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LEARN Missoula

Research Process

LEARN plans to engage in a recursive and iterative research process that is multiphasic. First, the LEARN researchers will focus on evaluating, examining, scrutinizing and “interrogating” existing/archival City and County data through a critical lens informed by racial justice. The scrutiny will include: a) assessing the nature of the existing/archival data, b) examining important information that should be included but is not, c) appraising how data are stored, accessed, and used, e.g., are they suppressed, ignored, misinterpreted, or used as a feedback system for change/modification, d) analyzing ways the data illuminate, substantiate or conflict with the lived realities of BIPOCs in Missoula, and e) evaluating the extent to which data reflect institutionalized biases, injustice and inequity.

In addition to the aforementioned data audit, LEARN will interview representatives from various municipal departments to gain a deeper understanding of data collection, analysis, storage and usage protocols as well as the data’s overall role in departmental functioning and change efforts. In essence, LEARN seeks to determine the level of municipal systems awareness of implicit and explicit biases and inequities toward BIPOC residents and how they use data to make changes. This is the quantitative component of the mixed method approach nested within the primary qualitative design (Creswell & Creswell, 2018, Leavy, 2017).

Second, LEARN will focus on gaining a depth and breadth of understanding of BIPOC social contexts and realities through their story-telling and descriptions that will flow from their own lens and perspectives. When engaging with BIPOC residents, collaborators, key informants/ stakeholders, LEARN Missoula will remain cognizant of the potential for inadvertent or unconscious suppression in the researcher-participant/stakeholder relationship (Charmaz, 2008). Therefore, BIPOC collaborators will be treated as experts of their lived experiences, social realities, and their social contexts. Thus, affording them power over the process and information sharing.

Third, throughout the research process BIPOC viewpoints and voices will remain integral, central, and highly valued; and their perspectives will be elicited through planned interactive processes (Charmaz, 2008). The process will involve cyclical and recursive steps that include: a) engagement with and listening to BIPOCs, b) invitation to share and solicitation of stories/descriptions of lived experiences and their reality of navigating through public and private spaces/places, c) envisioning and designing a transformed Missoula informed by Appreciative Inquiry (all of the aforementioned are part of data collection), d) analyses using critical lens, narrative and phenomenological analysis, and e) dissemination and presentation of findings. As noted, this is not a linear, sequential process but one designed to be mutually reciprocal and reinforcing.

Furthermore, the research process will direct LEARN team members to fully incorporate and give privilege to a plurality of voices, perspectives, and viewpoints of Missoula BIPOC residents, collaborators/key informants, stakeholders. Additionally, LEARN Missoula team members will engage in continual reflection and reflexivity on the analytic process and on the dynamic tension between where they reside on the continuum of insider/outsider poles (Brodsky, 2016; Daly, 2007). Finally, data collection and analysis will be recursive, meaning that collection and analysis are not independent of each other but will dynamically influence and shape how each unfolds. For example, the proposed study will use multi-methods of small group and personal interviews with BIPOC stakeholders and collaborators which will: a) ensure cross-validation and triangulation, b) facilitate member-checking, and c) safeguard the iterative process (Leavy, 2017).

Fourth, the qualitative findings will emerge from narrative and phenomenological analyses of BIPOC stakeholders/key informants’ stories and descriptions within and among group participants/collaborators, across individual interviewees, and among groups members and individual participants. These descriptions and story narratives will be organized into overarching thematic categories that are representative of and have correspondence with BIPOC stated viewpoints and perspectives.

Finally, as LEARN Missoula engages in the research process, it advances a commitment to remain cognizant of and informed by two central guiding principles: 1) this research seeks to privilege BIPOC voices which enhances access to local knowledge, and 2) the research is place-based. Place is important in the process of storytelling because embedded in certain places and locations are memories as well as physical manifestations connected to maintaining these interactions (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015).

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