Training modules: Equity-grounded community-engaged research

illustration of group of people

Learn how to pursue a community-academic research partnership that drives meaningful change.

By working together, you can help create a healthier, more equitable future.

Module 1: Building a foundation for community-engaged research

icon of laying bricks

Essential concepts

What community-based participatory research (CBPR) is, what it can accomplish, and how it differs from similar research approaches.

tool icon

Principles and tools for success

Guidance supporting authentic, equity-grounded research collaborations that drive social change.

Collaborators toolkit step icon

Real-world examples

Examples of situations you may encounter, and the opportunity to practice identifying and analyzing underlying issues.

check mark

Assessment: Is this approach right for you?

Five questions to ask yourself if you’re considering community-engaged research, along with steps you can take to get started or improve your readiness. 

Available to all

  • Community members
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Community-academic research teams

Access the free training module

More about the modules

Expand all

How modules can be used

How modules can be used

  • Asynchronous individual learning.
  • Classrooms or other group learning settings.
  • Incorporated into hybrid approaches that combine modules with opportunities for in-person practice and community-academic co-learning and relationship-building.

Research approach

Research approach

In these modules, we will use two terms to describe participatory research approaches: community engaged research (CEnR) and community based participatory research (CBPR). 

“In 2006 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) instituted a new emphasis on translational research; this is research that focuses on the translation of scientific discoveries into practical applications that improve human health. A community-engaged research approach can enable researchers to strengthen the links between research and practice and enhance translational results. Yet in order to practice community-engaged research one needs to re-think the relationship of research and researchers to communities.”

- Duke Center for Community Research

Participatory research is practiced on a continuum with authentic CBPR as either the standard or, at the very least, aspirational approach.

Individual community and academic research collaborators may hold great skills and expertise in the practice of CBPR. However, their organizations and institutions are not yet fully prepared to support these efforts. Or, the academic researcher may have received the funding before having fully formed a community-academic partnership so that the actual research question, study design and funding strategy, though later agreed upon by the community, did not originate from the community or the partnership. 

We strongly believe that by adhering to the principles of CBPR, even though community-academic partnership teams may not be able to fully implement CBPR practices, the overall goal can be met of “re-thinking the relationship of research and researchers to communities” and achieving the greater goal of increasing individual and community wellbeing. 




Community can refer to a common interest or cause, a sense of identification or shared emotional connection, shared values or norms, mutual influence, a common interest or experience, or a commitment to meeting a shared need. Community is a term involving relationships, so institutions and individuals associated with those institutions can comprise a community. It typically has an official or unofficial network linking its members. And, it may or may not be geographically defined.  Ultimately, a community defines itself as a social and cultural unit of identity. This definition is adapted from the Community Campus-Partnership for Health.


References to “academic” refers both to the academic institution and the individuals and groups that comprise it. When individual faculty, staff or students are doing work in a public sphere, each also becomes “the academic” in the eyes of the community.


Consists of practices that people create to give themselves continuity and cohesion across generations of a particular cultural or social group. Culture consists of a highly patterned, unspoken, implicit set of rules, behaviors, and thoughts which control everything that people do within this group. This definition is adapted from the Cultural Wellness Center.


According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the term “equity” refers to fairness and justice and is distinguished from equality: Whereas equality means providing the same to all, equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances. The process is ongoing, requiring us to identify and overcome intentional and unintentional barriers arising from bias or systemic structures. 


The term “partners” used in these modules can include community researchers, organizational partners, community knowledge holders, and academic researchers and others. 

Social Capital

A sense of trust, shared norms and values, and interconnectedness. It is enhanced over time through positive interaction and assists communities in achieving mutual goals and responding to crises. National interest in social capital as a modifiable social determinant of health is growing. Communities of color have fewer ties to institutions and individuals that provide social and economic resources. Enhanced social capital may be an outcome of a community engaged research project.

Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) 

SDOH are conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. These structural/systemic differences in opportunities to achieve optimal health have a major impact on people’s health, wellbeing, and quality of life, and contribute to a wide range of health disparities. These structures derive from intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional and systemic mechanisms that organize the distribution of power and resources across lines of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender expression, etc. and from the unequal allocation of power and resources—including goods, services, and societal attention—which manifest in unequal social determinants of health.

Topics of future modules

Topics of future modules

  • Partnership formation and maintenance.
  • Issues of power, race, class, and social justice.
  • Conflict resolution.
  • Community-engaged research’s relationship to cultural and community knowledge systems.



The modules were developed by a group of community and academic partners who have participated in community-engaged research partnerships, taught about community-engaged research and participatory processes, and led projects to build capacity for community-engaged research.


  • Susan Ann Gust, Community Knowledge Holder and Facilitator, President, Partners Three Consulting Company
  • Shannon Pergament, MPH, MSW; M. Beatriz Torres, MPH, PhD; and Bai Vue, BS, MEd, SoLaHmo Partnership for Health & Wellness.
  • Michele Allen, MD, MS, Co-Director, Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH) and Co-Lead, Community & Collaboration, UMN Clinical and Translational Science Institute

Instructional Designer: Janet Shanedling, PhD

Instructional Technologist: Susan Wolf, Med


The development of this module is supported by the University of Minnesota’s NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award: UL1TR002494.  The module contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences or the National Institutes of Health.