For Promise Zone Arts, research means searching with the community. Our research methodology is informed by and designed with the community.


Foregrounding community input, the PZA research team co-develops a resident engagement strategy with community-based organizations and local constituents. We also coordinate with neighborhood constituents and organizations throughout various steps of the research implementation.


A multi-step, participatory field research process is designed specifically to execute the project’s community vision. Field research and ethnographic methods in combination with oral history and community workshops are implemented to gather data and generate stories. This process of naming and mapping cultural treasures helps generate cultural awareness among constituents and communities. Building on existing social capital, our research also helps create a network of cultural bearers and leaders.


The initiative has a two year duration. Each year has a unique geographical focus. The data cycle iterates once through the nine steps illustrated below every project year.


1. Promise Zone designation: Promise Zone is a federal designation associated with a collective impact strategy nationwide involving leaders from government, local institutions, nonprofits, and community organizations to target resources to create jobs, boost public safety, improve public education, and stimulate better housing opportunities for our residents and neighborhoods.


2. Cultural micro-communities: Consulting with constituents and organizations within Promise Zone neighborhoods, the project team establishes a participatory community input gathering process that is tailored to identify and recognize cultural assets meaningful to the community.


3. Questionnaire: A questionnaire is designed to capture community nominations of artists, sites, cultural practices, and tradition bearers that residents and constituents deem significant.


4. Fieldwork: A team of ethnographers conduct field research using the questionnaire to gather cultural treasure nominations at neighborhood events and meetings. Additionally, a digital form is distributed online to collect cultural treasure nominations from participants outside of face to face field interactions.


5. Data creation: The DCA data team transcribes and aggregates the data collected from the questionnaire implementation and creates a searchable database of structured content gathered from fieldwork. This process also involves the digitization of narratives from the cultural treasure nominations and scrubbing of personally identifiable information (PII), following the guidelines of a data management plan.


6. Committee feedback: The Cultural Treasure Coalition represented by community leaders is formed to provide feedback on the list of cultural treasures nominated by individual residents and constituents.


7. Multimedia storytelling: The fieldwork team develops narratives and audio-visual media content highlighting the history and story of each cultural treasure on the list.


8. Website production: A website including an interactive map of cultural treasures and a searchable database is created to showcase the community-based research findings. Community users and participants may browse the web-based storybank to explore narratives and media profiling each cultural treasure.


9. Public sharing: Public sharing events featuring performances, food, and workshops unveil and celebrate cultural treasures with community participants and related stakeholders. The PZA team receives community affirmation and feedback on the cultural treasure directory.