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LEARN Missoula

Research Methodology and Rationale

To accomplish our research aims and goals, a mixed method approach will be used. Mixed methods research (MMR) involves collecting, analyzing, and integrating quantitative and qualitative data in a single project, resulting in a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon under investigation (Creswell & Creswell, 2018; Leavy, 2017). There are several types of mixed methods approaches. The specific type that LEARN will use is quantitative nested in a qualitative design. This involves using a qualitative method as primary and nesting a quantitative component in the design (Anderson, 2016; Creswell & Creswell, 2018).

Qualitative Method

The most important rationale for LEARN choosing a qualitative method is that it offers one of the best ways to honor and value diversity as well as facilitate active collaboration between researchers and BIPOC stakeholders, key informants/participants throughout the research process (Jason & Glenwick, 2016; Leavy, 2017). Additionally, LEARN is fully cognizant of the need for researchers to actively resist the hegemony of Western dominant culture’s universalizing narratives relating to ethno-racial groups and the injustices and inequities they experience (Brodsky et. al., 2016; Ungar et al., 2008). This active resistance can occur most effectively through engagement in qualitative approaches (Ungar et al., 2008). Brodsky et. al. (2016) have corroborated the fact that qualitative methods can be central in efforts to reframe dominant narratives. In fact, they have further contented that qualitative methods encourage a focus on both the individual and community-level, which can play an active role in responding to and changing systemic, broad-based issues (Brodsky et. al., 2016).

Given LEARN’s commitment to actively resist the domination and supremacy of Western narratives and to center, leverage and privilege BIPOC voices and lived experiences of navigating difficult life realities, the primary qualitative methodology will be participatory and action oriented (Leavy, 2017), grounded in narrative and phenomenological traditions and informed by the transformative paradigm (Mertens, 2009). An important rationale for using the transformative research perspective is that it intentionally centers the voices of BIPOCs who are usually kept at the perimeter of the research process (Mertens, 2009). More crucially, two hallmarks of the transformative paradigm are: a) forming partnerships with BIPOCs for whom the research has practical applicability, and b) instituting and implementing transformations. Thus, the research becomes participatory and action oriented (Krai & Allen, 2016; Leavy, 2017).

Narrative Inquiry

As noted, narrative inquiry is one of two qualitative research traditions that will undergird the proposed research. Narrative inquiry has salience because it focuses on stories which are one of the ways people organize human experiences and make them meaningful (Daly, 2007). Furthermore, the emphasis on storytelling is linked to the fact that stories are helpful in understanding how individuals live life and interact with community structures/systems. Therefore, in collecting a diversity of stories, LEARN Missoula will come to identify common elements that will deepen understanding of the nature of BIPOCs lived experiences and social reality in Missoula as well as their shared, cultural and community experiences (Archibald, 2019; Daly, 2007).

In the process of soliciting this BIPOC-generated knowledge through storytelling, LEARN Missoula will invite BIPOC collaborators, key informants/stakeholders to envision (dream) and design (co-construct) solutions and action strategies for transforming Missoula into a place and space of equality, equity, and inclusion (Boyd, 2016). Envisioning and designing a transformed Missoula are crucial elements of the process.

Essentially, narrative inquiry involves engaging with and listening to BIPOC key informants/stakeholders, collaborators as they share stories of their lived experience relating to an area of joint interest; in this case, experiences of discrimination, marginalization, injustice, disenfranchisement, unfair treatment, or displacement when they navigate public spaces, interface with municipal systems, and interact with business institutions. The story-telling process will culminate with an invitation for BIPOCs to envision and design a transformed Missoula that has everything they need to succeed, thrive, and experience a sense of belonging and place in public and private spaces.

It is important to note that the stories told by BIPOC collaborators/key informants/ stakeholders will be afforded all the rights and privileges of privacy and confidentiality. They will be stored in a confidential place without identifying information. In addition, the raw data will be available only to LEARN Missoula research team associated directly with the project. Furthermore, all finding disseminated will be aggregate responses/themes and no names will be used or attached.

Phenomenological Approach

Similar to narrative inquiry, the phenomenological approach focuses of direct description of experiences through BIPOC participants/collaborators, stakeholders’ own lens and voices, which is key to gaining access to their lived, everyday lifeworld as the intersect with community structures and systems Daly, 2007). BIPOC research partners and stakeholders will be invited to describe experiences of their everyday world as they see it, which is inclusive of descriptions of what experienced and how they impact and shape each collaborator’s reality (Chilisa, 2011). To fully come to understand BIPOCs experiences and perspectives, LEARN will suspend their own personal judgements or unfounded conclusions about the reality of BIPOC lives in Missoula in order to see it as BIPOC participants/stakeholders, collaborators do (Daly, 2007).

Premature, uniformed, and untimely assessments, judgements and actions have resulted in unfruitful efforts toward improving relationships and interactions between BIPOC and community structures. Therefore, LEARN will center BIPOC experiences as a reflexive lens when it comes to addressing (ultimately transforming) the ways in which systemic oppression, marginalization and inequity have been institutionalized in Missoula (Tuhiwai-Smith, 2012).

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