Community participatory research: promoting collaboration between communities and researchers

Thelma Okey-Adibe*, Melissa Mesek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Recently, most notably following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased interest in community research, especially in relation to minority communities. However, there are concerns that community groups have been perceived and treated as objects in the research process and offered tokens or incentives for their participation. Treating community groups as research objects undermines their agency and reduces their role to passive recipients of benefits or incentives. This is particularly true because tokenism erodes trust between researchers and community groups, creating a sense of exploitation or manipulation.

In many cases, members of the local community are not involved in the design or delivery of the research project and, as a consequence, are not empowered to address some of the issues affecting them. This can be argued to be a parasitic relationship where one party who has the power and knowledge extracts information or lived experiences from the experts, often without communicating the findings to research participants.

This approach ignores the unique knowledge, perspectives, and expertise that community members possess. If this trend continues unabated, researchers may find it difficult to recruit participants from communities—the “home of research.” It is essential to acknowledge and respect the autonomy and self-determination of community groups, allowing them to actively contribute to the research process without coercion or tokenistic gestures, share decision making, and enabling the co-creation of research aims, methods, and outcomes.

Participatory research methodology requires trust, erosion of hierarchical relationships, ensuring equitable partnerships, and power-sharing arrangements. There is also a need to ensure that all stakeholders are involved at every stage of the research (e.g., design, planning, data collection and analysis, recommendations, and dissemination of findings). Research involving community groups can be quite complex. This how-to guide suggests steps that can promote collaboration and encourage equal partnerships between all stakeholders in the research process.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSAGE Research Methods: Diversifying and Deconolizing Research
PublisherSAGE Publications Ltd
ISBN (Electronic)9781529687415
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2024


  • collaboration
  • community groups
  • decision making
  • teams


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