What is Community-Based Research?

“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, determine appropriate data collection methods, and develop 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 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.

For a longer description of CBR Principles, see this post on REACH 2.0’s website.

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:  Incorporating the voices of local members at all stages of the process is a process that aligns with the UN’s Greater Involvement of People with HIV/AIDS (GIPA) Principles and that has the potential to produce research that is more socially relevant and equitable. 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 that engages local members in setting research directions can influence policy decisions and improve their local members’ own practices and service-delivery. By partnering with academic and other research experts, community agencies can gain opportunities for capacity building in areas such as grant writing and 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
  • Flexibility
  • Built on existing strengths of the community
  • Methodological rigour and sound ethical practices

More about CBR on our site:

CBR Glossary

CBR at PAN

CBR Resources