As both a service and advocacy organization, The Night Ministry understands the importance of research in answering questions that can inform services and policy around housing and socioeconomic inequity. At the same time, The Night Ministry has a limited capacity to accept external research requests and also acknowledges the historic power imbalance between researchers and participants. This policy is meant to inform how and when we accept offers to collaborate with external researchers that involve the collecting of data from our program clients either through direct interaction or through requests for our internally tracked data.
Our primary intent is always to protect and respect the autonomy and privacy of our clients. We welcome requests to conduct applied research that “reckons with unintended bias” and “restores communities as experts,” (Chicago Beyond, 2018, p. 13) but we do not guarantee our capacity to collaborate with researchers at any given time. We accept requests with equal consideration of our current capacity and the extent to which the research meets the guidelines outlined below.
Research can play a valuable role in developing policy and best practices around public health, housing, and other issues key to The Night Ministry's mission. However, the historical relationship between social science researchers and the people they research has been an inequitable one. This power imbalance can stem from a perception that knowledge created through academic research is more valid, objective, and rational than the knowledge produced and held within a community (Wurm & Napier, 2017). It also stems from a long-held practice of researchers collecting data from communities without applying that data to address the issues impacting that community (Andrews, Parekh, & Peckoo, 2019). Furthermore, most researchers do not come from or live in the communities they are studying. University faculty tend to grow up in areas that are wealthier than the general public (Morgan et al.., 2021), and social science researchers are predominantly white (Hur, Andalib, Maurer, Hawley, & Ghaffarzadegan, 2017).
Particularly in Chicago, many communities harbor feelings of being over-researched, as over the years studies have cycled through their neighborhoods in the name of pushing for social change but without demonstrating any follow through. “The remembered history is that when the community and research institutions interact, the institution benefits. Countless research surveys mine communities for the raw material of lived experiences, without yielding much for the community – or worse” (Chicago Beyond, 2018, p. 15). Even when external groups are only involved in the interpretation of data, not its collection, unbalanced power dynamics persist. “Digital profiles and statistical risk models in social services, child welfare, law enforcement, and housing replace the full, collective stories of our lives with decontextualized, ahistorical, and individualized data. The abstraction of our experiences and full humanity into categories, types, and ratings is a form of dehumanization, and the process can be deeply traumatizing.” (Our Data Bodies, 2018, p. 19). Given this context, The Night Ministry has developed this policy in an attempt to shift the power imbalance in the ways researchers and community members generate knowledge and encourage more equitable research practices in any collaborations moving forward.
We will consider research requests that, at minimum, meet the following guidelines:
We do not consider research requests with the following qualities:
We recommend the below resources for engaging in community-based research with service organizations as partners.
Researchers interested in submitting a request should fill out the Research Request Form. You will receive notification of a decision within approximately 10-15 business days.
Andrews, K., Parekh, J., & Peckoo, S. (2019). How to Embed a Racial and Ethnic Equity Perspective in Research: Practical guidance for the Research Process. A Child Trends Working Paper.
Chicago Beyond (2018). Why Am I Always Being Researched? A Guidebook for Community Organizations, Researchers, and Funders to Help Us Get from Insufficient Understanding to More Authentic Truth. https://chicagobeyond.org/researchequity/
Hur, H., Andalib, M.A., Maurer, J.A., Hawley, J.D., & Ghaffarzadegan, N. (2017). Recent trends in the U.S. Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (BSSR) workforce. PLoS ONE, 12 (2): 1-18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0170887
Morgan, A., Clauset, A., Larremore, D., LaBerge, N., & Galesic, M. (2021). Socioeconomic Roots of Academic Faculty. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/6wjxc
Our Data Bodies (2018). Reclaiming Our Data. https://www.odbproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ODB.InterimReport.FINAL_.7.16.2018.pdf
Wurm, S. & Napier, J. (2017). Rebalancing power: Participatory research methods in interpreting studies. The International Journal for Translation & Interpreting Research, 9 (1): 102-120. DOI: 10.12807/ti.109201.2017.a08