Unit 3 Section 3.4: Developing CBPR Principles

In the early stages of a partnership, the partnership should discuss the nature of CBPR and the extent to which it is different from more traditional approaches to research. Given the negative connotation that research may have within the community, some partners may question the nature of the research that the partnership is planning to conduct. It is important to emphasize that CBPR is not "business as usual."

Adopting, adhering to and periodically reviewing and reflecting upon a set of CBPR principles will reinforce the commitment that the partnership is making to conducting prevention research using this model.

While a mission statement reflects the over-arching values and goals of the partnership, CBPR principles serve to guide the development, implementation, evaluation, dissemination of findings and subsequent actions of the partnership's CBPR efforts. The principles can include, for example:

  • An emphasis on the involvement of community, practitioner, and academic partners in all major phases of the research process (including identification of the problems to be addressed)

  • The conduct of research (basic and intervention) that is beneficial to and respectful of the community involved

  • The dissemination of findings to community members in ways that are understandable and useful

It is important that as with other types of policies and principles, no one example is applicable for all partnerships. CBPR principles must be “owned” by your unique partnership and therefore need to be adapted, taking into the local context. The very process of your partnership jointly developing its principles provides an opportunity for much needed dialogue and sharing of perspectives that helps build trust and establish relationships. As new projects are organized and new partners are added, the principles should be discussed and adapted as appropriate. Some language that sounds good initially won’t necessarily have the same meaning when a partnership faces particular decision points. Thus, as participants gain additional insights, the understanding of the principles will change over time, and they need to be revisited and revised accordingly.

Applying principles of CBPR

Unit 1, Section 1.1 describes key principles of CBPR, but it is also important to consider how these principles are actually applied in the work that is being proposed. For example, questions to consider include:

  • Is the partnership clear about how “community” is defined and the characteristics that gives this identity?

  • How will the proposed project build on the strengths of the community and enhance its capacity?

  • How will the partners, their local histories, and where the partnerships are centered influence the direction of the work being proposed?

  • What benefits will the community receive and are their other partners or communities involved who may not receive any direct benefits?

  • How will the proposed project simultaneously implement interventions and conduct research while still addressing long-term systems change (i.e. poverty, sexism, racism, imbalance of power between communities and institutions, etc.)?

Exercise 3.4.1: Applying Principles of CBPR

Consider each principle of CBPR listed below and discuss your answers to the corresponding question(s) in the context of your partnership and its projects.

Principle:Community involved in plans and development from the beginning
Question:At what point will you involve the community in the project and how?

Principle:Community partners have real influence on the project’s direction and activities.
Question:What kind of influence will community members have on direction and activities of the project? Who will make decisions? What will the structure for decision-making look like?

Principle:Community involved with specific projects in
selection and objectives of project
shared ownership of data
interpretation and dissemination of research findings
Question:How will the community be involved in project: selection and objectives, implementation, evaluation, shared ownership of data, interpretation and dissemination of research findings?

Principle:The values, perspectives, contributions and confidentiality of everyone in the community are respected.
Question:How will you ensure that community members’ values, perspectives, contributions and confidentiality are respected?

Principle:Research process and outcomes will serve the community by
sustaining useful projects
producing long-term benefit for the community
developing community capacity (training, jobs)
Question:How will the research processes and outcomes serve the community?

Source: Based on the Community Collaboration Principles of Seattle Partners for Healthy Communities


Example 3.4.1: Involvement of the Community

We begin with the members of the Community with the Problem, and our community-based organization partners (CBOP) articulate their experience of the problem, its cause, and why it persists. Therefore, understanding of the problem by those who directly suffer it is our first port of call. We do so through interviews, dialogues, focus groups, and community surveys largely conducted by our CBO partners and assisted by their community consultant. Juxtaposing this view of trench (the community) with that of bench (the institutional partners), leads us to an awareness of the similarities and differences between them. Dialogue about these similarities and differences helps our partnership to arrive at an interdependent position. We then test out this position by presenting it to the Community with the Problem through a community forum. It is at this point that the Genesee County Community is confronted with the community's view of the problem and why it continues. Once the Community with the Problem provides its perspective on the need for essential changes, we revise plans and return to the Community with the Problem for the endorsement of those changes. The entire process supports the growth and development of members of the Community with the Problem because they learn to critically assess and reflect their own experience of the problem, and it empowers them to communicate community issues and concerns and what they think should be done to eliminate or reduce the problem.

Because community members are taken as seriously as formally trained professionals, leaders from the ranks of members of the Community with the Problem and community-based organizations often arise. In one of our projects, when such shifts in power and leadership occurred, we were literally halted for several months as the volume of conflicts during our meetings rose to a feverish pitch. We have learned and are learning to expect such shifts and to adjust to them.

Excerpted from Flint PRC proposal


Example 3.4.2: Examples of CBPR Principles Developed by CBPR Partnerships

1.  CBPR Principles from the Wellesley Institute's Resource Center for Community-Based Research

  • This project will engage a set of principles that will foster community ownership and empowerment among team members, including power sharing, capacity building through mentoring and learning exchanges, group participation in all appropriate phases of the research project, and community ownership of the project.

  • This project will engage in an open and transparent process where a collective vision of research goals and objectives is shared, and where the roles and expectations of team members are clearly understood;

  • This project will be a collaborative and equitable research partnership where members draw upon individual skill sets to meaningfully and mutually work toward the team’s vision;

  • This project will provide opportunities for capacity building through “learning exchanges” where team members can learn about research skills, community development, and community work;

  • This project will engage in data analysis interpretation processes that honor the lived experiences/knowledge of community members;

  • This project will employ dissemination strategies leading toward education, advocacy, community benefit, and social change;

  • This project will foster a supportive team environment through critical reflection of our work and group process.

2.  CBPR Principles from the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (Adopted July 24, 1996)

  • Community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects need to be consistent with the overall objectives of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (URC.) These objectives include an emphasis on the local relevance of public health problems and an examination of the social, economic, and cultural conditions that influence health status and the ways in which these affect life-style, behavior, and community decision-making.

  • The purpose of CBPR projects is to enhance our understanding of issues affecting the community and to develop, implement and evaluate, as appropriate, plans of action that will address those issues in ways that benefit the community.

  • CBPR projects are designed in ways which enhance the capacity of the community-based participants in the process.

  • Representatives of community-based organizations, public health agencies, health care organizations, and educational institutions are involved as appropriate in all major phases of the research process, e.g., defining the problem, developing the data collection plan, gathering data, using the results, interpreting, sharing and disseminating the results, and developing, implementing and evaluating plans of action to address the issues identified by the research.

  • CBPR is conducted in a way that strengthens collaboration among community-based organizations, public health agencies, health care organizations, and educational institutions.

  • CBPR projects produce, interpret and disseminate the findings to community members in clear language respectful to the community and in ways which will be useful for developing plans that will benefit the community.

  • CBPR projects are conducted according to the norms of partnership: mutual respect; recognition of the knowledge, expertise, and resource capacities of the participants in the process; and open communication.

  • CBPR projects follow the policies set forth by the sponsoring organization regarding ownership of the data and output of the research (policies to be shared with participants in advance). Any publications resulting from the research will acknowledge the contribution of participants, who will be consulted with prior to submission of materials and, as appropriate, will be invited to collaborate as co-authors. In addition, following the rules of confidentiality of data and the procedures referred to below (Item #9), participants will jointly agree on who has access to the research data and where the data will be physically located.

  • CBPR projects adhere to the human subjects review process standards and procedures as set forth by the sponsoring organization; for example, for the University of Michigan, these procedures are found in the Report of the national commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, entitled "Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research" (the "Belmont Report").

Source: Schulz AJ, Israel BA, Selig SM, Bayer IS. Development and Implementation of Principles for Community-Based Research in Public Health. In Ray H. MacNair (ed.) Research Strategies for Community Practice, 1998. The Haworth Press, Inc. New York, pp. 83-110.

3.  Harlem Community & Academic Partnership: Principles of Involvement in Research, Program, and Project Activities

  • The community within which HCAP will support, collaborate, and or partner with to conduct public health research is currently defined as East and Central Harlem.

  • The purpose of any project supported and or research conducted that involves HCAP is to benefit the community either through increased knowledge or by promoting better health.

  • As it relates to research conducted in Harlem, HCAP views CBPR as the preferred approach in conducting public health research and project interventions. The purpose of participatory research is to develop a partnership of community-based organizations, public health agencies, educational and other relevant institutions that can work together to study and improve community health through long-standing interventions.

  • HCAP shall serve as a resource to prospective research partners and project teams on the unique daily living conditions, needs, strengths, and community dynamics of the Harlem community and other related geographical areas with similar burdens on health.

  • On all products generated from research, program, and project activities, HCAP must be consulted with and invited to collaborate as co-author (where appropriate), and acknowledged in the contribution as partners that participated in the research or project intervention.

  • HCAP has an obligation to disseminate findings in a timely manner through community forums, community newsletters and other community events.

  • All research, program, and projects involving the participation or partnership of HCAP will meet current ethical standards and will fully respect the rights of all participants in a culturally sensitive manner. As it relates to research, this includes the rights to be aware of risk and benefits, to give informed consent and to have the option to withdraw from research at any time without penalty to the participant.

  • As it relates to research activity, HCAP will be involved in all phases of research activities including defining the problem, gathering data, analyzing data, using, interpreting, and disseminating results, program development and evaluation, and in strategies to advocate for policies to improve health. As it relates to lending support to programs or project activities, HCAP will be involved as determined by the HCAP Steering Committee and as outlined in the letter of support.

  • HCAP will contribute to the evaluation of all research activities.

  • As long as the above principles are followed, participating research, program, and project partners are not limited to members of HCAP, and in fact, involvement of local residents, other community-based organizations, other public agencies and educational and other relevant institutions are encouraged. HCAP recommends all research, program, and project partners include a method of compensation for time and effort for community residents and community-based organizations specifically.