Community Research Collaborative

Community Research Collaborative: Pop-Up University for a Liberated Black San Francisco

In this week’s blog, Director of Engage San Francisco, Karin Cotterman, introduces the Community Research Collaborative (CRC), a partnership between the McCarthy Center, Collective Impact and the Jumia Research Institute. Read on for how the CRC created the Pop-Up University for a Liberated Black San Francisco, and their goals for the pop up.

“I feel deeply grateful every week.”- Dr. Colette Cann

Engage San Francisco continues to focus on how we enact our twin goals of contributing to and supporting a vibrant, thriving community for children, youth and families and the Western Addition/Fillmore while enhancing student learning and faculty research in the Jesuit tradition. As we do this work during this persistent pandemic, we gather inspiration from author, scholar and educator bell hooks, who wrote, “When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other.” One way we enact connection this year is through connecting USF Faculty and graduate students with other community-centered educators. 

In spring of 2021, we were invited to join an emergent collaboration hosted by Collective Impact where we crafted a shared goal to “provide African-centered and anti-racist education, research training, and program evaluation to Black students and community stakeholders in SF to study endemic racism and pathways to improve social and economic outcomes.” As a result, The Community Research Collaborative (CRC) was formed with our colleagues from Collective Impact and the Jumia Research Institute, which includes faculty affiliated with City College of San Francisco. Our coursework and programming focuses on building the capacity of Black San Francisco to identify and enact community research projects that address community identified needs. One result is a sense of reciprocity between educators and community participants, “The people have already been doing the work, but to be able to provide them with more language and a space to explore their own stories as well as the stories of their community has fed my soul and inspired me in my work.” – Janise Powell, IME Ed.D. student and RISE educator. 

This fall, through the CRC, USF launched the “Pop-Up University for a Liberated Black San Francisco,” and coursework continues in Spring 2022 with classes taught by our partners in USF’s School of Education via RISE for Racial Justice. USF Faculty, School of Education graduate students, and other RISE educators teach race theory, help students develop the necessary skills for hosting community meetings, and then transition into gatherings where African American community members can further engage their skills as what RISE co-lead and USF Associate Dean and Professor, Dr. Colette N. Cann calls “community activist researchers.” 

Janise Powell describes the experience of Saturday classes as “an all Black affinity space where we can hear and heal from stories while seeing and hearing other people heal and grow together. It is so powerful! The support and the love we experience within the group in the short amount of time that we have been together is something words cannot describe.” 

Dr. Colette Cann’s reflection on the Saturday classes echoes gratitude, love, and community,  “After every class session, I think — “This was my favorite!” and then I’m proven wrong the following week.  That said, I’m going to go ahead and say that this past Saturday was my favorite (knowing full well, I will be proven wrong next Saturday).  We created artistic representations of our racial identity development “journeys” and, in my small group, I got to hear two stories (one told as a poem) that made me rethink how internalized colorism plays a role in the Black community. I shared a drawing and felt immensely grateful to be able to share and be affirmed for my experiences in our Black affinity space.  So, I suppose, grateful is the word that best expresses my appreciation for getting to gather weekly in this way with this community. I feel deeply grateful every week.”

The Community Research Collaborative courses will continue through May 2022. Community members interested in participating can contact Karin Cotterman at or Tonya Williams at Folks interested in learning more about RISE workshops offered on an ongoing basis, or signing up for their newsletter, can check out

Black LeadershipBlack Lives Mattercommunity developmentCommunity PartnersEngage San FranciscoRISE for Racial Justice

Leo T. McCarthy Center • February 7, 2022

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