“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Waves crashing into the shore. Roosters and birds singing their morning medley. Palm branches dancing in the morning breeze. Sun peaking over the vast Caribbean Sea. Our journey continues to reveal itself, the story’s plot and ending still unknown.
I purposefully woke early this morning to have some time alone to reflect on our trip to this point and to share our developing story of what lies ahead of us. I continue to be filled with awe at the power and responsibility we have as community-based scholars working abroad. Our funding from the National Science Foundation is an incredible opportunity for our staff, our collaborators, our universities, the communities of Belize as they react to the impacts of climate change, and to our students who are about to embark on a life-changing experience.
In just a few days on this trip, we have met with the Pan American Development Foundation, faculty and staff at the University of Belize, including the President and Provost of UB, and several community members and business owners in Hopkins, Belize. All share a common interest in seeing this country continue to thrive and become better equipped to respond to the world’s changing social and environmental conditions.
We’ve heard countless stories of research in Belize. Research that has been successful, research that has not been as successful. Research that has had impact and research that has not. The common refrain from our partners was that to be successful in research in Belize one must be willing to listen to stories and share in a common vision and direction that allows for community members to be a part of the process.
We’ve been lucky to work in Belize for the past five years now on shorter term research projects. Such work has laid some of the foundation for this NSF program. As our partners have requested, our research will be inclusive of communities. We will be responsive to the needs of our partners in co-designing the research questions and methods necessary to conduct our work. We will strive to share the stories of communities through mapping, both in print and online. We will share our data in an open format (instantly) so that other researchers and citizen scientists may benefit from the work, contribute to it, and take that work in new directions. These are our aspirations. Our responsibilities. Our promise.
As international community scholars and with our funding from the National Science Foundation, we seek to share a new model for international collaboration and community-based scholarship. One that works with communities, rather in communities. One that teaches undergraduates that research is about people, relationships, collaboration, and using technology for telling the stories of humans.
As the sun rises on this day in Belize, it also rises on our research program and brings new energy for us as we watch the stories unfold around us. We’d love to hear your thoughts as we share our stories.
In the spirit of community-based scholarship,