Community-engaged methods refer to a rigorous research methodology that includes the input, participation, and reflections of the people and communities at the heart of the issues we study. These research methods can start in the design stage and continue through the development of insights and recommendations, and they can range in engagement intensity from the most rigorous form, community-based participatory research, where community representatives are full partners in the research, to the more modest approach of community consultation, where community stakeholders and residents provide input at different points of a research project, especially at the end.
The Urban Institute recognizes that engaging a wider range of stakeholders in a project’s design, implementation, and analysis can more effectively address local needs and challenges. This approach is also a response to the problematic history of some research practices, particularly in communities of color, where people were unethically treated and were unwitting subjects of scientific studies or where data were collected from a community but only to benefit researchers.
Community-engaged methods nurture a community’s assets and strengths, which makes policy recommendations more effective and sustainable. As such, Urban researchers are increasingly engaging the community to strengthen research designs, advance equity and inclusion, and improve policy impact.
We believe that engaging communities in our research process will foster the following outcomes:
- Culturally relevant research. Engaging communities infuses cultural relevance in all aspects of research. The resulting analysis and insights speak directly to the challenges and opportunities communities face in a way that residents can best understand and accept. Community buy-in is critical to effective policymaking.
- More effective programs and services. When community collaborators participate in the analysis and provide input on findings, programmatic recommendations are more likely to be embraced, making them effective and long lasting.
- Improved public policy. By engaging community partners in the research process, insights from evidence inspire more meaningful and relevant policy debates, leading to enhanced policy recommendations that are better positioned to have a positive impact.
- Community empowerment. Embedding community engagement methods into the research process allows participants to learn, grow, and be a part of the solutions to the problems in their communities. This advances community civic engagement and fosters both existing and new leadership.
Urban in the Community
From data walks to community advisory boards, Urban researchers are incorporating community partners into our research. To see a list of publications that use community engaged methods, see our Community-Engaged Methods research area page.