February 19, 2008

Social Work Faculty Member to Present Research during White House Faith-based Community Conference

Robert Fischer

Robert Fischer, co-director of the Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Case Western Reserve University Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, will be sharing his expertise on how to evaluate faith-based services with the White House.

Fischer will write and present a research paper on evaluating the effectiveness of federally funded, faith-based programs during the White House Conference on Research Related to the Faith-based and Community Initiative, June 26-28, in Washington, D.C.

The Faith-based and Community Initiative began in 2001 to tap the resources of the various faith groups' grassroots, nonprofit organizations to tackle pressing social problems in the areas of welfare assistance, workforce development, housing, healthy marriages, health prevention of HIV/AIDs and other diseases, drug abuse, prisoner re-entry, disaster relief and youth education and development.

Fischer responded to a call for papers that focused on two areas: new initiatives and innovations in social services delivery and emerging scholarship related to faith-based initiatives.

The effectiveness of these organizations is not widely known. Fischer submitted the proposal, "He Who Casts the First Stone: Assessing the State of Research on Faith-based Services," to highlight quality practices in evaluating program services. It was accepted by the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives and will become a part of a compendium that conference attendees will receive.

"The politicized nature of the debate surrounding the federal funding of faith-based services under these new initiatives suggests that an objective assessment of the literature would be beneficial," Fischer stated in his proposal.

A research associate professor at Case Western Reserve's social work school, Fischer will present his findings after examining the available published research on evaluating faith-based organizations. He is particularly focused on more rigorous studies that have comparative results for specific intervention services offered to address a social problem instead of the effectiveness of an individual organizations' overall programs.

In his paper, Fischer plans to address several areas, from the depth and quality of the research available to the faith-based services experienced by clients to identifying strengths and weaknesses in existing literature to guide research planning by funders and researchers.

"To date, there has been no systematic effort to take stock of this emerging literature," Fischer said. "My paper seeks to systematically review the status of the research on the effectiveness of faith-based services and offer recommendations to address weaknesses."

Over the past seven years, according to Fischer, evaluation research has emerged and support for the studies has come from the Compassionate Capital Fund and other government agencies and philanthropic groups. This paper will be a step in guiding future research.

Fischer specializes in evaluating social service programs. His expertise is currently being tapped to coordinate an evaluation project for the county-wide early childhood initiative, Invest in Children. From 1994-2001, he served as director of program evaluation for the nonprofit family and children's agency Families First in Atlanta, Ga. He is an active member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA) and is the current president of the Ohio Program Evaluator's Group, the state affiliation of the AEA.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, February 19, 2008 10:31 AM | News Topics: Community Outreach, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Provost Initiatives, Public Policy/Politics, Research

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