Principle 1 emphasises the importance of doing research with people who have a self-proclaimed and agreed shared identity related to the research area. This group are often termed ‘co-researchers’ or ‘community researchers’. They are research partners who are directly impacted by the research focus and have an active role in the research partnership together with academic researchers and potentially implementing organisations (see Figure 1). They are likely to be involved in setting or refining the research agenda, co-designing the research process and collecting and analysing data for social change.
Identifying who the community researchers are and establishing a shared identity is critical as a starting point for CBPR work. Ideally a group of community members would approach a research partnership for support, already having a shared identity and goal, however this is not always the case. In some circumstances, research institutions or other organisations will present an opportunity to be involved in a research process that will benefit the community. In this case academic researchers will work with the broader community to understand who would be ideally placed, and interested, in taking part in a research process that has potential benefits. This still allows for a bottom-up approach and engagement of multiple voices in the design and shared learning process.
For example, in ARISE, research partners work together with co-researchers who are people from the community with a shared interest in the research. Together with co-researchers, data is collected and co-analysed. The evidence generated from the research activities is then shared with supporting organizations to help take action.
In either case, exploring identity takes time and requires competencies and conditions to maximise and solidify the research partnerships. ‘Identity’ in this context extends beyond geography and depends heavily on community research partners’ perceptions of their shared experience, goals or emotional connectivity (1). People may belong to multiple geographical or ideological communities and so working to identify the specific community of relevance for the work is important and requires skills to explore what identity means at different levels – as individuals and relationally.
*Please note that some statements are adaptations or direct quotes from the papers listed in the reference section