ABCD Institute > Initiatives > Research

Research Projects

ABCD faculty members conduct various research projects. Here are a few major recent projects.
Learn more about our Institute Faculty on their bio pages.

Jody Kretzmann

Building the School-Community Connector Role

Jody Kretzmann is leading a three-year research project supported by the Chicago Community Trust that will begin to institutionalize a new mechanism for creating mutually productive relationships between local schools and their surrounding communities. By defining the role of the school-community connector and building the capacity of individuals in this role, this project will (a) help schools position themselves to secure new pedagogical resources and political support for school funding and (b) help communities tap into school assets for community building activities.

The project expands on earlier work with Perspectives, a charter school in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, within the Chicago Public Schools system. During the first year, this project will explore the lay of the land at innovative schools in the Chicago area and around the nation, looking for examples of where the school-community connector role has been successfully implemented. In the second year, the knowledge generated will be translated into a variety of materials for use in further developing the school community connector role in schools in the Chicagoland area, and testing the recommended method for implementing this role in both new and existing schools. In the third year, materials — including lessons learned — will be translated for a national audience and disseminated through national networks such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS).

Deborah Puntenney

Neighborhood Health Status Improvement

Deborah Puntenney is entering the eighth year of a long-term project in Rochester, New York, that uses asset-based community development principles and practices to help community-based groups improve the health status of their neighborhoods. Supported by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, the community coalitions have been granted multi-year funding for the research, design and implementation of strategic health improvement plans for their local areas. The foundation recognizes the fact that poverty materially contributes to poor health status, and that initiatives that target the health consequences of poverty must address the broad social and economic contexts of the community. The grantee groups are working to improve the health status of people living in their neighborhoods, all of which are challenged by poverty and other forms of disadvantage. The work is place based, resident driven, and grassroots in orientation. These efforts include broad plans that address the well-being of entire families, and initiatives that bridge the systems of health, education, housing and employment, thereby creating a healthy context for life and opportunities for improved health status. Using a community-based participatory research design, Puntenney has worked with each of the neighborhood groups to map local health assets, identify local health priorities, mobilize local residents, associations, and institutions, develop long-term strategic health improvement plans, and leverage the resources they will require to fully implement their plan. One of the community groups was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Roadmaps to Health award; others have leveraged other support and funding as part of their sustainability efforts.

Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo, New York

Deborah Puntenney is working with a coalition in Buffalo, New York to establish and grow the sustainability of a network of community health workers. Extensive research supports the idea that community health workers can help improve quality and access to health care systems, reduce cost, and begin to address health equity issues. The CHW network in Buffalo takes the approach that if their preparation includes skills in asset-based community development as well as health care-related skills, community health workers will be better-positioned to support communities in their quest for better health. The work rests on several assumptions. First, that place matters; second, that community engagement matters, and third, that community health workers are uniquely positioned to play an important role in health improvement that goes far beyond the ways western healthcare delivery systems are attempting to frame their contribution. The network is currently training health workers in an array of skills, including asset-based community development, and inviting them to work directly with communities on projects—such as gardens and produce markets—that can help support health. The work of the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo is supported by the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

KaBOOM! Community Engagement and the Imagination Playground

Deborah Puntenney worked with KaBOOM! and the Knight Foundation to explore the kinds of support their community playground partners need in order to leverage the community building work they undertook during their playground build. Over a period of two years, Dr. Puntenney provided direct support to communities in Detroit, Akron, and Miami in using an asset-based community development approach to leveraging their community building work after playground completion. The KaBOOM! belief is that "It starts with a playground," and this project helped the organization understand both what happens post-build, and what follow-up support it can provide that will facilitate the most effective use of the relationships and good will established during the playground build.

Downloadable publications by Deborah Puntenney

Health and Place: Activating Communities Around the Social Determinants of Health. Deborah Puntenney and Barbara Zappia​. 2012

Grassroots Activism and Community Health Improvement. Deborah Puntenney and Barbara Zappia. 2010

Social Justice Philanthropy. Deborah Puntenney and G. Albert Ruesga. 2010