Recap: Distanced Community-Based Research Panel

July 23, 2020

On July 8, academic and community-based researchers gathered online for CERi’s first webinar, Distanced Community-Based Research: A contradiction or a space for innovation?

The panel event was organized by Dr. Nick Blomley, SFU Professor of Geography, to create a space to explore the challenges of conducting community-centred research during a pandemic.

Community-based research depends on extensive face-to-face contact, yet physical distancing requirements challenge this basic precept. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, both academic and community-based researchers were impacted with limited notice and guidance for navigating these unprecedented times.

Blomley, a CERi Researcher-in-Residence, was joined on the panel by Samantha Pranteau, a project co-ordinator with the Tenant Overdose Response Organizers, Dr. Alissa Greer, Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology, Scott Neufeld, Social Psychology PhD Candidate, MA Student in Geography, Clair Shapton, and Dr. Jeff Masuda, Associate Professor in Queen’s University School of Kinesiology and Health Studies.

CERi’s co-director, Am Johal, moderated the session, which investigated the challenge of institutional ethics requirements and the unique nature of community-based research, while exploring both the difficulties and opportunities for community-based research during a pandemic.

At an institutional level, some have faced significant challenges in their roles as community-based researchers. For instance, Greer and Neufeld, described how compensating research project participants and partners became a challenge when universities restricted cash transactions and other physical engagements following the lockdown. “It’s really highlighted how differently people approach those very subjective questions around risk and what the stakes are,” said Neufeld.

Masuda also detailed how connectivity became an issue, as many communities have faced challenges accessing network technologies and online communication. “One thing that I quickly realized in terms of relationships is just how unequal that initial impact [of COVID] was, we all felt it, our lives were all disrupted, but just in terms of who was talking and who suddenly stopped appearing and who suddenly stopped talking was quite apparent,” he noted. “It really became clear the extent to which the whole pandemic was being experienced through the same filters of class, and race and gender and Indigeneity.”

Stressing the resiliency and resourcefulness of communities, Pranteau, who along with Masuda and Blomley, works with The Right to Remain Project, noted that their community-based networks in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were able to remain connected with each other through grassroot data collection and information sharing efforts during the pandemic. This community effort enabled them to continue their support networks for the area.

“It really was just like, how do we mobilize people in a very short period of time and get as much data as we can […] so that we could support people to stay in their homes?” said Pranteau. “The only way that we could’ve done that was by empowering the people, the tenants themselves, who are living in the building who are already building on communities of care, and just figuring out how to resource those folks and still get money and food and supplies to them and doing it in a safe way that didn’t put more people at risk.”

For Shapton, the onset of the pandemic meant that she had to pivot her research process from spending time with the community to doing analysis of different types of literature that can help derive policy directions.

Social distancing has ultimately meant that community-based research hasn’t stopped but transformed and in many ways, it has opened up opportunities to deepen understanding of the needs as well as strengths and capacities of community networks.

CERi will continue to hold dialogues with CER researchers and community to explore the impact of COVID throughout the upcoming months. To watch the webinar, visit:

Distanced Community-Based Research: A contradiction or a space for innovation?

Stay Connected with CERi

We'll keep you engaged with our work, programs and events. You can unsubscribe at anytime.