Research in Communities: Stories from the Field

Keynote Event of the 2019 Pardee RAND Faculty Leaders Program

Jorja Leap stands with former gang member Fabian Debora in front of a mural he painted, photo courtesy Jorja Leap

Jorja Leap stands with former gang member Fabian Debora in front of a mural he painted.

Photo courtesy Jorja Leap


Jorja Leap, Ph.D.
Executive Director, UCLA Social Justice Research Partnership


Wednesday, July 25, 2019


4:00 p.m. — Reception
5:00 p.m. — Program


RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA


Conducting community-based research entails myriad questions and concerns. How can researchers work to effect change, improve quality of life, and address a social dilemma? How can they provide added value, not just collect data? If the research is participatory, how is the researcher participating? What can the research — and the researcher — add to the community? And how does being an "activist researcher" affect the researchers themselves?

Additionally, how does research remain relevant in an era where information — including wrong information — is so readily accessible?

In this keynote address, Dr. Jorja Leap will discuss the dynamic and ongoing relational process of community-based participatory research. She will also share anecdotes and wisdom gleaned from her experience working with at-risk and gang-involved youth, formerly incarcerated women, death row inmates, and many others.

This event is co-sponsored by the RAND Diversity Forum and presented with support from the Henry Luce Foundation.


Jorja Leap has been a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs since 1992 and in 2019 won the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award. As an anthropologist and recognized expert in gangs, violence, and trauma, she has worked both nationally and internationally in violent and post-war settings all of her career. Her current work focuses on gangs, law enforcement and community justice in multi-cultural settings, criminal justice and prison reform, and the dilemmas faced by individuals reentering society after incarceration.

Dr. Leap serves as the Executive Director of the UCLA Social Justice Research Partnership, the Director of the LAPD–Community Safety Partnership Evaluation Project and the qualitative research director for the Los Angeles Mayor's Office Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) Program. She also serves as an expert reviewer on gangs for the National Institute of Justice, and as the Co-Founder and Director of the Watts Leadership Institute. As part of her community-based research efforts, Dr. Leap has authored numerous reports, articles, and book chapters as well as the books, Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Love, Drugs and Redemption and Project Fatherhood: A Story of Courage and Healing in One of America's Most Troubled Communities. She is currently at work on her third book, focused on women, motherhood and prison reentry, to be published by Beacon Press.

How to Attend

Register online by July 18. There is no charge to attend, but seating is limited and advance registration is required. For further information, contact