The T. L. L Temple Foundation funded/sponsored the Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA), School of Social Work, to conduct an appreciative inquiry in Wards 1 and 2 of Lufkin, Texas. A partnership developed between the foundation, School and the community. The purpose of the appreciative inquiry was to explore the strengths, resources, assets, resilience and challenges in the community. The appreciative inquiry gave a voice to the community by collecting data, identifying key priority areas and formulating recommendations for change. The anticipated outcome of the appreciative inquiry is the revitalization of Wards 1 and 2, which will ultimately impact the City of Lufkin as well as Angelina County.
The appreciative inquiry is based on a participatory action research design. The main principle of the design is the inclusion of community residents in the research project. It is assumed that the people who are most affected by circumstances in a community can best explain and describe it. Community change and revitalization should be based on sustainable efforts. In order for this project to be sustainable it was necessary to use the principles of community-driven development and collective impact. In summary, these principles include open communication, building trust, respecting life circumstances of residents and developing a partnership network.
A mixed methodology research approach was used, including multi-level and multi-source strategies to collect data over a period of 18 months. The data collection approach included qualitative and quantitative methods. The multi-source data resulted in trustworthiness of the information. Data was validated by using triangulation methods and the principles of trustworthiness (credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability). The data included a survey of resident perceptions of the community, focus groups, community conversation cafés, interviews, key informant interviews, partner agency surveys and interviews, community art by children and youth, photos of the community, secondary data, historical narratives and maps of the wards.
The findings included key priorities as identified by the appreciative inquiry participants. Many of the priorities are already being addressed by the City of Lufkin and other community partners. The development of a sustainable change strategy calls for the partnership between all stakeholders including internal and external resource utilization.
Although all priorities should be considered equally important, some were highlighted in the data as main concerns. Jobs and economic development, education, housing and community safety and policing were identified as most important. Challenges specific to transportation are clearly impacting all priorities. The locality of resources and services, beautification of the community, quality of life, specialized services for recreation, health and youth development are highlighted as important. Residents voiced a desire to build a neighborhood center in Wards 1 and 2 to address some of the priorities.