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FY 2018 Community Conversations Research

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Research has shown that community and civic engagement is imperative for lasting, system-wide change. This is particularly true in communities experiencing multiple social crises such as: unemployment, poverty, disinvestment, and violence. The Austin community in Chicago Illinois is one of these communities experiencing an epidemic of social crises. Yet for all of its challenges, the community is also resilient and possesses a latent civic infrastructure with potential to play a major role in transformative change efforts. Austin Coming Together (ACT), an umbrella organization uniting many community organizations throughout Austin, has spent over eight years developing action plans to create meaningful, community-based change in the Austin neighborhood. This study will work with ACT to assess and evaluate the collective impact of its inter-organizational efforts. This groundbreaking study will look at social cohesion and engagement at both individual and organizational levels to better understand how networks can foster deeper participation, engagement, and ultimately social change. Four research questions were posed: 1) To what extent, and in what ways, do community-based organizations align with each other on implementing long-term collective impact goals? 2) For community residents, what factors predict strong participation and engagement with Austin organizations and broader collective impact efforts? 3) What are the impacts of participation and engagement for community residents? 4) What role does the larger community network of organizations play in fostering participation and civic engagement of community residents? Longitudinal organizational surveys, community stakeholder surveys, and observational and secondary data will be combined to present a nuanced and dynamic analysis of community and organizational civic engagement.

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