A Catalyst for Community Partnering Finding Institutional Partners Recruiting and Training Community Researchers Conducting Research with Community Members Presenting Research Findings Sustaining Partnerships

Recruiting Community Researchers

Community researchers are people who share the experiences of the most economically challenged members of the local community. They are key to the success of Community Partnering. They may be people with little formal education but who are interested in learning new skills and who care for the future of their community.

In poor rural areas of Asia community researchers might be unemployed youth, elderly people, underemployed labourers, part-time farmers or fishers, mothers with small children. In more urban areas they may be older workers who have lost their jobs, young people, immigrants or people from minority groups. Anyone can be a community researcher as long as they:

  • like to communicate
  • are interested in working with different people
  • have good listening skills
  • can work in a team
  • are willing to take risks and be creative

The primary qualification of the community researcher is to be able to connect with those who usually have no say in how the economy works.

Depending on the context, enrolling community researchers can occur by:

  • tapping into local networks and asking for recommendations
  • advertising in the local newspaper or on prominent noticeboards
  • interviewing applicants


Be wary of gate-keepers

Gate-keepers are officials or activists linked in to established networks who claim to speak on behalf of others, especially marginalized people. They often have decided views about the capabilities of others and feel in a privileged position to know what others need. They are people with public reputations and allegiances to special interests. Because of this they are interested in partnership that will serve their constituencies.

Community researchers need to feel free to establish new relationships and forge new partnerships. They are the ones who will help to unleash new possibilities. They cannot do this if they are too closely aligned with established interests.

Community researchers will need to work through gate-keepers, but they will not be gate-keepers.

Training Community Researchers

The training of Community Researchers involves introducing them to the guiding ideas of Community Partnering and then helping the new researchers to communicate and use these ideas.

First the Community Researchers will have to learn to work as a team. This means getting to know each other and learning to respect the different contributions each can make. It is useful to conduct some introductory exercises that get people to reveal themselves and appreciate the differences and similarities in the group.

Introductory exercise: Appreciating differences and similarities

Give everyone a colour.

Ask each person to note down on separate bits of paper three bits of information, such as

  • something they did on the weekend that was fun
  • something they did as a child that relates to Community Partnering 
  • something interesting work they have done 

Post these bits of paper all around the wall.

Ask everyone to colour code each piece of information in terms of who they think it matches. 

When everyone is done go through each sheet and see how accurate the assessments were.

The aims of this exercise are to:

  • get everyone to learn something new about each other
  • model how Community Partnering is a process of learning new things about famililar people and places
  • realize that we should never assume we know people--they will always surprise us with their hidden abilities  
CER warm up
Warm-up exercise for newly recruited Community Researchers

Idea 1: Shifting from Needs to Assets

Do the needs and assets mapping exercise with the Community Researchers. This should be done as a brainstorm as outlined in Assets Mapping

Idea 2: Building on existing community economic practices

This training asks the Community Researchers to draw on their local knowledge about what sustains lives in their community. Get the group to do the Yesterday Survey and review the results.

Use the ice-berg image to introduce different visions of the economy and get the Community Researchers to brainstorm the activities that are above the water line and those that are below.

Introduce the Diverse Economy Framework by doing the Local Economic Inventory together. If the a variety of walks of life are represented among the research group then this activity will not be hard to do. 

During this training all the local names for different economic activities can be recorded and discussed so that when working with other community members it will be easy to illustrate what economic diversity means.

Idea 3: Community members as action researchers

This training introduces the difference between traditional research and action research.

Community members as researchers
Community researcher at a training session, Jagna

Brainstorm common images, ideas and words associated with research. Ask:

  • what is research?
  • who does it?
  • what tools are used to do research?
  • why is research done?

Discuss the nature of expertise. Introduce the idea of citizen experts along side technical experts.

Distinguish between the 'doers' (those who take action to design and run the research) and the 'done-to' (those who are passive subjects for whom the research is supposed to benefit).  

Reflect on how it might feel to move from being the 'done-to' to become the 'doer' of research.

Explain how action research:

  • is about creating new realities
  • can be done by anyone who is curious
  • uses the tools of listening, conversation, participation, experimentation 
  • hopes to make change and produce a better world

Idea 4: Growing community enterprises

Community researchers field trip
Community researchers taking notes on a field trip

The best training for this topic is to visit some already operating community enterprises. A field trip is a wonderful occasion for group learning. The visits need to be organized ahead of time. Try and find the kinds of enterprises that might inspire people. They could be ones that the local community might replicate, like a community garden or food processing business. Or they could be ones that are quite ambitious and advanced that will help the Comunity Researchers to see what their community could aspire to.

Once the Community Researchers have seen that it is possible to build community owned and run enterprises they are better able to support research and development groups that will form to experiment with enterprise possibilities.

Idea 5 Accessing partners

Community researchers often lack the confidence to seek out help from institutional partners. The best training they can have is for them to meet representatives of local government, NGOs, and other local institutions to discuss how partnerhips can be established. Often all that is needed is an introduction. Sometimes there is a need for coaching in how to set up meetings and prepare information to be presented in meetings. Role plays can be a good way of building up confidence.