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When you hear the word “research”, what do you think of? Do you feel like research is something done far away by others? Is it something out of reach, only conducted by professors in universities? Research doesn’t have to be any of those things. We believe that research should be a collective effort, a process where communities feel empowered to define, lead, and carry out research on a topic of their choosing, and where everyone who participates feels free to contribute, exchange, and reproduce the knowledge collected. The Mekong Community Institute defines community-led research as “the search for knowledge based on local expertise by community members, for the benefit of the community.” Other types of research tend to start with questions asked by people outside communities.
In fact, when community members do their own research, they may uncover findings that others 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! Based on existing methods of community-led research, we have developed this Checklist with our partners as a tool for communities, community organizers, and local civil society groups who are interested in community-led research. This Checklist outlines the basic steps on how a community can use community-led research to determine their development priorities. Included are the key steps to Prepare, Research and Advocate for community-led research.
In this Checklist, you will find a summary of the main strategies and recommendations that are described in the Community Action Guide on Community-led Research. A Survey Template for Community-Led Research is available with this Checklist for you to use and adapt to your own community.