Observer Effect: Insights for Building Equitable Community-Research Partnerships
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Grassroots community efforts intuitively understand the physics of relationships—that you cannot interact with something or someone, even if that interaction is simply observation, without having an impact. Research shapes the way our lives are imagined. There’s no way around it. But developing relationships with researchers or others who can help document and disseminate ‘by and for’ information can be challenging for grassroots and community led initiatives. When institutions seek to include marginalized community priorities into pre-existing frameworks or study initiatives, or when researchers come from the outside, extract information from our community organizations and grassroots efforts, and then leave to analyze and make meaning of it elsewhere, the result is never accurate and our own community led trajectories of learning are disrupted and undermined. From significant changes to how research collaborations are conceived and funded, to simple fixes to approaches used in the field, researchers can be better partners to community led efforts to document and understand our own lives.