CER Ethical Principles

The ten ethical principles outlined here are derived from several literature sources that are community-driven, institutional, and/or academic. We consider these principles to be of paramount importance to the fair and equitable engagement between researchers and communities. They also align with CERi’s Values and Principles that are centred on five key beliefs: social transformation, reciprocal and respectful relationships, Indigenous-led research, equal partnerships and equity, diversity and inclusion. These values are intended to be responsive to the evolving priorities within communities and reflect the urgent challenges associated with a rapidly changing world.

Similarly, the list of 10 CER Ethical Principles is neither an exhaustive list, nor is it universally agreed-upon. However, it does take up the work and key ideas of more than forty CER resources that were examined for a literature review. If you are a community-engaged researcher or community partner/collaborator, we encourage you to ask questions of your CER project, and to ensure that the design has built in adequate time and space for ethical considerations.

How to use this resource:

We have designed this resource so that you may download the entire set of ten principles in one document, or you may choose key principles that are of interest to you and your work. Each principle can be viewed in its own tab, and you may download a two-page pdf that contains an overview, key considerations, and questions to ask yourself. We hope that you find this resource helpful as you embark on your CER project.


Harm and Risk Reduction

CER projects should be designed and carried out with significant attention to potential risks for community and participants, including to the broader social, political, and economic fabric of a community. Risks should be collaboratively evaluated and actively mitigated in an ongoing manner.


Community Participation

CER projects aim for high levels of community participation during all phases of research, including the identification of a research question, study design, data collection, analysis, and dissemination and knowledge mobilization. Community partners and community members should be involved in leadership and collaboration to the extent that they desire, and whenever possible, their labour should be paid or otherwise reciprocated.


Community Benefit

CER projects should be orientated toward a primary goal of achieving community benefit; The community that is most affected by and involved in the research should take part in goal-setting and should experience the greatest benefits of both the process and the outcomes.


Action Orientation

An action orientation to CER situates research as a powerful driver of political and systemic change both within a community and within broader systems that affect that community. CER projects should begin with a responsiveness to community issues and assets, and should aim to generate actionable changes at multiple levels.


Power Examination and Active Redistribution

Key to CER is the research team’s attention to issues of power, privilege, and positionality. In addition to an examination of power, a community engaged research team has the responsibility to commit to action that aims to redistribute unequal power relations.


Anonymity, Confidentiality & Privacy

CER projects prioritize the safety of participant and community identities, and any sensitive data that they may share. Attention to anonymity, confidentiality and privacy in a CER project involves a close collaboration with community to understand and enact both institutional and community systems of protection, while also recognizing that individuals have the right to be identified if they choose to be (and if it is safe) through informed consent.


Communication, Transparency & Trust

Strong relationships form the bedrock on which CER is built, and those relationships are contingent on effective communication, ongoing transparency, and the long-term development of trust. In order for community to be involved in every step of the research, there must be an explicit commitment to transparent communication in formats that work well for all involved.


Attention to Context

Attention to context is vital at all stages of CER projects. Since CER happens in and with community, factors such as history, culture, language, current events, and geography comprise the context in which the study occurs, and inevitably influence all aspects of the research, including design, recruitment, methodology, and dissemination.


Focus on Relationships

At the heart of CER is a focus on relationships – relationships between people, institutions, places, and knowledge (to name a few). Community-engaged research is a framework or approach to research that is especially founded upon sustainable, trusting, and equitable relationships between researchers and communities.


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.