Community-Engaged Research, Community Based Research

Transformative Effects of Community-Engaged Research from the Faculty of Education

November 18, 2020

By Poh Tan

It is November 10, 2020, approximately 8 months after the institution closed its doors and everyone started working at home because COVID-19 has become a global pandemic.  It is more important now than ever that community becomes an anchor for our research, work, and personal lives.  Within the research context, a community is defined as “a commonality of values, identities and interests that help people to live together” (Solesbury p. 140), or, according to Titz (2018), “a social entity with shared experiences and social interests in a clearly defined geographic area”. A community is diverse and complex, and the diversity and complexity of community-engaged research (CER) is deep.  I had the opportunity to attend the Faculty of Education’s Faculty Forum on CER, where I learned about a range of CER projects with our six faculty members. Each project was complex, unique, meaningful, and important.  Below, I highlight six faculty presenters’ projects and their impacts on community:

Photo credit: Quincy Wang

Dr. Cher Hill’s talk is titled Community-Engaged Research: Creek Restoration as a Site for Multi System Learning and Wholistic Re/Conciliation. This project is guided by the six Rs in Education for Reconciliation: respect, responsibility, reciprocity, relevance, reverence, and relationships.  Dr. Hill’s project focused on bringing together elders, environmentalists, educators, students, and eco-artists to discuss the decline and innovate solutions to help the salmon population. Projects include rehabilitation of creeks and tree planting.  Through a collaborative action research, Dr. Hill noticed a diverse network of connections between different experts in the community.

Dr. Dan Laitsch’s talk is titled Community Based Research: Definition, Application, Recognition.  He spoke about how community-based research (CBR) is applied and recognized.  CBR is built in accountability in theoretical, methodological, and change/action. Dr. Laitsch further spoke about the challenges on evaluating and recognizing the CBR as a research contribution in tenure and promotion. 

Dr. Danièle Moore’s talk is titled Intersecting Plurilingual Pedagogies with Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Dr. Moore’s project focuses on connecting educators across contexts, families, and communities.  Specifically, she established multiple collaborative research relationships, both locally and internationally.  Dr. Moore’s community research includes Science World, Vancouver to create multilingual resources for STEAM; MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indígena) in Uruguay to interconnect schools, parents, communities and museums with plurilinguism; and elementary schools in Japan, working on local linguistic landscapes and supporting teachers to develop their identity as researchers and as parts of global networks.

Dr. Masahiro Minami’s CER focuses on service research. He has a background in counselling psychology, a field where service and research are not mutually exclusive.  His work engages with community partners that include patients and clients. He further talks about how the academy is the community. His current research partnership with Mothers Matter Center focuses on evaluating one of the center’s program designed to support refugee mothers with children in Canada.  Through this project, Dr. Minami spoke about the expectations and needs of both the researcher and the community partner, and the constant negotiation of that relationship to ensure that the expectations of both parties are met.

Dr. Michelle Pidgeon’s research focuses on Indigenous communities: specifically, navigating ethics, understanding an institution’s responsibilities to Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous education and success.  Through her doctoral work, and mentorship with Dr. Archibald, she worked within SAGE (Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement) to support Indigenous students across Canada. She emphasized the importance of building these relationships across communities towards successful research collaborations. One of the most important benefits of CBR is seeing research taken up into the community.  Her work is about mentoring the next generation of Indigenous students to effect change at the institutional level. 

Dr. Sharalyn Jordan’s talk is on supporting refugees facing SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression) persecution.  Her research focuses on understanding and addressing challenges for people displaced by homophobic and transphobic persecution. She has the vision that nobody should have to move somewhere else to be who they are, and everyone deserves respect, equity, and belonging everywhere.  With community engagement and interdisciplinary research, Dr.  Jordan has affected change at the political level through amending laws that protect LGBTQ refugees from SOGIE persecution and played a significant role as co-lead to enhance the access to safer migration pathways for LGBTQ refugees.

These are some of the incredible work that is taking place within the Faculty of Education with local, national, and international community partners and groups.  These partnerships demonstrate how academic research is translated into action that affect people’s lives and well-being.  With any type of research, including CER, they are complex and met with challenges.  How can Simon Fraser University and Community-Engaged Research Initiative (CERi) help support CER and address some of the challenges in academia-community partnerships?

CERi is a new social infrastructure at SFU and co-directed by Stuart Poyntz and Am Johal launched in January 2020. CERi defines CER “by a set of practices, values and objectives” that aim to support “the active participation of the individuals and communities directly affected by research activities, and joint responsibility between investigators and the affected community for the design, execution and outcomes of the study” (CERi, 2020). CERi provides funding, physical space, and guidance through faculty- and/or student-led programs, a graduate fellowship program, a researchers-in-residence program, learning resources and access to a community scholar librarian.  In addition, CERi has built community partner relationships and collaborations to support CER across the university.  CERi’s mission is to move towards becoming a university core research facility, to address questions of transformation and “work with a community of specialist and non-specialist researchers, to build a social infrastructure that can address the pressing issues and crises that are upon us” (Poyntz, 2020).  

CERi welcomes conversation from different programs and departments about how its programs can help support CER work within the university.  Learn more about CERi’s programs and contact Stuart and Am on CERi’s website:


Community Engaged Research Initiative, (2020).  What is community-engaged research?  URL:

Poyntz, S. (2020, November 9). Faculty Forum Meeting.  Faculty of Education.  Simon Fraser University. 

Solesbury, W. (2014). How metaphors help us understand cities. Geography99, 139.

Titz, A., Cannon, T., & Krüger, F. (2018). Uncovering ‘community’: Challenging an elusive concept in development and disaster related work. Societies8(3), 71.