The Institute for Community Based Research Education and Evaluation (ICBREE) is an initiative of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, whose overall objective is to make available to communities the vast knowledge generated by universities and by community members, in order to increase the quality of life for persons with disabilities, our families, and the communities in which we live.
Current Projects of the ICBREE include:
The Program for Investment in Micro Entrepreneurs (PRIME) Research: Year 3
With our grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration our PRIME project for year three will focus on discovering, testing and evaluating sector-specific best practices that will help socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the United States gain access to new markets that will result in new customers. Specifically, we will focus on the following sectors:
- Arts & crafts micro enterprises
- Home-based child care businesses
- Construction/lawn care businesses
- Specialty food production operations
- Jewelry/gifts micro enterprises
PRIME project goals for year three:
Identify specific access-to-market techniques for specific industry sectors.
- Research & identify face-to-face (traditional) access-to-market techniques in microenterprise major industry sectors.
- Research & identify internet-based (social marketing) access-to-markets techniques in microenterprise major industry sectors.
Test and evaluate most promising specific access-to-market techniques.
- Test and evaluate most promising face-to-face (traditional) access to market technique in arts & crafts industry sector.
- Test and evaluate most promising internet-based (social marketing) access to market technique in arts & crafts industry sector.
Scale up access-to-market techniques so they are accessible on a national level.
- Select most promising access-to-market techniques in the arts & crafts industry sector and develop web-based dissemination processes.
- Share arts & crafts access-to-market best practices nationally, in order to benefit micro entrepreneurs operating in the arts & crafts industry sector and those microenterprise development practitioners that serve them.
- Evaluate changes in knowledge about access-to-market best practices, along with changes in entrepreneurial development activities as a result of this new knowledge.
- Develop year-end report of findings and disseminate to U.S. Small Business Administration, microenterprise development organizations, micro entrepreneurs, industry trade associations and state and local policy makers.
Alternative Therapies for Depression
Depression is a worldwide epidemic which affects over 210 million people every year. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States affecting 19 million Americans. In addition, worldwide 170 million people with depression will never receive treatment.
The Institute for Community Based Research Education and Evaluation is currently developing a program to increase awareness among the community about effective alternative treatment options for depression. We are creating an interactive, online knowledge exchange forum where depression sufferers can not only connect with each other, but also with depression researchers. This exchange will be bi-directional, where both parties, researchers and community members, will share their knowledge with the other.
Initially, we will be using this model to increase awareness regarding music therapy as an alternative treatment for depression. We are currently in the process of bringing together music therapy researchers, practitioners, and individuals in the community who suffer from depression into a structured online community, where our team will act as a mediator to foster conversations and learning.
Online Community Development
The Institute for Community Based Research Education & Evaluation is working to increase its capacity to reach out and engage communities and individuals through web-based video conferencing and social media technologies.
These capabilities are part of a model of knowledge co-production that seeks to connect knowledge producers (researchers) with knowledge users (the community) in a variety of content areas and settings. The Institute will act as a knowledge intermediary tasked with identifying topic areas, assessing the needs of the groups, gathering research, and facilitate the dissemination and use of this research in a manner that benefits all parties.
Ultimately, knowledge users will be better informed and be able to apply research based techniques and therapies in their communities which will in turn help inform future research conducted by the knowledge producers.
The technology provides the conduit by which we will connect and sustain the interactions between these two groups allowing us to reach a geographically dispersed audience and connecting them with both experts, and peers.
Currently, the Institute is focusing on communities of micro entrepreneurs and people suffering from depression who are interested in exploring alternative therapies. The model, however, was constructed to fit any of a number of topics or areas of interest so the possibilities are limitless as we move forward.
Redevelopment of AmeriCorps*VISTA Program
Our AmeriCorps*VISTA program is being redeveloped to shift focus from the disability community to veterans, especially veterans with disabilities. Our new AmeriCorps*VISTA initiative will recruit veterans to work in communities throughout Michigan to connect returning veterans with community resources that will assist them in assimilating back into their community. Furthermore, our AmeriCorps*VISTA members (who are themselves veterans) will develop opportunities for veterans to continue to give to their communities through the form of community service activities.
Statewide Needs Assessment Survey
In the summer of 2007, the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (Ann Arbor CIL), in collaboration with the University of Michigan – Community Based Research Fellows program, replicated a survey first administered by United Way of Washtenaw County.
This survey tool focuses specifically on the disability community and their concerns. By responding to 52 issues or indicators, compiled into 13 indices, survey participants had the opportunity to tell us how important particular issues are to them and how they feel our community is doing in response to these issues.
The decision to replicate United Way’s survey was made because their original survey, conducted the year prior to ours, did not provide us with insight into how individuals with disabilities viewed our community. We felt that by replicating this survey within the disability community we could achieve the following objectives:
- To expand awareness of the needs of individuals with disabilities versus the needs of their non-disabled peers.
- To align and improve CIL services based upon the stated needs of individuals with disabilities in their community.
Initial results showed that people with disabilities felt very strongly about issues related to employment, healthcare, housing, and transportation. And in almost all cases, people with disabilities felt that issues important to them were not being adequately addressed in our community. Our survey results proved to us that the opinions and beliefs of individuals with disabilities can be quite different from the community as a whole. Because there are stark differences, Centers for Independent Living cannot and should not rely on generalized research to develop their organization’s response to the disability community.
Four years later, the Ann Arbor CIL partnered with 12 of the other 13 CILs in Michigan to conduct needs assessments in each of their service areas. Like our original survey, the objectives of our 2011 survey focused on creating awareness of the needs of individuals with disabilities and responding to their concerns. This third objective was also added:
- To identify the needs of individuals with disabilities throughout Michigan in an effort to improve the join advocacy efforts of Michigan CILs.
Each organization utilized the same tool, a slightly modified version of the 2007 survey, to solicit potential participants for their responses. Throughout late spring and early summer of 2011, surveys were conducted over the phone, face-to-face, and electronically through email and our website. Collectively, 1600 individuals with and without disabilities participated in our survey.
Preliminary results of the 2011 statewide survey show that people with and without disabilities are very like-minded in that everyone feels that employment and healthcare issues are extremely important and not being adequately addressed. However, similarities such as this are not seen throughout the entire survey. In one particularly interest case, people with disabilities stated a greater need for safety related issues than did their non-disabled peers.
Looking forward, we are collaborating with an assistant professor of Michigan State University’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, who is providing us with in-depth statistical analysis that will validate our survey results and provide us with insight into our survey findings. Following the completion of this work it is our intent to share our findings with community stakeholders in an effort to improve the quality of life of individuals with disabilities by responding to the issues that are important to them.
Enhancement of Reporting Processes
The ICBREE will continue the refinement of Ann Arbor CIL reporting processes, so that we can more accurately report on all of the work done by our organization. We will also be looking at ways to use this information to better understand how productive we are and how we can improve our programs and insure that they are closely aligned with the needs of people with disabilities in our community.