Recap: Recognizing and Negotiating Community/Researcher Relations

December 16, 2020

On November 12, 2020, CERi hosted Recognizing and Negotiating Community/Research Relations. This online webinar was hosted by SFU Geography Professor and CERi Researcher in Residence Nick Blomley,  and featured diverse panelists. They included Marina Chávez and Claire Shapton, SFU MA Students in Geography, Tom deGrey, Tenant Researcher with the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative and Co-Researcher with Right to Remain, and Connie Long an advocate for vulnerable people in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

Jackie Wong, CERi’s Community Strategic Initiatives Associate, moderated the panel, which explored the relationships between university-based and community-based researchers, including tensions that stem from issues such as privilege and bias as well as the joys of friendship and mutual learning in this work.

Blomley began the discussion by explaining how “community research is really about trying to make research more horizontal [and] breaking down many of the barriers that exist between academic and community members.” He described that when research is horizontal, “it’s very much about building relationships of trust and respect.”

Community research is really about trying to make research more horizontal [and] breaking down many of the barriers that exist between academic and community members.

Though this is the ultimate goal, Blomley acknowledged that tensions can exist in community-engaged research (CER). Long, who brings lived and research experience, described that one way university researchers can improve relationships and equity in CER is by taking more time to cultivate deeper relationships with the community members they work with. She shared how her experiences in CER have been highly positive which has led her to feel that her contributions and thoughts are vital in the work and have fostered her belief that “there are people that care everywhere.”

To facilitate building relationships in a good way, panelists spoke to the importance of flexibility and openness in the process. Shapton detailed the importance of approaching CER with an open and curious spirit, without having rigid expectations about where the research will go. DeGrey echoed this sentiment, encouraging researchers to think about not only “what you do but how you do it” and emphasizing the importance of doing CER that grounded in mutual respect and trust.

Chávez described her experience doing CER, highlighting the genuine friendships that she has cultivated from doing this work in equitable and collaborative ways. Wong added that this speaks to “moving at the speed of trust” and how relationships based in reciprocity can mitigate the often challenging structures within institutions.

Watch the full recording of this event here:

In the new year, CERi will be hosting ongoing webinars through the Remaking the Table series, exploring various CER-related topics from decolonization to care practices.

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