Avoiding Violence in Our Work: Challenging Traditional Paradigms in Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) to Create More Transformative Work

July 27, 2023 — by Elizabeth McGee

In June of 2023, as part of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) conference’s Town Hall. A thought-provoking conversation unfolded regarding the challenges and opportunities within Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). Presenters Elizabeth McGee and Kaylyn Garcia led a discussion that delved into the need to challenge traditional paradigms in CBPR to create more transformative work. This article captures the essence of their insightful dialogue, highlighting the importance of avoiding violence in our research practices and promoting equitable approaches that empower communities. By critically examining power dynamics, addressing data generation and research norms, and fostering collaboration. We can pave the way for more inclusive and impactful CBPR. Join us as we explore the key takeaways from this enlightening conversation.

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) is defined as an equitable and collaborative approach to research that involves community members in all aspects of the research process. Including development, implementation, and evaluation (Collins et al., 2018). CBPR methodologies have become increasingly popular within research aimed at addressing social injustices and reducing disparities. By actively engaging the communities affected by these issues (Wallerstein & Duran, 2006). Many researchers that utilize CBPR methodologies aspire to conduct community research. That improves inequities and promotes well-being within a specific population, community, or system of interest. However, too often we overlook the ways in which our research processes themselves may inadvertently cause violence or systemic harm. McGee and Garcia shared and generated ideas for how we, as community-based researchers, can challenge traditional paradigms in CBPR to create more transformative work in the following ways. Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Unveiling Inherent Power Dynamics Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Even research methodologies like Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), that are conducted in partnership with communities and designed for community good can be rooted in deep-seeded societal norms that perpetuate inequities. While CBPR aims to empower communities, it is crucial to recognize that research processes themselves. Can be influenced by said societal norms and power dynamics. Traditional research approaches may unintentionally reinforce existing inequities, perpetuating a cycle of harm. By critically examining power dynamics, we can identify and challenge these norms. Ensuring that our research truly benefits the individuals and spaces it aims to serve.

The Role of Data Generation in Challenging Norms

Data generation is a key aspect of CBPR and should be approached with careful consideration. How, where, when, and for whom data is generated needs to be considered in efforts to reduce potential harm. If we do not make efforts at the onset of our community work to address research norms and inherent power dynamics, we risk generating half-truths and causing harm to the individuals and spaces we intend to assist. By involving community members in all aspects of the data generation process, we can ensure their voices are heard and their experiences are accurately represented. This approach challenges the traditional paradigm of researcher-led data collection, allowing for more nuanced and authentic insights. Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Addressing Research Norms and Reducing Harm

To create transformative work within CBPR, it is essential to address and challenge research norms. Researchers must actively engage in dialogue with community partners to uncover potential sources of harm and bias within their methodologies. By critically examining our assumptions and acknowledging our positionality, we can co-create research that aligns with community values, needs, and aspirations.

Creating Space for Transformative Work Community-Based Participatory Research

Transformative work in CBPR involves fostering a space for dialogue, learning, and collaboration between researchers and community members. Town halls, community forums, and other participatory platforms can serve as avenues for sharing ideas, experiences, and perspectives. By embracing these spaces, researchers can facilitate collective decision-making, build trust, and generate innovative strategies for tackling systemic issues. Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)


Community-based participatory research has the potential to be a powerful tool for addressing social injustices and promoting sustainable change. However, to truly achieve transformative outcomes, researchers must challenge inherent power dynamics, critically examine their methodologies , and actively involve communities in decision-making processes. The conversation led by McGee and Garcia at the Society for Community Action Research Town Hall in June 2023. Highlighted the importance of avoiding violence in our research practices and fostering equitable approaches that empower communities.

Notably, the participation from the audience during the Town Hall was invaluable. Their insights, experiences, and perspectives enriched the dialogue, emphasizing the significance of engaging community members in shaping research practices. By embracing the collective wisdom of diverse voices, we can co-create research that dismantles traditional paradigms, reduces harm, and drives positive, lasting impact.

As we move forward in our community-based research endeavors. Let us remain committed to challenging norms, acknowledging power dynamics, and creating space for meaningful participation. By continuing to learn from one another, we can collectively push the boundaries of CBPR, striving for greater inclusivity, justice, and equity.

Let us work together to shape a future where research truly serves the communities. It aims to empower, with the active involvement and invaluable contributions of all stakeholders involved.

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