Urban partnered with the DC Housing Authority and residents and community-based organizations from the Benning Terrace Development to co-create and test the PASS program, which educates and trains youth and adults in sexual health and safety. Urban researchers worked closely with program providers at eight public housing sites to implement PASS curriculum at four sites, and comparison programming at the other four. Input from partner service providers on research design, sampling techniques, the PASS curriculum, and survey language allowed the evaluation to reflect community realities. Service providers and Urban researchers jointly presented experiences with the PASS program at conferences throughout DC.
Through a partnership with Feeding America, the Urban team conducted focus groups with teens to gain insight into how food insecurity affected their well-being. This work led Urban to partner with the housing authorities in Portand, OR and Chicago, local service providers, and teens to develop and evaluate a teen leadership program focused on addressing community food insecurity. The teens and food project received extensive media coverage and the Urban team advised food banks and other organizations on developing their own teen-led programs.
East Baltimore Research Project (EBRP)
The EBRP is a multiphase community-led effort to equip East Baltimore residents with data and the research capacity to shape changes in their community. Urban was selected to partner with Annie E Casey Foundation and a group of community leaders in the East Baltimore neighborhood. The project team is currently training a group of four East Baltimore residents as co-researchers who will eventually pilot a full community engaged research project.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation collaborated with existing partnerships, located in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas, to launch an eight-year Family-Centered Community Change (FCCC) effort to develop more integrated sets of services to help parents and children succeed together in a “two-generation approach.”. FCCC was a collaborative effort that included input from grantees. Urban’s role was to evaluate all three community’s design, implementation, and family outcomes using community-engaged evaluation approaches such as input, participation, and reflections from community stakeholders—both program participants and staff involved in administering programming.
Transforming Health and Health Care Systems
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded Urban to support their efforts to improve the provision of integrated, high-quality, whole person health care in a way that is responsive to consumer and community preferences. As such, a Community Advisory Board (CAB) composed of individuals who represent diverse and underserved communities is being incorporated into the project team and research design. CAB members will share insights and provide input into framing research questions and interpreting findings and will support the dissemination of the findings. The CAB will ensure that research is grounded in actual experiences of community members.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, Urban undertook a community engaged study in partnership Neighborhood Preservation Inc., to determine ways in which housing code enforcement in Memphis can more strategically prioritize population health as a key outcome. The results of the study were presented to Memphis City leaders at their annual blight elimination summit and led to the adoption of a new code enforcement ordinance by Memphis city council and changes in practice within the city code enforcement department, which now prioritizes violations that are more closely related to health.
Funded by the Fund for Shared Insight in partnership with Feeding America to test and document ways to integrate client feedback loops into the organizational culture of two food banks and their local member agency partners. Working closely with clients to ensure that the project was grounded in client needs and experiences, the local Pathways teams iteratively co-designed the feedback process including identifying priorities, selecting feedback methods, refining feedback questions, reflecting on feedback, brainstorming solutions, and finding the best ways to close the loop.
Through the Nittoli Fellowship program, Urban partnered on research projects with Manmeet Kaur, the CEO and founder of City Health Works (CHW). CHW is a community health nonprofit located in Harlem, NYC, which hires and trains residents of the local community as “health coaches” to help patients with chronic disease manage their illnesses. The Urban team conducted a qualitative evaluation of the organization’s model, relying heavily on the health coaches to help design the study so that all aspects of the work reflected the needs and opinions of the coaches to the greatest extent possible.
With support from the Fleishman Fund, Urban partnered with the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) to develop a survey on policing in Austin, Texas in close consultation with the community and law enforcement. The data produced respectfully represented the experiences of people most affected by issues of high crime, intensive policing, and inequity in the criminal justice system. With these data, community members and police officers collaboratively brainstormed policies to make communities safer and improve police-community relations. The Community Voices Data Walk and resultant policy recommendations persuaded members of the Austin City Council to insist on key reforms before renewing the Austin Police Department’s labor agreement.
Urban partnered with the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation, the University of Tulsa, and a steering committee of civic leaders to produce a 10-year plan to strengthen a continuum of mental health care across multiple systems including health care, education, housing, criminal justice, and workforce development. Urban experts helped foster dialogue grounded in facts about the city’s needs and resources and helped identify gaps and inefficiencies and contributed to a plan to measure success as the plan moves forward.
With support from the Heinz Endowment, Urban studied structural barriers that contribute to racial differences in African American and white men’s access to economic opportunities in Pittsburgh. Urban researchers ensured that a diverse array of community perspectives were heard by conducting focus groups with men who have experienced barriers, as well as interviews with employers, financial intermediaries, and representatives from civic organizations. The project team analyzed conversations about policies, practices, and norms that drive Pittsburgh’s racially disparate outcomes and contributed to a community-based action plan recommending strategies to begin dismantling barriers to opportunity.
Funded by Uber to explore the impact of criminal background checks on employment in Washington DC. Research staff relied on feedback from a local stakeholder group consisting of community members with criminal background to develop the study approach and findings. Throughout data collection, local advocacy and government agencies that work with people with a criminal background were engaged to ensure that data collection tools and strategies were appropriate for the target audience.