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The Third Spaces Project

Beyond the Ohio State campus footprint exists an emerging collaboration between three Ohio State “third spaces” centered in DEIJ work-- African American Community Extension Center (“CEC”), STEAM Factory, and Urban Arts Space (“UAS”). Our collaboration will build a relational foundation to convene, surface, create, showcase, and archive the stories, needs and aspirations of the diverse communities we serve together.

What is Third Spaces?

Third Spaces Phase 1 will establish a foundation between Ohio State supported third spaces and respective community members that advances meaningful and transformative efforts toward racial equity, inclusiveness, and access. A third space is defined as a social space separate from the home or workplace, vital for strengthening our sense of community and belonging.  

Phase 1 begins with asking juicy, aspirational questions such as: How do we increase access to social and educational opportunities for deep learning among diverse faculty, students, staff, and community members? How do we develop more care for community building and shared learning opportunities? What stories need to be told? Our answer to these questions will emerge from a series of celebratory collaborative community events (each hosted in our respective off-campus locations) designed for communal listening, community-centered story and need surfacing sessions, and art-making and creative sessions, which will serve as the canon for showcasing and creating supporting works of art and dissemination. 

What does Third Spaces aim to address?

University-led research projects typically incorporate scholar-driven questions, related literature and quantitative data to establish research objectives and outcomes while underutilizing deep community engagement strategies to better align research goals and resulting intervention efforts with the needs, interests, and desires of the communities in which we work and for who we serve. The COVID-19 pandemic has further negatively impacted marginalized communities in ways we have yet to fully grasp or account for in our research designs.  

Both historically, and specifically over the past three years, Ohio State has not provided adequate space or committed sufficient resources for communities to reflect upon their lives and to (re)imagine what better looks like for themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods. Rooting our work in the perspectives, lived experiences, and aspirations of the community opens possibilities for our resulting research to be more informed, accessible, and articulated toward advancing viable solutions to the persistent challenges intimately experienced by the communities we serve.

What are Third Spaces' Objectives?

Using an intersectional lens, Phase 1 efforts focus on building meaningful relationships between our Third Space partners (CEC, UAS, STEAM) and developing foundations of mutual trust and care with the communities touched by our work. We believe that our communities have the capacity, knowledge and expertise to address issues of importance to their lives. This funding will give us the resources to convene, build, and host space for community-based learning and interactions around DEIJ topics. Phase 1 will: 

  1. Build a relational foundation between Third Space partners and our respective communities that will improve our collective understanding and knowledge around our own and community needs in the areas of racial equity, access and justice  

  1. Host at least ten project team meetings and three large celebratory community-centered, community-focused events, one at each third space 

  1. Create analog, three-dimension materials and an accessible digital archive that will showcase Phase 1 materials and stories that can be readily shared to a broader audience within and outside of Ohio State 

  1. Conducting research on our Phase 1 efforts by developing a mixed methods Phase 1 research data and evaluation plan, seeking IRB approval and analyzing and reporting Phase 1 results