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Creating a better future for communities through research

Principles that guide our work

We use a community-based approach to research and evaluation. It is intended to stimulate social innovation through the meaningful involvement of diverse people.

Here are the ten principles that guide our work:

  1. Research and evaluation should do no harm to participants, staff, users and others. Researchers must accept responsibility for guarding against harm which the research may produce even when there are good intentions.

  2. There are multiple realities about programs, services and other interventions. Providing opportunities for these multiple realities or constructions to emerge and then capturing their meaning is an important part of the research and evaluation process. Depending on the purpose of the research, the consumer reality may be either central, the only reality presented, or understood in context with other people's constructions of reality.

  3. The cultural assumptions held by researchers and participants will have an impact on the research and evaluation process and findings. Along with all forms of inquiry, action-research is value-laden.

  4. Citizens who have a stake in the process and outcomes of the research should be actively encouraged to become directly involved in the research process.

  5. Listening to the citizen affected by an intervention is central to understanding. Sensitive, prolonged engagement with research participants helps ensure that the research is "enabling," not "controlling."

  6. Interventions are best understood in context; thus, useful community research is never just about a person or a personality, but considers the "person in his or her environment," recognizing the power of the environment. It also recognizes that person and environment systems are in some ways impossible to tease apart - that we must attempt to understand whole systems.

  7. There are a variety of interventions that may enhance empowerment and quality of life; health or social service interventions must be considered as only category. The role of other interventions such as grassroots community engagement, coalition building, policy change or public theatre, should also be explored.

  8. Power is inherent in many types of relationships. Researchers must be extremely careful to negotiate roles with participants on an equal basis. Also, when the context makes it impossible to interact on an equal basis, we should be sensitive to the implications of this for research findings. We must also be sensitive to power relations among different stakeholders.

  9. An important criterion for making decisions about research tools (design, questions, interpretations) is "usefulness". At each step in the research design and implementation process, researchers must anticipate and explore with participants the ways in which the knowledge they wish to discover may be mobilized.

  10. Self-reflection may be the most useful tool researchers can apply in any research context. Do the best you can today. Celebrate and build on your strengths for tomorrow.


For related principles, see our definition of community based research.

Community based research can be defined as 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, G., Ochocka, J., Griffin, K. & Lord, J. (1998).Nothing about me without me: Participatory action research with self-help/mutual aid organizations for psychiatric consumer/survivors. American Community Psychology Journal, 26, 881-912.