Francis Ogutu Dr. Patrick Green Univ.

291 Reflection B 09/20/11 Working with the Community On regular occasions we come across terms such as “‘Am volunteering with this and th at organization’, ‘my school encourages community service’ or ‘our professor requires us to engage in service learning or community based research’.” We usually discuss the topic about services with our friends, fellow students, our family members or e ven with our prospective employers. However, there haven’t been many occasions whe n those we engage converse with can give a clear distinctions or application of these terms or phrases. What meaning do they have in the context of working with the communities? And how are we able to find out whether what we are engaged, n ecessarily does imply community service? On this paper, I would like to reflect upon my new understanding of service, based on the readings by Morton: ‘Starfish H urling and community Service’. In addition, I will also share about the model of c ommunity based research defined as ABCD in which organizations working with peop le (communities) are challenged to not only focus on needs, problems, and defici ency within the community, but also to connect the available resources and asset s which can increase the effectiveness of the organizations within the community (John P. Kretzmann, et al.). And finally, I will close my thoughts by discussi ng how tensions within community based research and operations within the commun ity may be overcome as shared by Stocker” research methods through community chang e.” According to Keith Morton, people using the tale of ‘Star fish hurling’ story to jus tify people’s intend to do service is misguided. The girl in the story is depicted as had been convinced that what she was doing was service to the Star fish whic h had no one to help them back to their comfortable life( Sea waters). However, from Morton’s perspective, doing service should be looked at from different scopes especially when dealing with human situations. He suggests that it is time peo ple realize that service is not just about seeing the problem and acting in part to solve it, even though that may seem the logical thing to do in the first pla ce. He encourages people to first understand the main contexts in which the stor y of the ‘ Star Fish hurling’ is based; before rushing into claiming that service is about making a difference whenever need arises based on individual capability w ithout paying close attention to the external thoughts or forces. Morton article highlight’s some of the main points that people need to put into co nsiderations before getting involved with community service. That, in trying to evaluate a problem in which our intervention is required, we must first try to u nderstand the source of the problem and device methods that would make it easy t o “avoid the traps of politics, context, or complex and contradictory human relati onships”. For example, he talks about being able to evaluate and understand situat ions before getting involved, “It might be that Star fish are part of a food chain that is being interrupted as they thrown back- birds might go hungry or it migh t be that start fish have been released by a storm from the ocean bottom because they have outgrown their habitat.” In simple terms, I think Morton is saying here that when we are able to discern and reflect about the different situations tha t affect our communities before deciding to offer service, we will be at a bette r position of performing our services more effectively. Secondly, he argues that by evaluating the story more deeply we are able to discover that the services t hat we offer will differ in terms of environment, context and the parties involv ed. For instance, he notes that the service that we might offer to non-human obj ects differs greatly to the services offered to human beings. And by comparing the story of saving star fish to the service given to humans might mislead many people. Non-human beings, Morton argues, have no histories, voices, opinions, ju dgment or power that can be explicitly understood by those offering services. By engaging in service without fully understanding the sources or the reasons for the existence social problems that we are trying to address, may jeopardize or h inder our good intentions of bringing the desired changes. Nonetheless, if we a

re to engage in a massive service project that might seem beyond our capacity du e to limited resources and time, Morton, advices that prior preparation and good planning before starting a service project may result in a greater impact of th e intended service. Finally, Morton reminds us that by thinking that our individ ual efforts could create a great change that is desired in the society is dead e nd concept. He challenges each of us to embrace the ideology of togetherness and being able to join hands and ideas with other people if we are to realize any s ignificant impact in our planned service projects. He also challenges the notion of people going out in the community trying to offer help without first talking , listening, building relationships with those to whom they are planning to offe r their help. In short, Morton, challenges us to work with and value the inputs of one another, both in our organizations and in the community, if we are expect ing anything important to come out of our services to those underprivileged in o ur society. On its part, the ABCD institute model of community service advocates for the importance of organizations’ ability to connect with wider community members. Furthermore, the ability to integrate the community’s assets and resources is ver y essential, if those serving the community were to realize any meaningful posit ive changes. This, the article argues, would enable the community based organi zations become more effective and powerful in their services to the community. E ffective community based research would enable Non- government organizations to “e nhance connections with the community assets, invest in community’s assets and str engthen the current and future community based projects, activities and proposal s” (Kretzmann et al). The article also offers the insights that a Community based research organizatio n might employ to enable it realize it intended goals for the community. In an e ffort to connect with the community’s assets, the organizations and people involve d in community projects are challenged to evaluate their readiness to work with different aspects or branches of the community they are based in. For instance, the article, questions the relationships that exists between members of the comm unity and the organizations. What are the roles of the local residents, local vo luntary associations and clubs, local institutions, physical assets and economic assets of the community? How are the organizations going to harmonize all the d ifferent categories or groups within the community to avoid marginalization and also ensure that every group contribution is put into considerations? How do we employ the outside (external) resources and ideas without creating conflict with in our operation setting? The ABCD model proposes a number of useful short survey questions that an organi zation could use to evaluate itself on how well the community members and resour ces play their roles in the organization’s structure and planning. Different grou ps and categories are highlighted in this model to suggest who or which assets w ill be used in strengthening the organizations performance within the community. More specifically the model is challenging the organizations to assess the exte nt to which local residents, marginalized groups, community’s associations, physi cal spaces, local economy and how out outside resources are being harmonized an d utilized to realize the intended goals of change for the community. How are or ganizations able to employ the skills and talents of the local residents? How do es it contribute to the general economic welfare of the local community? Working with the communities especially human beings could generate some tensions and be a source of hindrance to the progress of a potentially helpful project. Creating a smooth and cooperating environment can be a great challenge and that is why Randy Stocker proposes some useful methods that could be applie d in working or doing a research with the community. He suggests the methods tha t have proven to be helpful when he does research with community members. Stocker focuses more on how research individuals or organizations could encourag e participation on the part of the community partners. He reminds us that we sho uld keep in mind that researchers are mostly considered to be outsiders and are likely to face a lot of challenges. Stocker builds on what Morton and the ABCD model talks about by discussing the various methods that could be built to address the question of participatory and

collaborative research whose elements should be: useful to the community, encom passes different approaches to handling community issues and to which collaborat ion is reinforced. Being useful means that the researchers should engage fully w ith the community and being able to formulate a research that would eventually b e useful to the community when it’s complete. Not only the research findings shou ld be useful, but also the researchers should engage with the members in various activities that may convince the members of the community that the researcher i s a true genuine asset to the community. Also by employing various research meth ods that could make sense to the community members is likely to encourage the pa rticipation of the community members. Some community members might prefer oral c ommunication to writing and the other way round. So when choosing a research met hod, one should be able to understand the cultural (relationships between member s of the groups) and demographic factors (education level, economic situation an d such like factors) that may encourage participation. Another aspect of resear ch methods is how it brings the members of the community on board. How do we ensure that apart from just participating in the research, the commun ity members take lead roles and willing to offer useful information that could b e relevant to the research goals? To answer this question, stocker has listed s ome of the factors that would determine whether you get a participating or a col laborative group when doing a community research. These factors include: Choosin g the question, designing the methods, collecting date, analyzing and finally re porting the findings. In trying to come up with a research question, Stocker sug gests that question chosen should try to address the main concern for the commun ity members with the least possible conflicts. When designing research methods, care should be taken to ensure that would have maximum impact desired. This coul d be achieved by learning more about the community’s “…history, mission, current proje cts” and some the partnerships that has already been created in the past. In this way, one is more inclined to have an idea of where to concentrate his/her effort s in obtaining useful collaborators and data. A data collection also forms a sig nificant part of research and how it could impact participation of the community members. Efforts should be made to make sure members of the community are playi ng important roles in every stage of the research process. However, it should be put into consideration that sometimes, involving community members in every sta ge might not be possible depending on their commitments in other areas of their lives, for example, job or family issues. Once the date has been collected, Stoc ker advises that the community members should be encouraged to participate in da ta analysis for “if people affected by the project are involved in doing the analy sis, they will receive educational and skills and are more likely to use the res earch…” (38). Finally, if the community participated in the first four stages of the research, they should be allowed to see and read the reports of the findings, e ither in writing, websites, or in neighborhood directory where community members could access the report more easily. As one engages in either direct or indirect service to the community, the likeli hood of running into new challenges is inevitable. Especially when most of us wh o engage in the community service, have a preconceived thoughts that “we have to o ffer our services to them because they need them.” That’s why as far as am concern ed, working hand in hand with the core community representatives would lessen so me of the obvious challenges that might be on the way. As I begin my community b ased research with Mercy Project housing, my first priorities would be to build a good rapport with the tenants to whom we will be collaborating with in our sur veys of the food stores that will be affordable to the tenants. Also our site co ordinator Beth seems to be very enthusiastic and happy about the project, and th at’s a positive thing that will be of great importance towards the progress of our research. However, up until now, we have not had the chance to meet with the co mmunity members (the tenants) to whom we expect to learn more about what they wa nt us to work on and together we will be able to set our goals and start working on the project. I believe, having read Stocker, ABCD and Keith Morton’s articles on service that an effective and positive result oriented research with communit y, must first build its strong foundation by understanding the needs of the comm

unity, integrating the community resources and assets with the organizations’ reso urces and assets, and finally, that a successful research projects highly depend s on how well we manage participation and collaboration from both sides, i.e. fr om the community member’s side and the research organization. In this way, one abl e to understand and be prepared for the politics and the complexity that surroun d community based researches.

Cited Sources 1) Morton, Keith. "Starfish Hurling and Community Service." Print 2) Kretzmann, John P., John L. Mcknight, Sarah Dobrowolski, and Deborah Pun tenney. “Asset Based Community Development Institute." School of Education & Socia l Policy. ABCD Institute, 2005. Web. 17 Sept. 2011. <http://www.sesp.northwester n.edu/abcd/kellogg/>. 3) Stocker, Randy. "The Goose Approach to Research." Ed. Lisa C. Shaw, Bird sall Melanie, and Crouppen B. Margo. Research Methods for Community Change. Thou sand Oak: Sage Publications, 2005. 27-57.