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Strategy for community development partnerships earns award for UT Arlington professor

University of Texas at Arlington


IMAGE: Maria Martinez-Cosio, associate professor in the School of Urban and Public Affairs at UT Arlington, has won the Community Development Society's Current Research Award for 2014. view more

Credit: UT Arlington

A University of Texas at Arlington professor who co-authored a book about the challenges faced by private foundations engaged in community revitalization has been awarded the Community Development Society's Current Research Award for 2014.

Maria Martinez-Cosio, associate professor in the School of Urban and Public Affairs, will accept the award this week at the society's national conference, along with her co-author Mirle Bussell, a continuing lecturer and academic coordinator in the Urban Studies and Planning Program at UC San Diego.

The Community Development Society is an international organization with members from academia and practitioners engaged in a variety of community development-related arenas, including education health care, social services and citizen groups.

The book, "Catalysts for Change: 21st Century Philanthropy and Community Development," explores the work of private foundations engaged with residents in underserved communities across Sun Belt cities.

The authors looked at more than 60 family foundations, community foundations, funding collaborative groups and public charities in Los Angeles, Dallas and San Diego. They found that engaging residents in philanthropic partnerships is a complex and difficult process, but that foundations that developed their own models of partnership with residents were more successful than those replicating existing models.

"Many of the people in the areas targeted by these foundations we studied didn't speak English, came from numerous countries around the globe and did not have a good understanding of the community development process" Martinez-Cosio said. "In addition, some of these communities targeted for change were threatened by gentrification, something that property owners actively sought and renters feared."

The team's research argues that foundations must invest the time to build trusting relationships with affected underserved populations, a process that can be challenging. The task can be approached by working with nonprofits that engage with those residents, by building nonprofit collaboratives to eliminate replication and by engaging in the day-to-day work occurring in targeted communities, researchers said.

Cosio and Bussell's book is part of a series being published by Routledge in partnership with the Community Development Society. Book editor Rhonda Phillips, dean of the Honors College at Purdue University and former professor at Arizona State University's School of Community Resources & Development, said in the book's forward: "The role of foundations in community development is an area that has not been explored in much depth - until now. This book responds with a comprehensive and constructive analysis with significant implications for community development."

In addition to this week's award, Martinez-Cosio and Bussell's work has garnered attention internationally. They were invited join a research partnership with leading organizations representing Canadian public, private and community foundations on a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSRC).


About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

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