Research Network Projects and Roadmaps Forward

TOWARDS SYSTEM CHANGE

Project and Research Roadmaps When we speak of roadmaps, we refer to the general course and direction of our collective efforts rather than the timetable of a single project. In 2010 we assessed the very confusing state of affairs (see illustration above), a map of influencers, agencies and organizations which reflected competing and conflicting interests that occasionally came together but otherwise made it almost impossible to improve the fortunes of either MDA or the community it represents. Since then we have regularly mapped out new ways forward, working with community leaders, identifying new allies and resources and adjusting our plans. After so many years of tramping through underbrush and scaling cliffs, we believe the new Research Network under the guidance of MDA's Community Advisoy Council represents a real breakthrough.

OUR THREE RESPONSES

(1) Grassroots Response: We believe in community building through assessment, training, knowledge transfer and timely response by community members and organizers to a range of interests and long term concerns (such as cultural promotion and preservation), and pressing, historically unaddressed issues (such as poverty and discrimination, housing, health and costs, elder care and education).

(2) Service Learning / Community Engagement to CBPR: Community building through existing higher ed programs seeks to use durable societal institutions to achieve a wide range of community goals. Mentoring youth and raising expectations creates a pipeline to higher ed which pushes them into the system while pressure on higher ed institutions to fulfill community engagement and research demands pulls them to respond to community needs and the presence of local newcomer, refugee, immigrant, first-generation, low-income, minority youth.

(3) Organization Building: Community building through new networks was our response to a larger system gap, the need for organized and directed engagement and research that was truly responsive to community interests. A socially just network had to come from a community body tasked with research review and approval under a community-based organization rather than from an outside agency or higher ed institution. MDA had such a body, the Community Advisory Council.

Without such a network under community control, "drive by" or "parachute" research and superficial service learning and community engagement by higher ed would continue to grow unchecked. As Zlotkowski argued in 1995 and more recently, our Network has allied itself to specific disciplines and academic interest groups in a strategic manner that offers short and long term benefits to both community and academia. We advocate a similar strategic approach with mutual benefits to other players in health, government, housing, etc.