From Collaborative Resarch to Community-Based Research: A Methodological Toolkit

Elise Demange, Emilie Henery and Marie Préau

What is it for?

This practical toolkit invites readers (community members and community front-line workers, researchers, CBOs, research institutions, funders and technical partners) to reflect on the questions which the CBR approach raises. It provides practical ideas about how to build academic-community partnerships, about the procedures required to implement research studies, and about the various ways collaborators can work together.

Who is it for?

This toolkit is first and foremost aimed at those stakeholders already working in, or desiring to work in CBR. There are therefore two primary audiences: researchers and CBOs. Practical ideas and considerations have been designed to help these two groups find the resources they need to effectively carry out collaborative research studies as well as to stimulate initial interest in CBR and its utilization.

More generally, we hope that all stakeholders involved directly or indirectly in a CBR study, especially in terms of HIV/AIDS research, will find this toolkit useful: research funders; international organizations (which are attaching increasing importance to community participation in research); policy makers and service providers (who are themselves developing intervention-oriented collaborative research studies and are key players when translating results into practical, real-life interventions).

How has this toolkit been designed?

This toolkit is an initiative of the members of the Partages study and is largely based on their experiences during that research study. Apart from Partages, other experiences of members and partners of Coalition PLUS as well as members of the “community-based research group” 

of the French national agency for research on AIDS and viral hepatitis (ANRS) have helped to enhance the toolkit (see the list of contributors in the appendices). Details of experiences and practices were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with various stakeholders involved in the reflection on or the implementation of collaborative research studies. These are mainly community stakeholders and researchers but some belong to funding agencies, international organizations or national programs for the fight against HIV/AIDS. The countries involved are mostly francophone (Burkina-Faso, Canada, Ecuador, France, Mali, Morocco, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Romania and Switzerland). In its final version, the toolkit was pre-tested by researchers and stakeholders from CBOs who form part of the target audience of the toolkit. 

What does the toolkit contain? How can it be used?

This toolkit attempts to provide the reader with an understanding of an ever-broader range of research studies currently being undertaken within the context of partnerships between researchers and community stakeholders, from studies in social sciences to clinical research trials. It is aimed at a diverse audience. The objective is that each reader will be able to find ideas within the toolkit which help facilitate the implementation of a research study. For those reading this toolkit out of interest, the hope is that they will be stimulated into participating in CBR.

The toolkit can be used in different ways. It can be read in a linear fashion, moving progressively from general considerations, to the more practical steps involved in the implementation of a CBR study. Alternatively, the reader can search for information which directly corresponds to a particular need or question, by selecting any one of the topic-based units which have been designed to be used independently.Overall, the toolkit examines the key steps required when implementing a collaborative research study, including the issues to be dealt with, obstacles and potential difficulties as well as facilitating factors and “good practices”. The first part of the toolkit looks at CBR, its value and the challenges met by those involved in it. The second part focuses on providing practical ideas about how to build a research partnership, from ways to help both worlds (academic and community) first meet and get to know each other, to the various types of collaborations that can be formed. The final part of the toolkit examines the specificities of the collaboration and of CBR for each of the principal steps involved, from the choice of partners to the different ways of promoting the study results and their application.In each of the three parts, the units which comprise this toolkit have elements which are similar in content, especially:

 • Stakeholders’ first-hand accounts of their experiences in CBR. 

 • Ideas for and accounts of “good practices”, thanks to lessons learned in collaborative research studies.

 • Practical tools which can be used to build and facilitate collaboration. 

 • Ideas for reflection and more theoretical elements of CBR. 

 • Bibliographical references for further reading. The toolkit is in no way exhaustive regarding the points it discusses.

Each unit of the toolkit comprises paragraphs of text, boxes highlighting practical or theoretical points as well as “memos” highlighting key elements to note within the unit. Also included are lists of questions the various stakeholders can ask themselves in order to move the collaboration forward.

The inspiration for this toolkit came from other toolkits mentioned in the bibliographical section of the units. We see it as a complementary tool to be used in conjunction with these others, in that it focuses on real-life experience and practical ideas.

More on University & Community Partnerships...