The Center for Community Voices is a newly-launched initiative to uplift and center the knowledge, stories, and deep wisdom of communities in Fresno and the Central Valley who are often marginalized by perceived understandings of “expertise” that give greater weight to knowledge produced by traditional and exclusive academic institutions. We know that our communities already hold the recognized and unrecognized wisdom needed to tell the stories, collect the research, and actively transform the conditions that have left far too many people and communities vulnerable in our region. Through community-based projects and University-community partnerships, we aim to conduct, support, and fund research, multimedia storytelling, journalism, and other projects created with community members and groups already holding the wisdom and vision but only lacking a recognized title, organization name, or relationships with funders. We focus on unaddressed, urgent issues causing community pain and vulnerability, all done with an eye towards how policymakers, media outlets, and community-based organizations can act on them to transform our existing institutions and better serve the residents of our region.
We are ultimately working to transform narratives and undo systems of inequality by realizing and amplifying the existing knowledge, power, and agency of the communities for whom these changes must be made. This will not only provide a vehicle for that wisdom to be captured; it will also contribute to a shift in the dominant narrative of whose expertise is worthy of being listened to and compensated.
Our first “demonstration project" will support a Guaranteed Basic Income program in Fresno. Our role will be to support the firsthand stories of the program participants and lead on the research and evaluation of the program with faculty, community partners, and students. We will measure the quantitative impact (on health, financial security, employment, happiness and civic engagement) and publish first-hand qualitative stories from participants in the Fresno Guaranteed Basic Income program.
Students will be involved through internships and opportunities to learn within and alongside the community through high-impact practices that connect their sociology classes to their own biographies and the wisdom of their neighbors and elders.
Your support specifically will help us and our students convene community listening sessions on what transformative success looks like for this program, build out the research based on that input, and compensate residents and students for their time and wisdom in telling their own stories and supporting the research. This "demonstration project" and your support of it will also help ensure the launch of the Center for Community Voices as it invests in community-based, action-oriented projects and high-impact learning practices for our Central Valley students in the months and years ahead.