Developing Partnerships for Community-Engaged Research

Community-engaged research allows researchers to directly incorporate community partners' expertise and lived experience into a research project, improving both the process and findings. It's a collaboration with the community rather than a project done in or on the community. 

Research partners may be grouped by geographical location, interest, situation or identity. For instance, you may work with a population experiencing a particular health condition while living in a specific area.

To effectively engage local, national and global communities in research projects, you need to build partnerships with communities or groups pertinent to your area of study. For colleges and universities sponsoring community-engaged research, that means being intentional about developing trust and centering equity. 

The Benefits of Community-Engaged Research

Because community-engaged research draws equally from the expertise of academic researchers (who may be students or faculty) and community partners, it can produce more substantial, actionable outcomes. 

Community-engaged research also empowers students to make an impact in the communities they live and work in, contextualizing their work in the classroom with real-world learning. A community-engaged research project might explore health outcomes for particular populations, investigate how to increase voter participation or study how regular arts programming can impact youth. 

By engaging with communities—whether through schools, nonprofit organizations or local agencies—researchers may be able to:

  • Incorporate insights from lived experience into their research questions and interpretation of their data.
  • Conduct research that directly translates to real-world settings and scenarios. 
  • Design research interventions that are culturally- and language-appropriate.
  • Increase participation in the research process, and reach populations who are not adequately represented in current data.
  • Mitigate risk to the specific community by developing processes and protections that serve the needs of participants.
  • Build trust between academic researchers and communities, building the foundation for longer-term collaboration.,

In contrast, research that studies the community without engaging them in the process and outcomes can fall back on assumptions, fail to reach the right participants and, as a result, lack substantive outcomes.

Developing Effective College-Community Partnerships

To engage the community in research, colleges and universities must develop partnerships based on trust and mutual respect. Many institutions have community engagement centers on campus that provide consultation, training and other resources to support community-engaged research conducted by students, faculty and local community organizations.

If you have a community-engaged research project in mind, there are several ways that you can get started:

  • Seek out partners with a track record of working with your institution or other researchers on related projects. 
  • Identify other researchers within your college or university who have worked or are working on collaborative projects with a community partner. Ask them to introduce you to potential partners.
  • Seek out established community organizations with expertise and roots in the region. 

If you're unsure where to start, connect with local colleagues on campus or search a volunteer database like GivePulse

Using a Service-Learning Management Platform to Support Research

Colleges and universities need the right tools to develop and manage community partnerships effectively. GivePulse allows educators, students and community partners to streamline the logistics of communication and tracking in service-learning courses and community-engaged research.

From a searchable database of active community partners to tools to design surveys that gather quantitative and qualitative data, GivePulse provides a platform to support community-engaged researchers in their work and allows for seamless, streamlined community collaboration.

Ready to see how GivePulse can enhance your community-engaged research? Schedule a demo with our team today.



About GivePulse

GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.

Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.

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