Community Engagement at IPHS

Thinking Critically about Engagement

In order to advance population health, it is crucial to engage community for which our diverse population resides in. community engaged research can take many forms, but encompass many aspects of research from development, implementation, data analysis, interpretation, dissemination. Over the last 20 years, there has been diverse frameworks postulated for variety of research and training initiatives. However, there is no one size fits all approach and each engagement framework has both strength and limitations, especially for sometimes antiquated academic settings.

At IPHS, experts will provide guidance on theory driven and evidence-based approaches that fits the specific types of projects and goals. In traditional academic settings, especially in a tenured structured universities and limitations of NIH grants portfolios, it is often difficult to actualize the principles of community engagement, while enabling the research to be conceptualized and implemented successfully. With two decades of experiences working with community and diverse funders, our experts will provide consultation with researchers on best strategies towards meaningful community engaged research initiatives.

Below we have outlined three of the core theories of engagement IPHS uses to guide research and community outreach:

Community Based Participatory Research

Community Partner Participatory Research



Community Based Participatory Research

According to NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research: “Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an applied collaborative approach that enables community residents to more actively participate in the full spectrum of research (from conception – design – conduct – analysis – interpretation – conclusions – communication of results) with a goal of influencing change in community health, systems, programs or policies.”

  1. Recognizes community as a unit of identity
  2. Builds on strengths and resources within the community
  3. Facilitates collaborative, equitable involvement of all partners in all phases of the research
  4. Integrates knowledge and action for mutual benefit of all partners
  5. Promotes a co-learning and empowering process that attends to social inequalities
  6. Involves a cyclical and iterative process
  7. Addresses health from both positive and ecological perspectives
  8. Disseminates findings and knowledge gained to all partners
  9. Involves a long-term commitment by all partners.

Community Partner Participatory Research

Community-Partners Participatory Research (CPPR) has a structure, a set of principles, and a staged implementation to assure equal participation and leadership of community and academic partners while promoting capacity development and productivity. CPPR project include community and academic partners in all phases of the research and decision making, shares leadership and resources equitably, highlights the critical importance of evidence while simultaneously valuing the relevance of experiences, and emphasizes two-way capacity building. In order to have a true CPPR partnership, one need to: 1) Focus effectively on community needs; 2) Enable the community to use research products and findings; and 3) Have enough traction to translate findings into action, community stakeholder must be true research partners, with equal decision making power.

The structure often consists of a steering council of relevant stakeholders, co-chaired by community and academic leaders. The council may support workshops that develop and implement action plans, with broader community input through larger community forums. The structure facilitate respect for the community and academic expertise ensuring community engagement principles (e.g., power sharing, mutual respect, bi-directional capacity building), are integrated with scientific rigor. Much effort in a CPPR initiative is spent building and maintaining relationship through sharing perspectives and joint activities. Both partnership structures and principles are reinforced in a memorandum of understanding signed by partners.

Community Power

Community power is the ability of communities most affected by structural inequities to develop, sustain, and grow an organized base of people who act together through democratic structures to set agendas, shift public discourse, influence decision makers, and cultivate ongoing relationships of mutual accountability to change systems and advance health equity. Many believe that traditional data collection and research methods have betrayed the communities of color and these traditional methods must be disrupted with the development of equitable data cools. In addition, the strategies for effective power building needs to include safe space for participation, cultivating strategic partnerships, creating paths for different levels of community engagement, leveraging the inherent strengths of residents, and equipping community members with an understanding of how policy and systems work.

There are several community power models that demonstrate promise, even with the complex academic environment. These models often are nested in community-based learning and evaluation, each grounded in principles of power building and in assets-based, people-centered framework. The MEASURE CARE model started as a nonprofit, social enterprise that uses an antiracist revenue model to provide free data support to Black and Brown led organizations. To provide this free data support, MEASURE asks white-led coperations, organizations, and universities to pay the full rate for services. The organization use the CARE (community, advocacy, resilience and evidence) model in working with community groups to build power and use data in generating solutions and advocating for change. Other model examples may include: 1) Healthy Richmond Collective-Building Policy Initiative: a collective building policy initiative that approaches policy advocacy by partnering with resident leaders, organization and system allies to work towards health equity and racial justice; and 2) The Positive Deviance Approach, which is based on the belief that community are endowed with the wisdom, power, and resources to solve their own problems.