Community-Based Policy Analysis


For a period of a decade, between 2001 and 2011, the author directed a Community-Based Research Initiative in the Political Science Department at Northeastern University involving faculty members, upper-level undergraduates, and graduate students. The purpose of this Community-Based Research Initiative was the completion of a series of public policy studies having the following characteristics: (1) an applied focus on city and state levels of government; (2) a priority concern with problems affecting vulnerable and at-risk populations, particularly those reliant on health and social welfare systems as well as other public services; (3) a focus on issues currently prominent on the “political agenda” in the sense of being the subject of active debate among government decision makers and in the media; and (4) the formation of working partnerships in which community stakeholders played a significant role helping to identify topics for analysis, develop pragmatic solutions for the issues under examination, and disseminate study findings. An eclectic qualitative–quantitative methodology guided this research initiative, including use of such techniques as elite interviews, original surveys, legislative analysis, and coding of secondary sources such as newspaper stories, public databases, and computer websites. In all cases, the objective was to integrate standard social science tools with established policy analysis concepts while adapting both to the particular social and organizational context of our investigations.

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