Principle 4

Collective Benefit

All partners should see benefits from the process and outcomes of community-based research


CBR projects are reciprocal. Just as all partners contribute to the research, all partners benefit. These benefits may go to individuals, organizations, communities, society, or the land. This principle is related to the traditional research principle of “beneficence,” which says that researchers must do their best to minimize risks and maximize benefits to participants. However, collective benefit goes farther. 

With collective benefit, partners decide for themselves what benefits they want to see from the project and what risks they are willing to take. For example, if a project aims to positively impact a community, members of that community should define the desired outcomes. 

Collective benefit is also about changing the usually unequal distribution of benefits between academics and communities. Often, communities who are the subject of research say they get little direct benefit out of their participation. They may not even learn what the findings were. Such research may still contribute to longterm changes that improve lives. But, in CBR, partners recognize that there are many ways that research can directly benefit communities as well.

We feel tired of university folks asking us to be part of studies, but not coming back later and sharing the results. We don’t really know how it benefits us in the long run. Even just getting credit for our work would be helpful. And, how are you partnering with the community to address whatever it is you discovered?”

Laneta Fitisemanu, Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition


To the right, we list examples of the benefits CBR can offer. Some benefits come from the research process, such as individual learning and growth. Some come from the outputs of research, such as a report that an organization can use in advocacy. Some are individual, like authorship on publications. Some are collective, like equity-based social change. 

Not every benefit will go to every partner, and not all benefits are possible for all projects. For example, funding limitations can make it hard to pay community-based partners. That is why it is important to discuss benefits early on and include necessary funds in grant proposals. It is also helpful when benefits are clearly spelled out in a partnership agreement and revisited.



The Principle In Action

Faculty and student researchers partner with a community center to understand food access and preparation in an area categorized by the USDA as a “food desert.” The community center suggests they create a cookbook highlighting the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood thus providing an engaging context for interviews.

The faculty member and students get funds to pay for ingredients and publication. The center gets cookbooks showcasing its work, and the books are sold in local bookstores and restaurants to raise funds for the center. Local residents are featured and celebrated in the book. Students and faculty learn more about research methods, foodways, and the community, and publish a journal article. Partners are credited for their work. They build lasting relationships that lead, in later years, to other research projects.

Photo from the Savor community food project, a partnership between the Glendale/Mountain View Community Learning Center and Environmental and Sustainability Studies at the University of Utah. Photo by the Savor team. Used with permission.

Resources for Collective Benefit

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