How to Make More of an Impact


Every semester, my public relations students and I work with numerous local organizations. Sometimes, those organizations are start-ups or small businesses. Most of the time, however, they are local non-profit organizations. The non-profits, without fail, have inspiring goals. They serve the homeless, the hungry, the impoverished, and the vulnerable. As I speak with the leaders of those local agencies, I am awed by their missions. They are passionate about doing good. They invest countless hours and all their resources in their mission.

However, no matter how inspired their mission, no matter how ceaseless their efforts, these organizations share a common struggle. This is a common challenge, faced by every cause-driven organization, and it boils down to two key questions. How do we inspire people to care? And once we inspire them to care, how do we inspire them to act?

Because I hear these questions frequently, I created a simple infographic (attached) to help organizations think through their connection and communication needs. If your organization is considering how to motivate the community, read on.

The first step is to assess how aware people are of your organization. Creating a positive and widely recognizable brand is key here. The second step is to strengthen your organization’s reputation. Here, it is important to assess what people think about your organization, and to communicate your organization’s unique value to the community.

Once the larger community knows about your organization and you have established a strong reputation, consider your message. Consider how clear and persuasive your message is. You might also consider if you are leveraging the right mix of communication platforms to spread your message. You might also consider extending clear invitations to act (i.e., donate, volunteer, share).

Then, after you have given the community a moving invitation to act, you should assess any impact this appeal has had on your goals. A public relations strategy is only as good as the impact it has on your primary goals. Do more people recognize your brand? Have you seen an increase in volunteers? Did you meet your fund-raising goals?

Although this is just a skim of what is involved in a strategic communication plan, I hope it gives you some idea of the process. If your start-up, small business, or non-profit organization would like to work with a group of senior public relations students to create a strategic communication plan, let me know. I would be happy to speak with you about this free community service offered by the University of Cincinnati!

jmalatHow to Make More of an Impact
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What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati

What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati


In January we responded to conversations with community organizers and activists by bringing together a group of UC scholars to ask how we could amplify the voices of women of color in Cincinnati. How

Children listen to activists’ voices at the opening.

could we do more to support the efforts of organizations working to make Cincinnati a more equitable city? The product of those conversations debuted at Reverb Art + Design with the opening of “What Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati.”

The exhibit features voices that reflect the diversity of women of color’s experiences in Cincinnati. Those who attend the exhibit can read the words and use headphones to hear the voices of well-known activists as well as anonymous women who have faced violence and other challenges. The exhibit shares the stories of black women and Latinx women, Cincinnati-born women and women who moved to Cincinnati, cisgender as well as trans women. Visitors can take home small books that have more information about women’s experiences and suggestions about how to get involved.

Many of the women whose voices are shared in the exhibit joined us on the opening night. During the panel discussion, we were lucky to hear directly from Heyra Avila and Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, whose activism is featured in the exhibit. Both women emphasized the importance of everyone acting in the face of injustice. Ms. Avila urged people to show up for immigrants and vote with immigrant rights in mind. Dr. Mazloomi shared a quilt made by refugees that illustrated that women’s fight for justice is global and highlighted the power of quilt-making to help tell women’s stories.

The exhibit asks visitors “What is next?”

The panel also included professors Anjali Dutt and JT Roane, who lead the archiving activism project that collected these women’s stories. Their comments reflected their commitment to bringing together justice and scholarship.

We hope that the exhibit speaks to people who want to see a more equitable Cincinnati by inspiring them to act, as the women featured in the exhibit have taken action to create the Cincinnati they want to see.

You can learn more about the exhibit and those who created it, see the small books, and hear activists voices on our website. We are thankful for support for this project from The Greater Cincinnati FoundationThe Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. / U.S. Bank FoundationThe Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation, and the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

jmalatWhat Is and What Can Be: Women of Color and the Struggle for Justice in Cincinnati
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High School Student Scientists Working in Communities

High School Student Scientists Working in Communities


While the Opioid Crisis is making headlines across the United States, communities in and around Cincinnati have been hit particularly hard. “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM”, a project funded by a Science Education Partnership Award by the National Institute of Health, aims to let student researchers gain real world research experience as they investigate innovative ways to address the opioid crisis within their communities.

For this project, “Growing Community Change Researchers in STEM” will be working with students and teachers at two high schools. One is Princeton High School in Cincinnati and the other is Manchester High School in Manchester Ohio.

A high school sophomore responds to a research prompt

Though the project is only in its early stages, it has been particularly meaningful for a variety of reasons. Many of the student researchers have first-hand experience with the harmful impacts of opioid use. They shared stories of how their family members struggled with opioid use and explained how increased opioid use impacted their schools and communities. This first-hand experience is central to the mission of this project: We believe that these students have the answers as to what it will take to alleviate the impacts of drug addiction in their communities. We want to give them the tools to bring those theories to life.

Also central to this project is the desire to increase representation of African American and rural Appalachian students and teachers into STEM and research communities. Both of these populations are underrepresented in STEM and research communities. We hope that this project will allow students and teachers to develop research skills, and increase underrepresented populations’ desires to pursue college degrees and careers in STEM and research. Students and teachers will be learning a variety of Community-Based Participatory Research methods that they will employ in their projects.

The students joined us at UC in May for a Research Kickoff Day. While they were here, the students participated in a variety of activities to help get them excited about the project and get them thinking about their research questions. They participated in a Group Level Assessment about their views on research, science and drug addiction. They heard from a number of speakers, including our researchers, Dr. Farrah Jacquez and Dr. Lisa Vaughn, drug addiction expert Dr. LaTrice Montgomery, and local activist Christina Brown.

The students also participated in a Digital Storytelling project, where each student made short videos explaining how drug abuse and addiction has impacted them, their families, and their schools/communities. We wanted students to get a chance to tell their story, develop their voice, and we hoped that this would help guide their individual research projects.

Teachers also spent the two days participating in their own kick-off events. They spent their time working on ideas for curriculum development for the school year.

We can’t wait for the students to get back to school in August so we can begin working on their research projects. We can’t wait to see what kinds of research questions they choose to investigate, and we love that their stories and voices will get a chance to shine in whatever project they choose!

To learn more about this project:


jmalatHigh School Student Scientists Working in Communities
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WOC Initiative Project Highlight – Public Relations Campaigns Class with Suzanne Boys

WOC Initiative Project Highlight – Public Relations Campaigns Class with Suzanne Boys


The Cincinnati Project’s 2018 initiative, made possible through support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, centers women of color. The Cincinnati Project pairs University of Cincinnati researchers, both faculty and students, with local organizations that work for social change in the greater Cincinnati area. These research partnerships are done independently, as part of classes, and as teams across disciplines. One exciting class is working on multiple public relations campaigns to support local organizations as part of The Cincinnati Project 2018 Women of Color Initiative.

Dr. Suzanne Boys is teaching an upper level Public Relations Campaigns class where her students develop projects to support local non-profits and small businesses. Her students are serving Strong Cincinnati, The Child Poverty Collaborative, Wesley Education Center, and RISE. Each of these organizations have their own goals and needs, and students are creating unique projects accordingly. Students have done extensive research on the organization, their needs, their target demographics, and effective strategies to accomplish their goals.

While some of the partner organizations have very specific goals, such as fundraising, others have more ambiguous but equally fruitful ones. The Child Poverty Collaborative is hoping to expand their efforts to include spreading awareness of poverty and tackling the stigma associated with it. Students are beginning to make sense of their personal experiences with poverty, having to reflect on their own judgments about people living in poverty, and question assumptions about what poverty looks like. Students will be creating surveys and conducting interviews to engage business managers and community members about their perceptions of poverty. Poverty is a sensitive topic that touches more lives than people are often aware. This class is supporting this organization in bringing an important issue to the forefront of dialogue for all people, regardless of their economic status.

Students are enthusiastic about working with actual clients who bring a high level of passion around their topics. Students working with Strong Cincinnati was struck by their emphasis on empowerment and engagement for neighborhoods and are helping them by developing and distributing a survey to people about community involvement. The hope is that this survey will provide data from opinion leaders and neighborhood councils so that Strong Cincinnati can continue its mission. Much of the work Strong Cincinnati does is about uplifting neighborhoods and local organization, with an emphasis on strengths.

Another group of students in Dr. Boys’ class is working with a local staple that has uplifted the community through education for 98 years – the Wesley Education Center in Avondale. They are an infant and early childcare center who also provides additional programming to support families. With such an extensive history serving the community, students in the PR are able to assist them in strategizing about their future growth.

While students are providing support towards the further expansion of these community partners, they can improve their skills and training. While The Cincinnati Project centers the work of the organization, it is important to note the positive impact the work on student researchers. Students in this class are able to situate themselves in the greater Cincinnati community, prepare for potential careers, and learn about positive efforts towards social change in Cincinnati.

Look for more updates about the Women of Color Initiative in the coming weeks!

jmalatWOC Initiative Project Highlight – Public Relations Campaigns Class with Suzanne Boys
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The 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain

The 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain


About a month ago, we held our 4th annual TCP Symposium. I was asked to reflect on the TCP Symposium from the perspective of the Project Coordinator, a role that also includes organizing the symposium. Normally, I decline sharing my reflections from the event because I am primarily concerned about others’ experiences. I am invested in our attendees understanding the importance of community-partnered research, and gaining knowledge on how to get involved in community-partnered research, and why organizations like The Cincinnati Project are important. However, this year I would like to give you my thoughts from behind the curtain.

Student presenters at the symposium.

The environment at the symposium this year was electric. I felt the energy from 9AM when the students kicked off the EARLY morning sessions, until the last attendee walked out the doors of The African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) at 4PM. The Cincinnati Project leadership team was grateful to host the symposium in the sacred space known as the AACRC. It was the perfect space to have much-needed conversations on power, partnerships, and the community. The TCP leadership team prides ourselves on being equal partners in research for equity, so we wanted the symposium to match these goals. As a result, the symposium was just not just an event for professors, but also included students, and community members. Our approach facilitated important conversations on the value of community-partnered research and working collaboratively across the city. This year we charged all parties to do more, and to work collaboratively.

Yvette Simpson describes the importance of working together

The symposium was a remarkable event because both the attendees and the speakers engaged deeply with the subject. The students emphasized how classroom-partnered research gives them real-life experiences and connections with the community that they live in. The TCP faculty scholars explained how faculty can successfully navigate community-partnered work and why it is rewarding. The panels featured many influential Black women leaders of Cincinnati. The Power, Partnerships, and Progress panel was amazing because the faculty were both transparent and vulnerable, addressing their positionality and how it affects their research, and what it means to really listen to community partners. The concluding call to action by keynote speaker Yvette Simpson left the room buzzing. She emphasized the importance of bridging communities and collaborative work. The panel she sat on with other local leaders emphasized the necessity of different leaders coming together for a common goal.

Thank all of you for making this symposium a success. It was amazing to see the connections made, the crowded sessions, the delicious food, and the hope and desire to do important collaborative work to eradicate inequality. I end this post with a call to continue the work. There is plenty of work to do, and we all have skills to add to the fight. Moreover, let me be frank, if you are not fighting to eliminate inequality, you are continuing inequality. To UC and other academic folk, I urge you to take your research outside of academia, and publish your results outside of journals. To the community, please continue to teach us, and allow us to leverage our power and resources to benefit you! There is no time like today to act, and most importantly listen. #WeInThisTogether. #TCP18 was great. Hope to see all of you again next year!

jmalatThe 4th Annual TCP Symposium, from behind the curtain
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WOC Initiative Project Highlight- Mapping Eviction

Neighborhoods of Cincinnati


There is amazing work-in-progress emerging in The Cincinnati Project’s 2018 initiative to highlight the experiences and voices of women of color, funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. One highlight is the work of Elaina Johns-Wolfe and the students in her Urban Society sociology course. They are partnering with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and Legal Aid of Southwest Ohio to illuminate the experiences of eviction in our community. Together, using a community-partnered research model from The Cincinnati Project, they are working to understand who is evicted, how they are evicted, by whom they are evicted, and the communities from which they are evicted. Previous research shows that the socioeconomic problems of eviction disproportionately impact women of color. This project will contribute to a more holistic picture of the experiences of housing instability and dispossession.

With the aid of eviction records and American Community Survey data, the goal of this project is to map the geography of eviction filings that occurred between 2014 and 2017 in Hamilton County. Finding itself at the intersection of statistical analyses and lived experiences, this project centers the experiences of a population displaced and often forgotten. Indeed, much of the research on housing instability focuses on the experiences of homeowners rather than of renters. Beyond the benefits of this research, this project goes one step further by supporting the local efforts of two organizations HOME and Legal Aid of Southwest Ohio to better understand housing in Hamilton County.

In addition to the grant support from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, this project is made possible through a partnership between The Cincinnati Project and Texas A&M University’s GeoServices. We would also like to acknowledge the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts for their assistance in obtaining data on eviction filings in Hamilton County.

jmalatWOC Initiative Project Highlight- Mapping Eviction
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Women of Color at the Center

Women of Color at the Center

Women of color provide important leadership in the city of Cincinnati, working in all sectors and volunteering their time for a better Cincinnati. At the same time, women of color face a multitude of challenges, including an alarmingly high poverty rate, high rates of health problems, and other inequities.

At The Cincinnati Project, we have begun a new initiative in 2018, funded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, to raise up the stories from women of color as well as to reduce poverty and other disadvantages face by women of color. Working with community partners, we have launched a set of projects designed to benefit women of color either directly or by supporting the work of other groups with this goal.

Some of the projects will lift up the voices of women of color to tell success stories and describe obstacles to equality. Business owners and activists and women isolated by poverty will be featured in these projects. Other projects will help ongoing efforts to improve women of color’s lives. For example, an urban societies class will collect information that will help Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) reduce evictions in Cincinnati, a problem that greatly affects women of color. Another class will work to promote a business owned by a black woman, improve communication among neighborhood community councils, and help the Child Poverty Collaborative achieve their goals. Finally, our initiative will benefit from the research for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In this project, a group of professors is evaluating data on city employees for a study of gender, race, and other potential forms of inequality as a first step in the CEDAW process.

Because we do not want this research to sit on the shelf, we are making plans to bring it to the public. We have a design team who will synthesize this work and match it practical information. For example, women’s stories of activism and starting businesses will be shared in public spaces—we are still working on where and how—along with information about how to organize in your community or start a business. Look for more about this phase of the project during the summer.

All of this work will be completed and shared in 2018. We won’t stop doing other projects, but the projects partnered with women of color will allow us to focus efforts to demonstrate the power of coordinated efforts. We hope that our projects will support the efforts of All-In Cincinnati, the Child Poverty Collaborative, HOME, and other groups working on policy change and providing services that disproportionately support women of color.

jmalatWomen of Color at the Center
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Symposium Next Friday!

We are looking forward to the symposium next week! There will be engaging panel conversations about negotiating power in relationships, discussions with local leaders about the value of partnerships across sectors, and students and faculty describing their community-partnered research. There’s a longer story about the symposium here.

You can find the full schedule here.

If you plan to join us, please RSVP here. It’s free!

jmalatSymposium Next Friday!
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Communities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE)

Communities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE)


In September 2016, UC Psychology department faculty member Farrah Jacquez, New Prospect Baptist Church community organizer Jamie-Lee Morris, and American Academy of Family Physicians geographer Michael Topmiller were chosen as Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The IRL program brings together two researchers and a community partner to use the power of applied research—informing and supporting critical work being done in communities—to accelerate that work and advance health and equity. The team proposed research called “A Place-based Approach to Early Childhood Wellness in Carthage and Roselawn”, a project designed to organize community members in two Cincinnati neighborhoods to promote the well-being of young children.

The CAKE Leadership Team (Back row Michael Topmiller, Farrah Jacquez, Crystal Davis, Alexander Shelton; front row Cindy Wooten, Lakisha Best, Jamie-Lee Morris, Shanah Cole, Monica Arenas-Losacker). Not pictured are Alan Dicken and Giovanna Alvarez.

Over the past year, The IRL program has facilitated the formation of Communities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE), a team of early childhood stakeholders in the neighborhoods of Carthage and Roselawn.

CAKE has three primary aims to be accomplished over the next two years:
• Create a network of engaged community members, education providers, and stakeholders ready for action
• Develop a multi-level intervention with systematic input from across community sectors and with shared decision-making of Leadership Team
• Increase awareness of the value of preschool and preschool options available in Carthage and Roselawn

We plan to do this by:
• Creating a team of community members to collaborate with us on the research
• Using research to improve the health of young children
• Focusing our place-based approach on the communities of Carthage & Roselawn
• Focusing on approaches that address the multiple levels that influence a child’s life: individual, family, school, community
• Identifying the assets that already exist in Carthage and Roselawn and create ways to build on them

To begin our work, we first needed to find out what the people who live and work in Carthage and Roselawn see as the most important factors in the health and wellness of young kids living in their neighborhoods.

Photo from GLA

We conducted four participatory focus groups called Group Level Assessments with four diverse groups of stakeholders: members of New Prospect Baptist Church, members of San Carlos Catholic Church, members of Carthage Neighborhood Council, and Type B Childcare Providers. Through these four GLAs, we were able to talk with almost 100 community members from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise.

Photo from GLA

Based on the GLAs, we have started to identify the factors that Carthage and Roselawn residents believe are the most important in the lives of young children. Participants identified important drivers at the family, school, and community levels as being critical to the wellness of young kids. Several ideas emerged as ways to promote early childhood wellness, including supporting parent involvement in children’s lives and providing safe, high quality places for children’s activities.

For our next steps, will be interviewing up to thirty school stakeholders to help understand the educational context for preschoolers living in Carthage and Roselawn. By identifying the educational assets that currently exist in the neighborhoods, we hope to move toward building an intervention that builds on existing resources to provide the best possible environment for happy, healthy young kids.

If you’re interested in learning more about CAKE, keeping up with our progress, or getting involved, go to our Facebook page or email us at

jmalatCommunities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE)
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