Research on Historical Trauma and Post Traumatic Growth Using ATLAS.ti

October 11, 2017

In this issue of our case studies in ATLAS.ti series, we interview Anna Ortega-Williams, director of training and evaluation at the Red Hook Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, New York, United States.  Dr. Ortega-Williams talks about her work with youth in the community of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Anna, thank you very much for sharing with us your experience with ATLAS.ti.  First, tell us a little bit about yourself and the organization with which you work.

I am a social work scholar and community based practitioner. I have been in social work for 16 years. I earned my PhD in social work from Fordham University in 2017. My areas of interest are focused on historical trauma, post traumatic growth in Black youth, and recovery from social injustice through organizing.

I work at the Red Hook Initiative, I primarily focus on understanding the impact of our youth development, leadership, and community building programs upon youth well-being in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Tell us about the project in which you are using ATLAS.ti

I am using ATLAS.ti to understand the meaning of organizing to Black youth in the context of historical trauma and systemic violence.

In this study using a phenomenological and critical qualitative research approach, 20 semi- structured interviews 45-90 minutes in length were conducted in addition to three participant observations of an organizing meeting and two social actions. Interviewees were Black youth organizers ages 18-31, with an average age of 24. Gender identity categories were inclusive of 2 gender non-conforming, 10 cis-gender female, and 8 cis-gender male youth, two identified as fathers of 1 child (both under 5 years old). Experience in organizing ranged from 6 months to over 12 years as an activist or organizer, with the average experience level being 5 years.

Key findings: 1) The meaning of organizing is to redefine destiny, 2) organizing heals as a spiritual/energetic experience of connecting with ancestors and a healed Black future, and 3) a pathway to post-traumatic growth is through collective action. Participants did identify some risks to their well-being while organizing, such as 1) pain from inescapable awareness of social injustice, 2) the physical and emotional drain of organizing work, 3) toxicity and violence in some organizing spaces and communities, and 4) value-clashes at work. The risks appeared to be mitigated by access to collective self-care efforts.

I found ATLAS.ti to be so easy to use. It was my first time using qualitative software and I didn’t have a problem quickly uploading files and getting to work. As a doctoral student, mom and full time worker with a tight window to complete my dissertation, it was a game changer.

Anna can be reached at aortegawilliams@gmail.com

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