What is Community-Based Research?
“Community-based research is research that is conducted by, with, or for communities” (Sclove et al., 1998, p. ii). It is a collaborative form of inquiry in which academic institutions and community members seek to offset the prevalence of traditional academic research by acknowledging the expertise of community members (Hills & Mullett, 2000).
Community members help determine the direction of the research, providing community knowledge and participating in the research process with the intent to solve problems and create change that leads to social justice by “empowering and helping to build capacity among community members” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 14).
Community-based research is “a partnership of students, faculty, and community members who collaboratively engage in research with the purpose of solving a pressing community problem or effecting social change” (Strand et al., 2003, p. 3).
Strand et al. (2003) outlined three guiding principles:
- validation of the knowledge of community members and the multiple ways of collecting and distributing information, and
- “social action and social change for the purpose of achieving social justice” (p. 8).
From "Reaching for a Radical Community-Based Research Model" by Barri Tinkler, June 19th, 2012. Posted in Posted in Journal for Community Engagement and Scholarship Vol. 3 No. 2.
Community based research strives to be:
Community situated -begins with a research topic of practical relevance to the community (as opposed to individual scholars) and is carried out in community settings.
Collaborative -community members and researchers equitably share control of the research agenda through active and reciprocal involvement in the research design, implementation and dissemination.
Action-oriented -the process and results are useful to community members in making positive social change and to promote social equity.
Essential Aspects of community based research
- The relevance of the research topic is identified or verified by community members.
- The resources of research (financial, expertise, etc.) are shared with community members, particularly those most affected by the research topic.
- The research process recognizes and utilizes the expertise that community members have.
- The research process recognizes and addresses power imbalances between researchers and community members.
- The research process is driven by values, including: empowerment, supportive relationships, social change, learning as an ongoing process and respect for diversity.
- The research process and results are accessible and understandable to community members.
- The research process and results consider and adapt to the context in which the research is conducted.
- The research leaves a legacy, both in terms of the utilization of research results, as well as in the future collaboration among partners.
How is CBR different from traditional research?
There are several distinct differences between Community-Based Research and traditional research. This chart sheds light on these differences.
Community-based research has enabled students to explore local issues and provide agencies with valuable data for their programs. Recent examples include six studies from Anthro-250 "Culture and Medicine" and an assessment of the Healthy Options (pictured above). In 2009, when PA faced a budget impasse, the impact on community service organizations was significant. Sociology Professor Michael Gibbons and students blended research methods with public policy to conduct qualitative fieldwork to understand the community effects. The research showed that the budget impasse was disastrous. Gibbons shared the findings from the students' research at a press conference in hopes of avoiding another impasse in the future.