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Jacqueline Resnick

15 People; 15 Different Projects

Posted on February 14, 2006

Gain tips from Jacqueline Resnick (bio) about bringing together diverse groups in research teams.


Q: How can you create a cohesive team with diverse people?
A: People have to understand their personal and organizational goals when they sit down in the group because everyone comes with a different agenda. Everyone has to take that into account, and that is particularly true when you're building international teams. You need to think about the various cultural differences in the group whether it's a local, a departmental, or an international group. How can you make a team when everyone is different in their outlook and their facilities and their expertise? Find something that is a common ground for everyone and use that to help build the group. The differences will become the group's strength as they explore the question.
Q: What is the role of a facilitator in a multidisciplinary research team?
A: I remember when I was asked to come in to help a group that had been working together about 3 months, but couldn't come to any kind of consensus. So I went in and the first question I asked was, 'Before you all tell me what this project is about, how about you tell me what this project is about? Now you tell me.' I asked each person individually. There were 15 people and I got 15 different answers. I said, 'We got a problem; we have got to talk about what this project is about. What is intrinsically the same? And what each of you do, and what you're looking for; let's put down 3 things this project is about. Who wants to buy into the first one?' And then you just go through this process, and it does require work. I call the model I use the public health model. When you work in public health with communities, you never go into a community and tell them what they need to do. You approach it from a participatory or an action-based research technique, and in public health, we call that doing a community diagnosis. That's exactly what I do when I meet with people for the first time. I do a community diagnosis. I find out what they think they need. I find out what they think they are doing. I find out who they think they want to work with and why they think they want to do that and what the impact is of what they think. My role then is to see if they can think a little bit outside of the box in all of those areas.
Q: What suggestions can you give for collaboration between traditionally black universities and predominately white universities?
A: There are tremendous strengths at the traditional black universities. I don't see partnerships that use those strengths effectively. It's usually done haphazardly, without thinking about mutual gain. I'd like to see the model changed. I tell people at UNC who are not sure how to develop a working partnership, "I don't know a better institution in our state that knows how to educate people and develop outreach than Bennett College and the people who work there. Maybe they don't have the equipped labs, but they have developed something else - social entrepreneurship, you should be working with the people there because they know how to do it better than anybody. And they know how, without all the resources, to educate, network, get their science students out all over the country; you are trying to invent the wheel, but it's already been invented. So that means going over and meeting with people. Ask each other, where are the areas that each of you have strengths in? How can you go for grants? And how can you build programs from these strengths where we may partner in and pull in the bigger institution to reinforce other areas? Reverse the plan. And then it's a win-win situation for everybody.



Based on a presentation at NCRSA, March 2005, Greensboro, NC.


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