• A street market in South London. Photo credit Kim Jones.
  • Students in a Qualitative Research Methods class and members of the APO Service Learning fraternity celebrate Halloween 2009 with children at the East Burlington Community Center. Photo credit Kim Jones.
  • Apple pressing in Cowee, NC 2008 as part of research conducting through PERCS. Photo credit Kirsten Rhodes.
  • NC potter Mark Hewitt with a clay coil for a large pot in Pittsboro, NC 2005. Photo credit Tom Mould.
  • A young woman getting her lip pierced at Kingpin Tattoo in Greensboro, NC 2002. Photo credit Lauren Vilis & Samiha Khanna.

The Voices of Welfare Project

As a collaborative project, PERCS is working with local agencies, politicians, community groups and individuals to assess the perceptions and realities of public assistance in Alamance County specifically, and the nation more broadly. Click here for the Voices of Welfare website and be sure to sign up for updates on the "Get Involved" section. 

The Voices of Welfare Project is now in its third year of work. Our research continues to examine the stories people tell about public assistance, with the primary goal of understanding the varied opinions, views and lived experiences of people both intimately involved in the welfare system such as aid recipients and providers, and those involved less directly, from politicians to consumers of U.S. media.  Further, this research explores how these narratives contribute to political discourse nationally and locally.

Initial outcomes and products of our collaborative research include:

  • A website with local, state and national statistics about welfare programs; stories from aid recipients, providers, politicians and community members; and resources related to welfare in the U.S.
  • A journal article on the collaborative research process of the project titled: "Collaborative-Based Research in a Service-Learning Course: Reconceiving Research as Service" published in Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, 5(1):1-21. 
  • 4 conference and symposium presentations by faculty, students and community partners:  International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference (Raleigh, NC 2013), Civic Engagement Institute (Elon University, 2013), Underserved Populations Symposium (Elon University 2013), and the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting (Providence, Rhode Island 2013).
  • A video documentary on the origins and initial stages of the project (see below)
  • A service-learning, Anthropology course titled "The Faces of Welfare" that launched the research project.
  • Undergraduate research by 15 Elon students and counting.

In the fall of 2012, Elon students joined the project through the service-learning Anthropology class titled “Faces of Welfare” taught by Associate Professor Tom Mould. In the class, students examined the system of public assistance in contemporary and historical contexts and conducted fieldwork in Alamance county, recording the stories people shared about their views and experiences with public assistance. One of those students, Communications major, Heather Cassano, produced a short documentary film, describing the project and the initial steps the class took to prepare for their fieldwork.  

The Faces of Welfare from Heather Cassano on Vimeo.

Goals and outcomes for the project include materials for the public to provide a more accurate picture of public assistance, as well as resources for local agencies and politicians who work to develop the most effective services possible for the poor in Alamance County, much of which can be accessed on our website: http://blogs.elon.edu/voicesofwelfare/