, Volume 80, Issue 1, pp 14-47

Broadening participation in community problem solving: A multidisciplinary model to support collaborative practice and research

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Abstract

Over the last 40 years, thousands of communities—in the United States and internationally—have been working to broaden the involvement of people and organizations in addressing community-level problems related to health and other areas. Yet, in spite of, this experience, many communities are having substantial difficulty achieving their collaborative objective, and many funders of community partnerships and participation initiatives are looking for ways to get more out of their investment. One of the reasons we are in this predicament is that the practitioners and researchers who are interested in community collaboration come from a variety of contexts, initiatives, and academic disciplines, and few of them have integrated their work with experiences or literatures beyond their own domain. In this article, we seek to overcome some of this fragmentation of effort by presenting a multidisciplinary model that lays out the pathways by which broadly participatory processes lead to more effective community problem solving and to improvements in community health. The model, which builds on a broad array of practical experience as well as conceptual and empirical work in multiple fields, is an outgrowth of a joint-learning work group that was organized to support nine communities in the Turning Point initiative. Following a detailed explication of the model, the article focuses on the implications of the model for research, practice, and policy. It describes how the model can help researchers answer the fundamental effectiveness and “how-to” questions related to community collaboration. In addition, the article explores differences between the model and current practice, suggesting strategies that can help the participants in, and funders of, community collaborations strengthen their efforts.