Assess community needs

Next, you will assess the needs of the community. This can take place at the same time as your initial community engagement. As you meet with community members and learn more about what they perceive the needs to be, you will naturally be assessing community needs. You may also find it helpful to meet with key community stakeholders who can speak to the community’s needs, even if they are not interested or able to be a part of the research team. The important component of your community needs assessment is to organize and prioritize the needs that you are learning about from the community; what is the most urgent or pressing need for TNB people? The needs identified by the community may differ from the needs you have assumed. As a CBPR researcher, it is important to be flexible and willing to change direction based on the needs and views of the community - you may need to let go of the question or topic that you initially wanted to investigate. Which of the needs identified can you feasibly investigate and take action on? Ensure that community partners know that CBPR is not an “add-on” but should be integrated to support the work they are already doing (Mason et al., 2013).

Identify research question

Identifying your research question is one of the trickiest parts of any research project. This difficulty stems from finding the right balance between breadth and specificity. You want your research question to be broad enough that you have adequate data, but you also want to be specific enough that you can examine one phenomenon thoroughly. This difficulty may be intensified in a CBPR project because there will be multiple stakeholders on the research team who need to agree on the question. While community members bring expertise in identifying a research topic, an academic researcher may have more training and experience in determining the scope and feasibility (Hacker, 2013). While all CBPR projects should endeavor to share power and be mindful of the power which academic researchers hold, there are certainly situations where it is appropriate for a researcher to share their skills, expertise, or knowledge of the existing literature. The research question should be of interest to all members of the research team, to ensure that stakeholders remain engaged in the research project. Some examples of research questions include: What kinds of discrimination do TNB people in our community encounter when accessing medical care? What are community-generated best practices for asking patients for their name and pronouns? How can we increase access to gender-affirming health care for TNB people in our community?

Research design and methods

Similar to determining the research question, developing the study design is a process where an academic researcher and the community members must work together in their complementary capacities. An academic researcher may have expertise in specific research methods or access to new methods through their training or academic literature. Community partners on the research team can speak to the feasibility of conducting using those methods with the chosen community (Hacker, 2013). For example, a researcher may want to measure TNB people’s experiences of discrimination in employment and wish to talk to employers about their attitudes in hiring TNB employees. TNB community partners on the research team might note that employers have incomplete understandings of transphobic discrimination and, therefore, it would be more effective to speak to TNB workers about their experiences of discrimination.

It is important that the study methods complement the research questions. If you seek to establish the prevalence of a given phenomenon, quantitative methods such as a survey or field observation can count the incidents of that phenomenon. If you want to understand how a particular phenomenon occurs from the perspective of a person impacted by that phenomenon, qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews or focus groups can capture their narrative. Many CBPR projects use mixed methods designs because they ask complex, multifaceted research questions. Before selecting your research methods, ask yourself and your research team, with whom you are hoping to share these findings and how your methods can establish credibility with that audience? It is also important to discuss and negotiate data ownership (Hacker, 2013). Who owns the data? A university or agency? What can they use the data for? This is consistent with the CBPR core principle of use of knowledge (Wallerstein & Duran, 2008), as previously discussed in this chapter.

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