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What is community based research?

Watch the video about community researchers in action. The video features Suha Tutunji, Mezid Al-Shaher and Mona Hallak

Watch the video about community researchers in action. The video features Suha Tutunji, Academic Director, Jusoor, Mezid Al-Shaher, Maths teacher, School of Hope and Mona Hallak, Director of the Neighbourhood Initiative, American University of Beirut. How do they approach the task of doing research in their community?We recommend watching the videos with English subtitles as they contain both English and Arabic.

In each case they have an idea of what the issues are that need to be tackled and changed, so their first task is to listen to the community, and what they think about the issue.

How would you go about getting an understanding of what goes on in the community you are interested in? What are the important stories the people will not think of telling you? One community based researcher told us the story of boy who did not attend school because his family could not wash their clothes easily and he thought his clothes might smell bad. It would be hard for a child or a family to tell that to a researcher, but it is of great importance to them, and it has the serious consequence the child often misses school.

This is why, as community based researchers, we have to work hard at building trust. Only then will we hear the stories we don’t know about. This means spending time being with people, seeing them in their own habitat, building trust.

What else did the researchers in the video do? In each case they thought about the community members who were the key people in relation to their issue they were working on.

As you are interested in this course, you may well have a community based research project in mind. If so, you can think about what defines that community, and the issue you want to work on. That’s all you need to get started. If you have no project in mind, then think about one you know of – what is the community? What was the issue being addressed?

Then, thinking about the issue – whom do you need to hear from, given that you want to understand the key perspectives on that issue? Who can help you build trust with the community?

Use the reading below to see how community members can make a difference to the success of the project.


Download the extract from Renders and Knezevic (1), who worked in Somalia. The article discusses using youth facilitators to build trust for their research in the community. The full article is also available to download.


  1. Renders M, Knezevic N. The Potential of Conflict-Sensitive Education Approaches in Fragile Countries: the Case of Curriculum Framework Reform and Youth. J Educ Emergencies [Internet]. 2017;3(1):106–28. Available from:

Over to you

In the discussion, below, describe an issue you’re thinking about and suggest whom would you want to listen to – who are the key people concerned with this issue? For example:

My issue is ‘why do children stay away from school?’ I would ask the teachers and the parents, both mothers and fathers, about children’s attendance at school.

Then read through some of the other comments, and reply to two of them to suggest other key people they might listen to.

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Community Based Research: Getting Started

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