Skip to main content

CIAC’s Research Agenda


Everyone wants opportunity, health, and meaningful connections for themselves and for their family. Everyone wants to live in places where these common aspirations are fully supported. Despite these universal aims, however, we often fall short — sustaining community conditions like racial inequity and weak infrastructure that undermines our shared goals. This gap between our aspiration and our reality is the heart of the Community Innovation and Action Center’s research, teaching, and service.

We want to know:

  • Under what conditions do neighborhoods and communities achieve the outcomes they desire?

  • How do we create these conditions so that more neighborhoods and communities succeed?


We are exploring four broad areas with a focus on how they contribute to creating whole communities: Powerful Leadership & Change Makers, Effective Nonprofits & Governments, Strong Partnerships & Coalitions, and Public Policy & Shared Infrastructure. Each has a more specific set of research questions.

In particular, we are focusing on how community partnerships and coalitions function effectively and discovering the conditions under which such coalitions achieve population-level outcomes. This includes:

  1. What skills and competencies do partners and staff require? How can we best develop these skills and competencies? What ongoing supports do partners and staff require?

  2. What shared steps should coalitions and partnerships undertake? How can we measure and improve the quality of these processes (such as assessment, planning, advocacy, and evaluation)?

  3. How do coalitions bring about needed community and systems change (new or modified policies, programs, and practices in the community)? What accelerates or hinders the pace of needed change? Under what conditions do these changes contribute to improved community outcomes?

Partnerships are a particular focus of CIAC because community partnerships have become key mechanisms for local policy decision making and implementation. Community partnerships are required to create shared infrastructure such as for data. Finally, partnerships are relied on to advance every important community goal in the St. Louis region including health, education, and economic development. Partnership performance is key to creating whole communities.