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Interview with Dr. Samantha Francois

QWhat was the issue at the heart of your provocation? 

A: The provocation was sort of a blend of two questions. The first of which was: "How do researchers become a resource to communities around action?" The second was: "How do we serve an organizing agenda?"  

They are two distinct but potentially related questions that I wanted to think about. The issue that was at the heart of those questions was really me thinking about what the presenters shared. One presenter talked about the importance of measuring social cohesion in a way that is aligned with the ways in which communities and residents within neighborhoods understand and conceptualize that idea and not just how researchers have conceptualized the construct. The issue at the heart of my provocation is “How do we do more of that?” How do we put that at the forefront of our research agenda? 

So in my own research, I have been exploring and learning about activism as a protective factor for those who are oppressed or communities that have historically been and are still presently oppressed and are marginalized because of race, gender, immigration status, and the intersection of multiple identities. Therefore, I want to examine how community organizing, activism and political advocacy can serve as protective factors, as well as the mechanism or tools through which communities can work towards addressing health disparities and achieving health equity. 

Q: Why is this important at this time? 

A: I think it is important because those of us on the side of research inform programs and policies that influence the lives of people. We have been doing important work for a very long time, but we see the problems and the challenges either persisting, multiplying, or evolving in ways that we had not thought of or understood. I think it is critical right now for us to be thinking in ways that we haven't thought of before to understand and address the problems of the communities that we're studying.  

Q: If you were to offer a call to action, what would it be and to who? I feel like you kind of included that in the last question. But is there anything else that you wanted to say? 

A: I would want to offer a call to action specifically to the gatekeepers in the research community: researcher scientists and funders. Researchers and funders need to prioritize centering community voice and community leadership and centering the ways in which communities have been working for many years to address these very same problems. Funding mechanisms, research agendas, and research approaches should continue to move in the direction of placing equal value on community-based, participatory, and action research approaches as they do on randomized control trials and other experimental research studies.   

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