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Nancy Gonzales

Understanding the Demands of an Urban Population

Posted on July 3, 2008

There are particular challenges in conducting research in urban areas, states Nancy Gonzales (bio).


One of the first issues that you confront when you're working in an urban population is the need to demonstrate that you really understand the demands and the kinds of challenges that, associated with that location, with that kind of environment.

Often times you're going to come in with particular intervention strategies or recommendations, and there is sort of always the question about, well, how do we know that this would work for us? How do we know that you understand the kinds of challenges that we face? And so often times, there's a real need to have up front the opportunities for having the people that you work with, whether it's service providers that you're working with or whether it's individuals or families, giving them an opportunity to tell you about, tell you their stories and tell you what it's like for them.

And then I think you need to be able to demonstrate with some good information and good data if you have it that in fact what you're about to present to them has some evidence that it can be useful for them.

In an urban population you're often dealing with issues of diversity and populations who have often been marginalized and historically treated unfairly. And so there's always this sense of questioning and doubt about the researcher, so there's a need to work harder to develop that rapport and prove yourself to the community that you're working with.

Spending significant amounts of time in that community, really knowing the community is very, very important to be effective at, being able to develop long standing relationships and innovate programs that are going to have any real sustainability within that community.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2008 Developing Interventions for Latino Children, Youth, and Families Conference in St. Louis, MO.


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