Research Questions

Four overarching questions guided this research:

  1. What curricular materials and programs, loosely speaking, have been developed for building relationships between immigrant communities and native-born communities of color in the United States?
  2. What frameworks do they use to approach this work?
  3. What pedagogies and methodologies do they employ?
  4. In what contexts and in what ways have these materials and programs been successful, and what have been their biggest challenges?

Research Methods and Timeline

In spring 2010, the research team assembled an Advisory Committee of organizers, activists, and educators who committed guide to the project through phone and in-person meetings at critical junctures. The first of these was held at the outset of the project to collaboratively identify research objectives, questions, methodologies, and products. The Advisory Committee’s participation continued to be central throughout the project, as this collaborative process of knowledge production and movement building shaped its analysis, recommendations, and outcomes.

Between June 2010 and August 2011, the research team conducted un- and semi-structured phone interviews with 75 individuals selected for their experience leading cross-racial relationship building efforts. These participants represented community coalitions, worker centers, “grassroots” organizations, unions, university-based institutes, and national and regional organizing intermediaries. In a few cases they were independent community activists. Many were the creators of formal curricula, dialogue guides, or other types of political education materials, while others had experience facilitating relationship-building efforts.

In order to limit the scope of inquiry, the research focused on organizations and individuals working with adults and, with one or two exceptions, did not follow leads related to K-12 education or youth empowerment. To further bound the project, the research team pursued people, materials, and programs that expressly included immigrants as one of their central demographic groups. This excluded many relationship-building efforts targeting a diversity of U.S.-born populations alone (the most common being Black-white dialogues). Interviews generally lasted between 60 and 90 minutes and centered on the needs or interests behind intergroup programs’ existence, their varying approaches to the challenge of relationship building, and their outcomes to date.

Participants shared generously regarding the structural inequalities that drive their work, the pedagogy of adult popular/political education, the challenges to prioritizing relationship-building amid their day-to-day activities, and the strides their organizations and members have made toward a more just world. The research team used an iterative approach to analysis of interview notes and transcripts, thus identifying themes for further inquiry and consideration. Participants’ rich descriptions and thoughtful insights were brought back to the Advisory Committee and discussed at length during a two-day in-person meeting in spring 2011, in which analyses were strengthened and the groundwork for Intergroup Resources was laid.

Throughout the process of interviewing and analysis, the research team also collected curricula, dialogue guides, and other popular education materials aimed at forging intergroup relationships. In fall 2011 they reviewed and summarized these in order to uncover key pedagogical innovations, underlying themes, and sundry approaches to crucial topics such as race and racism, immigration, globalization, the role of the state, and power, among others. The summaries and links to all publicly available materials can be found here.

While the collaborative efforts of many individuals shaped this project, any factual or analytical errors remain the responsibility of the research team alone.

Image: Angela Stuesse