What does "Community Based" mean?

We talk a lot about "community" in tech, but it often means very different things to different people. One of the goals I had in starting UX Night School was to explore community more deeply, especially in relationship to tech and design.  

I started UX Night School, in part, because I was more inspired by my local community than by my professional environs. Portland is something of a product design mecca, full of networks of dedicated, thoughtful, diverse people building useful things. And because I wanted to give something to the community - an opportunity to learn and explore as a working professional, to gain new skills without upending your life. 

So how do we do this? To start, we're adopting the approach of Community Based Participatory Research - originally developed in Public Health, but widely used across design, city planning, and other fields. 

Principles for Community Based Participatory (Design) Research

  1. Promotes collaborative and equitable partnerships in all research phases and involves an empowering and power-sharing process. (P)rojects are conducted according to the norms of partnership, including: mutual respect; recognition of the knowledge, expertise, and resource capacities of the participants in the process; and open communication... Researchers ... recognize the inequalities that exist between themselves and community participants, and therefore pay explicit attention to the expertise of community partners, and the need to create an empowering process through sharing information, decision-making power, and resources among members of the partnership.

  2. Recognizes community as a unit of identity. This involves a sense of emotional connection and identification with others, shared norms and values, common language and customs, similar goals and interests, and a desire to meet shared needs.  Communities of identity may be either a defined geographic area (e.g., neighborhood) or a geographically dispersed group with a common sense of identity (e.g., ethnic group, age group, sexual orientation).  A city or other geographic area may include a number of different communities of identity, or may be an aggregate of individuals who do not have a common sense of identity... Partnerships seek to work with existing communities of identity, and/or to enhance a sense of community through the collaborative process.  

  3. Builds on strengths and resources within the community.  Such strengths and resources include: the skills and assets of individuals and families, the caring and helpful networks of social relationships, and the mediating structures such as faith-based organizations and community-based organizations, that enable community members to work together to improve health and quality of life.

  4. Facilitates co-learning and capacity building among all partners.  CBPR facilitates the reciprocal transfer of knowledge, skills, and capacity. For example, researchers learn from community members’ local knowledge about their community’s history, culture and broader social context, as well as from their administrative and management skills.  Similarly, community members learn further skills in areas such as, how to conduct research and grant proposal preparation.

  5. Focuses on problems of relevance to the local community using an ecological approach - An ecological approach involves individuals, the immediate context in which they live (e.g., family, social network), and the broader context in which they are embedded (e.g., community, society).  Accordingly, this ecological approach attends to the multiple determinants of disease and well-being, for example, biomedical, social, economic, cultural and physical environmental factors. 

  6. Balances research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners.  CBPR seeks to build a body of knowledge about health and well-being while also applying and balancing the knowledge generated with community and social change efforts. CBPR partnerships may agree that all research efforts do not have to involve an intervention component, but they commit to the translation of research findings to intervention and policy change strategies that will address the concerns of the community.

  7. Disseminates findings and knowledge gained to the broader community and involves all partners in the dissemination process. (P)rojects produce, interpret and disseminate findings to community members in clear language respectful to the community and in ways which will be useful for developing action plans that will benefit the community. This dissemination of findings is provided on an ongoing basis, using multiple strategies, and the results are used to guide the development of interventions and policy change.  The dissemination of findings extends beyond the partnership itself, and involves all partners as reviewers and co-authors of publications, and co-presenters at conferences and workshops. 

  8. Promotes a long-term process and commitment to sustainability. (E)mphasizes the establishment of relationships and commitments that extend beyond a single research project or funding period. CBPR is conducted in a way that strengthens on-going collaboration ...

Adapted from Detroit Urban Research Center, CBPR Principles, 2011