Empowering Internationally Trained Professionals to become ‘Change Agents’

By Miranda Saroli, Knowledge Mobilization & Social Action Coordinator, Access Alliance
screenshot of Zoom meeting showing many participant faces

In January 2022, the Community-Based Research and Evaluation Department of Access Alliance launched its exciting Community-Based Research (CBR) training series. This six-week foundational learning series targets internationally trained professionals (some of whom were researchers in their home countries), offering them the chance to learn or update their community-based research skills.

The series has an impressive lineup of guest facilitators, all experts in their respective fields. This includes Diane Dyson (Interim Vice President, Research and Advocacy at Daily Bread Food Bank), Sarah Flicker (Professor and York Research Chair in Community-Based Participatory Research), Rosane Nisenbaum (Scientist, MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, St. Michael’s Hospital), and Sander L. Hitzig (Program Research Director and Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute), to name just a few.

Access Alliance has a long history of offering CBR training and capacity building to students and peer researchers as part of its commitment to community capacity building. Trained peer researchers are often able to connect effectively with target communities involved in a research project.

However, the target audience for this this particular training looks a bit different. Each session so far has had a mix of about 20 participants, the majority of whom are members of Access Alliance’s very own Immigrant Researchers Support Network (IRSN). Also in attendance are students from a wide range of universities including universities outside Ontario, and staff from partner community health centres.

The series is much more comprehensive than any other previously offered by Access Alliance. It covers 16 training modules in total, beginning with understanding the key research steps and conducting literature reviews, all the way to report-writing and sharing results and enacting change through knowledge mobilization.

What is one thing that you learned today that you could apply in your work or studies?

 “How to consider ethics when working with refugee populations. Considerations for working with these populations in terms of confidentiality, power dynamics and who benefits from the research, and communicating this to participants in the consent process.” – Participant

By including topics such as Ethics in Community-Based Research, Marginalized Participants’ Rights in Research, and Collection of Sensitive Data from Vulnerable Populations, participants are learning about the critical importance of applying an equity / anti-oppression lens to any research. Participants are also learning about how peer-led research within marginalized communities can be so impactful in terms of addressing issues identified by the community.

“Listening to other researchers gave me an idea of what is going on in our community!  I think this training helped me a lot having a mindset… to create positive social changes based on community needs.” – Participant

So, what are the benefits of this CBR training initiative?

  1. Participants get trained, free of cost, by some of the best trainers and facilitators in the province of Ontario.
  2. Using the skills and knowledge they develop, participants will be better equipped to investigate challenges and issues in their own communities, using the community-based research model to encourage positive social change based on community needs.
  3. Lastly, this training will help internationally trained researchers and other professionals integrate into the Canadian job market, acting as a next step towards obtaining meaningful employment. 

“Before this training, I was in the Patient Experience Survey voluntary team in [AccessPoint on Danforth]. Then, my supervisor told me about this training. Now, I am a Peer Researcher in Access Alliance, although it is just for 2-3 months. I am looking forward to learning a lot with this position. And of course, this will be like a Canadian experience in my resume that will help me about finding a job in future.” – Participant

If you want to learn more about future CBR training opportunities, please contact

And it doesn’t stop there! On March 24, 2022, Access Alliance will be hosting an end-of-year event for its IRSN membership. This will be a mentoring and networking opportunity for members who are seeking work in their fields. This event will host a group of seasoned mentors from various backgrounds and research industries, such as medicine and marketing. Each mentor will have a session with our IRSN members discussing their research journey and the possible opportunities that might be available for internationally educated researchers in various research industries. Our members will also have a chance to interact directly with the mentors, asking questions and taking valuable advice.

Initiatives such as the CBR training series and the Immigrant Researcher Support Network events aim to support internationally educated immigrants (researchers/analysts, epidemiologists, statisticians, clinicians, scientists, evaluation experts, and community based researchers, and more!) in their journey towards finding meaningful employment, and become ‘agents of change’ in their own lives and within their communities.

If you want to learn more about this exciting IRSN event, please contact

If you are interested in applying as a member of the Immigrant Researchers Support Network, please visit