“Community-based research is research that is conducted with and for, not on, members of a community.” (Kerry Strand. 2003. Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices, p. xxi)
Community-based research (CBR) is a methodological practice that places community partnerships at the forefront. CBR approaches are marked by the following principles:
- Collaborative: The communities in which the research is taking place are full partners in all stages of the process. Community partners and academic experts work together to develop questions that are responsive to community needs, the appropriate data collection methods, and the most effective knowledge dissemination strategies.
- Change-oriented: Although community-based research can make important contributions to knowledge, its ultimate objective is to promote positive social change. Community-based research seeks to empower communities and effect policy changes.
- Inclusive: Community-based research seeks to democratize knowledge by recognizing and valuing the unique strengths and perspectives of all team members involved in the research process. CBR projects often use multiple and innovative data collection strategies and analysis methods that reflect the diverse expertise and experiences of the research team.
Why Community-Based Research?
CBR approaches are increasingly being adopted in HIV/AIDS-related research because they promote an interdisciplinary framework that recognizes the multiple social, economic, political and health implications of HIV/AIDS. The benefits to academic researchers and community stakeholders are numerous.
- Benefits to academic researchers: By emphasizing the voices of local actors at all stages of the process, community-based research can lead to more socially relevant and equitable research that aligns with the UN’s Greater Involvement of People with HIV/AIDS (GIPA) Principles. Creating strong partnerships with community members can facilitate better recruitment of research participants. Recognizing multiple realities and sources of knowledge can increase the validity of the findings.
- Benefits to communities: Community-based research allows communities to have a stronger voice in the direction of research that can influence policy decisions, and can ameliorate their own practices and service-delivery. By partnering with academic and other research experts, community agencies engaging in community-based research are given important opportunities for capacity building and skill development, including improving grant writing and research evaluation skills.
Hallmarks of Successful Community-Based Research
Successful community-based research projects share a number of important characteristics:
- Mutual respect and trust
- Commitment to long-term, sustainable relationships
- Built on existing strengths of the community
- Methodological rigour and sound ethical practices
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