Principle 1:

The community researchers have an agreed shared identity in the research partnership

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. 


Capacities (Competencies and conditions)

  • Ability to explore identity and connection with shared goals (ethno-racially, emotionally, socioeconomically, politically etc.), considering both the setting (the location of research) and the people impacted by the research intervention
  • Capacity to explore characterization of the partnership and the broader community such as common knowledge systems, shared values and norms, mutual- although not necessarily equal-influence, common interests, and commitment to trying to facilitate the process of meeting shared needs (2)
  • A context specific understanding of intersectionality, identity and positionality within the community and the research partnership
  • Ability to recognise and respond to the ways that inequalities among community members shape participation and influence 

  •         Research partners become more sociable with each other and have a greater sense of social integration, cohesion or solidarity

            Improved participation and community development through better involvement and ownershi

            Improved understanding of one’s own position, intersectionality and identity within the research partnership and within the community

  •         Connect people who may have a shared interest in the research area to establish the partnership

            Explore shared identities as a research partnership either verbally or through creative methods – i.e. drawing metaphorical representation, writing stories and comparing identity in stories or graphic illustration

            Undertake ‘getting to know you’ activities

            Reflect on the term ‘community’ and what it means for research partners within the  research and daily life and other social and professional groups that they belong to

            Re-define the terms ‘positionality’, ‘intersectionality’ and ‘identity’ to have local significance within the group -see how a group of African Americans relabelled CBPR principles


            Set up reflexivity sessions focused on power, intersectionality, identity and positionality – as a collective group, using individual research diaries (written/audio recorded) or with another research partner

  •         A definition of the research partnership’s identity that reflects shared connections

            Evidence of a collective identity that evolves over time – e.g. evidence of revisions to identity definitions, perhaps through slogans

            Activities conducted to explore identity and positionality of the research partnership in relation to the research focus and the community

            Reflexivity sessions held that represent a ‘deep dive’ into identity within the partnership/broader community throughout the research process at each stage- demonstrating how identity changes through the research journey (3)

            Demonstrated changes in understanding of positionality 

  •         Definition of ‘identity’ in Terms of Reference (ToR) or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the research partnership

            Relational stories that reflect on group activities or shared learning as a partnership or ‘a community’ – transcriptions, recording and photos from discussions

            Notes or flipcharts, maps, Venn Diagrams, tree/river of life, drawings from exercises that explore identity

            Extracts from a research diary – agreed to be shared by a research partner making use of their own assets and talents to explore identity in a culturally appropriate way – through drawing, drama, music, photos etc.

            Altered definitions of individual and collective positionality – written, verbal, creative representation

            Audiovisual outputs such as blogs, vlogs and podcasts

*Please note that some statements are adaptations or direct quotes from the papers listed in the reference section