ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2010

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Questions of pragmatism in Community-based Participatory Research with an Indigenous community

Julie Mooney-Somers, Anna Olsen, Robert Scott, Angie Akee, Lisa Maher

Building: Holme Building
Room: Cullen Room
Date: 2010-12-02 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2010-11-17


The raison d'être of community-based participatory research (CBPR) is to involve real people in research on issues affecting their lives. Putting this into practice is messy and complicated as CBPR - where research meets community development - is a process full of good intentions and competing priorities.

The first aim of the Indigenous Resiliency Project focused on developing the research skill and knowledge of Indigenous health service staff and Indigenous young people. The second aim was to generate knowledge to inform the development of interventions designed to prevent sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections in Indigenous young people. Prioritising capacity building, participation and collaboration created tensions for the production of knowledge.

Our research was developed and conducted by community researchers (health workers and young people who received training in qualitative research) and university researchers. This model of community engagement in data collection means that interview data do not always contain the depth and breadth that may have been generated by experienced researchers and such data may not meet traditional scientific notions of quality and rigour. However, the cultural expertise and experience that community researchers bring to the process suggests that project development and conduct is more likely to be culturally safe and outcomes more likely to reflect locally informed cultural perspectives.

CBPR is a pragmatic approach to solving community problems, yet tensions around data quality and the nature of evidence remain relevant. In this paper we reflect on data that may challenge traditional notions of data quality, yet produce knowledge that communities may consider more relevant to their lives. Collaborative and participatory methods are becoming increasingly popular in research with Indigenous and marginalised communities. How do researchers use their technical expertise to generate knowledge that will stand as valid evidence for communities and policy makers, while maximising community participation and ownership?