May-June 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 5

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Four New Projects Are Funded through the ASA Community
Action Research Initiative

The ASA’s Spivack Program in Applied Social Research and Social Policy announces the recipients of the 2009 Community Action Research Initiative (CARI) awards. This small grants program encourages and supports sociologists to bring social science knowledge, methods, and expertise to address community-identified issues and concerns. Each applicant described a proposed project for pro bono work with a community organization or local public interest group, the group’s request for collaboration, and the intended outcomes. CARI provides up to $3,000 for each project to cover direct costs associated with doing community action research. The principle investigators are listed below along with a description of the four approved proposals.

Shannon Elizabeth Bell, University of Oregon, will work with the Sludge Safety Project (SSP), a grassroots organization based in the coal mining region of West Virginia. The SSP was created with the goal of informing, protecting, and organizing coalfield citizens who suffer from the environmental consequences of irresponsible coal mining practices, specifically, the water pollution from coal waste. The SSP has taken on several projects to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of coal pollution. Bell and five colleagues will work on a project titled "The Southern West Virginia Photovoice Project." The goal is to develop a full-color booklet of photos that will tell the stories of the women whose health and livelihood is impacted by the coal industry. The photos will be taken by the participants in the program. Each week, the participants will get together to reflect on the pictures and write narratives to go with them. At the end of the project, the 30-page booklet will be distributed to the West Virginia State Senators, delegates, congressional representatives, and the state governor with the intention of creating a line of communication between the participants and policy-makers and other elected officials.

Patricia Campion, Tennessee Technological University, will work with L.B.J. & C. Head Start, which oversees head start centers in 12 counties in the upper Cumberland region of middle Tennessee. LBJ&C, established in 1965, is a child development program that aims to improve the lives of families in its communities. In the past ten years, the Hispanic population the organization works with has increased dramatically; 44% of the children are Hispanic. Campion’s project will assess the needs of the Hispanic families who are a part of the Head Start program in Monterey, TN. She will administer a two-part survey to collect demographic data as well as information on the families’ knowledge of existing services and services they would like implemented. A separate research group will conduct interviews with service providers and community leaders involved with social services about how the available resources are used by the Hispanic community. The goal of the project is to increase awareness of Head Start services to the families, better understand the cultural differences among Hispanics, provide cultural training to the Head Start staff, and increase the number of bilingual staff members.

Lori Hunter, University of Colorado-Boulder, will work with The Greenbelt Movement, a Kenyan NGO to undertake a "baseline social research within a tree planting project site in the Mau Forest complex of western Kenya." The Greenbelt Movement, founded by the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, is an active grassroots social movement led primarily by women to restore the natural ecosystems in rural western Kenya and thus improve the livelihood of the households depending on those ecosystems. Hunter will conduct qualitative research to study rural livelihoods, environmental perceptions, society-environment association, food security and issues related to conservation in rural Africa. At the project’s conclusion, they hope to have a final summary and technical report of their findings to submit to the Greenbelt Movement, The Nature Conservancy, and Adopt-an-Acre. The hope is that the lessons and findings will help launch other tree planting projects in various parts of Kenya.

Debbie Storrs, University of Idaho, will collaborate with the Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN) on the "Welcoming Idaho" campaign. This project will measure the effectiveness of the educational dialogues on increasing pro-immigration attitudes in Idaho. The goals of this project are to identify an appropriate billboard message to encourage the citizens of northern Idaho to support and welcome immigrants into the region; to foster dialogues regarding immigration in the region and increase the residents’ understanding and support of immigrants; and assess the effectiveness of immigration messages in attitudes towards immigrants and immigration. Focus groups will help identify appropriate and appealing messages on the topic of immigration for a billboard that will be displayed in northern Idaho. After the messages are made public, another dialogue will be held with members of the community to see if their attitudes towards immigrants and immigration have changed. This project is especially important to ICAN because the Latino population, which makes up about 10% of the state’s population, continues to rise. With this research, ICAN hopes to continue improving and building relationships in the communities. logo_small

The deadline for the 2010 CARI Award is February 1, 2010. For more information, visit the ASA website and click on "Funding."


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