So far 2016 has been chock-a-block full of new research and training opportunities around the world. I’ve just wrapped up a three week piece of organizational learning and research design in Cape Town, South Africa, with the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, including a deep dive into participatory digital storytelling with Joanna Wheeler. I’m now in India for a month of social enterprise and reflective practice co-teaching with Sara Minard of Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute.
As a result of this exciting but hectic schedule, I’m way behind on blogposts.
This blog is centered around an interview with the UNESCO Chair for Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education that we recorded in New York at the end of 2015. It’s taken a bit of time to get it edited and ready to release, but I’m pleased to be sharing it finally.
UNESCO Chair Programme “promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work.” There are almost 700 Chairs, each with its own research area that it works to promote and build capacity for at the university level. Most chairs are based at universities.
The Chair for Community Based Research (CBR) and Social Responsibility in Higher Education is unusual in that it is co-hosted by a university, the University of Victoria, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a civil society organization (CSO), PRIA, based here in Delhi. The choice to have this Chair co-hosted by a university and a CSO is emblematic of the aims of the CBR Chair, to recognize that research is not the exclusive domain of universities but is a tool that can be used in cooperation with and by civil society and communities at large to create knowledge and generate positive change.
The organizers of the CBR Chair, Budd Hall at UVic and Rajesh Tandon at PRIA, were also intentional about having the dual-institutional structure of the Chair span the north-south global development distinction. In general, the global production of knowledge, particularly in the university/academic system, is disproportionately based in the north and at northern universities. Community based research, and other forms of participatory research, have always challenged the dominance of the north in the research sphere. Indeed, some of the most influential thinkers in the field, including Paulo Freire and Orlando Fals Borda, hailed from the global south and gave the movement a distinctly different flavor going back to the 1960-70s. As such community based research and participatory research have co-evolved within an environment where practitioners in both the north and south have been active and visible contributors to the field. As well, the professional location of these practitioners has been as often outside of the university system as within in. The dual nature of the CBR Chair aims to reflect this global and institutional breadth which have always been at the vibrant center of community based and participatory processes.
In their roles as the co-directors of the Chair, Tandon and Hall have worked to document the rapidly evolving global practice of community based research. Since the Chair was established in 2012, it has led on the publication of several books and a variety of open access knowledge products on CBR, drawing together globally diverse case studies, methodologies and practitioners. In 2015, they published two books on community university research partnerships. These publications will be the focus of the next blog in this Empyrean Research series.
The Chair is has also just launched an extensive training and capacity building initiative called NextGen which is providing training in CBR and other participatory methods to CSOs and young academics in the global south.
In the video interview below, Hall and Tandon provide offer background on the why they worked to create the Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and describe their activities and findings over the past four years: