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2015 Spring Community Based Research Summaries

May 12, 2015

Community Assistantship Program (CAP) Summaries

Aquatic Invasive Species Project
Initiative Foundation Works Daily to Strengthen the Economy and Communities of Central Minnesota”
Sophia Gutterman, Forest and Natural Resource Management

The Initiative Foundations is partnering with Associate Professor Mae Davenport in the Department of Forest Resources to conduct an evaluation of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) management strategies. A student research is assisting with an AIS literature review, a review of social science research, and a program evaluation. The results will be used to inform the larger AIS evaluation project.

MN Hazelnut Foundation
“Ramping Up the Hazelnut Industry through Market Development”
Amanda Sames, Conservation Biology

The Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation (MNHF) was formed in 2008 with a mission of growing hazelnuts, hazelnut farmers, and hazelnut farming through outreach, education, and collaboration between members and their communities. Using the University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Partnership’s successful Byerly’s Apple Pie project as a model, this project will convene a focus group specific to hazelnuts to work through potential food product and marketing strategy in order to maintain and stimulate hazelnut production. A graduate assistant is interviewing Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation members about what they are currently doing with their nuts, products they are selling and to whom, and strategize about other possible uses for locally grown hazelnuts. The graduate assistant will compile the interviews into a report, start a list of researchers who can contribute to product development components, and also convene a focus group of hazelnut buyers from the Twin Cities. All of this will be compiled into a final report where the results will be published and shared with existing and new growers so they are aware of the marketing avenues available before growing.

Northwoods Food Project
“Quantifying the Economic Opportunity of Local Food Production in Cook County”
Samuel Johnson, Public and Nonprofit Management Concentration

The Northwoods Food Project is a nonprofit organization that started seven years ago with the goal to increase food sustainability in Cook County. The county’s economy is mostly sustained by tourism and most agricultural activities have been reduced. Cook County’s agriculture is limited by seasons, soils, and 10% private land ownership. A graduate assistant will develop the best methods to collect data regarding the annual dollars spent on food in the market segments by Cook County entities, market segment estimation from vendors and delineate market segments for future growth for county vendors. The final product will be a research paper containing data that quantifies the annual Cook County food market and outlines the economic viability of local agriculture fulfilling specific food market sectors. This will be used to underwrite future grants to train local agriculture entrepreneurs in their business plans to expand and realign their current market and operations to fulfill local food needs and expand the economy.

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance
“Extending the Minnesota Growing Season with Solar Heated High Tunnels”
Sandeep Vollala, Masters of Electrical Engineering

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that solar energy is safely and effectively accessible to communities of all income levels. Heated soil and high tunnels have been proven to increase Minnesota’s growing season, however, the effects of using solar thermal energy to transfer that heat is less known. RREAL has installed monitoring equipment at two high tunnel production sites in rural Crow Wing County and is working with the farmers, who grow the same crops in each of the tunnels and document their production. A graduate assistant will analyze the data from the equipment. RREAL plans to develop a solar thermal high tunnel sizing calculator based on the data collected. 

Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program Summaries

American Family Indian Family Center
“Exploring the Medicine Wheel as a Framework for American Indian Organizational Development”
Lann Briel, Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership

The American Indian Family Center (AIFC) is a nonprofit organization established under the St. Paul Ramsey County Children’s Initiative in 1996. Its mission is to provide programs and services enriched with American Indian values and culture to American Indian individuals and families residing in St. Paul. The Medicine Wheel is at the core of all AIFC services. The graduate assistant will help review the previous research project (which will provide a framework from which to work on), research how AIFC currently utilizes the Medicine Wheel, look at how its data is being managed, provide recommendations on how to more effectively manage its services and data to meet the needs of AIFC using the Medicine Wheel. The student may also connect with other American Indian and non-American Indian organizations to learn what is similar and different about the way they manage data and develop organizing strategies that incorporate the Medicine Wheel. The results will be compiled into a report that will help benefit everyone served by the AIFC. 

Build Wealth MN
“Family Stabilization Plan Evaluation”
Demitri McGee, Psychology

Build Wealth Minnesota is a nonprofit dedicated to helping educate and prepare people to get out of debt, out of poverty, and become self sufficient. The primary focus for Build Wealth is a two-year intensive financial literacy education program titled the “Family Stabilization Plan.” It is designed to stabilize the whole family and strengthen communities. The goal is to help families, individuals, and communities embrace a new mindset regarding giving, spending, saving, banking, investing, and creating generational wealth instead of generational poverty. A research assistant will evaluate Build Wealth’s “Family Stabilization Plan.” The results will show areas where the organization can improve or emphasize in the future to better serve participants. The results will shape best practice opportunities for similar programs by stakeholders and community partners regionally. 

Cleveland Neighborhood Association
“Cleveland Neighborhood Tenant Organizing Project”
Sarah Rossman, Youth Development Leadership

The Cleveland Neighborhood Association (CNA) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in the North Minneapolis neighborhood. CNA has struggled with meaningfully engaging renters to participate in CNA beyond event attendance. The organization seeks to have all tenants engaged in every aspect of the organization and therefore have an accurate representation of the neighborhood and its needs. A graduate assistant will collect direct narratives and survey responses from tenants and landlords in the Cleveland Neighborhood. The student will also help host focus groups and prioritize contact with tenants to encourage engagement in events and committees. The results will help inform the CNA board and staff of ways to engage a previously under-represented group of residents with the hope that more tenants will be involved in the neighborhood’s leadership.

District 2 Community Council
“Adapting the Community Capitals Framework (CCF) and Mind Mapping Research Tools to Identify Priority Impacts and Promise Indicators for Saint Paul District Councils”
Carly Lykes-Frostman, Masters of Public Policy

The District 2 Community Council is the second largest of seventeen St. Paul Community Councils serving the northeast corner of the city. Though District 2 is the lead Council, this project will work with all seventeen community councils. In a Summer 2014 CURA research project, the Community Capitals Framework (CCF) and mind mapping software was introduced and revealed the interactions between different parts of the community for seven community capital types. A group of district council staff looked at their areas of impact, potential measurement indicators, and began to develop a theory of change. A graduate assistant will work with the St. Paul district council stakeholders to adapt these research tools and apply them to identify both system-wide and individually based priority impacts and potential indicators for an evaluation framework. Analyzing the data and team consultation, the graduate assistant will then develop a resource guide for district councils to use the two tools to plan and evaluate programs. 

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
“Engaging Women Who Stay”
Heidi Romanish, Urban and Regional Planning

The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) was founded in 1978 to act as a unifying voice for battered women and a link between domestic violence organizations in Minnesota. While domestic abuse services are good in Minnesota, many women and children still do not have access or do not seek these services for a variety of reasons. This project’s goal is to engage battered women and their children from diverse communities across Minnesota in generating ideas for victim-centered outreach, services, and service delivery to victims who will not leave an abusive relationship or are in close contact with their current or former abuser. A graduate assistant will research how services are being provided to battered women and their children living in abusive relationships in other countries and the rest of the United States, conduct literature reviews of service delivery models of providing advocacy and support services, and compile findings from literature review and research on local and international models. MCBW staff will be gathering information from specific populations on their needs and on their perceptions of current services. The graduate assistant, in partnership with MCBW staff, will also compile and analyze the data and feedback from all MCBW correspondences (interviews, surveys etc.) and generate recommendations to pass on to the Board of Directors. The final product will be a document with findings and recommendations that will inform MCBW’s plan for envisioning future work in domestic violence.

 Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association
“Renters’ Rights in the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood: Assessing Renters’ Knowledge
Resource Access, Impediments, and Advocacy”
Olson, Urban and Regional Planning, Public Health

Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA) is a nonprofit neighborhood organization that works to enhance the quality of life in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood by facilitating community engagement, embracing a diversity of voices, and fostering economic and community development. This project will illuminate further issues and challenges for neighborhood renters, who comprise over half the neighborhood. PPNA will determine the roadblocks for renters to understand and exercise their right to safe, healthy housing, and will coordinate with the student researcher and tenant leaders. PPNA has established its renter networks and these residents are eager to be a part of this project. A student research assistant will work with PPNA to develop and implement a research project that will assess renters’ knowledge. PPNA will use these findings to shape its collaborative renter engagement work in 2015 and to better meets the needs of tenants, to implement strategies.

Union Park District Council
“Identifying Opportunities and Challenges for the Development of an African Market Serving St. Paul’s Somali Community”
Isaak Rooble, Winona State University–B.S. Business Management and Leadership

The Union Park District Council is a neighborhood organization in St. Paul that promotes resident involvement in community issues and ensures residents’ voices are heard in local government decision-making. For many years, the Somali community has identified a need for an African market near Skyline Tower in St. Paul. This idea has emerged from an earlier CURA project that surveyed and assessed the neighborhood. A graduate assistant will assess the capacities and needs of the Skyline residents who expressed such a desire and compare the initial efforts of the Skyline residents to successful efforts implementing markets elsewhere (specifically in the North American Somali communities). The graduate assistant will conduct independent research, analyze the data and identify the existing capacities and barriers towards making the market a reality.