Jenkins discusses community violence, successful initiatives, and implementation science on ncIMPACT
Robin Jenkins, PhD, senior implementation specialist at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), was a guest on PBS television’s ncIMPACT, in an episode that premiered on March 3. The episode, which focused on community violence, included a round-table discussion featuring Jenkins, Stephanie Hawkins Anderson, PhD, program director for youth, violence prevention and community justice at RTI International, and Rob Lang, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. Alongside host Anita Brown-Graham, JD, the founder and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative at the UNC School of Government, the panelists focused on the issue of community violence and successful programs and initiatives around the state that are helping to make communities safer.
Jenkins—who has worked throughout his career at the intersection of human services and public policy including close involvement with the juvenile justice system—says that his background as a community clinical psychologist and his involvement throughout his career with the juvenile justice system prepared him to appear on the program. He served as chief deputy secretary of the Division of Juvenile Justice of the NC Department of Public Safety and spent years providing services in or administering programs at the community level, with
many focused on violence intervention and prevention, before joining FPG in 2017.
This background enabled Jenkins to share with the ncImpact audience his perspective on what communities can do to identify and prevent community violence. He highlighted the approach of Cure Violence, a violence prevention public health methodology that uses evidence-informed strategies to address the multi-layered causes of violence. Jenkins notes that violence occurs because of structural, economic, social norm, historical and opportunistic factors. Given this, a multi-pronged collaborative approach—including effective community-oriented and problem-solving policing, social programs designed and operated with lived experience in shared power roles, and faith communities—is needed to address the epidemic of violence.
Jenkins sings the praises of Brown-Graham and ncImpact. “Anita has such a big-picture idea of how to make the world better and is very deliberate about doing that at different levels of government,” he says. He appreciated her insightful questions that make the program relevant. Brown-Graham focused on defining the problem of community violence, examining how some local communities are addressing the issue, and interrogating which approaches offer promise.
Lang, the U.S. Attorney, emphasized the primacy of relationship building of key organizations, champions, and stakeholders in each community that can pull together a network of effective thinkers and resources to address the problem. Hawkins Anderson shared years of research experience around prevention, intervention, and community-based violence, particularly with structural issues that contribute to racism and problematic policing.
Toward the end of the program, Brown-Graham asked Jenkins what he would say, as an implementation scientist, to communities about how to choose and implement programs. He discussed the multi-layered strategy before running out of time and says that he would have told the audience that fit, feasibility, and usability are critical when choosing an intervention.
“Communities need to make sure that the context, timing and resources are available to do a good job in implementing a program and/or strategy,” says Jenkins. “It is also important to define the core elements of the intervention and then build readiness and capacities within the support system in the local community to ensure that programs and strategies are delivered with fidelity and alignment with collective voice and vision.”
“Communities need to make sure that the context, timing and resources are available to do a good job in implementing a program and/or strategy,” says Jenkins. “It is also important to define the core elements of the intervention and then build readiness and capacities within the support system in the local community to ensure that programs and strategies are delivered with fidelity and alignment with collective voice and vision.” He also stressed the importance of having evaluation systems and continuous learning processes in service to ongoing learning, community engagement, and acknowledgement of support system challenges that need to collectively be solved.
Jenkins hopes that the show offers optimism to communities, noting that even when levels of violence seem high and stakeholders feel frustrated, there are solutions. While recognizing that these strategies are often multi-year and multi-layered, Jenkins says that it is important for viewers to have hope and know that help exists.
He adds that FPG has the potential to help with community violence prevention, with the Institute’s rich continuum of resources around early childhood research and ways of helping families and communities nurture resilient and healthy children. Jenkins understands that people may wonder how child development connects with community violence prevention. “But if you think about all the developmental outcomes that come from trauma and trauma-induced communities and the factors that drive people to engage in social norms that allow violence, drugs, and other community problems, you realize that FPG has a critical role in helping communities and families know what it takes to nurture healthy children and families,” he says.