On Thursday, October 27, 2022, the Takaronto Knowledge for Change hub hosted an online introductory workshop on Community-based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR). The Takaronto K4C hub is a collaboration between the Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC), the Toronto Center for Learning & Development (CL&D), and the Knowledge Equity Lab at the University of Toronto Scarborough. The workshop introduced participants from various walks of life – students, academics, industry professionals, and other community members – to CBPAR, which is “a research approach that involves active participation of stakeholders, those whose lives are affected by the issue being studied, in all phases of research for the purpose of producing useful results to make positive changes” (Nelson, Ochocka, Griffin & Lord, 1998, p. 12).
To introduce this research approach, Knowledge For Change (K4C) Mentor Alphonse Basogomba outlined the three principles of CBPAR: community-driven, participatory, and action-oriented. In the Canadian context, these principles align with that of OCAP: ownership, control, access, and possession.
Following Basogomba’s introduction, UNESCO Mentors’ Training Program (MTP) alumni Isabelle Kim highlighted that CBPAR is not a linear approach. Instead, the process is cyclical, involving the community in question at every stage:
This four-phase roadmap is the North Star of any CBPAR project, of which there are many types. CBPAR practitioners Maggie Huang, Elham Rasoulian, and Karen Villanueva gave a brief overview of three specific methods: mindful participatory observation, surveys and interviews, and muralism. While entire workshops can be — and have been — done on each of these methods, more time was allocated for participants to actively engage with the material and each other in breakout rooms.
These small-group discussions were, for me, the highlight of this workshop. It was amazing to interact with individuals from various backgrounds (there were people in my breakout room alone who were Zooming in from Ghana and Malawi!) and learn about how CBPAR intersects with their work. For example, one person shared their attempts at liaising with the municipal government of Orillia to advocate that no research be done about communities without their full participation, in line with CBPAR principles. Their sharing brought up the question: Why not implement a similar initiative in Toronto, starting with the Knowledge Equity Lab’s home campus of UTSC?
It was this robust exchange of experiences and insights that made this introductory workshop so meaningful. Yet as the word “introductory” suggests, there is so much more to this community-driven research approach than a 90-minute session could ever cover. If you are interested in learning more about CBPAR, please contact Yannan Gu (email@example.com) for information about upcoming events and series surrounding this research approach. Various learning resources are also linked below.
CBPAR is a treasure trove of a research approach, and this workshop was only the first gemstone.
- DataCenter’s Knowledge Factory Video (2014) for an interactive tool that can be used by CBPAR researchers and other social changemakers to think strategically about how to mobilize knowledge for change
- Advancement Project, Healthy City’s A Short Guide to Community-Based Participatory Action Research (2011)
- Advancement Project, Healthy City’s Community Research Lab Toolkit (2011)
- Jacques M. Chevalier and Daniel J. Buckles’ Handbook for Participatory Action Research, Planning and Evaluation (2019)
Relevant Websites and Digital Archives:
- Community-Based Research Canada (CBRC): https://www.communityresearchcanada.ca/
- Community Research Ethics Office (based in Waterloo, ON): http://www.communityresearchethics.com
- UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education (based at the University of Victoria and the Society for Participatory Research in Asia):
- Data Center — Research for Justice: http://www.datacenter.org