At any point in time, CARSS has a portfolio of multi-year projects in various stages of development, each exemplifying, to varying degrees, our core mission — problem orientation, interdisciplinary collaboration and involvement of practitioners, plus U-M and off-campus participants.
The portfolio consists of two general categories of projects:
- Those that take as their primary goal “social innovation,” the use of a problem to both expand foundational knowledge and methods and to test or evaluate implemented solution efforts.
- Those that tackle a vexing intellectual question as the major task, because that question lies at the heart of a major social issue—such as health disparities by education, or the difficulty of “thinking and acting green” about climate change.
With daily help from CARSS, both kinds of project teams recruit core leaders and temporary collaborators and tackle various topical areas. They share the common the goals developing and applying new knowledge, methods, and intervention strategies to solve difficult social problems.
Phase I – Developmental “problem-finding” and “testing the concept”
In Phase I, two or more proponents brainstorm, define, and develop a prospectus for a future collaborative project. The early vision and specificity of that project evolves, most often through a series of multi-day workshops and conferences organized and funded by CARSS. CARSS helps the proponents both “get the right people around the table” and motivate a process of collective stake-holding in its evolving vision and goals, by:
- Refining, perhaps even redefining the problem from variously complementary perspectives
- Formulating a strategic research agenda and/or intervention design
- Developing research methods and collaborative strategies
- Auditioning potential participants
- Building commitment, trust, and shared conceptual language
Phase II – Implementation
After a review of progress by CARSS staff and the CARSS Steering Committee, often over a two-year period, some Phase I efforts will form longer-term Phase II projects, in which a team of 4 or 5 of the core members commit themselves to working together, gathering resources, conducting research and advancing the project’s agenda. Some of these projects will become ongoing networks of collaborators working through face-to-face and virtual meetings, accessing common research resources and products through state-of-the-art information technology tools and collaborative processes.