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Community-Based Research Programs

What Is Community-Based Research?

Community Based Research (CBR) is where community knowledge and University knowledge come together to solve the problems of our time. Merging community knowledge with the resources and expertise of the University sheds new light on today’s challenges and helps to identify innovative directions to solve them.

According to a key article in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, CBR has three defining characteristics:

  • It is a collaborative enterprise between academic researchers and community members. For CURA, this means that the research questions are defined in partnership and that the project is community-driven. 
  • It seeks to democratize knowledge by validating multiple sources of knowledge and promoting the use of multiple methods of discovery. For CURA, this means that academic and community knowledge are valued equally, and that student researchers use a variety of approaches to tackling the research questions. 
  • It has a goal of social action for the purpose of achieving social change and justice. For CURA, this means that the emphasis is always placed on the community's use of the research results.

CBR benefits community organizations by enabling them to make informed, data-driven decisions and provides new perspectives on community issues. CBR benefits students by providing opportunities to apply academic learning to real-world problems and ultimately makes students more employable. CBR also contributes to the wider community by acting as a model of what works in communities that can be replicated by others and contributing to policy discussions on community and regional levels.

What Do These Projects Look Like?

Search the CURA Projects Database for examples of recent projects from the Nelson Program, Communiversity, or Community Assistantship Program

Search the CURA publications catalogue for previous student reports from the Nelson Program, Communiversity, or Community Assistantship Program

How Do I Get Started?

CURA has two CBR programs, the Community Assistantship Program, which serves greater Minnesota, and the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, which serves the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Both programs match the research and technical needs of organizations with student research assistants to carry out community-defined and guided projects. Both provide graduate or undergraduate student assistance for applied research projects, program planning and development, evaluation capacity building,* and other short-term projects. Student assistantships are generally 200 hours (10 hours per week) during spring or fall semesters, and 260 hours (20 hours per week) during summer.

* NOTE: If your project involves evaluation activities, please visit this page before completing your application. CURA does not support funder-required evaluations, and will not support evaluations for which other funding has already been provided.