Working Together for Change: The role of Community Faculty in education and research
Children, youth and young adults with disabilities and their families play a crucial role in changing the attitudes and expectations of their neighbours, those in the health, social service and education professions and public policy makers. We believe that they can be important agents of change in influencing the education of health professionals and research conducted at post secondary institutions. This 'In Brief' discusses the Community Faculty role, and how persons with disabilities and their families can provide practical input that can enhance both education and research. In this document, we describe this role as well as the factors that help or hinder in making such partnerships successful.
Why did we do this project?
The purpose of the Working Together for Change Project was to influence the thinking and behaviour of researchers, educators and students in post secondary educational settings. We aimed to:
- Increase their understanding of issues that are important to children, youth and young adults with disabilities and their families.
- Increase collaborative partnerships between families and researchers at universities and colleges.
- Influence the ways in which researchers teach disability issues, set research directions, and collaborate with persons with disabilities and their families throughout the research process.
What do we know about this topic?
Benefits of Engaging Community Faculty
- Issues important to children, youth and families are identified and prioritized, so that resources can be focused on key research1,2
- Students gain practical communication and sensitivity skills3,4
- Interactions with Community Faculty throughout the education process can positively influence the attitudes of future and current clinicians5,6,7
- Community faculty gain experience and skills in communication and education
Facilitators of Successful Collaboration between Academic and Community Faculty:
- Orientation and on-going support for the Community Faculty member/organization2,6,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16
- On-going involvement, commitment, and communication throughout the entire research or education process1,10,15,16,17,18,19,20
- Decision making that is based on consensus between the academic and community faculty8,21
- Budgeting for costs1,2,3,8,12,14,15,16,18,20,22
- Addressing practical details (such as parking costs, honorariums) at the beginning of the collaboration12,14,21
- Providing community faculty with written materials that are easy to read, shared early and shared often2,8,14,17,23
- Demonstrating mutual respect for differing skills and knowledge (including personal experiences2,8,10,11,12,14,15,18,19,20
- Providing opportunities to build on strengths and abilities, and maintaining flexibility regarding scheduling and expectations23
- Establishing trust between academic and community faculty1
- Matching of Community and Academic Faculty interests2,10,17
- Ensuring support from senior levels of organizations13
- Dedicating time to develop relationships14
Challenges to Successful Collaboration between Academic and Community Faculty
- Time needed to establish relationships, which can be difficult in time-sensitive research initiatives17
- Institutional barriers, such as financial and research processes2
- Limited access to resources (funds to pay parking, honorariums, staff to organize sessions)17
- Jargon and statistical language used by academic faculty17
- Continuity of the Community Faculty over time2,24
What was done in the "Working Together for Change" study?
In this participatory action research project, we began by targeting two geographical areas: Toronto and the Hamilton/Niagara region. Regional events were held to identify needs and research directions.
The Toronto Region held a series of seminars for educators and researchers focused on the principles, methods, examples and strategies to support community based research. Further support was given to select organizations to increase consumer engagement to further the goals of the grant.
The Hamilton/Niagara Region identified the lack of orientation materials and supports to persons interested in becoming "Community Faculty." Activities focused on the development of easy to read materials, fact sheets and an orientation guide.
Within the main project, we conducted a literature review that identified facilitators and barriers to consumer engagement within post-secondary education and research. Seed grants were given to six out of twelve applications to consumer-academic teams. Projects that focused on sustainability and concrete outcomes were supported.
Focus groups were then held with members of local family networks and faculty teaching at colleges and/or universities.
What we learned from Focus Groups:
- The premise of Community Faculty is to ensure that persons with disabilities and their families feel engaged as opposed to observed in research and educational activities. Since many students are taught to be task-oriented, and to treat the disability, consideration must be given on methods and processes to collaborate with Community Faculty.
- Community Faculty can play many different roles within education and research, and there is a need to recognize, define, and build on the Community Faculty member's strengths.
- Community Faculty interests need to be matched to appropriate research and education opportunities
- Community Faculty value health professionals that develop relationships on trust, respect, open communication, and mutual decision making. These are principles of family-centred service25.
- Community Faculty identified that they may need orientation supports to effectively engage in research and education (such as ongoing feedback and jargon free written materials)
- Logistical supports are necessary to enable Community Faculty to participate in education and research, including compensation for travel, parking, child care and other related costs.
What do these findings mean?
- Community Faculty can play an important role in the education of health professionals.
- Community Faculty programs are more successful if their organization supports orientation and provides logistical supports, such as compensation for travel and parking.
- Involvement of Community Faculty in research enhances the relevance and applicability of research studies and implementation of their findings.
The Institute of Family Centred Care has many resources (complimentary and for purchase) on the website to facilitate Community Faculty Programs (or "Family Faculty Programs).
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This annotated bibliography, authored by Julie Stevenson at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO, is intended "to educate the reader about the history, definition, key components, execution, and utility of participatory research in a variety of populations. In the bibliography, one will also find references to articles that provide insight, hints and tips from experienced researchers.
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Participatory Research and Practice offers a promising new framework for researchers, youth workers and child rights advocates of all kinds who are committed to social justice and change around the world. This international volume of Children, Youth and Environments provides an opportunity to read about work on child and youth participation from nine regions of the world.
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Community Based Research Resources (courtesy of Community Campus Partnerships for Health)
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Participatory Action Research Resources (courtesy of the Housing New Canadians Research Working Group)
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For more information on the Working Together for Change study, contact Mary Law, firstname.lastname@example.org