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Community Readiness for Change and Youth Violence Prevention: a Tale of Two Cities


This case study identifies a situation in which there exists a set of preconditions for the successful application of evidence based practice to bear on the community based problem of youth violence. The concept of readiness to change and its impact on the success or failure of interventions designed to change harmful or dangerous behavior among individuals is well established and understood in intervention research. In recent years this concept has been discussed and developed in the community intervention and harm reduction literatures. The current study is one of a community where an attempt was made to identify community levels of harm, develop a strategic plan to reduce the source of harm, and develop, implement, and evaluate youth violence prevention interventions. Over more than 5 years of involvement by university based researchers and community partners, the effort was largely unsuccessful. The events of this project are discussed within the context of the Community Readiness Model Edwards et al. (J Community Psychol 28(3): 291–307, 2000) and we present a narrative that helps to highlight the reasons for the relative lack of success of the effort. We suggest additional strategies and actions that might have helped to overcome the lack of readiness of this particular community to reduce the harms associated with youth violence. Suggestions that may improve chances for a more successful set of outcomes for other communities in similar states of readiness to change and with similar challenges are given.

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We would like to thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Grant # 5 U49 CE000734) for support of this project; the conclusions and analysis remain the responsibility of the authors. We would also like to thank Nancy Guerra, PI, Kirk Williams, Co-PI, and all of the staff, students, and fellows who worked at the Southern California Academic Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention between 2000 and the present. We would especially like to thank Louis Tuthill for his contributions to the City B project, as well as numerous individuals from law enforcement, education, county and city governments, and non-profit agencies for their support of this project and the City B Red Team.

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Correspondence to Robert Nash Parker.

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Parker, R.N., Alcaraz, R. & Payne, P.R. Community Readiness for Change and Youth Violence Prevention: a Tale of Two Cities. Am J Community Psychol 48, 97–105 (2011).

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  • Community
  • Readiness to change
  • Prevention