City of Big Stories - Annual Report 2011

Chinese Mutual Aid Association  

Chinese Mutual Aid Association


Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) was established in the late 1970s to help meet the needs of ethnic Chinese immigrants newly arrived in Chicago from Vietnam. In the intervening years, CMAA has become a multi-faceted, community-based social service agency serving over 13,000 people who speak no fewer than 30 languages and dialects, in what has become one of the most diverse neighborhoods on Chicago's map.

This diversity is both CMAA's calling card and its strength. The agency is able to do far-reaching collaborative work with a wide range of communities, nurturing not only individual immigrants and refugees, but also other agencies that do similar work across the city.

These collaborative efforts were supported by a 2011 Trust grant which allowed CMAA to build on crucial groundwork it had laid the previous year in the area of community-based participatory research.

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) creates a new relationship between research institutions and the populations they study, one in which the sides are partners in a process intended to serve not just the research needs of academia, but also the health needs of the community in question.

Furthermore, in giving a studied population a seat at the table, CBPR means communities are no longer dependent on outside forces, but can go directly to universities and generate research to directly meet a need the community's members have perceived.

Welcome to CMAA


Chinese Mutual Aid Association successfully implemented its own CBPR agenda in 2010, and in 2011 was able to take the lessons learned and pass them on to other organizations across Chicago.

It's crucial, for instance, that agencies develop a set of criteria for research partners, and determine in advance how they'll share findings with their community once a study is completed. No less important is determining how staff will be reimbursed for their time, and if project recommendations will be sustainable in the long term. In the words of program director Ben Rucker, a CBPR agenda "is like a compass to see where we are, and where we want to go, and if we're on course."

As CMAA empowers its own community and mentors other agencies in doing likewise, it not only improves outcomes for research subject populations, it also ensures that agencies employing CBPR techniques will see a much greater return on their investment of time and funds.

See the Trust's recent grants to Chinese Mutual Aid Association

Learn more about our grant making in Health


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Return to the 2011 Annual Report
View the report as a PDF