Principle 3

Equitable Collaboration

Partners share power and work together to develop and carry out community-based research


CBR is a collaborative process. While partners often play different roles, nobody is left out of key decisions. This is why CBR is sometimes described as research with people, rather than research on people or for people.

Equitable collaboration means partners share ownership of the research. What that looks like in practice can vary widely. In some cases, community-based and campus-based partners are “co-researchers.” They work as a team to design the study, collect data, analyze data, and co-author reports. In other cases, partners divide up the work. For example, a campus-based researcher may take the lead on survey design and analysis, while community-based partners focus on sharing the survey and taking action on the findings.

The important thing is that partners develop the plan together, and that no partner is able to push their agenda over the interests and concerns of the others. It is also vital that partner roles take into account people’s lives and any limitations they might face related to time, scheduling, finances, etc.


Collaboration relies on open and transparent communication among partners. There can be no secrets or hidden agendas. Regular meetings are critical to keep communication flowing.

In the beginning, meetings are a chance to:

As the project progresses, continued communication is needed to address any changes, obstacles, or opportunities that arise. It is also valuable for partners to get input on plans, initial analysis, or even raw data from the broader communities they are working with, for example through public meetings.

To communicate effectively, partners may need support with interpretation. This is true not only when partners speak different languages, but also when partners have different norms, cultural practices, and professional jargon.

One of the values by which we operate is that when we come to the table, researchers and community people and government representatives, we come together as equals. Each has expertise in a certain area, but no entity has more capitalizable value than the other.

Ed Napia, Community Faces of Utah

Acknowledging and Sharing Power

Research partnerships are influenced by the larger social systems that privilege some groups over others. Partners need to see one another as full people, and have honest discussions about power dynamics within the project related to ethnicity, gender, education, racialization, language, national origin, age, socioeconomic status, ability, neurodiversity, sexuality, etc. 

Power dynamics will never go away, but there are strategies to help equalize power such as:

• Meeting norms and facilitation practices that ensure equitable participation and elevate community perspectives

• Workshops that help partners examine their implicit biases, assumptions, and privileges

• A written partnership agreement

Partnership Agreements

A partnership agreement, or memorandum of understanding (MOU), is a written document describing the partnership. Partnership agreements help partners get on the same page, address challenging questions up front, and hold one another accountable. Agreements should address questions such as:

• What are the goals of the partnership?

• What values drive our collaboration?

• What are the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of each partner?

• What strengths, resources, and assets will each parter bring to the table?

• How will decisions be made?

• What direct payments or other benefits will go to partners?

• How will data be stored and owned?

• What products will be created and how will authorship be attributed?

An early foundational element of any partnership should be clear plans for communication. Have regular, in-depth check-ins where you ask, “What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? What’s worrying you?” And, discuss each other’s structural challenges. For me, I have an academic calendar and can’t have students outside of that calendar. And our partners have similar structural challenges

Sara Hart, College of Nursing

Examples of Equitable Collaboration

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