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LEARN Missoula

Frequently Asked Questions

What is LEARN Missoula?
A research project team that is BIPOC led and directed. Each member comes with a repertoire of knowledge, skills and a professional value base. We also have a history of engaging in equity and diversity work. As a collective, we are committed to centering local BIPOC voices, experiences, and knowledge in the process of transforming community structures, municipal systems, and business institutions in Missoula.

Is LEARN Missoula a project of Missoula City Council?

No. LEARN Missoula is a separate entity. It emerged as result of concerns expressed by Missoula City Council about how to best address structural racism within City government. LEARN Missoula submitted a proposal for partial funding from the Missoula City Council but is also actively seeking other funding to continue the work. We exist to give voice to BIPOC people in Missoula.

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

What are the aims of this research project?
There are four aims:
1) To actively engage BIPOCs who historically have been forced to the margins of the research process.

2) To cultivate research partnerships with BIPOC community-based organizations, groups, and residents for whom the research matters on practical levels, meaning this research is participatory and action-oriented. The primary aim is not simply to listen and engage but to serve as a call to justice through social action.

3) To center BIPOC voices on issues of structural inequity, marginalization and systemic oppression by bringing their lived experiences to the forefront through an ethically well-designed research process that will inform transformative social action strategies.

4) To scrutinize the nature of municipal departments existing and archival data in order to gain a depth of understanding relating to their interactions with and treatment of BIPOC residents.
What is a fundamental premise of LEARN Missoula proposed research?

A fundamental premise of LEARN Missoula proposed research is that BIPOCs are uniquely qualified to provide germane and significant insights on effective ways to create just and equitable communities and municipal systems because of their lived experiences as ethno-racial minorities.
BIPOCs stratified location, position, and social identities, which converge and intersect synergistically, result in an ongoing cascade of statistically significant disparities that are inherent aspects of their lived experience. This makes them supremely eligible, imminently qualified, and in the best position to offer valuable and relevant action strategies and recommendations on creating more just, inclusive, unbiased, and equitable societies. Thus, LEARN Missoula will actively engage with, invite and center BIPOC thoughts, ideas and action strategies.

What are the two central guiding principles of LEARN Missoula research process?
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 (Tuck & McKenzie, 2015).

Who can participate?
LEARN Missoula will invite Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) residents and stakeholders to narrate and describe stories about their lived experiences noting how they connect their social reality and lived experiences in Missoula to systemic marginalization, disenfranchisement and inequity in irrefutable and measurable ways.
A crucial aspect of engagement is inviting BIPOC residents to envision and design a just, safe, inclusive, and equitable Missoula where they can experience an ongoing sense of safety, place, belonging and well-being. From these storied conversations, a comprehensive action plan for local leaders that privileges BIPOC-generated solutions and strategies will be formulated

What are important features of the research conversations?
Important features include: a) gaining insight into the meaning and impact of encounters of marginalization, inequity, injustice, and oppression as BIPOC residents navigate public and private spaces in Missoula, and b) centering BIPOC-generated solutions and social transformative action strategies in the struggle to dismantle institutionalized injustice and structurally oppressive and biased systems.
Narrating, describing, and substantiating lived experiences (currently seen as anecdotal) through research has the power to elevate these experiences in epistemically credible and legitimate ways.

Name at least one beneficial outcome.
One beneficial outcome of LEARN’s proposed research will be shaping and influencing current and future policies. Ungar (2012) has noted that the voices of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals tend to go unheard when it comes to the development of policies and services that matter most to their wellbeing. Therefore, LEARN will ensure that the lived experiences and recommended action strategies of diverse BIPOC groups are integrated in policy development or modification.

How will this research project be accomplished?
To accomplish the 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). 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).

Why was a primary qualitative design chosen?
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 Eurocentric dominant culture’s universalizing narratives relating to ethno-racial groups and the injustices and inequalities 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) corroborated the fact that qualitative methods can be central in efforts to reframe dominant narratives. In fact, they have contended 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).

How will the qualitative aspect unfold?
LEARN Missoula will solicit BIPOC-generated knowledge through storytelling. The project team will invite BIPOC collaborators, key informants/stakeholders to share their lived experiences then 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 an equitable and just Missoula are crucial elements of the process.
Essentially, the qualitative process 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 or 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.

What steps will LEARN Missoula take to ensure understanding and limit bias?
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).
Who will have access to these stories?
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 the LEARN Missoula research team. Furthermore, all finding disseminated will be aggregate responses/themes and no names will be used or attached.

Can you explain the research process?
It is 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. In addition, LEARN will interview representatives from various municipal departments to gain a deeper understanding of 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.
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. 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, experiences, and voices will remain integral, central, and highly valued; and their perspectives will be elicited through planned interactive processes.
Fourth, the qualitative findings will emerge from analyses of BIPOC stakeholders/key informants’ stories and descriptions. The descriptions and story narratives will be organized into overarching thematic categories that are representative of and have correspondence with BIPOC stated viewpoints and perspectives.

Tell us about data collection, sampling and recruitment.
Data collection, sampling and recruitment strategies are designed from a relational base. LEARN team members will seek out and form relationships with BIPOC residents and stakeholders who have insights into the issues relating to Missoula’s history of marginalization, inequity, injustice and oppression in its community, business, and municipal structures. LEARN will engage BIPOC individuals, groups, and community-based organizations and invite them to share stories about their lived experiences and social realities of navigating through community, business, and municipal systems in Missoula.
Describe the data collection methods
LEARN Missoula will use three primary data collection methods: 1) audits of existing/ archival departmental data in conjunction with research interviews of departmental representatives, 2) in-depth personal interviews, and 3) small group interviews. Using these proposed methods will ensure a multi-method approach and guarantee that data collected and generated will be rich and well-developed as well as robust and comprehensive (Leavy, 2017). Ultimately, the multi-method approach will ensure a deeper understanding of BIPOC experiences and social realities of navigating community structures, municipalities, and institutions in Missoula, which a single method cannot truly accomplish.

What will happen after the stories are collected and analyzed?
One important outcome of analyses will be the generation of BIPOC-centered knowledge and action strategies that will be leveraged and privileged in making transformations in Missoula community and municipal structures. BIPOC transformative solutions and recommended social action are valuable and integral in efforts to dismantle systemic and institutionalized inequality, injustice, and marginalization in Missoula public and private systems, spaces, and places.
An important result sought is implementing local BIPOC-generated knowledge and transformational social action strategies, so that Missoula BIPOC residents’ interactions with community structures and municipal systems are qualitatively and quantifiably better. Ultimately, creating a just, inclusive, and equitable society where all Missoula residents thrive, grow, and succeed.

Are there any potential risks or injuries in participating?
There is no major risks in participating, but sharing experiences of unfair and biased treatment may be upsetting for some people. You may withdraw at any time.

What are benefits of participating?
Your thoughts, ideas and solutions will be integral in bringing about change and transformation. Your stories are intended to influence and transform explicit and implicit oppressive and unjust spaces, systems, and structures in Missoula.

Are there specific participation requirements?
Participant collaborators will be asked open-ended questions that will help them tell personal stories in their own way and with their own voice or expressions. The research conversation should take between 45-60 minutes depending on how much collaborators decide to share. The only requirement is that they are 18 years of age or older.

Describe the potential research outcomes.
Some outcomes include: 1) The generation of practical and applied knowledge directly from BIPOC residents, collaborators, key informants/stakeholders. 2) The acquisition of BIPOC-centered solutions and strategic actions steps that will inform dismantling structural inequity and systemic oppression in private and public spaces in Missoula City and County. 3) The privileging of BIPOC-generated knowledge and strategies so that they play an instrumental role in the process of bringing about social transformation in municipal systems.

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