Members of the community engagement team, Engaging Richmond, attended the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) 2nd annual Research Summit held on December 15, 2016 in Washington, D.C. to discuss civic engagement at the local level. The meeting brought together researchers who evaluate civic engagement and volunteerism.
Community stakeholders from Flint, MI and Richmond, VA participated in a plenary session at the summit on the topic of collaborative research and action in communities where civic engagement can be challenging. Panel members discussed how community research teams can make a difference when dealing with the various issues that occur within communities. Engaging Richmond members provided insight into the importance of building relationships with community members and demonstrating that the needs and opinions of residents are taken into account when conducting research that impacts them. At the session, they discussed their experiences with using these principles to effectively bring community leaders, residents, and other stakeholders together to facilitate a conversation around public housing redevelopment.
“…In Richmond, our team proactively thought to address the public housing issue instead of coming at it later. We’ve tried to do collaborative work bringing stakeholders together rather than waiting until there was something that did not work out,” said Emily Zimmerman, Ph.D., Director of Community Engaged Research and Senior Researcher, VCU Center on Society and Health.
Engaging Richmond team members also presented their work at a break-out session dedicated to the discussion of new strategies for measuring civic engagement and social capital. There, they presented results from their Community Conversation project funded by CNCS. The project was aimed at better understanding civic engagement and volunteering at the local level. Richmond was chosen as one of several cities as a site for this pilot project.