Too often, we feel that the power to make decisions about the future of our communities has been taken away. But we do not have to feel powerless. There are steps we can take to reclaim control and identify our own priorities for development in our communities. Community-led ideas and expertise can lead the way to a development that respects people and protects the environment. Conducting community-led research is one effective way for communities to respond to development challenges, and to voice their development priorities.
Community-led research is a process through which a community relies on its own local knowledge to identify an issue, think deeply about it, and propose an answer.
Communities can conduct their own research with or without support from allies such as civil society groups, academics, or the government. While these allies can help in facilitating the process, providing tips, or assisting in analyzing results, it is the community that leads the research and is in charge of making decisions. Community-led research is both the means and ends to the model of development that communities want – a process where powers are shared and everyone’s voice is heard.
In fact, when community members do their own research, they may uncover findings that outsiders would not. Communities possess knowledge about their surroundings and environment that decision-makers and planners may not know. Often, the research process itself helps communities better understand the problems they face, build confidence in their knowledge and ideas, strengthen solidarity and accountability amongst community members, and learn necessary skills for community organizing. Together, the skills and findings gained from the research process can be useful for mounting community-led campaigns.
The results of community-led research show that alternatives are possible, and that the entire development process can be transformed so that communities claim their power. When communities put themselves and their visions at the center of the development process, community-led research can become a powerful tool!
This guide contains activities and tools to plan and conduct community-led research. You will also learn tips and strategies from the stories of community organizers who have facilitated this research all around the world. With this booklet, you will find a Checklist to Support Community-led Research to use as a reminder of the different lessons in this Guide, and a Survey Template for Community-led Research that you can use and adapt to your own community.