As a preface to ENGL 306, I first worked with Dr. Scheler as an undergraduate research assistant over the summer of 2017. What I initially perceived to be a straight-forward analysis of the benefits of a local community gardens program, quickly transformed into a politically driven project for protecting the program’s stability. In order to do this most effectively, we took an action research based approach. This method, as described by Randy Stoeker in his book Research Methods for Community Change: A Project Based Approach, documents the importance of actively engaging in the research that you do. We reflected this in our research by diagnosing the situation of the Brown County UW-Extension Community Gardens Program (BCCG) and then participating in a course of action that could move the program towards success. This type of research was effective because we were actually able to make a difference in the program as opposed to making an external observation and analysis that traditional academic research would warrant.
As part of our action research project, the main product of our involvement was a white paper. This document focused on BCCG within the context of the greater Green Bay area and Brown County in order to show its positive effects. Different metrics to evaluate the effectiveness included gardener statements, information from recent community reports, and extant BCCG survey data just to name a few. Among those, my role was to provide illustrations and analysis of the survey data.
Over the course of the summer, I organized PDF’s and excel spread sheets into one Google Form housing all of the relevant data. Within this spread sheet, I encoded the data to make it more readable for future use and then set to work making illustrations. While other areas of the white paper were coming together, I created graphs and tables which made the BCCG information more readable. Along with these, I also provided written analysis of the statistically significant findings from the illustrations. Although these were ultimately tweaked in order to mirror the final aesthetic of the white paper, much of the information that I provided was still included in the final document. In fact a large portion of the spreadsheet that I put together can be found in the appendices of the white paper itself, and I have provided a sample of this below.
Overall, the effectiveness of our research can be measured by the positive changes that have been made for BCCG over the course of recent months. As a result of our white paper, political decision making regarding the program could be founded on actual data and testimony. Additionally, at this current point in time, BCCG is no longer concerned about where they will receive funding for next year, and their administrative positions are being funded in full.
Stoecker, Randy. Research Methods for Community Change: a Project-Based Approach. Sage Publications, 2013.