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What is Community-Engaged Research?

Community-based research is a research approach that promotes community and social change by engaging community members to be part of the research process and addresses locally identified issues that can transcend to a social level (Narciso, 2004). A rich scholarship on community-based research (CBR) and community-engaged research (CER) expresses the ethical imperative and challenges that arise when conducting researching with the communities. CBR/CER is a branch of research requiring community participation and democracy, i.e., shared decision-making power among participants throughout the research process. CBR/CER researchers have argued that ethical conduct of research that engages community needs to be grounded in reciprocal relationships between the academy and community and between academic researchers and community members (Greene, 2014).

Hallmarks of Community-Based/Community-Engaged Research

Lori Chambers (CBR/CER Ethics Workshop, 2014)

  • Research topic is identified by or of relevance to community members;
  • The resources of research (financial, expertise, etc.) are shared with community members;
  • Community knowledge is seen as a resource; project recognizes and utilizes community expertise and know-how;
  • The research process recognizes and addresses power imbalances between researchers and community members as well as amongst the team;
  • Value driven research: empowerment, collaborative, relational, action-oriented, process-oriented, respect for diversity;
  • Research process and outcomes are accessible, understandable and of use to community members; and
  • Long-term legacy: research results as well as collaborative relationships leave a legacy that team members can draw upon.

(Bradbury & Reason, 2003; Israel et al., 2003; The Loka Institute, 2007; Center for Community-Based Research, 2015).


Guiding Principles of Community-Based Research

Aspects of Research

Guiding Principles of CBR

What is the purpose of research?

  • To provide resources for the community that allows them to enact or promote change;
  • To develop a collaboration that continues beyond the research project.

Who is the research intended to serve?

  • The local community and the academic  community

Whose knowledge counts?

  • Community members and academic experts

Who determines what topics are researched?

  • Members of the local community

What is the rationale for choosing the research methodology?

  • Community empowerment and mutual learning

Who controls the research process?

  • Community members and the researcher

Who has ownership to operate the results of the research?

  • Community members and the researcher
What aspects of research is emphasized?
  • Primarily process-oriented

Resource:  Centre for Community-Based Research Canada