Partnering with community-based organizations: an academic institution's evolving perspective.Ethn Dis. 2007 Winter; 17(1 Suppl 1):S27-32.ED
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is ideally a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings.
We reviewed the processes, strategies, and activities around the interface of community-academic partnerships using a CBPR model focused on addressing healthcare issues for minority elders.
Key challenges for the community side include understanding: (1) the needs of the academic partner; (2) how to assess whether there are shared values, goals, and research priorities; (3) the limits of one's organization and competing demands; (4) how to use the partnership to build community capacity to conduct research; and (5) the value added for the community from involvement in research versus the risks inherent in participation. Key challenges for the academic side of the partnership include understanding: (1) what community is; (2) the value added by a true partnership; (3) how to build effective relationships; (4) what a balanced collaboration with equal power sharing entails; (5) that community partner goals may not mirror academic goals; (6) the capabilities and limits of community partners; and (7) how to effectively use a community advisory board (CAB). Building relationships and effective collaboration require time, patience, physical presence, respect, and commitment-elements frequently in short supply in a busy academic environment. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) can be an important tool to document roles and responsibilities. The community advisory board (CAB) is an important liaison between the community and academic settings but is not sufficient to constitute a partnership in and of itself. Members should be carefully selected so that the CAB can assist in: (1) creating a partnership roadmap; (2) providing contacts and strategies; (3) helping to broker competing agendas; (4) helping provide a balance in articulating the community health priorities; (5) giving additional perspectives and balance for the partnerships; and (6) participating as a critical component of the mentor pool.
Our evolving perspective on CBPR has reinforced the importance of a MOU to document the roles and expectations of each partner and a carefully selected CAB to develop and enhance true collaboration with community partners. We cannot overemphasize the importance of educating academia to truly value the role of community and resident experts as equitable and necessary partners to most effectively perform quality research and ultimately bring evidenced-based care for diverse elderly communities into a real-life setting.