Creating a Community Resource
As my PWE enters its final few weeks, I have been working on finishing several long-term projects, including the presentations for the Opioid Response Project that I spoke about last week. My other major product for that project has been the Online Resource Library that will be put up on its current microsite, and eventually the permanent website that will launch sometime in late fall or early winter. This library contains well over a hundred resources, in ten different subject areas compiled over the course of the two-year project by multiple participants, including past research assistants. Its purpose is to codify the resources created and shared by our community teams, as well as ones that would assist communities in undertaking a collective impact-style response to the opioid crisis. Although there is a guidebook in production that specifically focuses on the implementation of a collective impact project, these resources are substance use-specific, and can assist organizations who are in any stage of addressing opioids in their communities.
While working on this product, there have been many thumbs in this metaphorical pie. Since this project involved many staff and faculty members from across the SOG, it has a series of subcommittees, including one for the website. But because the project is being managed through ncIMPACT, there is an input and review process there as well. This means that I have had to manage the expectations and ideas of many individuals as I create this product, including people who have not had the chance to see the library or been involved in its compilation. Although this has at times made creating this resource more difficult, it has also raised useful questions about its purpose, format, and realistic usefulness in the wider community. For example, these conversations led to the decision to add a brief context statement to each resource and category, so that users do not have to actually click on or read the resource in order to see if it is useful to them. This made the library a much more time-intensive product for me, but will also make it much more helpful to the public audience it is meant to serve.
Creating products for a general audience is something that I have learned much more about during this PWE experience. I have been involved in academia for almost seven years now, and see it as my future career. My perspective, writing, and priorities often reflect that bias. Although I realize the importance of public-focused work, I have traditionally felt uncomfortable creating resources for this audience. How was I supposed to know what people wanted or needed? How was I, with an outsider’s perspective, going to be able to create something that would assist communities in a real, tangible way? Working with ncIMPACT has given me a much more nuanced perspective of making research and project results accessible to those who they affect most. I still know that I have an outsider’s perspective, but now I am able to speak with professionals and clients to understand how resources like this one can best support them. I am also more able to put myself into the shoes of others, and think critically about how to most efficiently communicate this information to a non-academic audience. Being able to learn more about the crossroads of policy, research, practitioners, and communities is helping me grow as a professional, and put the “social” in social worker and the “public” in public administrator.