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At traditional academic research centers, faculty and graduate students make decisions on what topics to study. But the Liberal Arts Action Lab “flips the script” by empowering local residents of Hartford, Connecticut to drive this process. In this chapter we compile, analyze, and reflect on two years of data generated by Action Lab partnerships to answer the question: to what extent has the Action Lab model of promoting resident-initiated participatory action research influenced community development in the City of Hartford? We identify five distinct ways we found the Action Lab to have produced effects with our partner organizations and the broader ecosystem of community development in Hartford, CT: reflective effect, process effect, discovery effect, applied effect, and strategic effect. In the chapter below, we describe the theory and practice behind the Action Lab model, discuss how we use technology to increase participation in our project selection process, and provide a brief overview of the program itself before describing in detail the forms of effect we identified.


Authors' Draft 2021