The term community-based research refers to a large family of research approaches, each with its own history. These approaches were developed by people working in health, education, activism, social work, community development, human psychology, and many other areas.
What these approaches share is a commitment to not only understand or explore an issue, but also to implement solutions. They focus on questions that are meaningful to a community and engage both professional academics and community members as experts. Partners share power and collaborate to develop and carry out the research together.
Today we are wrestling with deep-rooted inequities and global challenges that defy simple answers. CBR can be a powerful way to address these challenges by harnessing our collective knowledge and resources. Unfortunately, not everything that goes under the name “community-based research” lives up to the promise. More support is needed to help this work flourish.
Communities are groups of people who have shared identities or experiences. A community can be defined based on geography, ethnicity, organizational affiliation, sexuality, profession, indigenous tribe, and many other characteristics. In CBR, you need to start with a clear understanding of what communities you are working within
Our focus is on research involving formal academic and scientific methods, though it may also include other forms of knowledge building practiced in the community. The form that research takes in CBR depends on the questions asked, the goals, and the disciplines and communities involved.
Partners are people directly involved in creating and carrying out CBR. Campus-based partners usually include faculty and may include students, staff, and even whole departments. Community-based partners are people who represent or connect the project with the larger communities involved.
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