To ensure that research leads to promoting equity, we believe that the knowledge production process itself needs to be made more equitable. Thus, our research is grounded on a community-based research (CBR) framework with proven capacity to make the research process more inclusive, empowering, and equity driven. We have over 10 years of experience in CBR and have developed a number of hands-on tools. For Access Alliance, CBR is a transformative model of knowledge production grounded in community, collaboration, and positive change.
The central focus of research projects grounded in CBR is the target community that the research is about.
Our CBR projects start with the community of interest (usually one that is under-represented and negatively affected by systemic inequities) and end back in these communities in terms of positive change.
We train and meaningfully engage community participants in leadership capacity as co-researchers/peer researchers and co-producers of knowledge. We jointly identify research priorities and questions, design research methodology and instruments, collect and analyze data together, and engage in writing, knowledge mobilization and policy advocacy. Using popular education-based research training modules and tools, we have successfully trained hundreds of community members from under-represented groups to work with us as co-researchers/ peer researchers and community action leaders.
The CBR framework is grounded in the principle that research and knowledge production should be a collaborative process that includes a diversity of stakeholders and partners with shared interest in the issue. In addition to academics and RAs, research partners can include members of the community of interest, service providers, members of advocacy groups, policy makers, etc. The CBR framework strives to involve members of communities of interest and grassroots community organizations in particular.
A multi-collaborative framework that brings diverse perspectives and expertise can serve to deepen the rigor, quality, value and impact of research projects. It does so by: (i) capturing different knowledge and “ways of knowing” that prevent single and overly simplified interpretations and narratives from dominant groups being presented as “objective truths and facts”; (ii) overcoming many common structural barriers and challenges in research; and (iii) ensuring that research teams are able to identify useful, practical and feasible policy and practice recommendations and solutions based on study findings.
In CBR, the key goal is to ensure that the research process and study of evidence help to catalyze positive change. To make this happen, CBR projects integrate community capacity building and knowledge translation and exchange (KTE) goals within core project objectives from the beginning of the project (and not as an afterthought, or just at the end). CBR practitioners ensure that “impact” goals for the study are clearly articulated, and relevant policy domains, program/ service areas, and decision/ policy makers are clearly identified as KTE targets. CBR projects also build in adequate resources and time for capacity building and KTE.
Policy and program/ practice changes can be difficult to mobilize and can often take a long time. Thus in many cases, it is about connecting evidence and community of interest to advocacy campaigns, policy/ decision making process and to policy/ decision makers. These actions geared at deepening civic engagement and strengthening advocacy campaigns can have long term transformative positive impacts (including helping to shift public opinion, political discourse/ debate, and election voting trends toward progressive directions).