Research Update: Network Improvement Community Formed to Support Housing Insecure and Foster Youth

In August, 2020 the Spencer Foundation awarded OCEAN and project leads Dr. June Ahn, Dean Richard Arum, and Samueli Academy Executive Director Anthony Saba to work with local schools and community organizations.

The grant supports the implementation of systems to support housing insecure and foster youth across Orange County. Fall quarter, Graduate Student Researchers Chris Wegemer, Lora Cawelti, and Verenisse Ponce-Soria and Post-doctoral Scholar Erica Van Steenis, recruited educators and practitioners from schools and organizations across Orange County to form a Network Improvement Community (NIC). We held meetings to establish team structures and norms, brainstormed ideas to connect with partners, and interviewed practitioners and educators to better understand the issues they face.

After interviews were conducted, the team took partners’ responses and organized our first convening, which included 10 core partners from 7 different schools and organizations. The 2-hour session began with an overview and timeline of the project and continued to an activity where partners reflected on how equity manifests in their work with housing insecure and foster-youth.

The activity set the stage for the relationship-building exercises that followed. Partners connected with each other via Zoom break-out rooms and reflected on the pressing issues they face in their work. We then collectively discussed the scope of issues we could work on as a team.

With so much energy and enthusiasm from partners, the 2-hour session flew by. The team left the session feeling energized and excited to continue refining the research focus. After months of uncertainty and living in ambiguity, this project, like the world around us, is giving us energy and hope for the future.

~Written by Graduate Student Researcher Verenisse Ponce-Soria

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