Product at a Glance - Product ID#SJJGZ2JY
Title: Neighborhood Safety Audit: Context, Process and Next Steps
Abstract: This product describes the process, methods and results of a participatory research partnership to address safety concerns experienced in the Enderly Park neighborhood in Charlotte, NC. The project takes place within a long-standing partnership started in 2008 between UNC Charlotte's Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP) and the Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Association. The Women's Safety Audit originally developed by METRAC (1) was used as a starting point to document neighborhood safety from a feminist perspective. These methods were adapted in an intensely participatory process to fit the context of the neighborhood in meaningful ways. The goal of this project was to document and describe safety concerns with qualitative details through residents' personal stories as well as to provide a guide for other community-institutional partnerships. CHARP worked with residents in the neighborhood to design the process, identify issues to address, conduct the audit, and create subcommittees for implementing solutions. Residents and university partners defined safety holistically in order to address a wide variety of neighborhood concerns such as crime, traffic safety, environmental hazards, and housing concerns. This guide was created to outline the process, methods and outcomes of the audit of one neighborhood to serve as an example to others, as well as identify sample resources and a plan for neighborhood subcommittees to take action towards implementation that others may adapt or model. The product serves as a model for adapting the women's safety audit to suit local context in order to investigate the deeper causes of unsafe spaces, and build capacity to address these issues.
Type of Product: PDF document
Year Created: 2016
Date Published: 3/11/2017
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223
Authors (listed in order of authorship):
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Dr. Janni Sorensen
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Association
Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Association
Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Association
Product Description and Application Narrative Submitted by Corresponding Author
What general topics does your product address?
Social & Behavioral Sciences
What specific topics does your product address?
Community assessment, Community development, Community engagement, Environmental justice, Community-based participatory research
Does your product focus on a specific population(s)?
What methodological approaches were used in the development of your product, or are discussed in your product?
Asset-mapping, Community-academic partnership, Community-based participatory research , Focus group , Qualitative research
What resource type(s) best describe(s) your product?
Case study, Toolkit
1. Please provide a 1600 character abstract describing your product, its intended use and the audiences for which it would be appropriate.*
This product describes the process, methods and results of a participatory research partnership to address safety concerns experienced in the Enderly Park neighborhood in Charlotte, NC. The project takes place within a long-standing partnership started in 2008 between UNC Charlotte's Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP) and the Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Association. The Women's Safety Audit originally developed by METRAC (1) was used as a starting point to document neighborhood safety from a feminist perspective. These methods were adapted in an intensely participatory process to fit the context of the neighborhood in meaningful ways. The goal of this project was to document and describe safety concerns with qualitative details through residents' personal stories as well as to provide a guide for other community-institutional partnerships. CHARP worked with residents in the neighborhood to design the process, identify issues to address, conduct the audit, and create subcommittees for implementing solutions. Residents and university partners defined safety holistically in order to address a wide variety of neighborhood concerns such as crime, traffic safety, environmental hazards, and housing concerns. This guide was created to outline the process, methods and outcomes of the audit of one neighborhood to serve as an example to others, as well as identify sample resources and a plan for neighborhood subcommittees to take action towards implementation that others may adapt or model. The product serves as a model for adapting the women's safety audit to suit local context in order to investigate the deeper causes of unsafe spaces, and build capacity to address these issues.
2. What are the goals of the product?
This product is intended to provide:
1.) An example of information collected about a specific neighborhood’s history and how that information provided a more complete understanding of neighborhood context
2.) A description of the process to customize a safety audit tool and a discussion of key findings
3.) A guide for the beginning steps of translating safety audit findings into action
4.) An honest reflection of safety audit challenges and barriers
The goal of this product is to share a model that equips neighborhoods and communities with the concrete user-friendly tools to document and address locally relevant neighborhood safety issues. Often communities are concerned with safety and report these concerns in neighborhood meetings and to city officials such as police and building code enforcers. When changes do not follow, residents feel frustrated in knowing that pressing issues exist in their community, but there are no effective ways of documenting or addressing them. Greater Enderly Park residents shared experiences of multiple attempts at reporting concerns, with no satisfying outcome. This product strives to give a voice to the otherwise voiceless trapped in this disempowering cycle. We share a model that first focuses on documenting current conditions in detailed ways using participatory mapping and story telling methodologies. We subsequently direct attention towards building organizational capacity to alter unsafe spaces; develop and implement projects that directly impact the identified safety issues; and to offer solid avenues to accessing local policymakers.
3. Who are the intended audiences or expected users of the product?
It is the hope of the authors that this product is useful to both researchers and community members who wish to engage in their own collaborative safety audit process. This product documents the safety audit experience through the lens of a university-community partnership. Thus, this document will best serve audiences engaged in work with both a community based and institutional component. Some community groups with established capacity and technical expertise could use this document as a way to develop their own safety audit process independently. Other community groups may find this document useful for identifying how their local expert knowledge can complement the technical expertise of the appropriate institutional partner to tackle issues of neighborhood safety.
4. Please provide any special instructions for successful use of the product, if necessary. If your product has been previously published, please provide the appropriate citation below.
Note that many of the tools used and flyers and other outreach materials that can be used as models are included in the appendix.
5. Please describe how your product or the project that resulted in the product builds on a relevant field, discipline or prior work. You may cite the literature and provide a bibliography in the next question if appropriate.
The women’s safety audit (WSA) tool was first developed by Toronto’s Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) in 1989, and has since been adapted and used across the globe (1). WSAs have been defined as “a process which brings individuals together to walk through a physical environment, evaluate how safe it feels to them, identify ways to make the space safer and organize to bring about these changes” (1). The WSA tool “increases awareness of violence against vulnerable groups and helps users and decision-makers understand how men and women experience the urban environment in different manners. It gives legitimacy to women’s concerns and is an effective tool for building community safety” (2). The raw data is then prioritized, organized, and used to make recommendations and action steps.
The WSA is a specific type of participatory action research (PAR), which has been defined as a "systematic investigation, with the collaboration of those affected by the issue being studied, for the purposes of education and taking action or effecting social change" (3). PAR hinges on community strengths and the active involvement of “the people whose lives are affected by the issue under study in every phase of the process” (4, 5). As described by Israel et al. (6) in (5), PAR is a participatory process based in cooperation and co-learning. It is an empowering process through which participants can increase control over their lives by nurturing community strengths and problem solving abilities; and a way to balance research and action (5). The WSA demonstrates its efficacy in its ability to deliver "small wins" that are concrete and can build to bring about larger social change (7). Additionally, the WSA takes a holistic approach to safety, allowing residents to create an all-encompassing idea of safety and maximize the potential to reach a larger base of participants.
6. Please provide a bibliography for work cited above or in other parts of this application. Provide full references, in the order sited in the text (i.e. according to number order). .
(1) Whitzman, C., Shaw, M., Andrew, C., & Travers, K. (2009). The effectiveness of women's safety audits. Security Journal, 22(3), 205-218.
(2) Lambrick, M., & Travers, K. (2008). Women's Safety Audits: What Works and Where?. Safer Cities Programme, UN-Habitat.
(3) Green, L. W., Royal Society of Canada, & BC Consortium for Health Promotion Research. (1995). Study of participatory research in health promotion: Review and recommendations for the development of participatory research in health promotion in Canada. Royal Society of Canada.
(4) Hall, B. L. (1981). Participatory research, popular knowledge and power: A personal reflection. Convergence: An International Journal of Adult Education, 14(3), 6-19.
(5) Minkler, M. (2000). Using Participatory Action Research to build Healthy Communities. Public Health Reports, 115(2-3), 191.
(6) Israel, B. A., Schurman, S. J., & Hugentobler, M. K. (1992). Conducting action research: relationships between organization members and researchers. The Journal Of Applied Behavioral Science, 28(1), 74-101.
(7) Phillips, D., & Splansky Juster, J. (2014). Committing to collective impact: From vision to implementation. Community Investments, 26(1), 11-17.
(8) Morrell, E., Sorensen, J. & Howarth, J. (2015). The Charlotte Action Research Project: A Model for Direct and Mutually Beneficial Community–University Engagement. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 19(1), 105-132.
(9) Fasenfest, D., & Grant, L. (2005). A model for a proactive and progressive university–community partnership. Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, 8(3), 24–39
(10) Fehren, O. (2010). Who organizes the community? The university as an intermediary actor. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 3, 104–119.
(11) Ghannam, M. (2007). Integration of teaching and research with community service for engineering programs. European Journal of Engineering Education, 32(2), 227–235.
(12) Sherman, A., & MacDonald, L. (2009). Service learning experiences in university science degree courses. Innovative Higher Education, 34, 235–244.
(13) Wallace, J. (2000). The problem of time: Enabling students to make long-term commitments to community based learning. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 7(1), 133–142.
7. Please describe the project or body of work from which the submitted product developed. Describe the ways that community and academic/institutional expertise contributed to the project. Pay particular attention to demonstrating the quality or rigor of the work:
- For research-related work, describe (if relevant) study aims, design, sample, measurement instruments, and analysis and interpretation. Discuss how you verified the accuracy of your data.
- For education-related work, describe (if relevant) any needs assessment conducted, learning objectives, educational strategies incorporated, and evaluation of learning.
- For other types of work, discuss how the project was developed and reasons for the methodological choices made.
The Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP), based in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, is a research team comprised of faculty and graduate students that engage in community–university partnerships. These partnerships are unique because they involve direct contact between neighborhood residents and UNCC students and faculty (8). The project is grounded and grassroots in its focus, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of structural inequality in cities as experienced in the individual “life-world” of community residents (9; 10). Undergraduate students are involved in community-based research through their class assignments that often require various levels of community engagement. Their in-class research is often brought to community members for feedback. Past student projects have contributed to understanding neighborhood history, developing a resource index, and identifying potential projects for subcommittees. The CHARP model offers potential solutions to the problems and pitfalls often associated with community-university partnerships such as difficulties in time commitment, lack of resources, and incompatibility with academic culture. CHARP employs graduate students as staff for sustained periods of time and partners directly with residents of low-income communities of color in Charlotte, North Carolina (8). Dr. Sorensen’s involvement of paid graduate liaisons in the project was strategic and based in literature about barriers to community–university partnerships, as students are often hesitant to become involved in service-learning, participatory research, or other types of engaged research activities due to the perception that this type of work might involve unrealistic time commitments and, in the end, might not prove to be professionally beneficial (11; 12; 13). CHARP receives internal funding through the university and grants in order to continue working with our neighborhood partners. Graduate students are given the opportunity to conduct grounded research projects in collaboration with local residents (8).The outcomes have become increasingly significant for both graduate students and community members (8). One neighborhood which graduate students have worked with extensively is the Greater Enderly Park neighborhood.
CHARP has worked with Greater Enderly Park since 2009 through efforts to organize the community, identify active leaders, and address issues residents have continually identified as negatively impacting their neighborhood. The neighborhood association meets monthly to address neighborhood crime, beautification, local programming and resources, and community building efforts. The association's mission is broad, to inform the community and to make the most of Enderly Park's assets so that it can be a great place to live for all residents. It operates as a 501(c)(3) and is financial supported through membership dues and neighborhood matching grants from the city. The association meetings are not widely attended (approximately 15-20 residents per meeting), however those that do attend are neighborhood leaders with a wide reach. CHARP wanted to draw on the resources and energies of Greater Enderly Park residents to create a concrete, practical tool for assessing neighborhood conditions. The neighborhood partners had continuously commented on the problems of crime, namely the issues stemming from drugs and prostitution. They commented about the fear of youth falling into these illegal activities without any other outlet for their energy. The women's safety audit process became a shared approach to moving past documenting and talking about the concerns in the neighborhood. Together CHARP and Greater Enderly Park residents worked together to develop a method and strategy that would implement solutions starting with small scale problem-solving but with the intention of building capacity for larger scale projects over time. The steering committee was formed during a neighborhood meeting where consistently present residents volunteered to be deeply engaged in the audit process. This core steering committee assisted with planning, resident recruitment, and data analysis.
During the women's safety audit process CHARP researchers continually solicited feedback from neighborhood residents on each component of the project. The selection of the women's safety audit tool, the design of the audit tool, the canvassing methods used, canvassing materials developed, audit data, and implementation strategies were all developed and approved by neighborhood residents.
8. Please describe the process of developing the product, including the ways that community and academic/institutional expertise were integrated in the development of this product.
Responding to voices heard in the community since the beginning of the partnership in 2008, the CHARP team wanted to work with Greater Enderly Park residents on safety, allowing the term to broaden and capture other meanings of safety. We wanted to explore both the immediate and deeper causes for issues residents have continually identified prior to this process. Often, residents blame individuals or certain properties in the neighborhood for problems. While these concerns cannot be ignored, the women's safety audit offers an alternative method of critically questioning what systems reinforce these local concerns. The Greater Enderly Park Women's Safety Audit was the result of these persistent concerns and an overwhelming desire by both residents and CHARP researchers to look beyond superficial explanations.
Members of CHARP met with Greater Enderly Park residents at the beginning of the process with maps of the neighborhood to discuss what areas they were most familiar with and where they felt safe and unsafe. Residents drew on the maps and helped delineate the different parts of the neighborhood. At the beginning of the process, all participants were women. This part of the process uncovered what safety meant to the participants and illuminated how the behavior of the residents was molded by unsafe spaces. Residents had the opportunity to critically consider how and why they move through their neighborhood in different ways.
After several mapping exercises, we met with residents to parse the large neighborhood into 5 zones. Residents identified potential neighborhood residents in each zone who could potentially contribute to the process as representatives from their zone.
In an effort to explore the deeper causes for the neighborhood's concerns, the documentary "The House I Live In" was screened and was followed by meaningful discussion with the group. The film looks at the roots of the drug war and addresses how we look at drug use and punishment of drugs negatively impacts communities of color.
CHARP worked with residents to create the audit tool. With input from residents through a "test run" of the safety audit around the local community center, the audit tool was simplified and streamlined down to one page. This allowed for residents to share their neighborhood narratives in a nonrestrictive way. While photographs are usually incorporated into the women's safety audit process, they were not taken during the Greater Enderly Park safety audit. Residents expressed safety concerns about taking photos of places in the neighborhood. As an alternative, CHARP researchers returned to the neighborhood at later date to snap pictures of things identified in the audit where necessary.
At this point the participants wanted to change the name from the "Greater Enderly Park Women's Safety Audit" to the "Greater Enderly Park Neighborhood Safety Audit." The reason for this was to be more inclusive and encourage men in the neighborhood to be involved. While CHARP researchers did not necessarily agree with this change, it was an important change to neighborhood residents and a compromise satisfactory to all involved was made. While the name was changed, the unique experiences of women were still specifically addressed in all meetings. Despite the name change, women were predominantly involved in the audit process.
Residents conducted the safety audit with support from UNC Charlotte undergraduate and graduate students one Saturday morning. The students took notes as they walked with a Greater Enderly Park resident who conversationally observed and commented on the route they took through the neighborhood.
After the audit was conducted, a UNC Charlotte graduate student compiled a summary report of the data and observations made by the residents. The preliminary findings were then shared with residents to identify any misinterpretations or gaps in the data. UNC Charlotte undergraduate students took the themes identified in the audit and built upon them trying to find useful resources to begin addressing these themes. Part of the output from the undergraduate students formed the foundation for the neighborhood action booklet. Graduate students constructed and presented the neighborhood action booklet to Greater Enderly Park residents and a first round of feedback was received and incorporated. The booklet is still open to feedback from the neighborhood.. The neighborhood action booklet will serve as the bedrock to organizing impactful subcommittees focused on the issues identified during the safety audit.
9. Please discuss the significance and impact of your product. In your response, discuss ways your product has added to existing knowledge and benefited the community; ways others may have utilized your product; and any relevant evaluation data about impact, if available. If the impact of the product is not yet known, discuss its potential significance.
The safety audit draws on asset-based community development by locating resources to address the areas of concern identified by the neighborhood. It provides an alternative channel for addressing neighborhood safety concerns when traditional channels are not responsive. While outsiders often conduct these types of audits, this process assumes residents are trained to conduct the audit and are essential to the process. The women's safety audit mobilizes the perspectives and experiences of those embedded and living in the community.
The safety audit encourages residents to view their neighborhood with a critical eye. They investigate how they move through their neighborhood and why they choose to navigate space in this way. Prior to the safety audit process, residents may have acted in a certain way or avoided certain parts of the neighborhood that discouraged community cohesion. This process encourages residents to use their local expert knowledge to begin making larger positive change.
This adaptable neighborhood safety audit process was successful at highlighting pockets of underrepresentation within the neighborhood organization. These areas are untapped sources of potential. In addition, students and residents were able to create a comprehensive listing of neighborhood resources for locally relevant challenges while also identifying resource gaps. . At various scales resources may be lacking or have remained unidentified that could aid the neighborhood residents in their efforts. These critical reflections can help change places to be safer for women, children, and all neighborhood residents.
The creation of the the neighborhood action booklet is a tangible product to guide the residents in action going forward. It can be a reference and a rallying point for the residents as they continue to work on neighborhood projects.
The product contributes to a larger body of work on women's safety and audits by highlighting the power of participatory mapping, storytelling, and critical discussion in adapting established tools like the women's safety audit in a participatory way.
10. Please describe why you chose the presentation format you did.
We selected the neighborhood action guide format because it captures the work of residents on the safety audit and makes it concrete. The work of the residents can live on in tangible format as a guide and as a reminder of the work residents put into the project. While many of the concepts the guide aims to address are complex and intangible, the finished product constitutes a "small win" for the neighborhood and CHARP researchers. It is only one of many tangible outcomes the partnership hopes to produce. Furthermore, the neighborhood action guide sets the stage for the creation of subcommittees to address the issues in the booklet and mobilize various resources. The neighborhood action guide contains steps to form these subcommittees and the particular resources available or in need of creation to address the issues identified by the residents. In addition, this guide can be used by Greater Enderly Park residents as a training material for newly engaged residents who have recently decided to participate and were not involve din the audit process. For this reason it is helpful that the guide contains our mapping exercise, the safety audit tool, and the data from the safety audit. Because this format can be easily edited, it can be transferred to other contexts and serve as an ongoing guide for other neighborhood efforts in either Greater Enderly Park or elsewhere.
11. Please reflect on the strengths and limitations of your product. In what ways did community and academic/institutional collaborators provide feedback and how was such feedback used? Include relevant evaluation data about strengths and limitations if available.
The Women's Safety Audit process is a vital tool for addressing safety and doing it in a concrete and practical manner. It can be a lengthy process and results can take time. As part of a larger strategy of change, the Women's Safety Audit is the first step towards building the individual and community capacity needed to address structural inequality. With that said, some participants may be frustrated by the time needed to get results. In addition, residents may be asked to give considerable time and energy to plan the audit, conduct it, and begin taking steps to act on the audit's findings.
At every step of the process, feedback from resident participants was solicited. This feedback guided the safety audit process and neighborhood action booklet product. Residents decided the target areas within the neighborhood through participatory mapping and guided the focus areas in the neighborhood action booklet based on their conduct of the audit itself. Residents shaped the audit tool itself by conducting a test audit around the local community center. Residents suggested the change from Women's Safety Audit to Neighborhood Safety Audit in an effort to be more inclusive. The audit tool and the focus on safety did not change but residents recognized the need to appeal to the entire neighborhood and to view safety as a larger issue than simply crime.
The most pressing challenge to the safety audit process was the limited participation from a wider group of community residents. Despite varied and multiple recruitment attempts, turnout remained relatively low. Low turnout limits the generalizability of many of the audit findings. However, the findings serve as a foundation to continue community conversations and outreach.
12. Please describe ways that the project resulting in the product involved collaboration that embodied principles of mutual respect, shared work and shared credit. If different, describe ways that the product itself involved collaboration that embodied principles of mutual respect, shared work and shared credit. Have all collaborators on the product been notified of and approved submission of the product to CES4Health.info? If not, why not? Please indicate whether the project resulting in the product was approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or community-based review mechanism, if applicable, and provide the name(s) of the IRB/mechanism.
A total of 25 residents participated in the process. They were all consented in accordance to the UNC Charlotte IRB approval for this project. The process was loosely planned from the beginning by the resident steering committee and the CHARP team and continously evolved over the course of the project through numerous meetings, informal discussion and neighborhood feedback. All data collection instruments were revised and reworked multiple times based on reflections of both the university researchers and community researchers. When the project shifted from the conducting the audit to the implementation phase, CHARP hosted a focus group where all participants were invited to share their experience of the process and to make plans for the next phase of the partnership. All consented participants have received a copy of the product and have been invited to provide feedback on the final draft which we all consider a "living document" that we will continue updating as it is used in the partnership. A link to an electronic copy of the document was sent out to all neighborhood residents signed up to receive the community newsletter. A few people only participated in a couple of meetings and have since disconnected - they are therefore not listed as authors, as we have not gotten their permission to do so.