Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What does listening mean in CCA methodology?

I will share today an example of listening from our CCA grant on heart health funded by AHRQ. On this grant, we have a very strong community partner that has tremendous community presence. We also have a strong media partner that has done a fantastic job with the production of the content. Our team collectively has a lot of expertise at developing and running large campaigns and doing community-based work. In spite of all this expertise, one part of our community-driven work in one of the Counties hit a major roadblock because the media partner did not end up inviting the local leadership (state representatives, legislators, Black caucus, mayor's office) to our press launch in spite of being told consistently by the community organizer as well as by the Purdue team that this was very important. It turns out that one of the key leaders, a state representative, a champion of health inequities and health disparities work from the County called up our community partner and expressed his discontent that he was not invited to the event. There were also questions raised about the sustainability of the project and the commitment of the academic team to carrying out the work over the long haul. The community organizer, along with the media partner and the academic team brainstormed over strategies and decided upon holding a town hall meeting with the community and with local leadership. I offered to call up the state representative) this is someone I have interacted with before and hold a great deal of respect for) and converse with him. I do believe that we have  a fair chance of engaging this opportunity dialogically both as a learning moment and also as a positive resource for community engagement. However, when considering our method of determining the press event and the launch, we failed to listen to the voice of the community organizer. I remember how the night before the event, seeing that there were no media stories already and that the media were mostly not aware, our community organizer had suggested that we cancel the event. At that point, our media partner had assured us that it would all be taken care of and press releases are usually sent out the morning of the event (because that's how the media environment operates). I trusted the media partner and their professional competence, without really attending to the voices from the community that suggested otherwise. Yes, listening to the voices from the community is always a challenge,  more so because our professional expectations of expertise always trump our so called calls for listening. We have now assured the community partner that we are going to work on making it right, that we are going to set up series of steps to be more observant. These are all great response strategies. I have also discussed extensively with the media partner the importance of listening to the community partner. Nevertheless, this is also a learning moment for me as a CCA researcher; a learning moment that points to my own limitations. A moment that also points to the importance of constant vigilance, especially when difficult decisions will need to be made. 


Graham said...

This would make a great topic for an article in the International Journal of Listening ... any update on that?

Hope all is well,

Pauline Luk said...

It's always lessons to learn everyday, especially when we work with new partners. The working behavior of media vary in different places, "Listening" is a good solution. Thanks for your sharing.