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Achieving Change at the Community Level

Posted on March 19, 2007

Robert Saltz (bio) gives advice about how to achieve community-level change.


I'd say this is a huge untapped area of research, how to get social organizational change and how to do that in a systematic, rigorous way; how to make that a research question of its own.

So some of the things that we've used as strategies to achieve that change include the use of data that we get at baseline. And one thing I think is then very useful for us in say this university study is that we have designed our data collection so that it's built around settings. So rather than just get the usual kind of data in which we say how many college students drink how much and how many of them drink over and above a certain threshold or whatever, which is often data that people find interesting but not very useful in terms of guiding a change of some sort, we designed an instrument that focused on the different settings in which students drink, prioritizing those settings in terms of where are the problems coming from.

And since it’s a setting based rather than just a sample of individual students, we naturally bring attention to settings and what kind of policies or practices would get control of those settings. So I think that in designing a study, you want to collect data that is going to be able to be presented in a way that can further the intervention and if you're doing interventions at the policy level or, you know, in changing practices of organizations or communities, then you have to think up front about the way that’s going to be mobilized or organized.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in March 2006.


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