Our Approach

The Community Evaluation and Research Collaborative (CERC) addresses complex human, organizational, and social issues through systemic approaches to community-based participatory research and participatory evaluation.

Systemic Approaches to Engagement, Inquiry, and Problem Solving

At CERC we use systems theory and methods to understand the dynamic behavior of complex social and organizational systems. We believe that most important social issues are complex in nature and cannot be understood without understanding the dynamics of the systems within which they are embedded. In University Outreach and Engagement, we have developed a systemic approach to university-community partnerships called Systemic Engagement (SE). SE uses systems thinking to conceptualize complex problems and organize responses to them, recognizes the degree of uncertainty and unpredictability involved in addressing complex problems, and fosters trans-disciplinary team-based approaches to community and systems change.

Community-Based Participatory Research

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a "collaborative approach to research that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change" (W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Health Scholars Program). At CERC, our researchers have conducted CBPR projects with diverse partners, including local school districts, tribal communities, and young African American gay and bisexual men.

Participatory Evaluation

Participatory evaluation supports programmatic and organizational decision making by involving stakeholders in the evaluation process to enhance the relevance, ownership and use of evaluation findings (Cousins, 1998). Our evaluators have conducted participatory evaluation projects for state government, local nonprofits, and community-based initiatives. In conducting our evaluations, we adhere to the ethical standards espoused in the Guiding Principles of the American Evaluation Association.