The Basics of Community Based Research: Part 1


Defining Community-based Research

Being involved in social justice and health equity work can sometimes mean a lot of learning to build a solid base of knowledge. Having a basic understanding of community-based research is an important part of that knowledge base even for people who are non-researchers. Learning about community-based research helps build an individual’s capacity to be able to advocate on a systems level, empower communities with evidence-based knowledge, and design evidence-based solutions for programs and services; all of which can add up to creating positive change.

It’s important to first understand a basic definition of research, which is the process of investigating, gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information with the goal of creating new knowledge that increases understanding, answers questions, or solves problems.



Community-based research is a specific approach to research. It actively engages the very community of people for whom the research aims to benefit and create positive change for.

You will often see the term community-based research expressed as an acronym, CBR.


Here are three key points to further define community-based research:

First-hand listening, observing, and having conversations in community settings. It is conducting the research closest as possible to where the people whom the research aims to benefit are experiencing challenges and/or successes. 

Directly involving and collaborating with community members in the research process so that their voice and input is highlighted and guides the way. It is research being performed by the community, for the community. Involving and collaborating can mean sharing decision-making about research design, conducting the research, sometimes even analyzing data results, and transforming the results into actionable knowledge. It’s participating in the research process which is often referred to as “participatory action”.

Producing knowledge that is valuable and meaningful to community members means that the information revealed from the research is understood, useful, relevant, and insightful. The information translates into knowledge that increases understanding, answer questions, and can be practically applied to solve problems. When a community views the knowledge as valuable and meaningful, there is greater likelihood the knowledge will contribute to positive change.

We encourage people who are involved in social justice and health equity work to continue a learning journey that includes community-based research. Although the realm of research might seem complex, the potential to contribute to advocacy, community empowerment, and evidence-based knowledge is within reach.


Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
This post was prepared for PAN’s Research and Evaluation Treehouse by:


Monte Strong, Research and Evaluation Assistant, [email protected]