Friday, January 18, 2013

Research and Practice


One of the things that we try to accomplish every day at the Center for Court Innovation is to bridge the worlds of research and practice.

Of course, sometimes this is easier said than done.  One of the lowest moments in my career came a few years back when I was tasked with assembling a panel of researchers to present findings about problem-solving courts to an audience primarily comprised of judges.  Unfortunately, I wasn't thoughtful enough about the differences in mindset, vocabulary, and frames of reference between the researchers and their audience of policymakers and practitioners.  The end result was a panel of missed connections -- what Cool Hand Luke might call a "failure to communicate."

I thought of this low moment because I spent an entire day this week bringing together researchers from the National Center for State Courts and policymakers here in New York City to review the preliminary findings from the National Center's independent evaluation of the Red Hook Community Justice Center.  (The evaluation is currently under peer review and will not be finalized for a couple of months.)

In contrast to my earlier experience, this week's series of meetings was a massive success.  Part of this is due, no doubt, to the fact that the results of the evaluation are overwhelmingly positive (I will write a lot more about this, I'm sure, as the publication date grows closer).  But huge credit also goes to the judges and city officials who attended the presentations.  To a person, they asked thoughtful questions and sought to tease out the implications of the research not just for Red Hook but for the justice system as a whole.  Sometimes researchers like to complain that their work gathers dust and that no one in power is interested in listening to them.  This week's meetings offered encouraging evidence to the contrary.