Community development projects are developed with communities and local governments, helping them understand both the big picture and specific community needs. Consulting emphasizes developing supporting networks both within and across communities.
We have developed applied participatory action research projects with both geographic communities and social communities that cross local, regional or national boundaries. These include the Kenosha Social Capital Study, which looked at how community based organizations and churches support African Americans and Latinos in this majority white small city in Wisconsin. Projects for the Annie E Casey foundation compared the role of connections across neighborhood boundaries and place based strategies in the socio-economic success of families in communities involved in AECF’s Making Connections Initiative, including a case study of Milwaukee. The Pew sponsored Gateway studies project looked at community development issues in neighborhoods with many new immigrants. The Lilly Endowment sponsored Faith and Organizations Project looked at how faith communities related to nonprofit organizations they founded to provide social services, health, education and community development. Many of these faith based organizations served people very different from the founding religious community. Our community development work suggests that for communities to thrive they need to develop both strong ties and organizations within the community, as well as equally strong bridging ties to other communities and institutions like government, foundations and nonprofits beyond the community that have the resources they need. Each project involves translating research into concrete products like community development strategies or programs to address specific community problems.