship, and I don’t know what it would take. Like lots of times we don’t have the time for

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a student to work on a student project. Although we do some of that. But I think having a relationship with either graduate students or you as a professor. Well, you had some money, you had some time. You know maybe each issue wouldn’t be perfect for you, but I really like still having your advice around it—if we needed to go with a [consultant] or pair up with someone who’s not an academic partner, sometimes having your eyes would be good. . . . [F]iguring out a way to establish a kind of relationship with a kind of, you know, sometimes you pay your lawyer in advance, and you get to show them things every month.

Based on mutual interest and benefit, Bryn Mawr students now conduct research projects with WCRP to help advocates address issues in Philadelphia. Student projects have helped illuminate the zoning process in the city, detail the rate of gentrification, and chart tax increases the WCRP target neighborhood. More research projects are being planned all the time. Students learn about the challenges of conducting collaborative, communitybased research while also learning about the challenges of producing affordable housing for low-income families in a housing market that often ignores them. The agency benefits from having researchers who are dedicated to their agenda. We see the continuing relationship as evidence that the original research partnership was mutually beneficial rather than exploitive. A lasting partnership shows that both the advocates and the researchers are committed to giving back to each other what they gained from the original relationship. This important consideration for any research collaboration is unfortunately all too often overlooked. We were keen to demonstrate our commitment to promoting our researcher partners’ well-being, and they reciprocated by giving our students opportunities to learn and giving us access to data and their stories. Yet the challenges of doing it right continued even into this latest phase of our collaboration. The chair of the Bryn Mawr IRB inquired whether the students should have to file their research projects for review. Upon reflection, it was decided that requiring the students to conform to Bryn Mawr’s research protocols might potentially undermine the idea that they were being directed by WCRP rather than by Bryn Mawr. The students’ participation was an opportunity to learn that the community partner was the one in charge and that the students should take its direction on how to do their research properly. Student researchers were to offer their research skills to help the agency find out what it needed to know so it could advocate for its clients more effectively.

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The chair of the Bryn Mawr IRB accepted this description of the research and the reasoning behind it, so the project continues to be structured in ways that afford students an opportunity to learn what it means to engage in change research. In the first semester of this exchange, WCRP questioned the value of initial presentations of the work. The director, rather than superficially praising the students and writing off what she saw as an incomplete exploration, pushed the students to think more fully how their research related to WCRP’s concerns. After a difficult round of discussions, some feelings of discouragement, and some changes, the final reports proved more useful to WCRP, and the process was a more fruitful learning experience for the students.

Conclusion Change research offers a distinctive alternative to conventional social research. A central component of this alternative approach involves collecting and interpreting data in ways that may appear the same as those of conventional research. The hallmark of change research is not so much in its methods, but in its stance. It is not designed to produce universal truths about human behavior or social relationships, nor is it best done in a detached way in the service of producing allegedly objective knowledge. It is collaborative, community based, and participatory. Unlike but not incompatible with other forms of participatory research, change research is also distinguished by its goal of changing the way academics think about and do research. This chapter offers guidelines to make change research effective on its own terms. An important part of that process is to recognize that change research is always relational, even if it varies in its specific context and setting or in the particular human relationships that are formed in any given research project. Sensitivity to the importance of relationships that are based on open dialogue is essential. Such sensitivity includes respect for each partner’s potential contributions and motivations as well as awareness of the institutional and resource-related stumbling blocks that each partner may face and the way all of these factors impact the collaboration. Change research partners must be flexible without feeling the need to compromise their own ethical and intellectual commitments. Change research has its own sensibility and its own ethos. Embracing that ethos starts with being committed to collaboration. Efforts to produce knowledge and change things for the better will benefit when that sensibility is adopted and that ethos is embraced.

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Discussion Questions 1. Describe the main features of conventional academic research, community-organizing research, and change research. 2. Think of an example of a problem in the policy arena at any level. How might you use each of the three kinds of research in tackling this problem? (a) Using conventional academic research, what might you be able to do with your results? (b) Using community-organizing research, what might you be able to do with your results? (c) Using change research, what might you be able to do with your results? (d) How does each of these kinds of research compare with the others? (e) What are the advantages and limitations of each? 3. What are the kinds of resources and skills required for each? 4. What social work and other skills would contribute to successful change research?


In 1936, Karl Mannheim published an important book entitled Ideology and Utopia: A Contribution to the Sociology of Knowledge. In this book, Mannheim argued that because politicians were so overcome by bias and prejudice, public policy ought to be made through a process of democratic planning that featured experts who relied on knowledge grounded in objective research. Mannheim himself, however, had consistently noted the existence of a “sociology of knowledge” that limited all knowledge to the place and time in which it was created, thereby making it less than perfectly objective. The aspiration to rise above politics in spite of the impossibility of doing so is a perennial notion. The wish to replace politics as the basis for public policy and instead rely on objective knowledge was something that Max Weber had thought hard about at the beginning of the twentieth century. Weber ([1918] 1946) worried that politics and science were distinct activities and could not be mixed easily. The desire to transcend politics with objective knowledge is even more deeply embedded in Western civilization. It is reminiscent of Plato’s republic, where philosopher kings rule. There power and knowledge are joined to ensure that the state will be governed in a wise and just way. Yet Plato’s republic ends in collapse. The continual failure to resolve this problem should give us pause when we think about what characterizes good research and its relationship to informing social work practice today. Can research and politics be fused? What happens to each when we combine them? What are the benefits as well as the losses? These questions have resounded through human history. They haunted Jane Addams as she went about creating her Chicago Hull House settlement, which became a precursor to modern social work. In her brilliant first book, Democracy and Social Ethics ([1902] 1991), Addams addressed these questions explicitly when she empha-

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sized that Hull House was a settlement with “sociological tendencies” (Deegan 1990, 11). She felt it was essential to be in collaboration with the people she wanted to help and to study. Neither endeavor, help or study, could be as strong as it needed to be without that collaboration. This view was entirely consistent with Addams’s feminist ethics, which saw social work as the responsibility of all citizens. Social work in this vision is more about relations of mutual aid than about rights to entitlement. The social bond was and arguably still is what constitutes citizenship. Foregrounding relationships enabled Addams to see how she could learn much from her “cosmopolitan neighbors” (Addams 1911, 256). Her work at Hull House is now finally being recognized as a conscious attempt to fuse knowledge and action explicitly in what today’s parlance labels collaborative, community-based PAR (Feagin and Vera 2001, 66). The case of Jane Addams suggests that if we want, we can peel back the blinders of today’s dominant social science paradigm and look back to the past to see that collaborative, community-based PAR focused on change has noteworthy precedents visible at the founding of the modern profession of social work. We can then begin to (re)envision how alternative forms of social research can be part of our toolkit as social workers involved with community advocacy initiatives. In recent years, social work as a profession has become preoccupied with proving it has the scientific base that it has long been accused of lacking (Ehrenreich 1985). The push toward EBP is but one aspect of the major recent trend in the profession toward adopting a stance of detachment from practice in order to establish that the research base for practice is independent and objective and is conducted according to standards of conventional social science. The legitimation that comes with such research is sought in large part to achieve recognition of social work as a profession with a scientific base for its practices. The implied hope is for the female-dominated profession to be taken more seriously. Social work will finally come to be seen as more than a bunch of caring women who act on the basis of their emotions to assist people in need. The concern for social work as a profession is legitimate, and the idea that practice should be based on more than intuition and emotion is equally legitimate. If we shed our compassion and value base in the process of pursuing such legitimate goals, however, we risk losing sight of the palpable reality that much of social work and social welfare is more generally in fact centered in people caring about and for each other (Stone 2008). It is for that reason and others outlined in this book that increasing calls for detached research should be subject to more intense debate than they are today.

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Once we allow mutual responsibility and caring back into social work research, we can see it cannot be separated from how people experience and feel about the problems being studied. We can then become more open to the idea that change research can add to our knowledge base and improve social work practice. When we contemplate how Addams and others are important precursors for engaged research, we need to contend with the way revisionist history complicates our understanding of their legacy. Jane Addams’s work at Hull House in Chicago in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has been subject to much debate, and her contributions have been given many different characterizations over time. Joe Feagin and Hernán Vera highlight how revisionist forces worked to marginalize the Addams model of research, and their scholarship does a great service in helping to recuperate this important antecedent to contemporary collaborative, community-based PAR: Conventionally, the department of sociology at the University of Chicago has been given credit for inventing empirical field sociology, particularly the social-demographic mapping of urban areas. Yet it is the women sociologists at Hull House who first developed this major research technique. In the Hull House Maps and Papers (1895), they collected extensive data on the urban areas of Chicago and analyzed it using detailed maps two decades before it became important in the work of male sociologists at the University of Chicago. Engaging in the first collaborative field research conducted by U.S. sociologists, they employed this technique for some years as a way of gathering and interpreting information on income, occupation, nationality, family size, and housing conditions. These data were used to help local residents understand community patterns in order to make better decisions, not to provide abstract data just for sociological analysis. Addams worked to get women of all class levels, be they rich or working class, involved in meetings and community organizing. She sought their advice and brought them onto the stage at gatherings, breaking down class and gender lines. The quality and importance of the research done by the Hull House researchers is evident in the more than fifty articles published between 1895 and 1935 in what was then the leading journal of sociology, the American Journal of Sociology. Some twenty-seven books by the Hull House researchers were reviewed in the journal. That is more than most contemporary social work schools can claim. Activists can be scholars and vice versa. The fact that the women sociologists were pioneers in empirical sociology was

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occasionally noted in the 1910s and 1920s by the men in the University of Chicago department of sociology, but later on these men criticized the early work as little more than social work or ignored it entirely. Subsequently, methods textbooks cited the method of demographic mapping as the invention of male sociologists at the University of Chicago. During World War I, a strong wave of political repression was aimed at radicals and liberal reformers. . . . This extensive political attack by government and private authorities on progressive dissent played an important role in generating and supporting the move to a more detached, academic and distancing social science. Even the urban settlement houses were seen as “radical” by local and national elites now obsessed with any challenges to the corporatist-capitalist system. Moreover, from this period to the present day, “any attempt of [sociologically oriented] community organizers to become involved in the development of militant grass-roots movements has been seen as a blatant disregard of professionally defined functions.” (2001, 66–67, quoting Jane Addams)

Feagin and Vera also write about W.  E.  B. DuBois, the path-breaking scholar-activist who was equally instrumental in creating modern empirical research that could address fundamental social problems. DuBois’s study entitled The Philadelphia Negro ([1899] 1995) is a classic example of how empirical social science research can be directed to address critical concerns. He went on to famously coin the term double consciousness as a poignant way to understand the way African Americans relate to the dominant white society in which they live. He reminded us that the color line was the major problem of the twentieth century. He worked for years inside and outside the academy to champion the cause of racial justice, but he often suffered professionally for his success in combining social science research and politics (Reed 1997). The lessons we have been taught by the marginalization of Jane Addams and W.  E.  B. DuBois may discourage social work researchers from participating in participatory change research projects. Although it is true that Addams was marginalized in large part because of her gender and pacifism, and DuBois suffered ostracism in the academy due to his race, their success in combining social science research and political activism was also problematic in its challenge to powerful interests and radical potential. Their stories undoubtedly have contributed to social work researchers’ skittishness about political involvement as the profession continues on a quest for professional

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legitimacy via the development of a scientific, objective, detached research foundation for professional practice. However, if we revisit Addams and DuBois’s histories with an eye to how their heroic endeavors demonstrated that engaged research could make a real difference in the lives of the people studied, we have reason to emulate the historic models they provide despite the potential risks and challenges. We can begin to distance ourselves from the prejudices of the dominant social science paradigm and become more willing to see how change research can play a major role in various social welfare initiatives and relate all forms of social work practice. Working with clients, patients, and subordinated groups in a number of areas of social work practice can lead to alternative forms of research that can improve practice from the bottom up. The major changes in orientation that are required to move to these alternative approaches are challenging, but they are entirely within our capacity to imagine and enact. The intellectual, theoretical, and ethical resources to do so lie in the history of the profession and in the models provided by giants such as Addams and DuBois and by many others in various areas of social work practice. In this book, we draw inspiration and example from these giants. We also draw inspiration and have learned from our community partners, who have taught us how and why change research matters to them. We have joined our partners in taking the risks that engaged practice inevitably involves. We did so with a sense of adventure and hope that our efforts would produce change and make a difference. We also did so with a commitment to learn from the mistakes that we recognized we would inevitably make. The challenge for all of us is both to look to our models from the past and to conduct engaged research now in spite of the institutional, professional, and political pressures to forget about these giants of the past or to dismiss them as misguided. Michael Reisch and Janice Andrews ask: “Is contemporary social work a (potentially) radical profession? Has it ever been and could it ever be?” (2002, 2). When we say that something is radical, we mean that it attempts to go to the root of a problem and in so doing serves as an engine of fundamental change instead of as a tool to shore up existing hierarchies and power structures. We believe that social work can be a radical profession dedicated to making the world a better place rather than one that is focused primarily on managing social problems within the status quo. When we include engaged, collaborative alternatives such as change research as one of the approaches that can improve policy and practice, we radicalize social work.

conclusion  177

Although mainstream social workers and society at large have never accepted social work’s radical side, our professional aspirations put radical social work as social work’s best face. Social work’s Code of Ethics and history tell us that social workers should strive to be a force for social justice. Radical social work is a legitimate heir to the profession’s original motivating ideals and remains an honorable, aspirational, and even inspirational pursuit. Therefore, all social work can benefit from the incorporation of engaged research that works with people on the bottom to help them gain voice to address the problems that confront them. This is arguably as true for clinical social work in its various modalities as it is for more community-based forms of social work practice. Clients, no matter how disadvantaged they are (or especially given how disadvantaged they are), can benefit from participation in engaged research efforts. In positioning community members as active subjects in the research process and not as mere objects of inquiry, engaged research empowers people to identify, study, and suggest solutions to the problems they face. This approach challenges the oppression that their status as clients unfortunately reinforces and that conventional research also helps reproduce by treating them primarily as objects to be studied, managed, or treated. Engagement with community constituents enables social workers to make our research true to the social work aspirations of fighting oppression, marginalization, disempowerment, and other attacks on human dignity and agency. The great feminist social theorist Dorothy Smith suggests that we must reposition research subjects as people who live and act in a social context and who have the expertise, skills, and commitment to know and act in the social world: Inquiry starts with the knower who is actually located; she is active; she is at work; she is connected with particular other people in various ways; she thinks, laughs, desires, sorrows, sings, curses, loves just here; she reads here. She watches television. Activities, feelings, experiences, hook her into extended social relations linking her activities to those of other people and in ways beyond her knowing. . . . The standpoint of women never leaves the actual. The knowing subject is always located in a particular spatial and temporal site, a particular configuration of the everyday/everynight world. Inquiry is directed towards exploring and explicating what she does not know—the social relations and organization pervading her world but invisible in it. (1990, 4)

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Full engagement with the people we seek to study and help requires positioning them as researchers and primary sources of knowledge. They are independent entities who can shape and produce knowledge about what we need to know and how rather than objects of the knowledge we seek to create. Ceding power to the people we think we are helping enhances our ability to take the position of the “other” and to see things as they do; we can understand the problems they confront in the ways that they experience them. Seeing through community members’ eyes is perhaps the most critical skill necessary for being a social worker, especially in an increasingly global and multicultural world. The challenge then is for us to imagine how collaborative change research can be possible and how it can be implemented in all areas of social work practice in particular instances. Change research need not replace conventional research methods. It can inform and guide all forms of research. It can help to overcome the latent biases of research that is falsely objective in its refusal to take sides and to leave intact the prevailing biases of society, institutional settings, and professional standards that structure social work practice and knowledge. If social work and other helping professions do not begin to take collaborative, community-based research more seriously, they risk exposing themselves to criticism for failing to live up to their own promises to empower people rather than to control them. The tide is currently moving very much in the latter direction with the growing importance of research in informing practice and the growing pressures to document effectiveness of practice with demonstrable research results. The structural forces at work to ignore people (especially when they are constructed as passive clients) and to do what impersonal research studies say are still powerful, but if research continues to gain sway over practice without the involvement of those affected by it, cries about hypocrisy in the social work profession and in the academy will only grow louder. One important way to counteract the emphasis on research without participation is to pay heed to the justifiable concerns these outcries express and to involve people more fully in research processes, from allowing them a voice in evaluating how they are being served to deciding what services they receive should be studied and how. Change research is therefore a politically potent activity, ripe for contributing to contemporary social change efforts. It is a form of radical incrementalism, where participation in small, incremental change efforts today can lay the basis for broader changes tomorrow (Schram 2002; Shdaimah 2009a). Change research characterized by collaboration with those working for social change can help make those change initiatives have broader reach and more

conclusion  179

lasting effects by adding an empirically detailed portrait that others can draw upon to model or build upon in the next go-round in that community or elsewhere. Change research can help build bridges across space and time to other communities and for initiatives yet to come. It is a critical ingredient in transforming local campaigns for immediate policy change into more lasting forms of social change. Promoting such work has its own risks, as we have detailed in our own story. Following our lead also has risks. It takes courage to challenge the prevailing biases of our chosen profession. As Jane Addams (1911) pointed out, fighting for social justice is not easy, nor should it make one comfortable or complacent. This book is designed to be a resource for those who identify with a radical social justice mission for social work and who would like to carry it out, at least in part, through a research agenda. We have provided intellectual, professional, and emotional resources for developing the courage to be researchers of a different sort—researchers who can work in allegiance with their community partners to produce the changes those people are seeking. Our book offers a form of research for change that also calls for a change in research. Research for change must respond to and with those who are affected by changes; otherwise, it cannot claim to be democratic or participatory. Opening up research to input at all phases is radical because it challenges hierarchies of control and privilege. It is also intelligent because it wisely seeks to learn from the people studied in ways that can empower them to obtain the changes they seek. Such research can be beneficial for both knowledge and action, serving both truth and justice. Such research goes to the core of what it means to be a social worker. It is research that is true to the better angels of this admirable profession. “Unfaithful angels” no more, social workers can be “black swans,” swimming upstream against the current, forging our way toward social change.

Discussion Questions 1. Some of the first early U.S. sociology and social work developed side by side. (a) How might they have influenced each other? (b) Why do you think that sociology, on the one hand, and other socalled social sciences and social work, on the other, have come to be seen as unrelated professions?

180 conclusion

(c) Why might either or both of the professions seek such distance? (d) Why might either or both of the professions seek a rapprochement? 2. Harry Specht and Mark Courtney (1994) have used the term unfaithful angels in speaking of social work’s turn away from social change toward work that reinforces the status quo. (a) To what mission do they think social workers and the social work are being unfaithful? (b) How does change research help to make social workers (and others) faithful angels instead?

Appendix A Resources for Doing Community-Based Research

•  Community-Campus Partnerships for Health ( provides the most comprehensive set of resources for learning about CBPR and not just for health-policy concerns. It includes definitions, tools and resources, and CBPR course syllabi. Most but not all summaries and links listed in this appendix come from this organization’s Web site. •  Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies ( cues.shtml) was established by the New York Academy of Medicine in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and with the cooperation of multiple collaborating institutions. The center’s purpose is to study social determinants of health using a CBPR approach, with an emphasis on investigating the role of social support and social cohesion. The geographical communities of focus are East and Central Harlem, areas where a substantial proportion of the residents are poor people of color. •  Center for Urban Research and Learning ( pro­ motes cooperation between Loyola University researchers and communitybased organizations, citywide organizations, social service agencies, health care providers, and government. The center recognizes the importance of working with communities and organizations in seeking new solutions to pressing urban problems. •  Colorado Community-Based Research Network ( is a network of university and college faculty, staff, and students; nonprofit and community-based organizations; and foundations interested in conducting community-based research that benefits the metro-Denver area. •  Community Linked Interdisciplinary Research ( has the mission of linking together community research needs in the public and private sectors with research expertise among University of Buffalo faculty to

182  appendix a: resources for doing community-based research

provide additional opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research that is of use to western New York industry, government, community groups, schools, and social service agencies. •  Community Research and Learning Network ( links up university faculty and students in the Washington, D.C., metro area with community-based organizations. Its Web site provides opportunities for researchers and community-based organizations to list their interests in CBPR and to find ways to work together. •  Davydd Greenwood is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University and one of the leading theorists regarding CBPR. More information about him and his publications can be found at http:// •  Detroit Community: Academic Urban Research Center (http://www.sph works to establish partnerships between the University of Michi­gan School of Public Health, the Detroit Health Department, and six community-based organizations so that they can work together to improve the quality of life of the communities on the eastern and southwestern sides of Detroit. •  East St. Louis Action Research Project ( estab­ lishes and nurtures mutually enhancing partnerships between communitybased organizations in distressed urban areas and students, staff, and faculty at the University of Illinois as well as on other campuses. •  Institute for Community Research ( index.htm) is an independent, nonprofit research organization in Hartford, Connecticut, dedicated to using research to promote equal access to health, education, and cultural resources in a diverse society. It collaborates with com­ munity and institutional partners in research and development to improve services, foster individual and community strengths, influence public policy, and contribute to social science theory and practice. •  James Jennings’ Advocacy Research ( reports.html), created by Tufts University planning professor James Jennings, explicitly practices community-based advocacy research in ways that demon­ strate how long-standing commitments to work with community groups can pay off for both the researcher and the groups. •  Just Connections ( invigorates grassroots democracy among residents of distressed mountain com­ munities by creating and using models for participatory research and service. •  Office of Community-Based Research at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (, is part of the university’s strate­gic

appendix a: resources for doing community-based research  183

vision of increasing civic engagement. It works toward democratizing knowledge, supporting community-driven research initiatives, and supporting students and faculty who are doing or who wish to do community-based research. •  Pam Oliver’s Advocacy Research ( racelinks.htm#ActivismPolicy), set up by University of Wisconsin sociology professor Pam Oliver, does advocacy research on race and in­car­ceration. It explicitly embraces an advocacy stance in ways that are refreshing and illuminating. •  Southeast Community Research Center ( was established to promote, facilitate, and conduct participatory and communitybased research throughout the southeastern United States. •  Toronto Community Based Research Network ( brings together community practitioners, academics, funders, and com­munity members from across the Greater Toronto Area who are or have been involved in CBPR projects. •  University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia (http://www.temple. edu/uccp/) conducts research on community engagement, best practices in youth leadership development, and university community collaboration. Much of this research is done in concert with community partners. It has been presented at local workshops as well as at professional conferences and has appeared in professional journals such as Journal of Urban Affairs, Political Economy of the Good Society Journal, and American Political Science Newsletter, among others.

appendix B American Housing Survey Definitions

The 1999 American Housing Survey defines home adequacy in three ways. A unit is severely inadequate if any of the following conditions exist: 1. The unit lacks complete plumbing facilities. 2. There were three or more heating equipment breakdowns lasting six hours or more in the past ninety days. 3. The unit has no electricity. 4. The electrical wiring is not concealed; working wall outlets are not present in every room; and fuses/breakers blew three or more times in the past ninety days. 5. Five or more of the following conditions exist:

outside water leaks inside water leaks holes in the floor cracks wider than a dime in the walls areas of peeling paint or plaster larger than eight and a half by   eleven inches rodents seen in the unit recently

6. All four of the following conditions exist:

no working light fixtures or no light fixtures at all in public hallways loose, broken, or missing steps in common stairways stair railings not firmly attached or no stair railings at all on stairs

appendix b: american housing survey definitions  185

three or more floors between the unit and the main entrance to the   building but no elevator

A unit is moderately inadequate if it is not severely inadequate and if any of the following conditions exist: 1. The unit lacks complete kitchen facilities. 2. There were three or more toilet breakdowns lasting six hours or more in the past ninety days. 3. An unvented room heater is the main heating equipment. 4. Three or four of the following conditions exist:

outside water leaks inside water leaks holes in the floor cracks wider than a dime in the walls areas of peeling paint or plaster larger than eight and a half by eleven   inches rodents seen in the unit recently

5. Three of the following conditions exist:

no working light fixtures or no light fixtures at all in public hallways loose, broken, or missing steps in common stairways stair railings not firmly attached or no stair railings on stairs at all three or more floors between the unit and the main entrance to the   building but no elevator

A unit is adequate if it is neither severely nor moderately inadequate.



1. The phrase “speak truth to power” is often traced to Quakers who opposed both sides of the Cold War. 4. Quantitative Data Analysis in a Collaboration Research Project

1. The AHS reports confidence intervals. Confidence intervals vary by sample size. The sample for Philadelphia is 530. The AHS used 90 percent confidence intervals. For the Philadelphia sample, an estimate of 10,000 homeowners would yield a 90 percent confidence interval of 5,400, meaning that the actual number might be between 4,600 and 15,400. (See U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999, appendix D, table X2, p. D-10.) 2. In the Year 29 Consolidated Plan, which was in force during the year when we conducted our research, the Philadelphia OHCD defined extremely low income as less than 30 percent of the median family income (2003, 12). 3. For evidence supporting Philadelphia’s BSRP as effective in preventing homelessness and abandonment, see Research for Democracy 2001, 31. 4. First, we took the average BSRP cost per home-repair task. The BSRP kept more thorough records by repair task or case rather than per home, and homes could receive multiple repairs. For estimating the costs per home, the best data the BSRP office had on this issue were an unpublished chart entitled “Costs per Property, as Seen from May 2001 Through April of 2002, Basic Systems Repair Program.” This chart indicates that during the annual 2001–2002 period there were 1,400 closed properties (not cases).

188  notes

5. “Everyday World Policy Analysis”

1. In this case, only some of the NTI funds represent an overall increase in BSRP funds. Of the $12 million dollars BSRP budgeted from NTI, only $5 million represent a net increase in the BSRP to fund Tier 2. The other $7 million were actually a swap between CDBG and NTI funds: $2.5 million went into adaptive modification, $2.5 million into rental rehab, and $5 million into an added childcare health and safety fund. CDBG moneys (instead of NTI funds) were used for these programs, and then NTI (instead of CDBG) funding went into BSRP instead. 2. Designation of repairs as “emergency repairs” also allows the city to waive federal lead-abatement requirements. Although this practice is an acknowledged concern, the requirement to address it would squeeze the budget and further reduce the city’s ability to make even the home repairs that BSRP currently provides. 3. Some “Tier 3” repairs were still reported for FY 29, but these repairs were in process prior to FY 29 and carried over. 4. All names used in this section are pseudonyms in order to protect confidentiality. 7. The Challenges of Doing Collaborative Research

1. Unless indicated otherwise, all quotes in this chapter are excerpts from our interviews with WCRP advocates and others involved in the home-repair study for low-income homeowners.


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Page numbers in italics indicate figures and illustrations.

Addams, Jane, 24–26, 31, 172–76, 179 advocacy: for Affordable Housing Trust

academic research: power analysis vs.,

Fund, 105–6; Hull House and, 26;

143, 145; social science research and,

for low-income home-repair, 66;

140; WCRP and, 57, 121–23

outcomes, 111–17; public-policy,

academic researcher, 123; activism and,

19; research and, 105–6, 118–19;

133, 135; advocates and, 127–29;

settlement houses and, 24; social work

community activism relationship with,

research and, 1; tool, CBPR as, 55;

147; involvement, in policy process, 105–11; knowledge pursuit of, 141;

WPF and, 55 advocacy campaign, of WCRP, 55, 57,

policy analysis and, 56; role of, 134–

132; low-income home-repair research

36; as tool, 161

role in, 59–62

accountability, 11, 27, 36, 44, 46, 49, 50, 146 ACORN. See Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

advocates, 163; academic researchers and, 127–29; interviews with, 124–26; for low-income home-repair, 66 affordable-housing campaign, in

action engagement, PAR for, 37

Philadelphia, 7, 8, 11, 59, 62;

action research. See participatory action

data analysis for, 60–61, 125, 129;

research activism, 8–9, 32, 128; academic

homeownership rates and, 65 Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of

researchers and, 133, 135;

Philadelphia, 7, 61, 116–17, 126, 168–

collaboration with, 83; community,

69; advocacy for, 105–6; establishment

140, 143, 147; grassroots, 53

of, 113; fund distribution by, 113–15;

Adaptive Modification program, 85, 88, 116

low-income home-repair and, 118; mortgage crisis and, 115; of

204  index

Affordable Housing Trust Fund (cont.) PAHC, 54, 64, 93, 104, 106, 164;

Baker, Dean, 165 Basic Systems Home Repair Program

Pennsylvania State Legislature and,

(BSRP), 64, 84, 99, 116; AHS vs.,

111; Philadelphia City Council

72–73; approval rate for, 94; budget

ordinance for, 111–15, 112

increase for, 125; cases and funding,

African Americans, 90, 175

77; CDBG, TANF, NTI funding for,

Agency for Healthcare Research and

89; CIU for, 94; contractor complaints

Quality, 33, 34

and, 95; demographic breakdown

AHS. See American Housing Survey

for, 90; eligible population profile of,

Alinsky, Saul, 142–44

74–75; homeless-prevention plan of,

American Housing Survey (AHS)

76, 79; home-repair problems of, 78,

(1999), 71, 90; BSRP vs., 72–73;

79; on housing quality, 73–74, 77, 78;

definitions in, 180–81; on housing

income-eligible homes, 72–73, 73;

quality, 73

L&I cooperation with, 92; pamphlets

American Journal of Sociology, 174

for, 91, 107–8, 109–10; policy process

American Political Science Newsletter, 185

for, 93–95; program tiers by cost and

analysis: data, for affordable housing

eligibility, 89; underfunding of, 76;

campaign, 60–61, 125, 129; everyday

waiting list for, 91

world policy, 83, 88–102; policy,

Black, Karen, 58–59, 107

29, 31, 56; power, 17, 139, 143–45,

black swan, 6, 179

147–48, 162–63

bottom-up research, 10–11, 57;

Andrews, Janice, 176

accountability of, 27; CBPR and,

anti-oppressive social work, 25

35; EBP and, 22; local knowledge

anti-oppressive social work research

and, 29; Nelson on, 30–31; public

(AOSWR), 17, 25; collaboration,

discourse for, 27; for public-policy, 29;

ethics and, 26

Schram on, 30–31; top down research

AOSWR. See anti-oppressive social work research

vs., 26–31; for WCRP, 66 Brewer, Rose, 28

Aronowitz, Stanley, 28

brokering, in collaborative process, 134

Asian population, 90

BSRP. See Basic Systems Home Repair

asset-building: government and, 66;


as poverty solution, 164; of WCRP

Burawoy, Michael, 28

program, 61; WPF and, 165

Bush, George W., 165

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), 107, 122,

case studies, 105; EBP and, 4;

131, 144; WCRP collaboration with,

Flyvbjerg on, 4–6; generalizability

60, 65, 76

of, 4–6; knowledge as source of, 5–6;

The Audacity of Hope (Obama), 8

paradigmatic, 5–6

index  205

CBPR. See community based participatory research CDBG. See Community Development Block Grant Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, 183 Center for Urban Research and

Code of Ethics: International Federation of Social Workers, 15; National Association of Social Workers, 14; Social Work, 9, 177 collaboration: with activism, 83; AOSWR and, 26; change research and, 139, 178–79; with community

Learning (CURL), 147, 183

partners, 4, 11; in policy analysis, 31;

Central Intake Unit (CIU), 94

in policy process, 122; power analysis

change politics, research as form of, 31–32

within, 147; with social science

change research, 11; collaboration and,

research, 28–29, 137; WCRP and,

139, 178–79; communication and, 166; conventional research and, 148; dynamic, 155–56; EBP and,

53–54, 59–60; WCRP with ACORN, 60, 65, 76 collaborative process: brokering in,

18–26; guidelines created for, 149–50;

134; creation of, 132–34; trusting

hospitable environments for, 146–59;

relationships in, 132–33

mutual respect in, 162, 166; power

collaborative research, 3, 18, 32, 142,

sharing in, 166–67; process, 155;

162; challenges to, 121–22; with

question development for, 150–52;

clients in clinical settings, 39–40; in

research plan revision in, 154; social

community-based practice, 40; for

work education and, 156–58; student

low-income home-repair problem,

projects and, 169

118; in low-income home-repair study,

city programs, client perspective on, 93–95 CIU. See Central Intake Unit

122–27, 163–68; methods of, 153; relevance of, 20; tensions in, 131 collaborative research model, 13, 171;

client: in clinical settings, collaborative

change research stance and, 145–50;

research with, 39–40; detachment

community-organizing research and,

of, 20, 23, 135; empowering, 9, 11,

142–45; conventional research and,

19–20, 40

140–42; home-repair study in, 163–68;

client perspective: of city programs, 93– 95; of community based practice, 43 client stories, 68, 82–83; as knowledge

hospitable environments for, 156–59; lasting partnership in, 168–70; method choice and, 152–56; PAR for

source, 6; for low-income

community-based, 13–14, 152–53,

homeownership, 97–102; political

174; research questions development

process and, 60–61

in, 150–52; resource allocation and,

clinical interventions, 18

159–62; trust and power in, 162–63

clinical setting, 39–40 Cloward, Richard, 1

Colorado Community-Based Research Network, 183

206  index

Colten, Mary Ellen, 130

148; detachment in, 41; objective

commodification, of social service

knowledge and, 139; policy change

agencies, 48–49

and, 27–28

communication, 166

Cornell University, 184

community: empowerment of, 43;

cost estimate, for funding requests, 76–77

members, knowledge of, 161 community activism, 140; academic researcher relationship with, 147; power analysis for, 143

Courtney, Mark, 16 Cruikshank, Barbara, 145 CURL. See Center for Urban Research and Learning

community based participatory research (CBPR), 1, 17, 141, 152–53, 156, 173,

data: analysis, for affordable housing

174, 178, 183; as advocacy tool, 55;

campaign, 60–61, 125, 129; collec­

Agency for Healthcare Research and

tion, 144, 153; qualitative, 23, 111;

Quality on, 33; bottom-up research

quantitative, 12, 64–81, 102, 125;

and, 35; PAR vs., 32–36; for public

statistical, 106

health, 33–35, 37; resources for, 183–

democracy, 25

85; top down approaches to, 34

Democracy and Social Ethics (Addams),

community based practice, 18; client perspective on, 43; collaborative re­ search and, 40; effectiveness of, 10–11, 41; government contract with, 45–46 Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 183 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), 83; BSRP funding by, 89

172 Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S., 58, 114 detachment, of client, 20, 23, 135 Detroit Community: Academic Urban Research Center, 184 domestic violence, 130–31 Dominelli, Lena, 25

Community-Engaged Research, 158

drug consumption, 130–31

Community Linked Interdisciplinary

DuBois, W. E. B., 175–76

Research, 183–84 community organizing research, 139,

Duran, Bonnie, 33, 34 Durkheim, Emile, 140

142–45 community partners, 4, 11, 27, 104, 153 Community Research and Learning Network, 184 Consolidated Plan for housing and community development, 76

East St. Louis Action Research Project, 184 EBP. See evidence-based practice empirical research, 26, 27; evaluation and, 41; framing of, 66, 150

contextual reasoning, 141

empowering clients, 9, 11, 19–20, 40

conventional research methods, 18,

empowerment, 24, 37; of CBPR, 33; of

140–42, 178; change research and,

communities, 43

index  207

equality, 24, 37 ethics: AOSWR and, 26; EBP and, 26; social work, 9

funding, 22; of BSRP, 76, 77, 89; cost estimate for, 76–77; evaluation research and, 40; foundation, 164,

Eubanks, Virginia, 36

165; grant program, 83; for home-

evaluation research: effectiveness and,

repair, 60; nonprofit, 43–44, 84, 111;

11; FBOs and, 43–44; funding and,

outcome evaluations for, 44; PAHC

40; nexus, 40–45; policy change and,

requests for, 106; requests, population


estimates and, 76–80; of WPF, 55–56

everyday knowledge, 151 everyday world policy analysis, 94–102;

Gecan, Michael, 143–44, 144

home-repair policy and, 83, 88–93;

generalizability, of case studies, 4–6

Naples on, 83

generalizable knowledge, 4–6, 141

evidence-based practice (EBP), 17, 49,

Gilgun, Jane, 23

152, 173; bottom-up research and, 22;

Goldberg vs. Kelly, 143

case studies and, 4; change research

Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology,

and, 18–26; client detachment and,

at Cornell University, 184

20, 23; client empowerment and,

government, 127; asset-building approach

19–20; context and, 20–21; ethics

of, 66; city programs, 93–95; contract,

and, 26; medicine and, 19, 37; Obama

with community-based practice, 45–46;

administration and, 18; politics and,

EBP state funding, 22; Pennsylvania

21, 23–24; qualitative data and, 23; RCTs and, 21–22; researcher bias and, 23; situated knowledge and, 22; social work values and, 19; state funding and, 22

State Legislature, 111 GPUAC. See Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition grant program, for low-income homerepair, 83 grassroots activism, 53

Fairhill neighborhood, 65, 67 faith-based organizations (FBOs), 43–44

Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC), 95–96

FBOs. See faith-based organizations

Greeley, Andrew, 7

Feagin, Joe, 174, 175

Greenwood, Davydd, 184

Ferman, Barbara, 146–47 Flyvbjerg, Bent, 4–6, 137, 140

Haas, Otto, 55

Ford Foundation, 164

Haas, Phoebe, 55

Foucault, Michel, 46

Haraway, Donna, 29

foundation funding, 164, 165

Haynes, Carolyn, 57

framing: of empirical research, 66, 150;

Hayward, Clarissa, 145

in policy process, 117; politics of, 113,

hierarchies of research, 135–36

117–18; reframing, 117, 145

Hispanic/Latino population, 75, 90

208  index

homelessness, cost of, 79

Journal of Urban Affairs, 185

homeless-prevention program, 66; of

Just Connections, 184

BSRP, 76, 79 homeownership ideology, 165–66

Kellogg Foundation, 42

home value, of Philadelphia, 68

knowledge: academic researcher

hospitable environments, for change research, 146–59 housing quality: AHS on, 73; BSRP on, 73–74, 77, 78

and, 141; case studies as source of, 5–6; client story as source of, 6; of community members, 161; development of, 141; everyday, 151;

housing-related indicators, 69–70

experience-based, 152; generalizable,

housing stock, of Philadelphia, 68, 71, 72

5, 141; hierarchy, 135–36; local, 29;

Housing Trust Fund Campaign, 111–12

objective, 137, 139–42; power as

Hull House, 172–74; advocacy and, 26;

form of, 148; production of, 129–32;

research efforts of, 25 Hull House Maps and Papers, 174

scientific, 25; situated, 4, 22; sociology of, 172

human dignity, 24

Koppisch, David, 59, 122, 128

Ideology and Utopia: A Contribution

Lennett, Judith, 130

to the Sociology of Knowledge

Lewin, Kurt, 33

(Mannheim), 172

Licenses and Inspection (L&I),

income, of Philadelphia homeowners, 67–68, 71 income-eligible homes, 83; BSRP, 72–73, 73

Philadelphia Department of, 72, 100– 101; BSRP cooperation with, 92 Lichtash, Nora, 53, 59, 122; as PAHC director, 54

Industrial Areas Foundation, 143

Lindhorst, Taryn, 29

Institute for Community Research, 184

lobbying, 55, 76, 102, 133

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs),

local knowledge, 29

158–59, 169–70 Intercollegiate Studies Institute Web of Knowledge, 35 International Federation of Social Workers Code of Ethics, 15

low-income homeownership, 12, 52, 151, 164; bottom-up research approach to, 66; client stories for, 97–102; costs of unassisted, 79; disrepair of, 72; of Fairhill, South

interpretive methods, 152

Philadelphia and Strawberry Mansion,

interviews, 130, 135; of stakeholders, 144

65, 67; home-repair for, 59–62;

IRBs. See Institutional Review Boards

income percentage for, 72; loans for, 88; maintenance assistance for, 66,

James Jennings’ Advocacy Research, 184

72, 93, 129–30; policy advocacy for,

Jennings, James, 150, 184

117; quantitative data for, 102; rates

index  209

of, 65; WCRP on, 130; WPF support

Naples, Nancy, 29, 83

for, 56–57

NASW News, 157

low-income home-repair, 77–78, 116; advocates for, 66; Affordable Housing

National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, 14

Trust Fund and, 118; BSRP for, 64;

National Institutes of Health, 156

collaborative research study, 122–27,

Neighborhood Transformation Initiative

163–68; completion time for, 92; grant and loan programs for, 83;

(NTI), 88, 98; BSRP funding by, 89; low-income home-repair and, 92–93

housing trust fund for, 111; NTI and,

Nelson, Nancy, 30–31

92–93; policy, 83; priorities for, 89;

neoliberalism, 45, 48–49

programs, 84–87; research, in WCRP

New York Academy of Medicine, 183

advocacy campaign, 59–62; WCRP

nonprofit funding, 43–44, 84, 111

and, 129–30

NTI. See Neighborhood Transformation

low-income women, 36, 53, 64

Initiative Nutter, Michael, 115–16

maintenance assistance, for low-income

Nyden, Philip, 147

homeownership, 66, 72, 93, 129–30 Mannheim, Karl, 172

Obama, Barack, 8

Mayor’s Task Force to End

Obama administration, 18

Homelessness, 79 medicine: CBPR on, 35; EBP original site of, 19, 37 methods: choice, collaborative research model and, 152–56; of collaborative research, 153; conventional research, 18, 27–28, 41, 139–42, 148, 178; interpretive, 152; mixed, 12, 25; positivistic, 152; problem driven, 152; research, 17; theory driven, 152 Metropolitan Statistical Area, 114

objective knowledge, 137, 139–42 OESS. See Office of Emergency Shelter Office of Community-Based Research, at University of Victoria, 184–85 Office of Emergency Shelter (OESS), Philadelphia, 79 Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD), 67, 79, 89 OHCD. See Office of Housing and Community Development Oliver, Pam, 185 outcome evaluations, for funding, 44

Mini-PHIL loan, 87, 88 mixed methods, 12, 25

Padgett, Julianna, 29

mortgage crisis, 164–65; Affordable

PAHC. See Philadelphia Affordable

Housing Trust Fund and, 115

Housing Coalition

Moynihan, Donald, 46

Pam Oliver’s Advocacy Research, 185

mutual respect, in change research, 162,

pamphlets, for BSRP, 91, 107–8, 109–10


PAR. See participatory action research

210  index

paradigmatic case study, 5–6

letter for, 96; conditional approval

participatory action research (PAR),

for, 96; GPUAC and, 95–96; policy

1, 10, 17, 83, 118, 141; for action engagement, 37; CBPR vs., 32–36; collaborative, community-based, 13–14, 152–53, 174; Eubanks on, 36; in policy process, 148. See also participatory research participatory research, 42–43

process of, 95–96; RDA and, 96 Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation (PHDC), 89, 99; Weatherization program of, 98 Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. See Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of Philadelphia

Pennsylvania State Legislature, 111

The Philadelphia Negro (DuBois), 175

performance management, 45–49;

PHIL-Loan. See Philadelphia Home

as disciplinary, 46; features of, 46; outcome benchmarks for, 46–47 PHDC. See Philadelphia Housing and Development Corporation Philadelphia: affordable-housing campaign in, 7, 8, 11, 59–62, 65, 125, 129; AHS for, 71; Consolidated Plan for housing and community development, 76; homeowner income

Improvement Loan PHIL-Plus loan, 87, 88, 98–99; policy process of, 95–96 Piven, Frances Fox, 1, 28 Plath, Debbie, 22 policy advocacy, 104; for low-income homeownership and home-repair, 117; of WCRP, 57, 123 policy analysis: academic researchers

in, 67–68, 71; homeownership rates

and, 56; collaboration in, 31; top

of, 71; home value of, 68; OESS,

down research and, 29. See also

79; old housing stock of, 68, 71, 72;

everyday world policy analysis

poverty rate of, 68; RDA, 83, 96 Philadelphia Affordable Housing Coalition (PAHC), 54, 64, 93, 164; community partners of, 104; funding requests, 106

policy arena, 82; comparison in, 68; EBP and, 23; social science research in, 28; WCRP and, 131 policy change, 129–32; conventional research methods and, 27–28;

Philadelphia City Council, 123–24

evaluation research and, 27–28; on

Philadelphia City Council ordinance,

welfare reform, 30

for Affordable Housing Trust Fund, 111–12, 112, 115; fund distribution by, 113–14; fund establishment by, 113 Philadelphia Corporation for the Aged, 100 Philadelphia Home Improvement Loan (PHIL-Loan), 83, 85; certification

policymakers, 12, 22, 82, 104, 108, 148; expectations and, 128; research and, 58–59 policymaking, 29 policy-oriented practice, 18 policy process, 12, 82; for BSRP, 93–95; collaboration in, 122; framing in, 117; PAR as power source in, 148; of

index  211

PHIL-Plus loan, 95–96; researcher

public sociology, 28

involvement in, 105–11; research

Pyramid of Research Knowledge, 5

relevance to, 57 Political Economy of the Good Society Journal, 185 political process, client stories and, 60–61 politics: EBP and, 21, 23–24; research and, 172–73 politics of framing, 113, 117–18

qualitative data, 111; EBP and, 23 qualitative research, 12, 126, 154; interview process for, 120–21 quantitative data, 12, 125; income, 67– 68, 71; for low-income homeownership, 102; for WCRP, 64–81 quantitative research, for WCRP, 64–81

Popper, Karl, 6 population profile, of BSRP eligible, 74–75

radical incrementalism, 1, 14, 178 randomized clinical trials (RCTs), 21–22

positivistic methods, 152

RCTs. See randomized clinical trials

poverty: asset building as solution

RDA. See Redevelopment Authority

to, 164; homeownership and, 61;

real estate transfer tax, 64, 115

Philadelphia rate of, 68; top down

Redevelopment Authority (RDA),

perspectives on, 29; voting rights and, 1 power: decision making, of WCRP,

Philadelphia, 83, 96 reframing, 145; for rental housing and homeownership, 117

136–37; knowledge as form of, 148;

Reisch, Michael, 176

sharing, in change research, 166–67

research: advocacy and, 105–6, 118–19;

power analysis, 17, 139, 162–63;

as change politics form, 31–32;

academic research vs., 143, 145;

community organizing and, 146;

within collaborations, 147; for

-development process, 151; evaluation

community activists, 143–44;

nexus, 40–45; IRBs and, 158–59; plan

community organizer emphasis on,

development, in change research,

145; of WCRP, 148

154; policymakers and, 58–59; policy

predatory loan, 97

process and, 57; politics and, 172–73;

private philanthropic foundations, 164

presentations, 117–18; problem

problem driven methods, in study, 152

driven, 32; publicizing of, 107;

program evaluations, 27

relevance, 20, 57; as social change

public discourse, 27, 28

resource, 24; social work values and,

public-health, CBPR and, 33–35, 37

37; stakeholders and, 26; value,

public management, 45, 47, 49

WCRP and, 146. See also specific

public-policy: advocacy, 19; bottom-up

types of research

research for, 29; empirical evidence for, 27

researcher: bias, 23; policy process involvement by, 105–11

212  index

research methods, 17

social work education, 156–58

research questions: development of,

social work ethics, 9

150–52; WCRP formulation of, 124 resource, for community-based research, 183–85 resource allocation, 160–62; budget

Social Work Policy Institute, 18 social work research: advocacy and, 1; objectivity of, 2 social work values: EBP and, 19;

creation for, 159; fund-raising, 159;

empowerment, 9, 11, 19–20, 24, 33,

proposal writing and, 159

37, 40, 43; equality, 24, 37; human

Reveille for Radicals (Alinsky), 142 Richmond, Mary, 24

dignity, 24; self-determination, 24; social justice, 7, 16–17, 24, 53 sociology of knowledge, 172

Schon, Donald, 23 Schram, Sanford, 30–31, 57–58, 122, 127, 144, 157 scientific knowledge, 25

Southeast Community Research Center, 185 South Philadelphia neighborhood, 65, 67

Scott, James, 29

Specht, Harry, 16

self-determination, 24

Stahl, Roland, 58, 144, 157

senachie (the storyteller), 7

stakeholders, 28, 49; interviews of, 144;

senior citizens, 90–91 Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program (SHARP), 85, 88, 91 settlement house movement, 24, 31–32. See also Hull House SHARP. See Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program Shdaimah, Corey, 58, 144, 157

research and, 26; silent, 163 state funding, 22 statistical data, 106 Stoecker, Randy, 33, 42–43 Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, 65, 67 Street, John, 61 Strier, Roni, 23, 25

silent stakeholders, 163 situated knowledge, 4, 22

Temporary Assistance for Needy

Smith, Dorothy, 177

Families (TANF): BSRP funding by,

social change, 8–9, 24, 178–79

89; domestic violence and, 131

social justice, 7, 16–17, 24, 53

theory driven methods, in study, 152

social science research, 163; academic

Tickamyer, Ann, 29–30

research and, 140; collaborations with, 28–29, 137; objectiveness of, 42; universal rationality and, 140, 141 social service agencies: commodification of, 48–49; neoliberal, 45, 48–49 Social Work Codes of Ethics, 9, 177

top down research, 10; bottom up research vs., 26–31; for CBPR, 34; policy analysis, 29 Toronto Community Based Research Network, 185 Toulmin, Stephen, 140

index  213

trusting relationships, 132–33; in

William Penn Foundation (WPF), 55,

collaborative research model, 162–63;

121, 124, 146, 164, 167; asset-building

connectedness for, 134

and, 165; low-income homeownership

Tufts University, 184

support by, 56–57 women, low-income, 36, 53, 64

UCCP. See University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia United Communities of Southeast

Women’s Community Revitalization Project (WCRP), 16, 104, 107, 131, 140, 144, 151, 154, 167; academic

Philadelphia, 107, 122, 131, 144;

research and, 57, 121–23; advocacy

WCRP collaboration with, 60, 65, 76

campaign of, 55, 57, 59–62, 132;

universal rationality, 140, 141

asset-building of, 61; bottom-up

University Community Collaborative of

research for, 66; collaborative

Philadelphia (UCCP), 146–47, 185 University of Chicago Department of Sociology, 26, 174–75

approach of, 53–54, 59–60; credibility of, 60; decision making power of, 136–37; interpersonal interactions in,

University of Illinois, 184

58; knowledge hierarchy of, 135–36;

University of Michigan School of Public

on low-income homeownership,

Health, 184

130; low-income home-repair and,

University of Victoria, 184–85

129–30; on maintenance and repair

U.S. Census (2000), 67

problems, 129–30; mediation for, 133–34; Nutter as advocate of,

Vera, Hernán, 174, 175

116; policy advocacy of, 57, 123; policy brief, 125; power analysis

Wallerstein, Nina, 33, 34

of, 148; presentation packaging of,

WCRP. See Women’s Community

62; quantitative data for, 64–81;

Revitalization Project

research question formulation

Weatherization program, 86, 88, 98

by, 124; on research value, 146;

Webb, Stephen, 21

United Communities of Southeast

Weber, Max, 140, 172

Philadelphia and ACORN

welfare policy, 47; research on, 29

collaboration with, 60, 65, 76

welfare reform, 1, 143; policy change

WPF. See William Penn Foundation

on, 30 white population, 74–75

Youth VOICES, 147