By Mary Braswell
Two researchers from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs have received $250,000 in funding to conduct an evaluation of a White House initiative designed to bolster the capacity of grassroots organizations to combat violence in their communities.
Jorja Leap ’78, MSW ’80, PhD anthropology ’88 and Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, who lead the Social Justice Research Partnership based at UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, will conduct an in-depth evaluation to document implementation of the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC), launched by the Biden-Harris administration in July 2021.
The 18-month effort aims to equip community leaders and nonprofit organizations in 16 jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, with increased funding, training and technical assistance to reduce gun crime and increase public safety.
The collaborative brings together White House officials, mayors, law enforcement, experts in community violence intervention and philanthropic institutions to share ideas, spur innovation, and scale and strengthen the infrastructure that supports community-led efforts to increase public safety.
Hyphen, the anchor organization managing the public-philanthropic collaboration, selected Leap and Lompa to document CVIC’s activities, including the identification of partner organizations in each jurisdiction, the provision of training and technical support, and the development of a nationwide community violence intervention network. Their research will establish the strategies that have proven most successful over time and recommend approaches for sharing them nationwide.
Over the next year, Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare, and Lompa will engage in community-based participatory research, including several visits to all 16 jurisdictions. Driven by on-the-ground, ethnographic research, this rigorous effort will produce a documentary narrative as well as recommendations that will guide the initiative’s ongoing efforts. UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students will be actively involved in the evaluation effort.
“Our engagement in this initiative reflects how deeply CVIC understands the need for rigorous evaluation from Day One of their efforts,” Leap said. “Consistent with the values of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, we are committed to delivering participatory research that actively involves community members in the research process. They are partners, not just participants.”
A White House statement in February described the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative as one element in a broad strategy to address the nationwide spike in gun crime since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaborative was launched to “help communities assess their existing public safety ecosystem, identify gaps and build the capacity to expand programming that saves lives,” the statement said.
Racial justice, equity and community leadership are central to the initiative, according to the Hyphen team anchoring the program.
“The Community Violence Intervention Collaborative presents an unprecedented opportunity to establish a learning network that dramatically improves our country’s response to violence and reimagines and enhances public safety, ” according to Aqeela Sherrills, the initiative’s collaborative advisor.
The 16 jurisdictions in the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative were selected for their high rates of crime but also their strong support from civic and philanthropic leaders. In addition to Los Angeles, they include Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Baton Rouge, Louisiana.; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; Miami-Dade, Florida.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Rapid City, South Dakota; King County, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington, D.C.
Leap, a recognized expert in gangs, violence and systems change, develops and coordinates community-based efforts that involve research, evaluation and policy recommendations at the local, state and national level. Lompa has extensive knowledge of nonprofit organizations and capacity building developed over her career in the nonprofit sector, including having served as executive director of a nonprofit organization.
Leap and Lompa are also co-founders of the Watts Leadership Institute, a 10-year initiative to provide grassroots leaders and nonprofits with the training, technical assistance and resources needed to build their infrastructure and knowledge to help advance positive community change. In a meaningful coincidence, the Watts Leadership Institute represents a local version of what CVIC strives to achieve nationally.