Matthew Sisk (University of Notre Dame)
Community-Based Research is a collaborative approach to research where academic researchers, community members, and organizations are involved in the development, implementation and dissemination of research. Such projects are often designed to promote positive change in particular areas of the community. Here we report on a two-year old community-based research project through the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Digital Scholarship and Center for Social Concerns. Working with the City of South Bend and the Near-Northwest Neighborhood association, we developed coursework to train students and community members in documenting property conditions and abandoned properties in an economically variable neighborhood of South Bend, Indiana. Technologically, the project uses ESRI ArcGIS Collector with data hosted by both Notre Dame and the City of South Bend. This application allows offline data collection and access while insuring that the data framework aligns with that used by all stakeholders. Despite this, data collection and analysis are not without some difficulties.
The inventory allows the community to access recently-acquired digital data to assist in planning decisions and help develop an increased sense of community ownership. For community partners without easy access to expensive GIS software, we also ensure that all data are available in an online framework. Repeating data collection annually will also provide valuable data on the effectiveness of various projects. Finally, immersing the students in both the community and its residents helps to foster a better tie between historically disparate groups.