Launching the project

A transformative evaluation (explained in the methodology tab above) requires holding multiple consultations with actual and potential stakeholders (those affected and interested in this project). One has to keep in mind that this type of research is conducted with many other actors currently or potentially involved in the research topic. Keeping them actively engaged in the research and being open to their suggestions are necessary steps in the project design, while launching the project. Essential elements are enhancing one’s cultural competence, assuming an attitude of respect, and being willing to introduce adjustment, as needed. Most of the period of January 29 through February 5th has been focused on planning preliminary fieldwork and following up administrative procedures with the faculty, staff and students of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), which is my main partner organization in this project and my host academic institution. This first posting is about the preparation phase of what is going to be an intensive experience of research and teaching in Guatemala!

Today, I finished a quick review of my academic knowledge of the Spanish language with a great teacher at La Union Spanish School. This review will constitute an important foundation for my future writing of field notes based on transcripts, reports of data analysis and presentation of results as well as the drafting of manuscripts in Spanish. Although I have a wonderful research assistant, a doctoral student of the PhD program in Applied Psychology at the UVG, who will keep me in check with my grammar and language composition, I feel responsible for becoming more proficient in the language. The brief Spanish refreshment program unveiled my shortcomings, and gave me more confidence in the ability to do what I’m set to do in this particular cultural context.

As a scholar engaged in international research, I have to be sensitive to the approval process of the research project I’m set to do. Clarifying all aspects of the proposed research with members of the Ethics Committee of UVG’s College of Social Sciences is the most critical building block for meeting the appropriate standards in conducting research with human subjects in Guatemala. This Central American country has had a long history of violations of bioethics with the STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, which is now used as a negative case study when one completes the CITI requirements for research with human subjects. Once the UVG has approved my research plan, Elon University’s Institutional Review Board will consider it. Once that is done, I’ll be set to go in full steam with the proposed interviews and focus groups.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to study the context in which the UVG’s program for youth-at risk I’ll be assessing situates. As part of that, next week, I’ll be examining the experience of programs that have made a difference in the lives of children and youth who have been adversely impacted by war, violence, abuse and neglect, and historically-related trauma. I’ll look, beyond the literature, how vocational training programs have made a difference in the lives of many children and youth in Guatemala. I’ll begin to understand how this population has found the resilience to confront adversity personally and collectively…

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