The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Community-based participatory research with traditional and indigenous communities of the Americas: Historical context and future directions

Maria Pontes Ferreira, Fidji Gendron


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an investigative orientation that is gaining prominence in the fields of population and public health and among underserved community groups, such as traditional and indigenous peoples of the Americas. In this model, research questions are approached in a collaborative fashion with the community. The community of interest, not individual participants, is the research unit. Trained community members participate in the research process in an equitable fashion as full collaborators, not just as ‘research participants’. Academic and other scientists, on the other hand, are not just ‘objective investigators’ but also active learners in this process. Cultural information gleaned from the community is used to inform the research process. Thus, another characteristic of CBPR is that it is iterative. In the dissemination of the findings, an educational component is designed and implemented to serve the needs of the community. This article is a practical, not exhaustive, review of the historical context of CBPR, with a focus on the applications of this problem-solving orientation with traditional/indigenous peoples of the Americas. Research stages are outlined, and discussed are potential pitfalls to avoid and methods for collaborative problem-solving. Future directions for the use of CBPR among communities are promising. Indigenous and traditional populations throughout the Americas (rural, reserve, remote, and urban) continue to seek ways to express their cultural sovereignty, while partnering with institutions to solve community problems through science and education. As well, CBPR is receiving increased support in academic institutions as a viable research orientation for academicians, and through funding agencies that recognize the merit of its strengths.

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