MPH faculty member, Dr. Wilson Majee, and MPH alumni Laurel Goodman, Tarunjot Sethi and Adaobi Anakwe are among the authors on a new publication.

Why are we not winning? An exploration of causes for continued disengagement among graduates of low-income community leadership development programs

Article by: Wilson Majee, Johanna Reed Adams, Laurel Goodman, Tarunjot Sethi, and Adaobi Anakwe

Admittedly, millions of dollars have already been channeled towards improving the wellbeing of those living in resource-limited communities. Community leadership development (CLD) is one intervention that has received increased support for and prominence as giving local members skills that promote regular interaction and develop trust among a community’s key stakeholders. Despite the efforts towards empowering local residents, racial minorities and people living in resource-limited communities continue to be disproportionately affected by the lack of opportunities for engagement in community life. Disengagement among underserved populations compounds the already substantial problems that individuals and families endure in seeking opportunities for engagement, particularly the lack of trust between citizens and those with authority to distribute resources. Trust deficit feeds into low-levels of community participation by those who feel left out and less valued by society because of their lack of skills and resources (education, career, income, and wealth) deemed important for effective participation in the socioeconomic events of life.

In our article, “Why are we not winning? An exploration of causes for continued disengagement among graduates of low-income community leadership development programs” we use mixed method to examine the reasons and rationales for continued disengagement among graduates of a low-income CLD program. We challenge the community leadership development assumption that gaining skills translates to action.  Interviews were conducted with 55 CLD program graduates, 19 program facilitators, and 12 community members. Surveys were completed by 80 program graduates including the 55 who participated in interviews. Overall our findings suggest that there are personal (self-motivation), programmatic (leadership and structure), and community (readiness) factors influencing the motivation to participate in CLD and transition to skills application in the community. This implies a need for CLD programs to focus on developing a holistic, inclusive, and collaborative process where low-income residents can partner with community leaders in identifying creative solutions necessary to solve very distinct local problems. In order to impact the health and well-being of the underserved, the context in which they live and are expected to apply their skills must be taken into consideration when designing leadership development programs.