Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

Contact Information

Sponsored Programs Administration
1901 S 1st St Ste A
Champaign, IL 61820 - 7473
(217) 300-1226
FY 2017 National Service and Civic Engagement Research

Executive Summary

Impact of advocacy on civic engagement and volunteering

Sharing similar experiences, parents of children with disabilities have a natural civic infrastructure to impact systemic change. To improve the lives of not only their offspring but also the lives of other parents of children with disabilities, many parents learn to advocate for special education services. The Volunteer Advocacy Project (VAP) educates and empowers parents of children with disabilities to advocate for other families of children with disabilities to receive special education services. Since its inception in 2008, the VAP has had more than 450 graduates who have voluntarily advocated for over 1,000 families of children with disabilities. Although mixed methods data have been collected demonstrating the preliminary effectiveness of the VAP, more research is needed to understand its impact on volunteer advocacy and civic engagement. For this project, there are three research questions (RQs):

(RQ1) What is the effect of the VAP on volunteering and civic engagement?

(RQ2) What are the facilitators and barriers to civic engagement and volunteer advocacy?

(RQ3) What are the motivating factors or events leading people to be volunteer advocates?

To answer RQ1, we will conduct a randomized control trial with 60 parents of children with disabilities and use multivariate analyses. For RQ2, we will conduct interviews with VAP graduates; we will use emergent coding to analyze the data. For RQ3, we will collect and analyze mixed methods data. We will disseminate our findings via three peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations; findings will also be shared with the 104 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs, federally-funded centers that provide information and support to parents of children with disabilities) across the United States (US).

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