Research

A.  Community Assessment and Environmental Scan.

With the agreement of each of the five communities, we would carry out an assessment that includes the following dimensions. (1) understanding the community’s history, including prior development efforts (2) documenting its principal characteristics, such as land and population, businesses, infrastructure including housing/water/sewer, social organization, relations with the surrounding area, and (3) undertaking an assessment of the community’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and especially its opportunities for economic development. Sources of data include historical documents and other published sources, secondary data, key informant interviews within and outside the community, and administrative records. The product would be a report available in both written and oral form that can become a resource for use in the development or modification of the community’s strategic plan.

B. Impact Assessment.

A central purpose of the research component is to be able to draw conclusions about the impact of the intervention that is applied. This involves collecting both baseline and outcome data for both the intervention and control communities.

We are interested in tapping both the economic dimension as well as a broad range of measures of health and well-being.  Indeed, we wish to leave room for the communities themselves to identify the kinds of indicators that would reflect their own sense of poverty, economic development, health and well-being.

Insofar as possible, we want to use available secondary data both because the two principal sources (the Census and the First Nations Regional Health Survey) are available at the community level and are quite good in providing suitable measures. However, when these sources are not suitable, as would be the case if we select an urban area that is not a reserve, we would need to collect our own survey data using a house-to-house survey methodology. In this instance, the work is labour intensive but the list of questions would be limited to our key indicators.

In addition to survey data, there are certain key indicators for which data would need to be collected at the community level, using available records. This includes a listing of businesses and their characteristics, figures on dependence on social assistance, the proportion of children 0-18 years who are in the care of a child welfare agency, the extent to which the First Nation government is dependent on funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as compared to having own-source revenues, the level of education and training of the public service and similar indicators. On the health side, and with permission, data may also be available from community health centres providing clinical risk measures such as blood glucose, blood pressure and body mass index.

C. Ongoing Qualitative Research.

It is our intention to undertake qualitative research throughout the life of the funded project in order to capture the dynamic elements that unfold. On the one hand, we wish to document how the intervention rolls out – what issues are encountered, how they are resolved, what lessons are learned about this kind of intervention. Secondly, we want to monitor what impact the intervention has on government policy and programs, whether at the community or broader level. Thirdly, we wish to deepen our understanding of the interaction between efforts to reduce poverty and rebuild the community economic base on the one hand, and health/social and political factors on the other hand. The latter can be seen as both impediments to, and facilitators of, the former. Additionally, it will be of interest to understand to what extent the development strategy can encompass and implement measures that are complementary to both dimensions, rather than seeing them in isolation.

In terms of methodology, we will be dealing with five case studies each of which will have its own dynamic. Data sources will include records of meetings, participant observation, in depth interviews with key participants including members of the Advisory Group and community leaders, and talking circles or focus groups with community members. Data analysis will use commonly accepted qualitative data techniques, including the use of Atlas.ti for coding and arriving at common themes.

D. A Formative Evaluation.

We include in the budget a provision to engage an external consultant to carry out a formative (process) evaluation near the mid-point of the funded project, at the beginning of Year III. The evaluation will encompass both the national operation of the project as well as the five regional community projects. It will be designed to provide an arms-length perspective on how the initiative has developed, what issues have arisen, and what mid-course corrections should be undertaken in terms of process and organization. The normal data sources for this kind of evaluation will be used, such as available records and interviews with key participants.