By working together rather than in parallel, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh marketing professor says researchers and social organizations like hunger networks and emergency shelters can have a broader impact on the well-being of individuals and their communities.
Melissa Bublitz of the College of Business at UW Oshkosh led a team of researchers who developed a framework for working together to create solutions to societal problems. The results of this effort were recently published in the consumption diary article Stronger Together: Developing Research Partnerships with Social Impact Organizations.
“A growing number of researchers and social impact organizations (SIOs), such as local nonprofits, policymakers, and advocacy groups, are trying to collaborate, but they may have different goals and styles of different jobs that stifle their progress toward impact organizations,” Bublitz said. “Our goal is to provide a framework that fosters fruitful collaborations between researchers and OIS. We are stronger when we work together to create positive social impact.
The research team collected data from SIOs and academic researchers who conducted collaborative research to develop their framework, which consists of an adaptable three-step process:
- Select partners with a purpose
- Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships
- Generating impact through knowledge creation and dissemination
“At the start of your research relationship, your team should set goals that provide mutual benefit to each partner and commit to co-creating research, this is not a ‘service for hire’ relationship, c It’s a partnership,” Bublitz explained. “Listening carefully, identifying resources to help you succeed, and agreeing on the scope of work and roles of each partner are essential to team success.”
As a project progresses and challenges arise, Bublitz said the framework provides partners with the ability to pivot to greater success.
In addition to Bublitz, the research and publication team included Laura Peracchio, UW-Milwaukee; Brennan Davis, California Polytechnic State University; Jennifer Edson Escalas, Vanderbilt University; Jonathan Hansen, Milwaukee Hunger Task Force; Elizabeth Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Beth Vallen, Villanova University; and Tiffany White, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
In her own work, Bublitz followed the framework’s steps to develop a strong relationship with the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force.
“Together, our collaborative research on food access programs has generated numerous academic publications and provided support to help the task force secure a four-year USDA grant to increase access to fruits and vegetables into urban food deserts via mobile retail markets,” she explained.
“Currently, as part of my sabbatical, we are working collaboratively to measure the results of this grant project so that we can share what we have learned about increasing fruit and vegetable consumption through food subsidies and mobile access programs.”
Partners are also working to evaluate new delivery methods to help seniors overcome transportation barriers to accessing food and understand lessons learned from increased funding and flexibility of federal nutrition programs like SNAP. during the pandemic.
Additionally, Bublitz is collaborating with an interdisciplinary group of UWO faculty and staff to apply for a grant to study food access programs and use of the Winnebago County Emergency Food Network.
UWO collaborators include Jennifer Considine, professor and department chair, communication studies; Mike Lueder, Acting Director, Center for Civic and Community Engagement; and Andrew Smock, Associate Professor and Department Head, Radio Telefilm.
“We hope to bring that same style of collaborative research back to Oshkosh in a way that creates both academic and community impact,” she said.