The CBRC strategic plan (2020-2025) is in the process of developing over the next 4 months and will be released at the C2UExpo in Sault St Marie. The plan will reflect the changing landscape of community-based research and suggest CBRC programs and services for the next 5 years. Your ideas are very welcome to shape this process and the results. This is an exciting time to envision CBRC in the future. There will be opportunities to offer feedback both online and in person at events planned across the country. Please check the CBRC website in November for a draft plan and ways to provide feedback.
Written By Amanda Demmer, Program Coordinator, Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council
I went about writing this article the same way I go about research – by leaning on my community for direction. In this case, that meant asking my steering committee for input as I began forming my ideas for this article. I am excited to share with you some insights my steering committee had, but first let me start by introducing us and the project we are working on.
The Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council (WRSPC) is a local, grass-roots, community organization with a mission of reducing the impact of suicide in our community. We are a collective of individuals passionate about suicide prevention coming from various stakeholder groups in our community, including lived experience perspectives. In 2016 the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services (ROWPHE) published a health status report on suicide in Waterloo Region and presented the findings to the WRSPC. The Council, as a collective of local community stakeholders in suicide prevention, realized that these statistics only show one small piece of the story in our community and decided they would embark upon a priority project to further understand our local community context. Thus, our Research Priority Steering Committee was formed as a partnership between WRSPC and ROWPHE, adding later as a valuable partner the Centre for Community Based Research here in Waterloo, ON.
As one of our steering committee members (who has been involved since that first discussion of the ROWPHE report) shared when asked for feedback, “our project is a really clear example of research that’s community-driven right from the start, because it was quite literally prioritized and initiated by a community organization (WRSPC) who said, ‘we need research to answer our questions so we can do better work’”. In the initiation of this research project we listened to our community: we listened to service providers who support those struggling with suicide, to those who have lost loved ones to suicide, to epidemiologists and public health professionals who shared a picture of our community with us, and to those who have been within the depths of suicidal thoughts and behaviours and who are still with us today. We listened when these voices told us they want a better picture of our community, and we responded by embarking upon a community-based research (CBR) project to explore local suicide prevention services and supports while also looking to better understand who is dying and who is attempting suicide in our community.
Another highly astute steering committee member commented “It starts to become a question of ‘we’ and not ‘us and them’” when speaking about what CBR means to her. I thought this statement beautifully describes what it truly means for research to be community-driven – it is no longer ‘us’ the researchers and ‘them’ the people/community to be researched, but instead there is a collective sense of ‘we’. This means that all perspectives, all voices, all stakeholders are valid. It looks not only at the academic knowledge, but also at the less utilized but highly valuable lived-experience perspective, as well as the perspectives of community stakeholders with local knowledge of context. It allows for the weaving of these pieces together into a fabric more valuable than each of these parts.
We often say “suicide prevention is everyone’s business” – suicide prevention requires this ‘we’ approach where we all have a role to play and we must utilize the knowledge from every stakeholder perspective. The WRSPC has always functioned with this ‘we’ mentality, which is why a community-driven project and a CBR approach was a natural fit for our local research project in suicide prevention.
In July’s CBRC Webinar, “How CBR Theory is Put into Practice – Developing a Co-Curricular Research Shop Model,” the audience asked some questions that could not be answered during the webinar. McMaster University has responded to your questions below!
What is the governance model for the Research Shop? Specifically, how does community voice inform the strategy, structure and objectives of the Research Shop? Are those formal or informal inputs?
When the Research Shop was established in 2015 it had a formal Advisory Committee, but since then many members have moved on to other roles and the Shop itself has had limited capacity to formally and regularly engage with stakeholders outside of day-to-day operations. As we adjust our model, we have been discussing renewing an advisory committee of some kind, which would likely include community members. The precise structure of this is in development and will be shaped in part by feedback we gather about different faculties’ needs around Community Based Research more broadly through Fall 2019.
At this point the Research Shop is governed by staff. The Research Shop Coordinator and Community-Based Research Coordinator meet weekly to discuss progress, troubleshoot issues, and to reflect on whether the Shop’s outcomes are in alignment with its vision. The Shop collects feedback about our model from community members and students through surveys administered at the end of each project, through follow-up calls with community partners 6-months after project completion, and, less regularly, at events hosted by our office. Recently, the Shop recruited a team of volunteer students to evaluate the Shop’s work by interviewing past volunteers, community partners, and staff, resulting in a list of actionable recommendations to make the Shop more accessible, inclusive, and relevant. The Shop is adaptive to this feedback, as well as to the Office of Community Engagement’s evolving vision, mission, and principles.
What have community partners gone on to do with the reports students completed? What have community partners found most useful about the research shop model?
Results from surveys and interviews with community partners suggest that the most common use for our reports is to inform strategy, providing clarity, alternatives, and next steps. Another common use is to inform internal and external stakeholders on the topic of interest, such as distributing the report as onboarding for discussions and/or distributing at conferences. Partners may also use our reports in developing grant applications and for providing grounding for future research.
Nearly all community partners have suggested that working with the Shop has given them access to research that they wouldn’t normally have the capacity to facilitate themselves. Several have articulated appreciation for access to enthusiastic volunteers and diverse research methods and for the ability to increase ties with McMaster.
Who are the persons/forces who decide how to shape each project of the research shop? Who works with the community partner to negotiate the scope of the project and research questions?
Research Shop staff work with community partners to scope projects, which typically consist of one or more in-person meetings. The Shop has a comprehensive list of criteria to ensure each project aligns with our vision and model, including:
- the project provides community benefit,
- the project serves a community organization that doesn’t normally have the resources to do research themselves,
- the project will be adequately supported by the organization (e.g., access to data, orienting volunteers),
- the shop has capacity to support the project (e.g., can feasibly be completed within one semester)
- the project will broaden our office’s relations with the wider community (i.e., we haven’t worked with the organization before)
- the project will offer a positive volunteer experience (e.g., exposes them to different data sets or research methodologies; networking opportunities)
Could we consult your Research Shop model and results anywhere?
Some details on our model can be found in our Resource for Community Partners. If you have any further questions, we welcome any inquiries and opportunities to collaborate. A sample of past Research Shop reports can be found on MacSphere, our institution’s online knowledge repository.
Does the Research Shop share documents and templates with the community (eg. templates for project agreements, the community partner application, etc.)?
The Research Shop has two documents openly available to the community on our website: 1) a Resource of Community Partners that outlines what we do, our criteria for selecting projects, and what a typical project life cycle looks like, and 2) a memorandum of understanding that outlines the expectations for community partners and the Research Shop when working on projects together.
Theme: Community-Engagement Involving Students
What is the role of students in the overall project, what types of support do they provide to community partners, and how does the Research Shop oversee or supervise student engagement? In addition, who are the team leads/supervisors for projects?
Research project teams are typically composed of 3-4 Research Associates and 1 Team Lead. Team Leads are typically graduate students with research and project management experience who have previously completed a Shop project with us. The Team Lead is primarily responsible for coordinating the team’s weekly research activities, including hosting weekly/bi-weekly team meetings, making sure responsibilities are distributed fairly, and monitoring progress; they also act as the primary liaison with the community partner. Research Associates are primarily responsible for “doing” the research and writing the final report. The Shop encourages teams to play on each member’s strengths and interests when dividing up tasks, e.g. one volunteer might primarily be involved in conducting interviews whereas another might spend most of their hours on the analysis.
The Coordinator oversees student engagement by facilitating introductions and research planning at the first team meeting, through weekly progress consultations with the Team Leads, and a mid-semester consultation meeting with the team. Team Leads are trained in basic project and conflict management but are encouraged to reach out to the Coordinator if there are any barriers to progress and/or difficulties with volunteers.
Is students’ involvement negotiated into the MOU with the community partner? What does this look like?
Yes. In the MoU and resources we send to our community partners we try to make it clear that the Research Shop offers access to an enthusiastic team of interdisciplinary student researchers, but that we cannot guarantee that they will be subject matter experts on the research topic at hand. We also make it clear that volunteers can commit an average of 5 hours/week to the project, that they’ll work with the partner to incorporate feedback on the deliverable, and that they’ll maintain a high standard of academic integrity, including conducting research ethically.
How do students become engaged with the research shop (through coursework, on their own initiative, or some other way)? What are students’ disciplinary backgrounds? How are students trained?
The Research Shop is a co-curricular program, meaning students volunteer on their own initiative. Each year we support students from each of the faculties, meaning we engage volunteers with a variety of disciplinary backgrounds ranging from mechanical engineering to global health policy to gender studies. The Coordinator is primarily responsible for training volunteers (e.g., research methods, plain-language writing) and usually takes the form of electronic/online readings and guides accompanied by in-person, hands-on training sessions.
Are you measuring learning outcomes for students? If so, what outcomes do you measure?
We send a survey to all volunteers upon project completion and measure the following learning outcomes: plain language writing, social science inquiry and research, searching academic databases, community engagement, knowledge of Hamilton context/issues, team work, searching for grey literature, policy analysis, survey design/analysis, interviews/focus group design and facilitation, and environmental scanning.
What are some examples of student projects that have been completed?
The following are a few examples of student projects. For further examples, a subset of past Research Shop reports can be found on MacSphere, our institution’s online knowledge repository.
- Exploring a Greenway Network in Hamilton: In Summer 2016, a team of volunteers produced a scan of the literature on greenway infrastructure and implementation from Canadian, American, and European contexts in order to describe the benefits of greenways and offer some suggestions for how Hamilton might proceed with developing a local greenway strategy.
- Assessing Adult Learners’ Barriers to Apprenticeships: In Fall 2018, a Research Shop team conducted interviews and focus groups to identify barriers and opportunities for adult learners to connect with apprenticeships. Findings will inform the Adult Basic Education Association and other literacy services to develop responsive programming to fill identified gaps.
- Streamlining Data Collection in Social Services: In Winter 2019, a Research Shop team redesigned St. Matthew’s House’s program data collection tool. The redesigned tool will allow staff to triage clients to appropriate services more effectively, track their time spent with each client, and generate monthly and annual summaries for reporting.
NORDIK Institute, Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, are proud to co-host the 8th Community-College-University (C2U) Exposition, a biannual gathering of Community Based Research Canada, from May 12th to 14th, 2020 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. C2UExpo 2020: Culture, Place and Resilience, is a Canadian-led international learning exchange designed to address critical local and global issues. This three-day gathering will bring together about 400 scholars, practitioners, and community members from across Canada and internationally, whose work prioritizes collaborations between academics and communities.
The theme, Culture, Place and Resilience, is rooted in the four pillars of Community Resilience: cultural vitality, social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic diversity. C2UExpo 2020 will showcase innovative models, findings, and best practices of community-campus research initiatives that explore the ways in which culture is valued and embedded in the economic, social and environmental structures of sustainable development and resilient communities. Experiential activities using theatre, video and storytelling as well as more traditional presentations, combined with guided tours to community organizations engaged in transformative practice, shall make complex concepts easily accessibly to a diverse audience, and encourage participants to readily engage in dialogue and discussions. Additionally, this theme will reflect the creative elements of relationship-building among individuals, communities, organizations and cultures. That is, academics from a wide range of social sciences and humanities will contribute to and learn together about the multi-faceted aspects of collaborations and partnership with community members, practitioners, and decision-makers.
Further, C2UExpo 2020 will stimulate action and build community development momentum by serving as a training ground for community-based researchers. Following the lead of the 2017 Expo, the 2020 C2UExpo will engage a group drawn from marginalized communities in playing key roles in conference organizing and facilitation. Drawing on leading edge practices in community development, Indigenous teachings, and action research models, the co-hosts shall use the event to strengthen, enhance and create networks between and amongst communities, researchers, academics, funders and policy makers.
From its beginning, the University of Alberta has been committed to the “uplifting of the whole people,” as proclaimed by our founding President Henry Marshall Tory. The University of Alberta’s commitment to community-engaged research runs across the university, from the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, a joint initiative of the Faculties of Native Studies and of Law, collaborating with Indigenous communities on the recognition, revitalization and practice of Indigenous laws and governance principles; to the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities that works with rural communities across the province on their various needs; to a community-university partnership that combines a non-profit organization working with teen families, a housing organization and the university, and many, many more.
Becoming a part of Community-Based Research Canada allows our researchers to have access to the workshops, webinars and conferences of the CBRC network, but also allows the University of Alberta to showcase to a wider audience of interested publics the amazing work that our faculty, students, and staff are doing with communities in Edmonton, throughout Treaty Six territory, across Canada and around the world.
A recent article published by University of Alberta researchers that used a community-based research approach is titled, Engaging Vulnerable Youth in Community-Based Participatory Research: Opportunities and Challenges. Read it here.
Through our new strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century, UBC is committed to improving how our institution reinforces effective, principled engagement. We are building on existing supports to transform how UBC engages with community, including the Community-University Engagement Support (CUES) fund, Partnership Recognition Fund (PRF), and Fostering Research Partnerships fund. We continue to work with partners on open access to academic research and community-generated materials through projects like the Downtown Eastside-focused Making Research Accessible Initiative and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre Indigitization Program.
The new Knowledge Exchange Unit is focused on developing support for researchers to exchange ideas and knowledge with communities through training, knowledge exchange guidance for grant proposals, experience sharing activities and events, and non-academic impact assessment. An advisory committee has been put in place to inform and orient the work on an institutional-wide level.
A newly formed community engagement table is taking the lead on UBC’s participation in a Canadian pilot of the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. Through this process, we will build a stronger understanding of our institutional context, set out pathways for realizing our commitments to community engagement, and establish new relationships with institutions across Canada as a collaborative learning community.
A CBRC membership is a valuable support for our institution as we work to learn and share promising practices and innovative approaches across our two campuses and with local, regional, national and international community-based and institutional partners. We look forward to sharing work from UBC scholars, including those involved in the Community Engaged Scholars group and the Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER) which is a hub for building relationships, collaboration, and effective knowledge creation and exchange through research operating across disciplinary and institutional boundaries. As an illustration, we have selected an article co-produced by ICER university-based researchers and community-based co-inquirers and co-authors on ‘The Inspirited Nature of Mindful Curricular Enactment’s Community (Re)Making.’ There is also a film related to the project.
What made you interested in signing up for CBRC membership?
Dalhousie University has grounded its strategic research clusters in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and understands that the achievement of these goals is dependent on the collaborative actions of many. Connection to community is critical if we are to move the dial on the large-scale challenges that face our world. This is clearly expressed in the fact that SDG 17 is focused solely on partnerships for the achievement of global sustainability. While Dalhousie has concentrated/identified expertise in several of the SDGs (e.g., 14 – Life Below Water, 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, etc.), partnership development is a priority across all faculties and campuses.
Dalhousie is excited to join the Community Based Research Canada network because the diversity of membership presents the opportunity to share with and learn from a rich base of community-based research experience and expertise. Best practices gained from experiential learning are critical in strengthening approaches to problem solving.
The opportunities and challenges currently faced by society are too large for any one university, one sector or even one country to tackle alone.
What does your institution contribute to community-university partnerships?
While Dalhousie does not have a formal structure in place to focus on community-university partnerships, it recognizes the importance of these partnerships in ensuring the relevance of research undertaken in many faculties and departments. We actively support and celebrate the mobilization of knowledge developed in our labs and classrooms to community stakeholders who can put it into action and maximize its benefit. As the largest and most research-intensive institution in the Atlantic region, Dalhousie plays a significant role in driving the region’s intellectual, social and economic development. Functioning as a community leader and hub to bring people together, our constant pursuit of innovative solutions to complex problems helps us to inspire great things.
Dalhousie is proud to be more vibrant and connected than ever. To create a future where everyone can thrive, we must learn from the knowledge and skills of the communities that shape us. In 2019, Dalhousie is committed to implementing an Indigenous Strategy and African Nova Scotian Strategy, and to supporting the diverse individuals and communities who find their place at Dalhousie.
What has been your institution’s experience in community-university partnerships and what plans do you have for the future?
Dalhousie has many researchers who are deeply committed to working with and in service to the community. They recognize that the perspectives and insights of members of the community are invaluable in formulating a deep understanding of challenges faced and are invigorated by the opportunity to use their expertise to bring about tangible change. Two notable examples come from the Faculties of Health and Law.
Dr. Ingrid Waldron is an Associate Professor at Dalhousie’s School of Nursing. Using Nova Scotia as a case study and colonialism as the overarching theory, Dr. Waldron works with Indigenous and Black communities, examining the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts. Her recently-published book, There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities, unpacks how environmental racism operates as a mechanism of erasure enabled by the intersecting dynamics of white supremacy, power, state-sanctioned racial violence, neoliberalism and racial capitalism in white settler societies. Her work illustrates the ways in which the effects of environmental racism are compounded by other forms of oppression to further dehumanize and harm communities already dealing with pre-existing vulnerabilities. Dr. Waldron’s book attracted the attention of actress Ellen Page and became the impetus for the eponymous documentary film that will be featured at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Professor Jennifer Llewellyn from Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law is a world leader in the area of Restorative Justice and, because of her deep commitment to and success in building transformative connections with government, community and academic partners in Canada and around the world, she is the recipient of the 2018 SSHRC Impact Award for Connection. Professor Llewellyn argues that justice is fundamentally about establishing, promoting, and protecting just relations – those in which all parties enjoy equal respect, care and concern, and dignity. In her community-based research, she has consistently demonstrated that justice processes must be designed to reflect relationality to create conditions required for just relationships. Her work is focused fundamentally on building community and university collaborations for the application of restorative approaches. A true public intellectual, Professor Llewellyn is focused on engaging the world beyond the academy; she has an innate willingness, capacity, and commitment to address some of the most challenging social issues and to facilitate the empowerment of those most affected. Professor Llewellyn has contributed to meaningful criminal justice reform in Canada and around the world.
McMaster’s Office of Community Engagement was formed in 2016 to develop new community-university partnerships. In January 2019 McMaster began piloting a Community Based Research Coordinator role, which facilitates and supports research at McMaster with connection and benefit to Hamilton communities through the Research Shop, supporting connections between faculty members and community groups, and liaising between partners and regional and national CBR networks. Becoming a member of CBRC was a natural way to build connections with other CBR partners across Canada. One early way that we have been able to support CBR in Hamilton was by co-organizing a report launch and knowledge mobilization event of a project led by Dr. Suzanne Mills entitled “Mapping the Void: Two-Spirit and LGBTIQ+ Experiences in Hamilton.”
Please feel free to have a look at the McMaster Office of Community Engagement’s new website!
NORDIK Institute, affiliated with Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, was established in 2006, growing out of the university’s Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) program following significant demand for local research. Since its inception, NORDIK has served as a mechanism for university-community partnerships. NORDIK is dedicated to the practice of cross-cultural learning, holistic community development, and building Northern Ontario’s research capacity. Its research is grounded in the community resilience framework based on the four pillars of cultural vitality, social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic growth and diversity. A recognized leader in community economic development, NORDIK Institute has collaborated with non-profit, private and institutional partners across both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
NORDIK Institute’s team has been well recognized both locally and internationally. Its associates maintain an active research and community service program. Building on the past involvement in previous C2U Expos, the team at NORDIK is excited to expand its involvement with Community Based Research Canada.
NORDIK’s team includes:
Prof. Sean Meades, Director of NORDIK Institute.
Sean is a Lecturer in the Department of Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) at Algoma University and a PhD candidate in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at York University. His research focuses on political economy of language policy, discourse analysis, cultural and heritage policy, land-use planning and community economic development in northern, rural and Indigenous communities. Meades’ community involvement has included work with the LGBT2SQ community, anti-racism and Anishinaabe solidarity causes, cultural policy, and urban sustainability. He is currently the chair of FutureSSM’s Arts and Culture Action Team and serves on a number of Committees of Council for the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
Dr. Jude Ortiz, Research Coordinator of NORDIK Institute and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Community Economic and Social Development.
She holds a BFA (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University), B.Ed. (Windsor), and PhD (Univesity of the West of England). With a strong background in the arts and community development, her research interests include the intersection of culture and the arts with community resilience; complex adaptive systems in regional identity transformations; and social enterprise and social entrepreneurship.
Krista Bissiallon, Project Manager/Researcher
Krista is Anishinaabe kwe from Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) with roots in Mississauga First Nation. In addition to being a researcher with NORDIK Institute, she is co-founder of Young Leaders Circle. Krista has a B.A. (Hons) in Community Economic and Social Development and continues to live and work in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Since graduating, Krista has worked in various avenues of community development with a strong focus on supporting young people doing change work in her community. Krista is inspired by the good work of leaders creating systems change, and she brings her passion for people, learning, social justice and community development to her own practices.
Lisa Meschino, Manager of Operations and Communications.
Lisa holds a B.A. (Hons) in philosophy (York University), an M.A. in philosophy (University of Toronto), and a PhD in cognitive neuroscience (University of Waterloo). As a postdoctoral fellow at University of Waterloo, her research focused on community arts programs, culture change, and dementia care. As a community-engaged artist and researcher, she is committed to creative arts education, arts-based health initiatives, and social models of care.
Tamanna Rimi, Research Assistant.
Tamanna is currently completing her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University (ISU). She has a M.S. in Economics (Tufts University), M.S.S.in Economics (University of Dhaka), and B.S.S. in Economics (University of Dhaka).
Sadaf Kazi, Research Assistant.
Sadaf has her B.A. (Hons) in Business Administration with a specialization in Accounting. Since moving to Canada and Sault Ste. Marie, she has been an active volunteer with the Rotary Club and its community-driven activities.
Dr. Gayle Broad, Research Associate
Gayle is Associate Professor Emerita in the Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) program at Algoma University and inaugural Director at NORDIK Institute (2006-2017). Gayle’s research interests include the social economy particularly in Northern, rural and Indigenous communities; and research methodologies for participatory practice.
Dr. Linda Savory Gordon, Research Associate
B.A.(Queen’s); M.S.W.(McGill); PhD (Bristol) R.S.W.
Linda is Associate Professor Emerita in the Community Economic and Social Development (CESD) program at Algoma University. For the past 13 years, she had dedicated herself to volunteering and conducting research to support the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT), a grassroots initiative bringing together Indigenous and Settler communities.
Dr. Sheila Gruner, Associate Professor, Community Economic and Social Development
Sheila holds a B.A. Hons. (Guelph), M.E.S. (York); PhD (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto). She has been instrumental supporting organizations working for the defense of political, cultural, and territorial rights of Indigenous and Black communities in relation to the Colombia peace accord process.
Dr. Laura Wyper, Assistant Professor, Community Economic and Social Development
Laura holds a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Midwifery (Laurentian University), a B.Ed. (Trent University), a M.A. in Adult Education and Community Development (OISE/UT), and a PhD in Adult Education and Community Development with a specialization in Comparative, International and Development Education from (OISE/UT). Living on a small hobby farm outside Sault Ste. Marie, she is able put into ‘praxis’ some of the ecological and food sovereignty practices she teaches at Algoma University.
This Graduate Diploma offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills in community-engaged research and evaluation, and to contribute to community and agency learning, effectiveness, and change. It is 16-month, part-time, course-based program offered by the McMaster school of social work. The deadline to apply is October 1, 2019. To learn more, visit their website.