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Pamela Mischen, associate professor of public administration and director of the Center for Applied Community Research and Development, speaks at the Binghamton University Forum on Jan. 19.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Professor discusses helping interorganizational networks
January 25, 2011Tweet
The encouragement of more University-community partnerships is just one way that local interorganizational networks can reach their full potential, the Binghamton University Forum was told at its Jan. 19 luncheon.
Pamela Mischen, associate professor of public administration and director of the Center for Applied Community Research and Development (CACRD), said that a lack of data sharing and data analysis skills hinder the problem-solving abilities of some networks.
“We have these skills at the University,” said Mischen, the featured faculty speaker at the forum in Old Union Hall. “A lot of research that we do is quite applicable to our community and community problems.”
The CACRD, located in the University Downtown Center, connects the University with organizations and individuals who are seeking community-based research partnerships.
Mischen explained that interorganizational networks are individuals representing organizations who come together for a common purpose. The networks’ functions could include information sharing, problem solving and service delivery.
The networks struggle with what Mischen called “knowledge management,” because its members seek information from accessible, trusted sources instead of taking a wider view.
“The best way to get the best information is to have everybody in your network take a turn and share what they know,” she said. “Value that information equally and take the average at the end of all the information you get. … What you were told in kindergarten – that everyone should take turns – still applies.”
Networks often have to settle for anecdotal information instead of data, Mischen said, adding that data can be turned into information, which becomes knowledge needed for actions and decisions.
“Organization A provides services to 500 people and Organization B also provides services to 500 people,” she said. “Let’s say these are services for people living in poverty. Because we don’t share data, we don’t know how many people in the community get services from A and/or B. We don’t know if there is any overlap at all.”
Besides University-community partnerships, Mischen said there are other ways that networks can be assisted, such as the training of community members in data analysis and the development of better IT products.
“There are a lot of IT products for organizations, but there really aren’t a lot for networks,” she said.
Mischen is also working with the GIS Campus Core Facility and the computer science and bioengineering departments on a “virtual communities project” that will create a website of data from administrative agencies in the community. The data will be presented as maps and charts, while a second phase of the project will incorporate data-analysis tools.
“Since we are collecting data and not information, we’ll be able to compares apples to apples and not apples to oranges, which is happening in the community now,” she said.