Voices from the Field LEARNING

Appendix C
Methodology and Questions

Sample Selection
For the purposes of this report, a comprehensive community initiative has three defining characteristics:

Working from this definition, the project team reviewed reports and consulted experts in the field to devise a list of comprehensive community initiatives from which to invite representatives for the peer group sessions. The team in no way pretends that the group of initiatives that eventually participated is exhaustive. Given the fluid parameters of the CCI definition, it inevitably represents only a sample of these efforts. Moreover, while some of the initiatives that were included may already be working on all the above-stated goals, others may be evolving in that direction. The project team believes that they are nonetheless illustrative of  the field and that conclusions based on their experiences can speak legitimately for the field as a whole.

In the end, eighteen CCIs were represented. In addition, four other community development corporations (CDCs) were invited to participate in the process because they generally conform to the criteria the team put forth for CCI designation and because of their rich history and experience. (See Appendix D for full list of participating initiatives.)

The project team scheduled eleven one-day peer-group sessions over the course of a two-month period, May 22 – July 19, 1995. The peer groups are listed with the number of sessions held:

The project team identified all peer group participants except residents and members of governance structures, who were nominated by CCI directors or funders. Directors also nominated some of the staff members who participated. By the end of the process, the insights of 94 actors in the field had been solicited.

At least four members of the seven-member project team were present at any given session. Two members of the team were responsible for facilitating the discussion, and two other members were responsible for distilling the information into preliminary synopses. Team members interchanged roles from session to session. Each session was taped and transcribed, and discussants were granted anonymity to encourage their most forthright responses.

Prior to their attendance at the meeting, discussants were provided with a detailed list of written questions upon which to reflect. The questions, listed below, covered seven core issues:

Although questions were tailored to each peer group classification, the essence of the questions remained the same across groups. However, midway through the process, questions were reorganized to allow the theme of community building, which had emerged as a central issue in early sessions, to be discussed more thoroughly in subsequent sessions.

Transcriptions of the sessions, which were based on responses to the seven core categories outlined above, served as the project’s “raw data.” The raw data were reviewed in conjunction with selective initiative documents and the team’s preliminary synopses. After a review of the material in its totality, the team reorganized the data into the format presented in this report.

Discussants were asked to speak from personal experiences. Because of the nature of CCIs, some of the discussants were actually speaking from experience in multiple roles. Moreover, a few of the participants had experience from more than one initiative and spoke from the perspective of the same role in multiple initiatives. This overlap in roles and initiative perspective added to the richness of the discussions.

Sample Questions

1. Comprehensiveness

The purpose of this session is to explore lessons learned about the pros and cons of a comprehensive approach—as opposed to focusing on specific sectors or problem areas—and to explore the utility/feasibility of the concept of “synergy.”

Questions to provoke your thinking:

2. Governance

The purpose of this session is to explore lessons learned about the forms and structures of governance that work best to promote various governance objectives.

Questions to provoke your thinking:

3. Leadership Development and Community Building

The purpose of this session is to explore lessons learned about strategies for building “community” and developing local capacity for community improvement.

Questions to provoke your thinking:

4. Context

The purpose of this session is to explore the contextual factors that facilitate or hinder comprehensive community initiatives and the extent to which CCIs can have an impact on the larger system.

Questions to provoke your thinking:

5. Financial and Technical Support

The purpose of this session is to attempt to distill lessons about the kinds of  technical, human, and financial resources that are most important for CCI success.

Questions to provoke your thinking:

6. Evaluation and Outcomes

The purpose of this session is to explore those aspects of the evaluation process that have been most helpful and most problematic and to distill any lessons about markers of progress.

Questions to provoke your thinking:

7. General Reflections

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