Community-Engaged Research

Community-Engaged Research

Collaborating for a greater impact in the community

Community engagement is a framework that describes collaboration between researchers and community members throughout the research process.

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Community-engaged research is conducted in partnership with patients, health systems, community-based organizations and other stakeholder groups. Community partnerships can help researchers design research that has a greater impact on the communities they serve.

At its core, community-engaged research aims to create positive change by addressing real-world problems in collaboration with the communities affected by them. This is achieved through developing partnerships that mobilize resources, influence systems and serve as catalysts for improving policies, programs and practices. Steps can be taken toward these goals by:

  • Incorporating lived experience insights from community members into research design, interpretation and dissemination
  • Designing research for easy translation to real-world settings
  • Improving health communication and reach of interventions
  • Building greater trust between researchers and communities
  • Reach underserved and under-represented populations.

Community-engaged research goes beyond traditional research methods by prioritizing community involvement, empowerment and mutual learning. It fosters a sense of ownership and agency among community members, leading to more relevant, culturally responsive and sustainable outcomes. Active collaboration and dialogue foster a collective effort where diverse perspectives and knowledge are valued. This model for designing encourages empathy, problem-solving and a critical understanding of social, economic and environmental contexts. Overall, community-engaged research offers researchers a valuable framework for conducting ethical, relevant and impactful research that benefits both the researchers and members of the community.


Types of Engagement Resources

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Several types of resources support community-engaged design initiatives. Each plays an important role in facilitating collaboration, providing expertise and fostering meaningful engagement. Below are examples of resources offered through the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.

Resources for Study Development

Front Door Intake & Consultation:

  • Assistance with feasibility assessments and referrals to data partners to assess viability and potential risks of proceeding with the project.
  • Support for preparation of recruitment and retention materials for grant applications.
  • Assistance with recruitment and retention planning to maximize enrollment and minimize attrition.

Service available to help researchers to identify opportunities to enhance community-responsive design:

Citizen Scientists

Community members who take part in the scientific process, including informing research questions, assisting with data collection, making conclusions about the data, or contributing to the development of research materials.

Citizen Scientists

Community Registries

Join CONNECT to learn about research studies you may be eligible to participate in and receive information about community events in your area and health promotion activities focused on cancer prevention and screening.

Join Connect

Design Studios

Scheduled sessions that connect researchers with COE, citizen scientists and others who specialize in participatory design methods.

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Resources for Implementation

Research Advocates

  • Clinical Community Navigation: Health care professionals who play a crucial role in connecting patients with community-based resources and support services to improve their overall health outcomes. Navigators facilitate referrals and can assist with linking community members to health services and relevant community-engaged research opportunities.
  • Targeted education and referrals of community members to relevant services that are available.
  • Study material distribution at community-facing events held by the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement to facilitate recruitment of eligible participants.
  • Money Matters Program: Provides financial education to community members, including health-related financial matters, such as financial toxicity.
  • Taking Control of Your Cancer Diagnosis Curriculum: A course developed for referred newly diagnosed cancer patients,  which addresses and provides skills for the topics of physical, mental and financial wellness, while navigating the course of treatment.

Resources for Translation & Dissemination

Community Informed Patient-Facing Materials:

Development of Community-Informed Patient Facing Materials that are Accessible & Relatable to Community Members:

Cancer Connections

Educational and networking event that brings together cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and health care professionals. Presentation topics include leading-edge cancer research, treatment options and health care services, explained in an easy-to-understand way

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Benefits of Community-Engaged Design

Community-engaged research design offers numerous benefits that contribute to creating more inclusive, effective and sustainable health solutions. Benefits include:

Increased Inclusivity

Community-engaged design considers the diverse needs, perspectives and experiences of the community members who will be affected by the research. This leads to more inclusive and accessible designs that meet a broader range of community members’ needs.

Empowerment and Capacity Building:

Engaging the community in the design process empowers community members to have a voice in decisions that directly impact their lives. This fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility, which can lead to greater acceptance, adoption and long-term sustainability of the designed solutions. Fostering active participants in the research process also builds research literacy, advocacy skills and capacity within communities, which can lead to increased self-efficacy and empowerment.

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Improved Problem Definition

Community input helps researchers gain a deeper understanding of real problems the community faces. This allows for more accurate problem definition and helps researchers prioritize aspects that are the most relevant and impactful.

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Cultural Relevance

Community-engaged design ensures that solutions are culturally sensitive and appropriate for the target population. By incorporating local knowledge, traditions and norms, researchers can create designs that will resonate with the community and are more likely to be embraces and used.

Enhanced Innovation

Collaboration with community members often sparks creativity and innovation. Different perspectives and insights can inspire new ideas, approaches and solutions that may not have been considered through the traditional research design process.

Building Trust and Relationships

Engagement between researchers and the community builds trust, strengthens relationships and fosters a sense of partnership. This trust is essential for successful implementation and ongoing feedback through design iterations.

Social Impact

Community-engaged design can have a positive social impact by addressing social inequality, promoting social cohesion and strengthening the community. It can lead to designs that address potential social issues, improve quality of life and create positive change within communities.

Policy and Practice Implications

Community-engaged research can inform policy development, interventions and clinical practice guidelines. By involving stakeholders in the research process, findings are more likely to be translated into actionable policies and practices that benefit the community.

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Long-term sustainability

Building strong relationships and partnerships with the community contributes to the long-term sustainability of research initiatives. It creates a foundation for ongoing collaboration, feedback and engagement, which promotes continuing research efforts that have a positive impact over time.

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Overall, community-engaged research offers a holistic approach that not only considers the technical aspects of design, but emphasizes the social, cultural and ethical dimensions. This process promotes more meaningful and impactful outcomes across time for both researchers and community members.


Benefits of Community Engaged Design

Enrollment of diverse individuals in clinical research are essential to scientific progress and to advancing health equity through the United States. Diverse enrollment ensures that research includes participants from various demographic background such as race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status and geographic location.

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Diversity representation is critical for research findings to be applicable and relevant to different communities. Further, diverse enrollment enhances the validity and generalizability of research by allowing researchers to explore how different factors (e.g., cultural beliefs, social determinants of health) might influence health outcomes across different populations. This leads to more robust and applicable conclusions and promotes prevention and reduction of health disparities by connecting community members with services that are needed the most.

Thus, it is especially important to increase diverse representation in clinical trial to promote health equity, increase relevance and impact of research outcomes, and build trusting and collaboration relationships with communities.

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