Breathing life into theory: Illustrations of community-based research – Hallmarks, functions and phases

Main Article Content

Joanna Ochocka
Rich Janzen


There is a growing interest in the area of research that engages communities. Increasingly, this community-based research (CBR) approach to research is being seen as a catalyst for social innovation, for public policy improvements, for solving complex community issues, and for promoting democracy in which local knowledge is valued in building local solutions. This emerging interest in engaging communities in research (both within and outside academia) brings both successes and challenges.

The purpose of this article is to summarise the theory underlying community-based research and to illustrate that theory with Canadian case examples of research studies conducted by the Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR). The article begins by reviewing the hallmarks, functions and implementation phases of community-based research, which are rooted in academic tradition. Three case examples are presented to illustrate the main hallmarks of CBR. The intention is to clarify community-based research by reflecting on iterative theory through practice and practice through theory.

Keywords: community-based research, community-university research, knowledge production, knowledge mobilisation, community mobilisation, research for society

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biography

Joanna Ochocka, Centre for Community Based Research

JOANNA OCHOCKA (Ph.D. Sociology) is Executive Director of the Centre for Community Based Research and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Sociology at University of Waterloo and in the MA and PhD program in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She was a recipient of Award for Teaching Excellence for the 2005 at Wilfrid Laurier University. Joanna’s research and action has focused on community mental health for people with serious mental health issues, on cultural diversity and immigration issues and on community supports for marginalized populations. She has directed a number of large-scale research studies including multiple partnerships. She is the author of 40 academic articles and co-author of the book: “Shifting the paradigm in community mental health.” Joanna is one of the leaders in the use of participatory action research approach and she practices community based research as a tool to mobilize people for social change. Currently, she leads the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) on culture and mental health and International University-Community Partnership; Global Platform for Social Action Researchers (UCP-SARnet).