Collaborative Analysis and Dissemination

CER collaborations with community do not stop once data has been collected. In fact, some of the most meaningful collaboration and fruitful insights happen at the stages of analysis (meaning-making) and dissemination (knowledge sharing). Analysis and dissemination should be carried out using frameworks and formats that make sense for community.

The practice of speaking for others is often born of a desire for mastery, to privilege oneself as the one who more correctly understands the truth about another's situation or as one who can champion a just cause and thus achieve glory and praise. And the effect of the practice of speaking for others is often, though not always, erasure and a reinscription of sexual, national, and other kinds of hierarchies.

(Alcoff, 1991, p. 29)

Several theoretical arguments have been formulated to problematize the act of speaking for or representing others – especially those who are marginalized, disempowered, subjugated, or silenced in society. Marxist philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, and postcolonial feminist, Gayatri Spivak, have used the term “the subaltern” to describe those groups who are politically, socially, and often geographically excluded from hegemonic power structures. Spivak, in particular, asked the compelling question, “can the subaltern speak?” to theorize the extent to which those who have been subjugated by colonial powers can know and advocate for a liberated way of being when they have often internalized oppressive (racist, patriarchal) power structures. This broad philosophical question is deeply imbedded in the ethical consideration of how – and by whom - community engaged research findings are analyzed, interpreted, and revised. To this end, Linda Alcoff (1991) published a widely read essay entitled “The problem of speaking for others” in which she contends that not only is it impossible to transcend one’s location/positionality in research and writing, but also, that “location is epistemically salient” (p. 7) and certain privileged locations are “discursively dangerous” in that “the practice of privileged persons speaking for or on behalf of less privileged persons has actually resulted in many cases in increasing or reinforcing the oppression of the group spoken for” (p. 7).

These theoretical foundations form the bedrock of the CER ethical principle that community partners and research participants must be involved not only in the earlier phases (e.g. design and recruitment) of the research, but also in the meaning-making and dissemination phases. To this end, Khodyakov and colleagues assert that university researchers should be “ready to involve community in interpretation and dissemination: Study findings should be analyzed, interpreted, and disseminated with the active participation of community partners and community members at large” (p.54). Thus, analysis, interpretation, and revisions in the post-data collection phase, require a significant relinquishment of control on the part of the university research team, and an ongoing, collaborative effort to weave together the (often disparate) epistemological and ontological analyses of study team members.

Tips & Considerations

Engage in collaborative analysis

Participants and/or community co-researchers should have the opportunity to collaboratively make meaning of the data (Bacon et al., 2013; Grain et al., 2019; Kodyakov et al., 2016). The First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) states that, “as far as possible, fact finding and analysis should be participatory allowing communities to determine which aspects of health should be addressed and how” (2011, p. 4).

Nothing about us without us

“We [the impacted community] speak for ourselves.” (Bacon et al., 2013, p. 1; Boilevin et al., 2018)

Engage in collaborative decision making on dissemination avenues

The primary researcher in CER has the responsibility to discuss collaborative dissemination plans well in advance of data collection. Community partners and collaborators should co-lead the plans for how information will be shared and with whom it will be shared. 

Use accessible mediums for dissemination

Considering the context of the community in which the research takes place, knowledge sharing should be premised upon modes that work best locally. For example, if a group faces barriers pertaining to literacy, consider how to disseminate findings in visual ways. If a community faces barriers pertaining to technology and internet access, consider paper or otherwise tangible forms of dissemination. If dance and music are highly valued forms of knowledge sharing, consider a dissemination avenue that includes these modes of expression.

Share the ownership of data and publications

The community participants should have partial or full ownership of the data and publications that arise from the research (Banks, 2013). These terms should be agreed upon in the earliest phases of research, and revisited multiple times throughout.

Prioritize knowledge mobilization

“Get the right information to the right people in the right format at the right time.” (SSHRC, 2017; Kantamneni, 2019)

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • How would the community like to share the findings from the research study?
  • What modes of knowledge sharing and dissemination work best in this community context?
  • What modes of knowledge sharing and dissemination have the greatest promise in terms of sustainability?
  • Is the community comfortable with academic modes of knowledge sharing (e.g. articles and book chapters)?
  • How would community participants and co-researchers like their work to be recognized and acknowledged in dissemination phases? (e.g. would they like to be recognized as co-authors?)
  • In ten years from now, if someone wanted to use the data from this study, who owns it and whose permission is required?
  • What will be the long-term legacy of this research?