ICCCR to Launch Participatory Action Research (PAR) Project with The Fortune Society in Harlem
By Juliette de WolfeThe International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at TC is partnering with The Fortune Society, a nonprofit organization that supports formerly incarcerated men and women in reentering society and rebuilding their lives, in conducting a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project. The project aims to co-create a new model of violence prevention and conflict resolution for the Fortune community, while reflecting on the broader process of collaborative model-building.
In the PAR methodology, community members and researchers work together to address challenges faced by the community, and, in so doing, share knowledge and information; the researchers learn about the lived-experiences of the community and the community members learn research, self-reflective practices and problem-solving skills. The launch is scheduled for November 11, 2010.
For four decades, The Fortune Society has been providing “wraparound” services for their clients (e.g., anger management; life skills training; health services, including substance abuse; counseling; education; job-readiness and vocational training and alternatives to incarceration.) In addition to these “wraparound” services, Fortune provides housing for a subset of its clients, who would otherwise be homeless, at a facility in Harlem known as The Fortune Academy or “The Castle.” The Castle, staffed largely by former Fortune clients, provides a safe, supportive climate that appears to catalyze the changes in self-awareness, attitudes and behavior necessary for residents to begin the challenging journey toward reentering society.
This PAR project has several objectives. At the broadest level, the ICCCR seeks to identify and develop a generalizable model for eliciting and co-creating local approaches to effective community conflict resolution. The Fortune Academy has an exemplary reputation for transmitting to their clients culturally-competent constructive conflict resolution skills, along with other cognitive and behavioral competencies that are necessary for successful reentry. Documentation of the key attributes of their approach can provide an example of best practices for use by other service providers. As the PAR team works to identify and document the Fortune Academy’s implicit framework for transmitting culturally-competent constructive conflict resolution skills to their clients, we will use self-reflective practices to identify our own discernment processes.
Another objective is to observe examples of collaborative knowledge creation in the PAR process. For example, it will be instructive to track the evolution of the questions we plan to pose in data collection in order to look at the dynamics among team members, i.e., among and between ICCCR researchers and Fortune clients and staff. A third objective, from a social justice perspective, is raising the visibility of both the Fortune Academy’s approach to transmitting culturally-competent constructive conflict resolution skills and the use of PAR technology. Raising the visibility of the Fortune Academy’s approach can propagate similar strategies in other agencies that deal with individuals who seek new life skills, including constructive conflict resolution. Highlighting the use of the PAR technology as a vehicle for partnership between university researchers and formerly incarcerated men and women being served by social agencies may encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across other populations with very different skills, experiences and resources to address issues of social relevance.