Institute for Community Research
Our Story

Our Story

ICR was founded in 1987 as a non-profit research institute to conduct applied and action research in partnership with communities and organizations in New England and beyond.

ICR Founding Executive Director, Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D., an anthropologist, came to ICR with the vision of creating an organization that stresses collaborative research to transform lives, build alliances, and address root causes of health and educational disparities in the U.S. and globally. That vision has grown with the addition of an interdisciplinary and diverse staff, to become a thriving local, national and international research institute.

Early efforts to address some of the most significant community concerns and interests at the time of ICR’s inception laid the foundation for all major areas of our research and programming.

From the beginning, we recognized that HIV/AIDS was a growing national and international concern and brought in speakers from the CDC and NIH in 1988 to highlight the epidemic. Since then, we have worked in the U.S., South Asia, China, and El Salvador in partnership with local organizations to address it. We built the first community consortium in the country to do AIDS research and to plan and test culturally appropriate prevention with people involved in high-risk behavior, including illicit drug users, high-risk women, teens, and older adults at risk for HIV.

Recognizing that aging was a global challenge, we initiated programs in long-term care, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic problems. The Administration on Aging provided support to implement one of only two national programs on Alzheimer’s disease in minority communities, which launched ICR’s program of NIH funded empowerment research and intervention with older adults on numerous chronic and infectious diseases that affect them.

In 1988, communities in Hartford voiced concern over bias in the Census and prompted the beginnings of a three year participatory action research (PAR) project that involved 80 organizations from 15 neighborhoods and 6 municipalities to develop an alternative survey instrument for the 2000 Census. Residents designed instruments, collected data, and used information for neighborhood improvement. Subsequently, we used the PAR process to successfully mobilize urban women around educational issues, urban men around economic development, and Hartford neighborhoods and nearby municipalities around neighborhood quality of life. Youth PAR augmented the voices of urban youth, which has continued through multiple federally and state funded programs to the present.

In 1990, we started the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program and the Urban Arts Initiative, two long-term efforts to conserve cultural traditions and promote social justice by supporting community and heritage artists. We also use cultural expression and creative integration of science and art to share knowledge and captivate audiences for research dissemination,

In 1996, through our first international conference on the implications of privatization, we collectively voiced our concern with privatization of education, social services, arts support, and prison labor. This began ICR’s exploration through community research of factors related to and contributing to health disparities and other inequities in our society. ICR’s subsequent conferences and public programs have helped to highlight key social and ethical considerations for community research and generated dialogue and critical debate on key issues affecting our communities. ICR’s collaborative research and development work has been supported by broad and expanding community coalitions, local and national community organizations, national and local funders, and university partners.

See our 25th anniversary report here.

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