Community-Engaged Research Guidelines

Community-Engaged Research (CER) is defined by a set of practices, values, and objectives that center respectful, responsible, and reciprocal research relationships. CER employs a set of methodologies and practices that emphasize working with communities, not working on communities. Working with communities means that all facets of research and creative practice are driven by community needs, goals, and values. Community-engaged research, scholarship, and creative activity explicitly involves individuals and communities as partners whose active participation is central to the outcomes of the work. Community members hold expert knowledge and bring crucial contextual information throughout the process.

This is different from consultation and/or input from communities. Community engaged research is driven by communities including: the conception of research questions, the design of methodologies, determining the range and pace of outputs, defining measures for and evaluations of impacts, and determining authorship, attributions, and access to outputs and data. Community-engaged research, scholarship, and creative activity requires practices of mutual accountability, reciprocity, and engagement, and is grounded in the fundamental principle that the research is mutually beneficial to everyone involved in the relationship.

Why CER?

Research conducted in partnership with communities enables:

  • Better defined research questions, hypotheses, and data interpretation based on community experiences.
  • Better translated research results to community-based, real-world settings and situations.
  • Better understanding of community issues and improve communication with community members
  • Improved participant recruitment and retention.
  • Development of trust that may lead to future collaborations, including with under-represented and under-served communities.

Principles of Community Engagement

To build strong, successful, and sustainable relationships, community engagement must:

  • Be relationship driven.
  • Be purposeful and build capacity for all.
  • Adopt equitable and collaborative partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
  • Embrace clear and transparent communication.
  • Involve inclusivity that empowers and shares power.
  • Establish respect and commitment through mutual recognition and humility.

Self-reflection for the Community-Engaged Researcher

  • Do I possess or am I willing to learn interpersonal skills necessary to build long-term lasting partnerships?
  • Am I willing and able to mentor and inspire others?
  • Do I have the ability to share control, to lead and to be led?
  • Do I want to make community concerns the focus of my research, project and/or program?
  • As a researcher, am I able to supplement my academic skills with humility?
  • Do I have a commitment to self-evaluate, ensure an equal power distribution exists and develop a mutually respectful partnership with communities?

Project Considerations for the Researcher, in partnership with the Community

  • How will the project foster an equitable partnership with the community?
  • How will the project empower and benefit the community and the research program?
  • How will the project build capacity for the community and the research program?
  • What ethical considerations must be addressed that are unique to the project?

Best Practices for CER

  • The community is substantially involved in proposing and designing the research.
  • There is shared ownership of the research and its mobilization, and the objective of capacity building for all partners.
  • Community engaged researchers recognize that research is an ongoing conversation and relationship building process.
  • CER centers the needs and benefits of community members and organizations, Indigenous Nations, and leadership, including cultural leaders.
Phases in the Research ProjectINFORMED:  Community as advisorINVOLVED: Community as collaboratorDIRECTED:  Community as leader
Project planning/ decision-makingProvides one-time advice on relevant issues and culturally acceptable design.Provides input on culturally acceptable study and relevant issues. Participates in decision-making throughout the project (e.g., as community advisory committee).Drives the project, sets timelines, defines research questions and designs culturally acceptable research study.
Data collectionFacilitates community-researcher connections. Reviews and provides input to strategies for data collection and tools.Conducts data collection (e.g., as subcontractors), determines appropriate methods and co-creates tools.Develops questions, determines strategies, makes decisions, and collects data.
Data analysisIdentifies new questions to be answered through additional analyses.Analyzes data (e.g., coding), suggests new analyses, identifies new questions, interprets results.Leads data analysis, requests additional analyses, identifies new questions, and interprets meaning of results.
Reporting/ sharing resultsReviews and provides feedback on drafts of all types of reporting materials.Helps to identify key findings, develop recommendations, and determine the best reporting avenues.Writes reports and/or develops other reporting materials or approaches.
DisseminationAdvises on dissemination strategies, appropriate venues, and key audiences.Co-present findings, help to identify key audiences, and share information in their networks.Identifies audience(s) and present findings.