A founding principle of community-engaged research and KMb work is that academic-researchers (i.e. subject/content matter experts) are not the only knowledge holders or creators. Rather, one of the main strengths and driving motivations of academic-community endeavours is to share and build knowledge and other assets and resources among and across diverse teams so as to co-create evidence-based findings.
One group whose knowledge is increasingly valued in this type of work is people directly affected by the topics being investigated — that is: context experts. Indeed, it is increasingly common to accept that without equitable engagement and participation of members of this group, community-engaged research efforts are not “authentic”. To learn more about this group, read this paper by Lisa Attygalle34 who defines context experts as “people with lived experience of the situation, including children and youth. They are the people who experientially know about the issue”:
In the online article you were just asked to read, Attygalle34 draws on case studies to demonstrate that authentic community engagement requires more than inclusion of context experts; it also requires incorporating education and empowerment as integral aspects of engagement processes and outcomes. In this same piece, Attygalle also highlights five associated lessons and eight questions to consider when designing and promoting authentic community engagement.
This conceptualization of, and emphasis on, community members as equal knowledge creation partners is aligned with relational worldviews and related decolonizing, feminist, qualitative research methodologies35. It also is a central premise of community-based participatory research — a point to which we return more directly in the next section of this module. For now, take the time to consider some of these overlaps by reading journal articles, each of which point to different strategies for developing research-based relationships that authentic, equitable, and ethical:
- Fletcher, F., Hibbert, A., Hammer, B., & Ladouceur, S. (2017). Beyond Collaboration: Principles and Indicators of Authentic Relationship Development in CBPR. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 9 (2), 1-11. https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/jces/vol9/iss2/9/
- Goddard-Durant, S., Sieunarine, J. A. and Doucet, A. (2021). Decolonising Research with Black Communities: Developing Equitable and Ethical Relationships between Stakeholders. Families, Relationships and Societies, 10(1), 189-196. Retrieved from http://www.andreadoucet.com/
In the first of the learning resources, the authors Fletcher et al. discuss three principles of authentic relationship development they find to be generalizable across contexts (i.e. reciprocal capacity building; relational accountability; honouring cultural and personal boundaries). They also propose two further possible indicators (i.e. adaptability; shared values) that emerged based on their specific case study comparison. By comparison, in the second learning resource, the authors Goddard-Durant et al. highlight two strategies the differentially situated team members found useful when working to develop an equitable and ethical academic-community research relationship: prioritising their working relationship over the research process; sharing voice and power.
With these case studies in mind, now take the time to engage this learning resource (notably the embedded video), which pushes us to think beyond community engagement and collaboration to think about information governance and data sovereignty.
Drawing broadly on these learning resources, a key take-away, beyond including community members in academic research projects, is that increasingly there is an expectation that we make concerted efforts to develop, support, and nurture research-based relationships. Such relationships are defined in terms of “deep human connections [… that] involve an active and deliberative decision to co-learn with the community, to privilege community knowledge, and to conceive of our program and research goals as shared experiences rather than deliverables” (Fletcher et al. 2017, p. 3). At the same time, the learning resources presented in this module section represent community engagement and collaboration as necessary but not sufficient aspects of authentic, ethical, and equitable relationships (see also, Abresch et al. 2021). Following this view, community-engaged research and KMb teams are encouraged to be critical of hierarchical models of knowledge creation in favour of those that simultaneously build upon the strengths of content and context experts and complicate normative understandings of who is and is not — who can and cannot be — knowledge holders, users, and creators.
As elaborated in the next section, community involvement is a key characteristic of community-based participatory research. As this focus becomes more pervasive, it also is becoming integrated into institutional missions and funding requirements (recall, Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium Community Engagement Key Function Committee Task Force on the Principles of Community Engagement, 2001; Goodman et al. 2017). Unsurprisingly, this pervasive focus on community engagement also is associated with related efforts to measure various aspects of community-engaged research and KMb work35 . In later sections of this module, we consider some budgeting and funding opportunities to support this kind of work and present some early recommendations for tracking and evaluating community collaborations within KMb. Before that, let’s now consider links between what you just learned and community-based participatory research principles and strategies, as well as some related resources to further help guide you in this work.