Doing Good is different than Causing Change.
There it is- my one sentence synopsis on lessons learned from over a decade of providing an academic intervention at the college and high school levels. There's nothing inherently wrong with Doing Good but it can be exhausting after a while. I have learned that the hard way.
Here was the Doing Good goal for our college/high school intervention:
PK Mission Statement
Project Knowledge is a near-peer mentoring program that helps students adopt measurable changes in academic behavior by focusing on social, emotional and communal wellbeing. This is accomplished through meaningful relationships and impactful programming and ultimately results in decreased absenteeism and improved grades.
Our mission statement was a Doing Good goal because we focused on the student as what needed to be changed....and it worked. We measured increases in high school student well-being and mental health. We actually caused a significant increase in the amount of time spent doing homework. We saw increases in the number of college students who graduated in 5 years with a STEM degree. However, we estimated that it costs at least $20K per student to obtain those results. Furthermore, the sheer manpower needed required that someone be responsible for the intervention as a full-time job. The intervention worked in terms of collecting meaningful data but as an ongoing intervention, it is not sustainable. So, while we Did Good we are not a Cause for Change....not yet.
Sustainability requires that change happen at the systems level and this requires buy-in from multiple stake-holders. In research language this is Community-Based Participatory Research. Causing Change, takes more time and more resources than most research funders are willing to support. So, you have to have partners. I know from experience that establishing effective collaborations is easy to say but hard to actually do. So, we’ve decided to seek help from the National Science Foundation. One of our NSF grants will be focused on Building Community
We do have a larger goal of examining the whole of the HBCU ecosystem and identifying individual characteristics and system wide factors that are associated with high performing students. We also want to Cause a Change in the number of students who graduate and of course we want to use sound research methodology and rigorous psychometrics. However, at the end of the day, only Building Community, will have any of it last past the grant.
So guess what??!!! The strategic path for the October submissions has changed again. It appears that the two grants will both be planning grants. Our colleague at Morgan State University, who will be the PI of the assessment grant, is new to the NSF grant world and after speaking to a program officer at the new NSF HBCU- EiR program, he felt that this program would be the best way to start. That started a conversation on using the planning grant mechanism to support our research community. We will use our time and their money to design a project that places as much emphasis on "community" as it does on "research." We want to do more than collect data, we want to "Cause Change WHILE Doing Good"
Don’t know what that will look like, that’s why we need YOU!