Giving Compass' Take:

• Stanford Social Innovation Review demonstrates how community-engaged research can redesign relationships and revise a methodology with one-sided research benefits.

• How does the current status quo in research exclude the communities of study from the benefits of the results? What can you do to push community-engaged research strategies and other methods that engage mutual benefits?

• Read about how current research practices frequently reinforce racist structures.

Many communities rightly tire of researchers who want to study their ways of being, their problems, and their knowledge, without building reciprocal relationships for mutual benefit. They often experience research as extractive, using their time and energy to “create knowledge” (knowledge that has always resided with them) and locking it in academic journals. This can be particularly true for communities facing social, economic, and environmental challenges where social innovation may hope to have something to offer.

Community-engaged research (CER) explores ways to redesign this relationship, to center community priorities and leadership, and to ensure that the results are of mutual value. We believe dedicated infrastructure is needed to support this transition and to overcome barriers to the success of CER.

At the broadest level, CER is a critical approach to knowledge generation where theory and academic knowledge are woven to and incorporated with the world in collaboration with communities in order to understand, analyze, and reimagine the conditions governing our lives. It involves the active participation of those directly affected and presumes joint responsibility for design, execution, and outcomes. Community members bring crucial contextual information and expertise, and their central involvement helps ensure findings have mutual relevance and utility.

Community leadership and participation in research has a long tradition across the humanities as well as the social and natural sciences. CER is also a dynamic force among social change initiatives including citizen-based budgeting, constitutional forums and social innovation labs that co-create knowledge with those directly impacted. Despite this history and potential many barriers hinder CER in institutional contexts. Areas identified for focus include training, recognition, funding, the language of research, ethics frameworks and processes, community-university power dynamics, and tenure and promotion protocols.

Read the full article about community-engaged research at Stanford Social Innovation Review.