CFJC’s Rationale for a Community-Based Participatory Research and Participatory Evaluation Approach (CBPR/PE)

CFJC first adapted a CBPR/PE approach to better communicate and support how we create and hold a space for transformational change. CBPR/PE is a strengths-based approach that is grounded in shared work and ownership, by which individual and systemic change can take place. The approach emphasizes meeting people where they’re at, co-learning, sharing in decision making, and  engaging stakeholders at every step of the collaborative process, most importantly local communities. As well, this is an iterative approach that helps to bring an understanding to how processes and collaboration can create the changes we want to see in our communities. The following highlights the benefits of using CBPR/PE as opposed to other more traditional research and evaluation approaches:

Traditional research and evaluation approaches have failed to solve the complex health disparities and inequities communities face. Many research models fail to identify the multiple determinants of health and disease because researchers see communities as the object of research as opposed to working with and in communities and seeing them as partners. As a result, researchers often enter a community with predetermined questions or with a specific research topic in mind and, consequently, may not share the same goals or interests as the community. CBPR/PE, on the other hand, is a collaborative approach to research and evaluation that equitably involves community members in all aspects of the process. CBPR/PE identifies community members as co-authors of the research and evaluation process. It begins with a research topic of importance to the community with the aim of combining dialogue, learning, action, and reflection for social change to improve community health and eliminate health disparities. Because evaluation should be a component throughout the entire process, one way to achieve this is by using survey tools with activities at each step of the collaborative effort.

Traditional research and evaluation approaches are less likely to lead to significant changes in the health and well-being of communities. Many research models lack a social change component because community is seen as an object instead of a partner of the study. There are often no mechanisms in place for continuing to work with community and develop relationships once research funding expires. As a result, trust between the researcher and the community rarely develops. Furthermore, there is no incentive for the community to become involved in the research process, which may lead to the development of policies and/or actions that are supposed to improve the health and well-being of the community. By contrast, CBPR/PE involves a long-term process and commitment that continues after the research project or funding ends. Unlike other research approaches, CBPR/PE is a social and/or policy change strategy that involves linking applied science to social activism. CBPR/PE includes three components –research,  action and education– where action and education hold equal weight with research.

Traditional research and evaluation approaches have failed to build community capacity and strengthen existing community resources. This is not surprising as the ultimate goal of a traditional research approach is to collect data and build the capacity and knowledge of the researcher and affiliated institution(s), not the community. CBPR/PE, on the other hand, is an iterative process, based on dialogue, action and reflection. The CBPR/PE approach builds the self-sufficiency of community members and identifies and builds upon resources the community already has. CBPR/PE also employs the community in the development process of new policies and changes to public systems that strengthen existing community resources. Research gathered using the CBPR/PE approach is owned and disseminated by the community, in addition to the researcher.

CFJC’s CBPR/PE Principles*

1. CBPR/PE recognizes and uplifts communities’ unique identity.
Community may include a defined geographic area or a group with a common sense of identity. Members share values and norms, similar goals and interests, and a desire to collectively meet shared needs. Our CBPR/PE partnerships seek to work with existing self-identified communities, and/or to enhance or to foster a sense of community through our collaborative approach.

2. CBPR/PE facilitates equitable and collaborative partnerships in all of our work.
In CBPR/PE, partners participate in transparent, honest, and open communication. CBPR/PE partnerships emphasize shared control and decision making power in identifying the problem. Partners collect information, interpret and share the information, and jointly develop solutions to address the identified problem.

3. CBPR/PE builds on the strengths and resources within the community.
Community already has the ability to address the problems they face. This strength-based approach focuses on cultivating diverse relationships that leverage resources in a way that is mutually beneficial for all partners. A goal of these partnerships is to bring about social and systemic change.

4. CBPR/PE facilitates co-learning and capacity building among all partners.
CBPR/PE facilitates the reciprocal transfer of knowledge and skills. CBPR/PE strengthens on-going collaboration with a focus on ensuring the sustainability of partnerships and their work by creating a culture of sharing/shared responsibility and information.

5. CBPR/PE for equity and social justice focuses on problems relevant to the community using a socio-ecological frame.
A socio-ecological approach examines the dynamic interrelations and interconnectedness of individual, community, society, and structural factors. By meeting people where they are at, we ensure that our work is relevant to the community.

6. CFJC’s CBPR/PE approach openly addresses issues of race, gender, class, power, oppression and embodies cultural humility.
Building equity, justice, liberation, and respect requires open and honest discussions about individuals and communities in  partnerships. A cultural humility approach embodies life-long learning and critical reflection, recognition and a challenge of power imbalances, and institutional accountability to model cultural humility.

7. CBPR/PE involves an iterative process to develop systems that integrate knowledge, action and reflection for the mutual benefit of all partners.
Information and knowledge are dynamic. CBPR/PE is an iterative approach that seeks to build a body of collective knowledge that informs community and social change actions. Ongoing reflections of actions taken and knowledge gathered provides a mechanism to evaluate how community concerns are being addressed.

8. CBPR/PE disseminates findings and knowledge gained to the broader community and involves all partners in the dissemination process.
CBPR/PE disseminates findings in a manner that is respectful and relevant to the community, and facilitates development of action plans for social and systemic change. The dissemination of findings extends beyond the partnership itself, and gives opportunity to all partners as reviewers, co-authors, and co-presenters of findings.

Download the Rationale and Principles


*Guidelines are adapted from the Detroit Urban Research Center, http://www.detroiturc.org/about-CBPR/PE/CBPR/PE-principles.html, and from Chávez, V. (2012, April 9). Cultural Humility [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaSHLbS1V4w