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<nettime> report of community research network conference (austin, july
geert lovink on Thu, 9 Aug 2001 10:55:54 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> report of community research network conference (austin, july 2001)


From: <Loka {AT} Loka.org>

                             INITIAL REPORT
            2001 Annual Community Research Network Conference

                 "Re-Shaping the Culture of Research:
           People, Participation, Partnerships and Practical Tools"
                      By Jill Chopyak and Khan Rahi

Launched in 1995 by the Loka Institute, the Community Research Network
(CRN) is a comprehensive, international network of community- based
research (CBR) practitioners from grassroots communities, funding
agencies, universities, local government offices and national research
institutions. The CRN aims to support and enhance collaborative,
community-based research activities through education and training,
networking opportunities, information on funding resources, media
outreach, and advocacy efforts.

Community-based research is based upon the principles of participation and
partnership. It puts affected communities in the driver's seat for finding
solutions to the problems they face. Recent movies such as A Civil Action
and Erin Brocovich have shown how such citizen action can lead to positive
change in a community. There are, however, hundreds of communities around
the country that are involved in research to solve problems of
environmental health, economic development, racial injustice, and
agricultural sustainability that are not shown on the big screen. These
are the people that make up the Community Research Network.

The Fourth Annual Community Research Network Conference was held July 6-8,
2001 at the University of Texas, Austin. Sponsored by the Loka Institute,
and hosted by the Urban Issues Program at the University of Texas and the
Llano Grande Center for Research and Development of Edcouch, Texas, the
conference brought together approximately 180 participants from 13
different countries. Financial support from the C.S. Mott Foundation and
conference co-sponsors (see below) enabled Loka to provide full or partial
scholarship to approximately 50 people - over 30% of conference
participants.

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

As a conference location, Austin, TX took the Community Research Network
out of the East, bringing in new participants from the Southwest and
Western part of the U.S. Local hosts from Austin and south Texas gave us a
taste of southwest culture and a sense of place through live music, art
work, and storytelling by renowned author David Rice. Conference keynote,
Enrique Trueba, provided a broad introduction to community-based research,
both in theory and his personal practice. The conference used an adapted
version of Open Space, making the conference a combination of self-defined
circle discussions, plenary discussion, and tools-based workshops.

Some of the key issues that emerged from conference discussions included:

** Involving young people in community-based research - it is important to
continue to recognize the power of young people in conducting
community-based research. They are the voice of the future, and often,
have the ability to speak to policy-makers, funders and academics in a way
others can't. Training young people as researchers also builds community
leadership and capacity, and often will provide the energy to invigorate
and involve a community.

** Regional networking - Saturday morning focused on the development of
regional networks. Conference participants grouped themselves by the
various regions around the U.S. Discussion focused on establishing
regional networks in the northeast, west and southeast initially. All
groups recommended having regional conferences before the next national
conference in 2002.

** Language - It's important to use language that is understood by both
community members and academics. Often, language is used to exclude
individuals from participation. Community-based research is about shifting
the power dynamics of traditional research, so language needs to be
understandable to all involved.

** Need to recognize community knowledge as valid - Community-based
research is about altering the idea that only formalized or
institutionalized scientific knowledge is valid. We need to shift the
research process and priorities to understand that community-based
knowledge brought together with science creates well-balanced information
can pave the way for positive change.

** Building partnerships takes time, and trust is essential - Issues of
race, gender and class need to be discussed further. We need to recognize
that removal of these barriers is essential to building meaningful and
effective partnerships. The division between universities and communities
needs to be bridged and harmonized. Having intermediary organizations that
can bridge the gap is often useful.

** Increase funding for community-based research - The lack of resources
for community-based research activities is always a barrier to long-term
sustainable CBR projects and activities. Partnerships between funders, and
between funders and grantees needs to be encouraged. Conference
participants developed an advocacy plan aimed at increasing funding for
community-based research. They asked the Loka Institute to coordinate and
implement these efforts.

** International cooperation - Globalization requires action cross-
nationally. We need to fill in the gap and bring forward more examples
from Southern countries. We need to address issues of poverty and
marginalization that are a result of globalization. There is also a need
and opportunity for community-based research projects cross-nationally
that will make the connection between a local situation and a global
process.

** Media - We need to increase contacts with the media and use the media
as a fundraising and social change tool.

ALANA Caucus

The ALANA (African, Latin, Asian and Native American) Caucus of the CRN
met to discuss its mission and future activities. Below is a summary of
that discussion prepared by Hasan Crockett, Ph.D., Director, Brisbane
Institute, Morehouse College.

Mission Statement: Points for Consideration

 ALANA supports the recovery and reconstruction of the history of
communities of color committed to the notion of knowledge in the service
of community.  ALANA supports knowledge and educational institutions as
functions of community and opposed these institutions separate from
communities "reaching in" to solve problems. The
localization/indigenization of knowledge production and transmission must
be central to ALANA's development (place based education and research). 
We must support and develop popular forms of education and research that
are community generated and transmitted as opposed to paternalistic
approaches descending from the academy or other "external organizations".
The assumption here is that regardless of ones occupation, one is a
community member first and foremost. We must become and seek to inspire
the development of "organic intellectuals".

Suggested Concrete Goals of ALANA Caucus

 Unite communities and individuals of color within a network that
supports the development of functional community based research praxis and
institutions.  In the process, share experiences (both successes and
failures), which will advance community-based research within communities
and institutions controlled by people of color.  Contribute to the
ongoing debate and process associated with making knowledge production and
education more relevant, culturally sound and humane within the context of
communities of color.  Encourage the development of a national network
driven by functional local institutions.  Develop a biannual publication
that supports the goals stated above.  Meet annually to develop a level
of autonomy in theory and practice for ALANA.  Develop a financial base
to support the development of ALANA.

CONFERENCE RECOMMENDATIONS

Conference participants also offered several suggestions for future
conferences as well as the future work of Loka as the coordinator of the
Community Research Network. These included:

 Incorporate a field trip into the conference.
 Have a training opportunity for those new to the topic to learn
about CBR before the conference.
 Increase access to funders, and provide information on how to
secure funds for CBR activities.
 Increase electronic forum discussions in between conferences to
enhance the activity of the CRN.
 Facilitate the development of regional working groups/networks.
 Need additional discussion/case studies on how community-based
research is a legitimate and useful methodology for science, not just
for community development.
 Create an online "tool-kit" with resource guide.

As coordinator of the CRN, the Loka Institute welcomes other
suggestions for next year's conference and other CRN activities. We
have begun to implement some many of the suggestions above and those
suggested by conference participants. If you were not able to attend
the conference, we hope to hear from you too! Please email
Loka {AT} Loka.org, or call us at 413-559-5860 with your thoughts and
ideas.

The Loka Institute would like to thank the C.S. Mott Foundation for
their support of the Community Research Network, and the Albert A.
List Foundation, the Menemsha Fund, the European Commission, the
Annie E. Casey Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the
Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities for other Loka project
and general operating support.

We would also like to thank the following organizations and
individuals for co-sponsoring the conference and for participating in
the conference planning committee:

Conference Co-Sponsors

The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Council for Undergraduate Research
The Institute for Community Research
New Directions Community-Based Research Institute
The Policy Research and Action Group

Conference Planning Committee

Miguel Guajardo, Univ. of Texas Urban Issues Program, Llano Grande
Center for Research & Development
Peter Levesque, Social Science & Humanities Research Council, Canada
Juan Valadez, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
Oliver Loveday, Appalachian Focus
Andrew Collver, New Directions Community-Based Research Institute
Heather Fenyk, Rutgers University
Torri Estrada, Urban Habitat Program
Loka Institute Staff: Jill Chopyak, Khan Rahi, Rose Ryan, Geert
Dhondt, Vionne Revering



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