Guide for Training Community Based Researchers

Recently, a the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Orgnaization (UNESCO) released the manual Training the Next Generation of Community Based researchers: A Guide for Trainers. An initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, the guide focuses on community based research (CBR) as “an approach to co-creation of knowledge based on the acknowledgement that multiple sites, modes and forms of knowledge production co-exist in society today. “

Section of the guide include:

Part 1: Understanding community based research

  • Historical trajectory
  • How can CBR help strengthen community-university engagement?
  • CBR vis-à-vis conventional research
  • Benefits of doing CBR

Part 2: Key findings of the global study on ‘Building the Next Generation of Community-Based Researchers’

  • (The NextGen Project)
  • Major Findings
  • Recommendations and suggestions
  • Key takeaways

Part 3: Pedagogical framework for training of next generation community based researchers

  • An orientation towards research ethics and values
  • Development of a deep understanding of power and partnerships
  • Incorporation of multiple modes of inquiry
  • Participation in learning CBR and ensuring a balance between classroom (theory) and field (practice)
  • The role of researcher as CBR facilitator

Download Training the Next Generation of Community Based researchers: A Guide for Trainers.

Developing the Methods for Your Questions

In this 4 minute YouTube video posted by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Division of Community Engagement,researchers briefly describe their experience with using a participatory action research model to to study and address the issue of youth homeless in the Richmond, VA. One outcome of their approach was the development of relationships and alliances between researchers and service providers.

Useful Resource: Guide for Developing Research Dissemination Plans

During the 2015-2016 academic year, several faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University worked together in a Faculty Learning Community to explore using web-based platforms to disseminate research findings. The result is an online guide on research dissemination.

The guide includes:

HDRG: Multidisciplinary Support for Engaging Community-Based Participatory Research

USA Inter-Disciplinary Research Cluster Map: HDRG

Addressing health disparities requires a broad understanding of the underlying causes as well as approaches to increasing health equity. Such understanding grows through the development of relationships and partnerships around specific issues and approaches. Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) offers opportunities for equitable relationships between community members and academic researchers to identify areas of research and intervention development. During its 10-year history, the Center for Healthy Communities’ Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) has developed a track record of nurturing partnerships with community organizations, undertaking CBPR projects, and promoting the CBPR practice throughout the university.


Membership in HDRG is open to faculty, staff and students throughout the university community. Its multidisciplinary character is broad-based with members from seven colleges within the university and incorporating the disciplines of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Allied Health, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, Political Science, Education, Business, Engineering, and Library Science. The richness of the collaboration growing from such interaction across disciplines can be seen in the research projects that have been undertaken by group members over the years. Informed by the values of CBPR, these projects not only include academic researchers from across disciplines but also community organizations such as a local health center based in a low income community, churches, and a local advocacy group.

One example of community engagement is HDRGs continuing relationship with the Bay Area Women’s Coalition, Inc. (BAWC). The partnership first developed around BAWC’s need to gather neighborhood health information as part of substantiating the need for a clinic in the Trinity Gardens community of Mobile County. Through the partnership, HDRG members and BAWC leadership worked together to develop and field a health status and access to care survey among neighborhood residents. As a part of the partnership, HDRG members assisted BAWC leadership and volunteers with training on research methodology, working with human subjects, and basic computing, and data analysis. The collaboration continues as BAWC leadership are included in new project proposals and research design processes.

With the experiences and capacities developed through conducting CBPR based research projects, HDRG has established a reputation for expertise and leadership in this area. The group is now focused on a CBPR dissemination plan to establish CBPR as a model for research at the Local, State and Regional levels.

HDRG Meetings are held every third Friday throughout the academic year.  Individuals interested in attending should contact Shannon Shelley-Tremblay.

Research to Make an Impact

The reduction of health inequities in minorities and economically deprived groups is an overarching societal goal. To that end, the Research Core, a division of the USA Center for Healthy Communities, seeks to expand the capacity and competence of the CHC’s Center of Excellence as a leader in research and dissemination of outcomes that address minority health and health disparities. Key to the Research Core’s strategy is its focus on building collaborative relationships for further implementation of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR).

The Research CORE sponsors the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) as a multidisciplinary assembly of faculty, students, and staff with a vision “to become an integral facilitator in eliminating health disparities through partnerships with the community.” Currently, the HDRG is embarked in a CBPR dissemination effort to consolidate and expand CBPR efforts at the university and the community. It works to:

  • Educate interested faculty and community organizations on CBPR
  • Bring awareness to ongoing CBPR efforts
  • Disseminate this type of research at local, state and regional levels

As a part of the Center for Excellence Funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Research Core also supports three major research projects:

Project 1: Sentinel Surveillance to Monitor Progress Towards Health Equity (PI: Dr. Martha Arrieta) seeks to develop and implement a surveillance system to capture the information necessary to monitor progress toward health equity for health disparate populations. Key project components include

  • Community Advisory Group to assist in developing various aspects of the research
  • Development and testing of survey tools and procedures to capture primary information on health status, health knowledge, and access to care among population sub-groups experiencing  health inequity.
  • Embedding community members into the research team as Research Apprentices.

Project 2: The Impact of Labor Force/Labor Market Status on Access to Health Care (PI: Dr. Ken Hudson) examines how the employment and labor market status of individual family members affect the family’s ability to obtain health insurance and health care. This study examines the impact of having a “good job vs. bad job” on health and focuses on the poorest neighborhoods of Mobile.

Project 3: Heat Shock Protein 27 (HSP27) as a Marker of Atherosclerosis (PI: Dr. Bill Gerthoffer) addresses the lack of accurate predictive biomarkers of plaque instability, particularly in health disparate populations. This is a translational research project done in collaboration with the Division of Cardiology, which hopes to establish a method to identify those at risk for heart disease at an earlier point than currently available. If successful, interventions may be started to prevent heart disease rather than having to treat heart disease after its development.

Each of these projects will be explored further in future editions of this newsletter.

Why the future of social change belongs to community research

From the article on the OUPblog:

People don’t exist as isolated entities, and social programs, movements, or data analytic methods that assume they do are not aligned with reality—and may be doomed to fail. We all know that providing therapy or tutoring to a child may be less effective than hoped if the child’s parents, peers, school, and neighborhood are not also operating in a way that’s conducive to the child’s growth and well-being. Yet too often, we pass social policies or create interventions that are targeted only at the individual level. In a culture that overemphasizes the individual, community research draws on truths that are frequently ignored.

Community Psychology is probably one of the more complex fields in the social sciences because it embraces multiple levels of influence rather than simple individual differences. We are not always aware of the potent effects of an individual’s context, and there is evidence that the environment can have profound effects even on things that have been considered genetically derived. Before Community Psychology really began to form cohesive ideas around contextual impacts, sociologists were attempting to develop theories and methods that capture social contexts. Their Sociology-of-Knowledge theories are illustrative and have been used to understand people’s perceptions of reality, social change, and the role of social institutions. Present-day community researchers are not only interested in understanding the different levels of influence, but also in understanding the interplay between these levels, and working with community members to use this knowledge to build stronger communities.

Our methods of analysis reflect a focus on a systems point of view — on complex transactional systems in particular. For example, dynamic social network analyses are now being used to model how social relationships affect long-term sobriety in Oxford Houses, which are a national network of self-help operated sober living residential settings. In DePaul’s 25 year collaborative relationship with Oxford House, many of the topics studied were initially raised by members of the self-help organization, such as the social dynamics within houses and the best predictor for long-term recovery. Previous studies performed in partnership with this community based organization have incorporated a wide range of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods.

The integration of community members in the research and design process has led to deep understanding of the unique cultural context of the communities in which they’re implemented, which can be furthered by the use of qualitative or mixed methods. Participatory practices and methodological pluralism are requirements for community researchers, as we understand that statistics and stories both provide valuable information. A more diverse toolbox makes us better equipped to address a wide range of issues in varied and changing contexts.

Read the full article.

Research Apprentices’ Presentation

In preparation for their upcoming formal presentation to  the 14th International Conference of the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Research Apprentices Sherron Dortch, Valerie Grimes, and Carla Taylor together with Research Technician, Marcellus Hudson and Research Assistants, Lynette Parker and Andrea Hudson, spoke to members of the Health Disparities Research Group during the April meeting.  They provided the HDRG members with an overview of their work with the Sentinel Surveillance Project  which is currently being conducted by the CHC Research Core under the leadership of Dr. Martha Arrieta.

The discussion highlighted the research training experienced by the Research Apprentices who are members of the community who have a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, but no prior formal education in the research process.  Additionally, the group provided an overview of the Sentinel Surveillance Project and why the inclusion of community members as a part of the research team is integral to meeting the goals of and adhering to the values of community-based participatory research. Structured in an interview format, the team described recruitment and training of research apprentices, the work done in collecting, managing, and analyzing data gathered from the community.

RA Presentation Quote -- SherronWhile describing their participation in the research team, the various research apprentices discussed both what they had brought to the research project and what they had learned. Sherron Dortch, a senior research apprentice, stated that her attention to detail and strong organizational skills allowed her to focus on quality data management while at the same time providing her with the opportunity to develop computer skills. At the same time, Sherron shared that through this research project she developed a deeper awareness and understanding of the health disparities that exist in a neighborhood and community where many of her friends and relatives live. This sentiment was echoed by Valerie Grimes and Carla Taylor who also work as Research Apprentices.

Marcellus Hudson, currently a Research Technician II with the Research Core, described his journey from Research Apprentice to a full-time staff member at the University. He talked about the many ways the experience provided avenues to foster his interest in computer programming and further enhanced his desire to learn and pursue his education. Marcellus also talked about the importance of uncovering the health situation in the community where he and many of his relatives live.

The research team will next make their presentation to an international audience of researchers and community members at the 14th International Conference of the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. The presentation will take place on Thursday, May 12, at 3:30 pm. If you are in New Orleans, the team would love to see you there!

A Shave and a Health Check

From the article by Marshall Terrill from Arizona State University:

…[Barber Marvin] Davis is the manager of Ageez Hair Center in Chandler and is one of a handful Phoenix-area barbers who sit on the steering committee of the African American Cardiovascular Disease Health Literacy Demonstration Project . The project puts an emphasis on prevention and health literacy through culturally grounded community efforts for African-American men in the greater Phoenix area. Participating barbershops and hair centers are supplied with blood-pressure monitors — and training  — to give readings to their customers.

“Barbers hold a unique and esteemed place in the African-American community,” said Dr. Olga Idriss Davis, who is principal investigator for the project and for community engagement at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC).

“The culture of the black barbershop is a folk tradition, a gathering place in the male community, a site where knowledge can be traded, disputes resolved and wisdom transferred from generation to generation. It’s a wonderful microcosm of society.

“Barbers are looked upon as leaders in the African-American community. Clients often tell their barbers intimate things, sometimes things they would never tell their partners and family members.”

Dr. Davis, who started the project in 2013, admits it took her a while to earn the trust of the barbershops and the surrounding communities in which they serve.

“Researchers employed by institutions of higher learning have not had the best interactions with African-American and Native American communities. Historically, they smile at the door, gather data and leave without any follow-up that supports the community,” Dr. Davis said.

Dr. Davis said even though she’s African-American, it didn’t entitle her to a free pass or easy entree into the community. That trust had to be earned over a long period of time.

“Early in my research and fieldwork there was a woman from the community who frequented a barbershop, and all of the barbers were her ‘babies.’ She walked into the shop one day, and asked the barbers, ‘Who is this chick on my turf?’ ” Dr. Davis said. “She then got an inch away from my face and said, ‘I wanna talk to you. You’re one of them and you’re here to take our stories. You’re part of the establishment.’ ”

Dr. Davis calmly explained to her that nearly 50 million men in the U.S. have high blood pressure, 40 percent of whom are African-Americans. She added that African-American males are particularly at risk because they are often unaware of the disease, do not receive treatment and rarely adhere to a treatment regimen if one is prescribed. That had to change, Dr. Davis said.

She then explained a vision: transforming barbershops into a health-care space where barbers become “community health advocates.” Dr. Davis said it was a moment where she could see the woman’s defiance morph into understanding.

“I told her, ‘I want this to have a ripple effect throughout the entire African-American population, not just in this community … but I’m going to need your help, too,’ ” Dr. Davis said. “She finally got it and smiled, then said, ‘You all right, sister.’ I said, ‘You’re all right, too, sister.’ We’ve been good ever since.”

So has the program, which had made serious headway in the African-American communities in Chandler and south Phoenix. Barbers are casually talking to their clients about their health and discreetly taking blood-pressure readings.

Read the full article

Developing a Successful Grant Application: Lessons from an NIMHD Reviewer

Recently, Dr. Kimberly Littlefield, Assistant Vice President for Research Development and Learning at the University of South Alabama, was the featured presenter for the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG) where she shared the knowledge she gained through her experience as a member of a Special Emphasis Panel reviewing proposals on community-based participatory research projects submitted to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She described the reviewer’s role in ranking proposals and provided a general overview of common strengths and weaknesses of the proposals that she reviewed.

Dr. Littlefield explained to the group that along with scoring the 5 main criteria identified in RFAs–Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment, NIH reviewers assign an Impact scores to each proposal they review. She emphasized that in preparing strong proposal applicants should:

  • Draft a proposal with clarity and specificity so that the reviewers assigned to the application can easily describe the proposed project to the larger panel.
  • Thoroughly and thoughtfully respond to all the requirements of the request for applications.
  • If appropriate, identify and address important cultural issues unique to the community and the partners that will be involved in the CBPR Use the biosketch as a tool to communicate the research team’s unique strengths and attributes.

Following a lengthy and interactive discussion with meeting attendees, Dr. Littlefield concluded her talk with the following detailed list of helpful tips to assist researchers in preparing successful, high scoring applications:

  • Conduct a PubMed search of the program officer in order to understand their scientific background and orientation.
  • Talk to the program officer to discuss ideas and determine whether your project is on-track.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete the proposal.
  • Tailor biosketches to the specific application and use them as an opportunity to highlight the applicant’s strengths as they relate to the project.
  • Only include needed personnel/roles in the proposal, personnel who are obviously unnecessary or unlikely to truly contribute detract from proposals.
  • Fully address all of the review criteria.
  • Include unique letters of support from partners that reflect the roles expected in the project and also, if possible, the relationship between the organizations (for CBPR this is critical).
  • Avoid undefined acronyms, typos, or text meant for another application.
  • Remember that a well-designed figure, chart or table is worth 1000 words.
  • Learning through reviewing is an invaluable experience–apply to be a reviewer and take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the process

Slides from Dr. Littlefield’s presentation will be distributed to the HDRG members. Please contact Shannon Shelley-Tremblay for more information.

Dissemination as Dialogue

From the article by McDavitt, et al., published in Volume 13 of CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease:

Sharing research findings with community members is a vital component of community-based participatory research (CBPR) for several reasons. First, community members deserve access to the knowledge they have made possible through participation or other forms of engagement in a study. Second, community dissemination creates opportunities to explore the implications of research findings from a local perspective. Third, dissemination allows providers to implement findings immediately and locally, potentially reducing the gap between research and practice. Finally, by fostering dialogue with those most affected by a given health issue, community dissemination aids in developing culturally relevant interventions.

Involving community members in discussions about new findings is particularly crucial for addressing health disparities. Those who work with or are members of a target population can shed light on factors that need to be addressed; without such input interventions may be ineffective. For example, although research has identified culturally specific determinants of treatment adherence among black people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), interventions to improve adherence have rarely been tailored for this population; this lack of tailoring may account for the comparatively weak effects found in adherence intervention trials that have a substantial number of black participants. Unless health care providers and other community members are engaged in collaborative partnerships to generate insights about research findings, opportunities to render interventions responsive to culturally specific determinants may be missed.

To foster partnerships, community dissemination should involve “a two-way dialogue, not a one-way flow of information”. Two-way dissemination enables community interpretations of findings to be integrated as part of an iterative research process, and it is more likely to influence health care practice than unidirectional dissemination. However, the CBPR dissemination literature primarily emphasizes passive, unidirectional dissemination strategies (eg, press releases, policy briefs, newsletters, websites). Apart from brief allusions to workshops with community members, scant literature examines how to implement community dissemination as a two-way dialogue or address its challenges, which may include translating research terminology into lay language, and — when findings focus on historically marginalized communities — how to discuss research in ways that are sensitive to mistrust and concerns about being stigmatized.

This article presents lessons learned from implementing community dissemination through a series of interactive community presentations. We discuss strategies for facilitating two-way dialogue and developing trust with communities to strengthen partnerships, gain a better understanding of findings, and explore implications for culturally relevant interventions and public policy.

Read the full article: McDavitt B, Bogart LM, Mutchler MG, Wagner GJ, Green HD Jr, Lawrence SJ, et al. Dissemination as Dialogue: Building Trust and Sharing Research Findings Through Community Engagement. Prev Chronic Dis 2016;13:150473.

Note: Citations have been removed in this blog article.