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Principal Investigators: Dr. K. Melchor Hall, Fielding Graduate University, School for Leadership Studies

Community Partners: Stacey Waterman-Hoey, Arbutus Folk School and Dawn Jackman Murphy, Folk School Alliance Community of Practice

Title: Leading from the Roots: U.S. Community Based Folk Schools Inspiring Social Action

Fielding Graduate University (Fielding) and Arbutus Folk School (Arbutus), in collaboration with Highlander Research and Education Center's Education Team, seek to develop and implement a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project in the Pacific-Mountain Workforce Development Region, a five-county region in Washington State that includes Thurston, Pacific, Lewis, Grays Harbor, and Mason counties. According to the Census Bureau, three out of the five counties were classified as mostly rural counties, and four of the five counties were classified as low-employment counties in 2015.

Unemployment rates in the area have improved since 2015, but only slightly, and the region continues to struggle with persistent issues of economic vitality. The project's research questions seek to identify the following:

  1. How can place-based, traditional artists and craftspeople make a positive impact on the regional concerns of reducing dependency on external or unsustainable economic drivers by developing economic vitality and resilience in rural communities?
  2. What impact does connection to a Community Based Participatory Research process have on expansion of folk school scope of service?

Through this two-year project, university and community researchers will engage in Participatory Action Research to examine economic resiliency and vitality options through the lens of sustainable, bottom-up arts based economic development.

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