Honing in on community issues


One of the most effective ways that an organisation can use research to understand local issues is community-based participatory research (CBPR).

Lack of participation from the community has often been a stumbling block for researchers trying to build a true picture of issues affecting an area.

Sometimes members of a community may feel like guinea pigs and they are just being used to inform a report that will sit in a drawer or be discussed in a dusty meeting room that will have no effect on their daily lives.

So many times money has been thrown at projects with the best of intentions but they never bear fruit because of a lack of understanding and connection with a community.

But the CBPR method attempts to alleviate this by recruiting community members as co-researchers.

Sometimes there can be a lack of trust and cooperation this but this can be built through collaboration.

When community members have a hands-on role in a study then it is not just about acquiring information from them, they in fact become fellow researchers exploring ground-level issues and working on how positive changes can be made.

Community regeneration and engagement specialists like ECS have proved that  “Community ownership of ideas and actions is imperative when moving any project forward,” all of which makes it vital that work is carried out to ensure this.

To achieve this, a research team would be formed which would include members of the community. These will help to identify ways of including the local people who need to have their say in an effort, and thus ensure total inclusion. This process ensures that a well-rounded picture of local issues and concerns is produced..

The benefit of this is that the community will take ownership of the study and work together to create positive change in their locality.

However, this can be time-consuming when trying to find research partners in the community as a relationship is being built and this does not happen overnight.

The next step is to develop the scope of the research and discuss the most relevant issues with the community.

One huge benefit of community-based co-researchers at this point is their input on what would be the most effective method of research to encourage the most engagement.

When there is collaboration with designing the method of information collection it should be more relevant to those interviewed, leading to less chance of ambiguity in their answers.

With community input to the final report, there should be a more accurate reflection of community views and recommendations for potential solutions and programmes to address issues.

Basically, “If a community and its members choose to be part of something when given the genuine chance, then they tend to take very passionate ownership of that initiative and it works.”

“Without it, you’re just foisting things upon people who are ambivalent at best. The only way for a community to develop and prosper is to not leave anybody behind and give everybody a voice and a stake in the future of their community.”

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Agan Jarick
the authorAgan Jarick