This week’s guest post come from Sally Gray, Director of the Office of Research, Innovation and Partnership at the University of Regina. Sally is also an RIR alumna, who formerly worked at Wilfrid Laurier University and who has clearly brought her passion for KMb with her to U of Regina.
On November 14, 2014, the Community Research Unit (CRU) at the University of Regina held a one-day event profiling community-based research, including both completed research and current research needs.
Unfortunately, my schedule prevented me from attending the entire day. But what I heard was impressive. Community partners were able to do valuable research with a small amount of money and some research assistance.
For Carmichael Outreach (carmichaeloutreach.org), a project with the CRU produced a 15 minute video on issues faced by individuals on social assistance when trying to find housing. The video proved to be an effective means of communication with landlords and policy makers by providing visual information regarding the organization’s support services. They are now hoping to partner with researchers to produce Regina-specific data that could be used to support an argument for implementing Housing First. A key recognition by Carmichael House is that decision-makers like evidence that is region-specific.
The Community Food Association investigated Regina’s local food system and identified a number of gaps such as knowledge about indigenous food systems, how culture affects food choices, and how to track local foods. The study found that, overwhelmingly, people want more information about access to healthy food. The CFA is releasing an action plan on November 18, 2014, that will help address some of these issues. My biggest learning moment from the talk, though, was that the food left over from our meeting could be donated to shelters or organizations. It wasn’t thrown out or wasted. What a wonderful thing. If this has happened to food from other meetings I’ve attended, we weren’t made aware of it.
In the section of the program that featured museums, I realized that museums have struggled with issues of knowledge mobilization and the presentation of results in a meaningful manner for a long time. Their research on how visitors interact with and respond to the information provided helps inform future exhibits. The average visitor spends 30 seconds looking at a display. What can you present that would convince a person to spend more time, interact with the display, and ultimately learn what you wanted to convey about the display? Is there something we as knowledge mobilizers can learn from this sector?
Finally, over the course of the day I learned that many of the presenters are dealing with the same issues we are around impact. How do they know their programs are successful? How do you measure the impact of group improvisation using iPads in a music therapy program? What do you begin to measure, and how do you collect the data? For the researchers, the benefit of the project for the participants was the experience of compassion, respect, and cultural expression. How do you translate that benefit into something a policy-maker will want to fund on a permanent basis?
As universities, we are looking at how we track whether our research affects policy (as an example). The community agencies are interested in determining how programs affect lives. Assisting with evaluation frameworks is an area where universities can provide value to a partnership.
The workshop also provided David Malloy, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Regina, the opportunity to announce a one-time competition for partnership research funds. Ten grants of $5,000 each are being made available in early 2015 for faculty working in partnership with community, industry, and government. Details to be provided when they’re available.
All in all, it was an interesting day. Hearing about the research we’re doing and the impact it’s having is energizing and provides renewed motivation for the assistance our office provides.
More information about the Community Research Unit, including links to the workshop, can be found here- http://www.uregina.ca/arts/community-research/index.html.