Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Reading from Wilder Research

For a bit of summer reading this year, I perused some of the most recent Wilder Research reports and took time to reflect on them. The past couple of months contain just a sampling of the more than 200 reports that we produce each year – all of them intended to enhance people’s lives by sharing relevant, actionable information that can improve our communities.

While research isn’t beach reading for everyone, I encourage you to think about this as a back-to-school reading list, spanning a variety of topics and issues. Below you will see some of the things that you can learn from our recent reports. I encourage you to explore the links and see what else these reports contain.

From our Big Picture Project, one report which reflects our research on the Central Corridor, intended to document how the construction of a new light rail line affects the urban neighborhoods through which it passes: “The Green Line has been up and running for one year, and change is evident for all parts of the corridor.” The number of new housing units has increased, as have advertised rents. Unique relative to national counterparts, the Central Corridor initiative has focused efforts to increasing park space along the rail line; no other city has yet to develop goals or metrics for the amount of parkland in a transit corridor.

From our Central Corridor Tracker, another report on the effects of the new Green Line: Along the Central Corridor, single family housing values are rising. The business mix, defined by type of business, has not changed. However, the mix defined by size of business has begun to change – with the smallest businesses declining, and mid-size businesses making gains.

From an infographic developed by our study of children with incarcerated parents, providing details on the chemical use behaviors of youth with incarcerated parents: Such youth “face more chemical health concerns than youth who have not experienced parental incarceration.” One in 10 youth with an incarcerated parent, who has used alcohol or other drugs, reported becoming violent or acting violently while they were intoxicated (versus 1 in 100 youth who has not had an incarcerated parent).

From our study, Families with Young Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Minnesota: Some of the most common needs for parents of young children who are deaf and hard of hearing are: Emotional support; connections with similar families; role models that their child can look up to; hope for the future; American Sign Language capability; and information about assistive technology, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids.

From an essay on early childhood policies to prevent inequities: “Social, economic, and educational inequities and their lifelong adverse consequences are preventable…Reaching the goal of optimal healthy development for all children requires concerted, interconnected policy efforts across public and private sectors and disciplines and in partnership with families. The disadvantaged families affected by inequities must help shape and sustain the policies and community-led practices to strengthen themselves and their children within a cultural context.” Richard Chase explains the rationale for this conclusion in this short position paper – calling for government, schools, and other organizations to act, but also for families to take action on their own behalf.

From a report on the early childhood program, Invest Early: Invest Early is having county-wide impacts, serves higher-risk and underserved populations, and has convincingly demonstrated that it prepares low-income students for success.

From a report on a pilot study of Signs of Safety, a strengths-based, safety-organized child protection intervention strategy: The study offered insight into the process of delivering service. “Good communication and giving parents a voice are critical in working with families.” The study also identified some of the results. For example, caseworkers who respect and listen to parents increase the satisfaction levels of parents. With a formal network ready to help, parents feel more confident in asking for help with difficult aspects of their lives. The study also says, “Reliance on safety planning diminishes over time, but families find it helpful.” This seems to indicate that the strategy empowers families to act on their own.

Our website,, contains information on these studies, and hundreds more. We welcome the opportunity to work with any organization, large or small, to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities.