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The Environmental Justice and Sustainability Research Toolbox

Module 3: Community-based Participatory Research

Key Topics to Engage in Module:

  1. Foundations of CBPR
    • tracing briefly its history in the US/Americas (e.g., social movements, grassroots organizing, popular education); this can connect with the above comment on the history of "extractivist research"
  2. Ethics in CBPR
    • as these relate and differ from "traditional" research paradigms / how it challenges and differs from "extractivist research"
  3. CBPR as a research paradigm
    • not necessarily a method, informed/grounded in critical, feminist and decolonial epistemologies that inform CBPR

Module Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Explain the principles, ethics and foundations of CBPR.
  • Explain, in general, the history of CBPR.
  • Compare examples of CBPR in different contexts/settings.
  • Explain some of the challenges and opportunities for conducting CBPR.
  • If applicable, reflect and discuss CBPR in relation to your research or the examples/case studies provided.
  • Co-design a CBPR-based research project.

Module Details



II. Designing & Implementing CBPR: Case Studies & Examples



Morris Justice Project from Hard Headed Media on vimeo.




Ideas for In-class Activities & Assignments

Discussion Prompts:

  • What knowledge or new insights did you gain from these readings? What are two takeaways from any of the readings within this topic?
  • How do each of the readings approach the topic of "ethics" and or/the "foundations/history" of CBPAR? What are some similarities/differences?
  • What methods did each or some of these case studies/research project examples engage? Name each of the methods or approaches utilized, and describe how these align with a CBPAR paradigm?
  • What tensions or challenges were described in some or all of the readings? How were these tensions or challenges addressed, if at all? What tensions or challenges might you anticipate should you develop your own CBPAR Project?


  • Use this reading/document to develop an assignment where students select one of the featured projects and they describe the elements of CBPR or a case study analysis that also involves them noting ethics, values and principles for developing the project:
  • One potential assignment that can help students engage with the challenges and tensions would be to have them select one or two of the listed readings and describe some of the tensions of challenges noted by the authors of that article, and how they worked through the challenges, if that is described. Then students can develop or write up a reflection on what they plan to do should they encounter challenges and tensions in relation to their project. how will the conflict be resolved? What is the role of power in shaping those tension? What implications does power have on community relations, research process and outcomes? This is just an idea for a possible assignment/activity -- it could also involve some in-class role playing.
  • Modification of the "accountability letter" -- have students write an actual letter to their community partner where they are tasked with explaining the intentions, goals, objectives and motivation for their project, what they hope to learn and how and why this matters, and what they will do to ensure that the safety, wellbeing and agency of the community is maintained; have students think through their ethics and values, what they will bring and offer, and who will benefit from their project. Building on the "accountability letter", have students revisit their "accountability letter" and connect what they wrote initially in relation to the readings and the video/lecture by Michelle Fine on "To whose souls are we accountable?"
  • Engaging students with case study examples of what CBPR can look like. One of the strengths but also challenges of CBPR is that it can take so many different forms, yet what is consistent across projects/research is the ethics and values that guide and inform the paradigm. An activity that supports students acknowledging and understanding these complexities would be useful.