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External Research Request Policy

Please review this policy before contacting The Night Ministry for requests for our participation in research studies or for access to data for research purposes. All requests must be submitted through our Research Request Form, which is found in the policy below.

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.

Context

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.

Requests Covered by this Policy

  • Research designs that involve gathering information directly from our program clients, through surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.
  • Requests for data The Night Ministry tracks internally (for example, through client intake forms, case management notes, etc.) for the purpose of separate analysis and interpretation*
  • A combination of the two above

*This does not include requests for internal data from our funders or granting organizations. Data requests of that nature should be referred to your contact at The Night Ministry or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We will consider research requests that, at minimum, meet the following guidelines:

  • Take a community-based, trauma-informed research approach
  • Engage The Night Ministry staff and individuals with lived experience as stakeholders throughout multiple steps of the research process, from research design to data analysis and interpretation
  • Compensate stakeholders with lived experience for their time
  • Include a plan for how results can be directly applied to The Night Ministry programs, or programs from a similar service/policy organization
  • Focus on systemic sources of inequity

We do not consider research requests with the following qualities:

  • A plan to disseminate research only through academic channels, inaccessible by community organizations, community members, or participants
  • A goal of contributing to general knowledge around a topic without a plan in place for how the results will be used tangibly by our organization or other policy or service organizations
  • Research designs that have been fully developed without input from TNM staff or community members and cannot be changed
  • Requests to access and analyze our internally tracked data without engaging stakeholders (staff, community members, those with lived experience) in the analysis and interpretation process

We recommend the below resources for engaging in community-based research with service organizations as partners.

Next Steps

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.

Questions about this process may be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sources

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

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