Conducting CBR with Vulnerable Populations: an examination of considerations, challenges, and best practices

Principal Investigators: Holly Stack-Cutler and Laurie Schnirer
Funder: ACCFCR
Duration: 2013-2015

Engaging people living with vulnerable conditions in research can increase the quality and relevance of findings as well as positively influence participants' well-being. Participation for these populations, however, can be fraught with feelings of mistrust, disrespect, and stigma, as well as accompanied by other participation barriers. Thus, creating collaborative, respectful, and positive research environments is essential. Three interrelated studies aimed to understand how researchers and community partners could best engage populations living with vulnerable conditions when conducting community-based research (CBR). In key informant interviews with 14 researchers, community partners, policy makers, and funders, participants shared their experiences of what works well in engaging and partnering with others in Alberta. In interviews with 25 Edmonton families living with vulnerabilities and participant barriers (e.g., poverty, poor health, refugee and new immigration challenges), families shared their research experiences, participation challenges, and recommendations for engaging families. Group concept mapping with community-based researchers, community partners, and government was conducted in two stages: 37 participants generated positive "best" practice statements and then 26 participants sorted practices into themes and rated practices on how often they used them and how effective they perceived them to be. In all three studies, participants emphasized the importance for researchers to build trusting, respectful relationships with their participants; understand and accommodate participants' needs (e.g., culture, language, literacy level); and ensure participants benefit from taking part in research (e.g., honorariums, new knowledge). Results and learnings from this project are being mobilized through several outlets including local, national, and international community-university conference presentations; articles in academic journals and association and agency magazines; community websites and listservs; workshops; and are currently being used to inform practices for upcoming CBR projects and curricula for the University of Alberta's Master's of Arts in Community Engagement.

Read more in the Executive Summary document and Summary Document with Concept Map.

Article published in Early View in the Journal of Community Psychology: Engaging populations living with vulnerable conditions in community-based research: A concept mapping approach to understanding positive practices