(Some of) What I’ve learned from working with culturally specific nonprofits through CBPR
Over the last two years I’ve had the opportunity to utilize what I’ve learned being in an Applied Social & Community Psychology PhD program to engage with culturally-specific nonprofits towards action research. In this work, I engaged with almost two dozen community organizations who target services to underserved communities.
Prior community engagement matters
I had been previously involved with community organizations as an active member of Black Lives Matter Portland, where I had the opportunity to collaborate with many other racial and other social justice organizations on events, programs, and campaigns. From this work, I had previously made connections and relationships with others locally working for similar causes outside of academia and research. Because of my prior engagement, when approaching culturally-specific nonprofits to collaborate on the current projects, trust had already been established and the buy-in process was much easier.
Including many people may be time consuming, but is well worth it
For these projects we engaged with a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach. We directly engaged community members across the state as leads by working with them during the design of the study, participant recruitment, focus group moderation, and member checking process. This approach was more time consuming and took much more coordination, but by taking a CBPR approach we were able to gain insight that informed both the study’s procedures and analysis, adding to the validity of the results.
Be prepared to speak to non-academic audiences about the research
Both during the design of the projects and months afterwards, I received many requests from various public institutions and community organizations to speak on panels, deliver workshops, and present findings related to my work with communities. These were and continue to be great opportunities to share the work done, advocate for local actions, develop presentation skills outside of the academy, and to deepen relationships and trust within the community.
Transparency of positionality matters
In academic settings we are too often not encouraged to state our positionality. Culturally specific community organizations differ in these values and want to know about you as a person, rather than just as an “objective” researcher.
Make material accessible to those outside academia
Action research often has more stakeholders, as individuals and organizations are interested in the practicality and usefulness of the procedures, data, and results. Two ways that I was better able to make the studies accessible were by 1) Organizing all resources and documents in a way that is easily shareable, such as on Google Drive, and 2) Framing and disseminating results in ways that are practical for both community partners and, if the final reports are made public, beyond.
We all have a lot to learn
Even if you are a member of the community, it is important to not ever attempt to speak for them or assume that your views and goals are the collective views and goals. The learning process that occurs when working with community organizations should be fully embraced to produce better research and become a better researcher.
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