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?
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.
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
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.
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
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
- 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
- the project will offer a
positive volunteer experience (e.g., exposes them to different data sets or
research methodologies; networking opportunities)
we consult your Research Shop model and results anywhere?
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
The Research Shop has two documents openly available to the
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
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
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
- 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.
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
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.