Everyone is a member of a community, and every community is continually changing. To successfully manage that change, community members need information. This book is an in-depth review of all of the research methods that communities can use to solve problems, develop their resources, protect their identities, and build power. With an engaging writing style and numerous real world examples, Randy Stoecker shows how to use a project-based research model in the community to diagnose a community condition, prescribe an intervention for the condition, implement the prescription, and evaluate its impact. At every stage of this model there are research tasks, from needs and assets assessments to process and outcome studies. Readers also learn the importance of involving community members at every stage of the project and in every aspect of the research.
A lot has happened in the five years since this book was first published, and a lot has stayed the same. I changed institutions, going from a low-ranked open enrollment university in a decimated rust-belt town to a high-ranked research university in a vibrant state capitol. I've brought my past five years of experience and knowledge into the book, reflecting on the most recent effective projects out there, and my learnings from my new mentors in Wisconsin and elsewhere. My journey along this path as an academic trying to practice effective community engagement is, after all, five years older than it was when the first edition of this volume came out. Finally, it is important for you the reader to know that I am composing this second edition in the midst of the most powerful political upheaval in my conscious lifetime. In February of 2011 the newly elected governor of Wisconsin, along with the new state legislature—all controlled by Republicans—started ramrodding a series of right-wing bills through the statehouse. The most incendiary of those bills was one that would reduce the state budget by cutting the benefits of state workers and practically eliminating public employee unions. The legislation produced an uprising that led to thousands of people occupying the capitol for a three-week period, tens of thousands of people marching in the streets, thousands of people across the state with petitions to recall state senators, and a string of court cases that currently has stopped the legislation from taking effect. In the midst of this uproar, which we expect to continue yet for months, I am revising this book about using participatory action research in communities. And I have been witnessing countless examples of such research as students and other activists researched how to keep the capitol occupied, conduct successful recall campaigns, and block legislation that would roll back Wisconsin's progressive tradition by a century. So you will see some of my consequently raised consciousness and much deeper understanding of the power dimensions of the research process in these pages. You will also see the influence in some of the art in the book. My niece, Eden Raduege, is a skilled anime artist, and attended a number of the demonstrations here in Madison. I commissioned her for the art at the beginning of each chapter, drawing on both her own rising consciousness and her graphic design talents.