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Engaging the Whole Community

On Monday, October 21, at ASTC 2013, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Garibay Group led a session entitled, “Promising Practices for Community Partnerships: A Call to Support More Inclusive Approaches to Public Participation in Scientific Research.”

Session leader Jennifer Shirk of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology framed the discussion by explaining that at the conclusion of ASTC’s Communicating Climate Change (C3) project, the number one need reported by program participants was advice on how to reach more diverse audiences in citizen science projects.

Norman Porticella, also from Cornell, outlined promising practices for engaging more diverse audiences in citizen science: develop collaborative partnerships; be flexible and adaptive; build on what’s familiar; provide concrete benefits; offer genuine, equitable, and sustained personal contact with the community; and uncover and address additional context-specific barriers.

Next, Cornell’s Flisa Stevenson described her experiences working with a Latino youth theater group on the citizen science project Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBS). The theater group was not particularly interested in issues of conservation or stewardship, but felt the project supported their goals of building youth’s self esteem and interest in college, while connecting them to their own community. The youth observed birds and performed research on bird habitats and species while creating plays about birds.

Audubon New Mexico’s Carol Beidleman discussed her experiences working with Latino communities in Wenatchee, Washington. Although the local community was 30% Latino, only 5% of participants in the popular Leavenworth Spring Bird Fest were Latino. After hiring a Latino liaison, involving the Latino community in program planning, incorporating bird walks with native Spanish-speaking guides, providing bilingual materials, and advertising in Spanish-language media, the proportion of Latino participants tripled.

Finally, Cecilia Garibay of Garibay Group discussed culturally responsive evaluation approaches, which require evaluation to consider culture and context as a critical lens through which evaluators develop an evaluation, carry out data collection, and interpret results. She concluded with these remarks: “The panelists mentioned the flexibility of the program, and there’s a need to have flexibility in the evaluation process itself. It can feel uncomfortable, but we need to be willing to change.”