Spotlight on Research at COPH – The scene: Ten tables of four are spread throughout a meeting room, covered with large pieces of paper, markers and post-its. At each table sit individuals who, regardless of occupation or discipline, share mutual interest in and passion for the health of the South Omaha community. The room buzzes with conversation around a single question posed to the group: What will it look like and feel like when a truly trustworthy relationship is in place that fosters the research we all want and need?
This question, one of several asked at World Café workshops, drives the Plaza Partnership model for supporting collaborative health sciences research. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2010, the Plaza Partnership project aims to build the readiness, capacity, and data support systems for both community and academia to work together for health research in South Omaha.
The Plaza, a metaphorical reference to the community square found in many Latin American cities, is anchored by its four partners: Douglas County Health Department, South Omaha Community Care Council, OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc., and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Each partner contributes to the development of readiness, capacity, and data activities by providing their leadership, community advocacy, and first-hand knowledge of South Omaha.
In the summer of 2011, the Plaza Partnership held its first series of readiness events, including World Café workshops, which brought together community and academia representatives for thoughtful conversation around health research. Following these events, participants came forward to form the first cohort of community-linked research teams that would train together through the Research Action Learning (ReAL) Collaborative. Plaza Partners repeated the process in the summer of 2012, yielding a second cohort of teams.
Teams kicked-off their journeys in January of 2012 and 2013. Through the ReAL Collaborative training, teams increased their capacity to do collaborative health research. The Data Workgroup supported each team’s data needs, and continues to reach out to Plaza Partners for developing mutually beneficial tools for future health research in South Omaha. Ultimately, teams developed written proposals for community-based research projects.
As funding for the project draws to a close, Plaza Partners are investing time and resources into a modified ReAL Collaborative training, complete with online modules. With the curriculum made available to communities across the nation, the Plaza Partnership hopes this tool will support similar efforts working to foster truly trustworthy relationships for community-linked health research. Stay tuned! For more information, visit the Plaza Partnership website or e-mail Dr. Christopher Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Christopher Fisher, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health and principal investigator of the Plaza Partnership project, and by Molly McInturf, graduate assistant in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.