As researchers who work in an academic setting, it can be challenging to effectively engage the communities we’re charged to serve. We have found success in this area through Community-driven Research Day (CDRD). Now in its fourth year, the event fosters collaboration between researchers and community-based organizations in Philadelphia to help solve community problems. This January saw our largest event ever with 126 attendees, including representatives from 20 different organizations as well as students and faculty from the sponsoring institutions. I wanted to share how the event took shape so other organizations and communities can consider organizing a similar event that suits their needs.
In 2009, while working with the Philadelphia Collaborative Violence Prevention Center (PCVPC), a few of my colleagues and I attended Reverse Research Day at Johns Hopkins University’s Urban Health Institute, which brought together Johns Hopkins researchers with city agencies and community-based organizations in Baltimore. The event illustrated a unique way to facilitate community-based participatory research, which allows researchers and community members to share equally in planning, leadership, analysis, and dissemination of research results. The creative platform of Reverse Research Day allowed for a variety of community groups to share their perspectives on key community issues. Because community-based participatory research was at the heart of all of PCVPC’s work we decided to bring the event back to Philadelphia as CDRD - with a few tweaks.
Our first step was adapting the event to be specific to the Philadelphia community. Much like PCVPC itself, we decided to make CDRD multi-institutional, inviting public health researchers from CHOP, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University to hear from local community-based organizations. Although Reverse Research Day provided a wonderful forum for sharing ideas, we wanted CDRD to allow formal partnerships to form between the academic institutions and the community groups where both entities would work hand-in-hand on research projects. Competitive pilot grants of $2,000 to $10,000 were (and continue to be) offered to support some of these collaborations. We also provided all attendees with a comprehensive compendium of presenters, attendees, and topic areas so relationships could continue to form long after the event itself. To this day, CDRD continues to grow and evolve. While the theme of the first CDRD in 2010 was “Violence in the Built Environment” our efforts have shifted to a more broad focus on “Community Approaches to Improving Health Outcomes,” allowing for a more diverse group of participants. We also welcome new community groups to present each year as word spreads about the partnerships formed and progress achieved.
Events such as Reverse Research Day and Community-driven Research Day bring community-based participatory research to life and truly allow the community to be heard on public health problems. I would encourage any academic institution interested in CBPR to consider holding a similar event and allowing new, unique partnerships to form and have a real impact on the community. Click here for more information on Community-driven Research Day.