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Volume 53 Number 3 Summer 2020
Edited by Olya Glantsman and Mayra Guerero, DePaul University with Tajauna Biloche, ONE Northside
Written by Olya Glantsman & Mariajosé Paton
Dominica McBride, the founder and CEO of BECOME, has a PhD in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Consultation from Arizona State University. Dr. McBride is an award-winning evaluator and champion of Culturally Responsive Evaluation. Drawing on her own experience growing up surrounded by injustice and oppression, Dr. McBride founded BECOME to support the empowerment of communities and their members.
Located in the heart of Chicago, BECOME is a center for community engagement and social change. It is a nonprofit organization whose main goal is to nourish communities affected by poverty and injustice to make their vision of a thriving community a reality. The organization operates under the belief that communities which face great hardships show the greatest resilience. BECOME believes that every community has the answers to its own problems and thus, must be at the heart of identifying their strengths and capabilities to address their challenges to create positive changes in their own community. The organization specializes in culturally responsive evaluation, research, and community development. They partner with concerned citizens, organizations, and decision makers and work at the intersection of: Research, Relationship, and Restoration. BECOME is proud to be a pioneer in culturally responsive research and has its science-based methods rooted in community-driven practices. In their view, research, science, individual experiences, and collective wisdom have the ability to support community and culture as key determinants to social change.
“Culture is how people in a group relate to themselves, things, and others, as influenced by shared norms, values, language, beliefs, practices, rituals, and traditions. It often guides behaviors, cognitions, decisions, institutions, and governances. Taking into account the culture of the people, institutions and communities involved in the evaluation or project is essential to understanding the people and context for change.”
Culture lies at the core of BECOME’s philosophy of community empowerment. The BECOME team utilizes Culturally Responsive Practice (CRP), a collaborative process of reflection and action, to enact shared goals developed with and by the community. In their search for sustainable solutions for positive social change, the team incorporates each community’s unique culture into every step from planning to development to evaluation. Using this process, BECOME aims to understand communities as people with shared lived experiences and uplift the culture of the community. Additionally, BECOME positions people as experts on their own experiences and is committed to centering their voices throughout each phase of the work.
Their approach to community transformation is called Culturally Responsive Community Development (CRCD).CRCD includes a four-step approach to community engagement. First is appreciative inquiry and community organizing, which involves listening, learning, and connecting with residents and groups (e.g., block clubs), institutions (e.g., schools, churches, community centers, hospitals, police), and leaders (e.g., alderman, mayor, state representatives). Second comes innovation and strategy development, which is based on community knowledge and strengths. Third is community capacity building, which includes training community members to equip themselves with the tools necessary for social change. Finally, ensuring success with evaluation and research includes utilizing evidence-based practices to assess outcomes and impact. Through this model, BECOME concentrates their services in a neighborhood and creates a long-term partnership that lasts until their shared vision of a thriving community is realized.
BECOME offers a variety of services including program evaluation, community organizing and engagement, community development, training, facilitation, community-driven strategic planning, and coalition building and collaboration. The organization’s projects range from peace-making and violence prevention and health, to community and economic development, youth development and education. Current projects that the program is working on include: Black Men and Boys Success, a project that focuses on eradicating barriers such as racism, police brutality, incarceration and other obstacles to quality education that prevent African American men’s and boys’ success; 21st Century Learning, a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago; and Courage to Love, a collaboration with The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation aiming to understand factors determining the high infant mortality rate in Auburn Gresham, a predominantly African American neighborhood of Chicago. Additionally, BECOME provides training for facilitating learning and action circles with residents who want to make a difference on their blocks and in their neighborhood.
In these unprecedented times, BECOME continues to serve and support its community partners by deeply listening to what folks are experiencing during this emergent crisis and ever-changing context. In the recent months, the organization has hosted three conversations with their partners including clients, funders, nonprofits, and community organizations, to explore how they can ensure that no one should fall through the cracks during the COVID-19 crisis. “We are exploring ways we can build on the vital work happening to make sure EVERYONE who needs resources and connection has it.”
BECOME is currently launching a new initiative called Maximizing Impact to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are uniquely positioned to create positive change now while working toward the longer-term goal of creating a more socially just world. BECOME will engage with communities to positively impact the immediate critical needs that have arisen from the crisis. We will work with Chicago’s three most severely affected neighborhoods: South Shore, Greater Auburn Gresham and Austin. We will build capacity of frontline organizations and work side by side with their service delivery teams by:
1) Maximizing impact on the frontlines: We will hear from folks on the ground about the help they are receiving and any other needs they have that are going unmet, as well as connect them with further resources. We can also facilitate connections between community members to increase mutual support.
2) Increasing the number of people served through strategic outreach: We will ask those who have been served if they know of anyone else in the community who has a need related to the crisis and ask them to connect us with them. We will then reach out to those folks to see what needs they have and how the lead organizations or other community resources can assist.
3) Shaping leaders’ decisions: We will listen attentively to the people affected by the crisis, those receiving services as well as those who haven’t, and will bring their voices into the conversation about how they are served and how they can serve each other.