Engaging in Community-Based Participatory Research: “Death of a Career” or a Research Approach in Need of Professional and Institutional Support?

Keywords: community-based participatory research, CBPR, social justice, macro social work, social work research and practice, professional development


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is on the rise not only within public health and allied health professions, but also within social work. This may not be that surprising when we recognize the rich alignment between the underlying tenets of CBPR (e.g., strengths-based focus, empowerment, social justice) and social work values (e.g., dignity and worth of the individual, human relationships, social justice). Despite noted benefits related to capacity development, community self-governance, and social justice, CBPR is challenged by a seemingly antagonistic relationship with academic expectations regarding “scholarly productivity.” To explore further this tension, the current work brings into conversation the reflections of three individuals: a doctoral student, a junior faculty member, and a newly tenured faculty member. We highlight our own challenges in navigating CBPR within academia and offer recommendations to encourage the development of a professional infrastructure supportive of this approach and, thereby, its related benefits.