We spoke with Dr. David Parker, a longtime subscriber who has used The ARD’s resources to push his organization to redouble its commitments to equity and to reframe his understanding of his work as a researcher. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Could you describe your background?
I’m Vice President of Research and Development for ServeMinnesota, an AmeriCorps state agency and nonprofit that stewards AmeriCorps programming in Minnesota. In the R&D department, we spend a lot of time thinking about the things an AmeriCorps member can do that would help with the program, whether that be environmental, housing, Recovery Initiative, or public health. I have a background in education, and we have a couple of really big programs with tutoring. And once a program is up and running, we spend a lot of time thinking about evaluation and continuous improvement.
Q: How have you used The ARD?
It’s pretty much a daily meditation for me. I’ve used it personally as a way to broaden my understanding of what equity-based and anti-racist work looks like.
Q: Have any recent articles been particularly influential?
There was a recent article on ableism. The culture of whiteness and oppression would have you not even consider it. There’s an element of humanity that has helped the team see the breadth of oppression. That’s something we’ve been able to use.
We talked about the article on sundown towns. That was profound for people. I live 20 minutes away from Hastings, Minnesota, which was a sundown town. In 2018, before the efforts of The ARD and other initiatives, in certain demographics like my own, almost nobody knew what a sundown town was. Now, it’s probably 70% of us.
Q: Has The ARD influenced your professional work at ServeMinnesota?
I made The ARD part of the ongoing work of the teams I supervise. Everybody’s at a different stage in their anti-racist and equity work, so I select articles I think are good for folks, and we do discussion sessions on them. We’ll click through to the resources in the article of the day. That’s been a huge contribution to our organization’s baseline equity and anti-racism skills. It’s impacted our funding priorities as we moved away from relationships with certain funders. Some of us can articulate the racist mechanisms between a guy like me talking more in a meeting and can identify some of our colleagues who are not yet aware of that and are working on it. We’ve had hiring and promotions that have been more equitable, representative, and hopefully inclusive.
How to conceptualize and, more importantly, value a broader definition of researcher has been humongous for us. I truly cannot emphasize enough how profound that’s been. Both the systems we worked in and our own focus was on impact evaluation: did the program “work”? That paradigm of research is Western-centered, white-centered, and productivity-focused.
Through The ARD prompting us to broaden our resources and our visions, we can see, are valuing, and are actually doing research that is more community-grounded and, in some cases, ceding power to community partners. We have more humility. We have more partnership. We have the ability to be closer partners with our community, and it turns around research. We have made a permanent commitment to inclusive research that cedes power and funds and honors the time and expertise of community partners.