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Building the Next Generation of Community-based Researchers ("The NextGen project")


Project Description
Over the past 20-25 years a variety of community-based research (CBR) strategies have gained acceptance as particularly valuable for addressing complex social, health, environmental and poverty issues. This is in part due the acknowledgement that the engagement of the intended beneficiaries of the research is critical to being able to make changes or ensure adoption of research outcomes and recommendations. "Community-based research" is an umbrella term that refers to approaches such as participatory research, participatory action research, engaged scholarship, collaborative inquiry and more—comprising a rich and evolving literature. Works along these lines address reasons why CBR is an effective contributor to social and community change; or how CBR has been used within a variety of contexts (including Indigenous communities, residents of coastal communities, or for affordable housing). Finally, this literature considers ways that various participatory methods can be used in CBR such as Indigenous methodologies, participatory video, photo voice, community theatre, community consultations and more. There is very little engagement to date, however, on how best to train people in CBR either in university or community settings. We also have no data on what types of CBR training is currently available, especially in the global South and the excluded North. Given that many simply learn CBR through trial and error, the challenge is to find the best way to provide training for the next generation of community-based researchers.
The NextGen project is aimed at creating new interdisciplinary knowledge by examining CBR training practices in the thematic areas of local asset development, participatory citizenship, Indigenous research methodologies and water governance in global and institutional settings. It further builds a global partnership to create more training opportunities with an emphasis on the Global South. Our partnership includes four internationally respected and leveraged lead organizations working in the designated thematic areas (the Coady International Institute at SFXU, the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC, and the Institute for Studies & Innovation in Community-University Engagement (ISICUE) at UVic), as well as diverse regional and global partners working in the broader field of community-university engagement in Latin America, Asia, Europe, North America and the Arabic speaking states. The overall goal of the NextGen project is contribute to increase access to high quality training in CBR within higher education institutions and civil society organizations with a particular focus on the Global South. Our objectives are to identify:
1) current regional sources for the training of new community-based researchers
2) best practices related to local asset development, Indigenous research methodologies, participatory citizenship and water governance
3) lessons learned in several pilot studies on training in CBR
4) potential for collaboration amongst the partners as a training network.

The four thematic lead partners (Coady, PRIA, ISICUE and IRES) have extensive research and training experience and global reputations in their areas of expertise. Taken together, the partnership represents the organisational heart of the global community-university engagement movement.

Theoretical Framework
The conceptual framework for this project is grounded in theories of knowledge recognizing of the value of linking community-based knowledge with academic knowledge in the creation of what is known as knowledge democracy and CBR as a methodological and values-based approach to the co-creation of knowledge and the pedagogies of learning and teaching CBR. Increased knowledge democracy means (among other things) recognizing civil society or community as a source of knowledge about complex issues. It means, for example, valuing the knowledge of those living without good access to water in Africa, women elected officials in local government in India, or those holding traditional Indigenous knowledge in Latin America. CBR, then, refers to a diverse set of methods of partnership research that facilitate co-creation of knowledge. Of critical importance, however, is the issue of how the next generation of knowledge workers will gain access to the methods and values of CBR. We need to know what the pedagogies and strategies for building capacities are, especially in the Global South.

In order to collect relevant data we will do an extensive literature review of training, teaching and learning CBR in the Global South, a compilation of different types and methods of CBR training (e.g., video training materials), and a global survey to supplement what we know from the literature in regards to training CBR. We will also identify and analyze selected cases for in-depth pilot studies and ‘best practices’ models for CBR training. Finally, we will organize two symposia to seek critical outside inputs on work to date.

Expected outcomes
We intend to develop three main products: a practical guide to facilitating CBR, a book on the theory and practice of pedagogical approaches, and a suite of video training materials. We will create also an open-access globally-accessible depository for studies, curricular materials, course modules, conference findings and policy recommendations, and a web 2.0 interactive website and blog space to promote regional and global networking in the training of CBR.
Support and Partners
This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) as a Partnership Development Grant. Our partnership is led by Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon, co-chairs of the UNESCO Chair in CBR and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, Crystal Tremblay, research coordinator for the UNESCO Chair. Expertise in the thematic clusters comes from Leila Harris with the Program on Water Governance at UBC, Alison Mathie with the Coady International Institute at SFXU, Martha Farrell, Director of the PRIA Academy for Lifelong Learning, and Leslie Brown, Director of the Institute for Studies & Innovation in Community-University Engagement at the University of Victoria. Of critical importance is also the inclusion of a diversity of global and regional networks on community-university engagement, such as the Talloires Network, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, PRIA, Global University Network for Innovation, Living Knowledge Network, the Asia-Pacific University-Community Engagement Network and PASCAL Observatories, as well as the University of Alberta, The University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, Lignan University, Makerere University, and the University of Kwazulu-Natal. Our network builds on these existing efforts and will constitute the heart of information and outreach on training for community-based research.

For more information please contact:
Walter Lepore, PhD Candidate, University of Victoria
Project Coordinator | NextGen Project
UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education

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