Community Research

Community research is independent research conducted by locals.

Community research is scientific research with the refinement of being conducted by local people for the benefit of local people. Scientific findings are reviewed and reported with sound research protocols, IRB protections and in an unbiased and independent manner.

Furthermore, in our research, community refers to place-based community. The Institute does not use the word, “community,” loosely. Community research is crucial to protecting cultural diversity and biodiversity. Community research is much more than public participation. Community research informs public decisions towards sustainable outcomes with measurable results. We offer and teach a research-based approach to community.

What is scientific research?

My working definition of science is “making sense of systematic observation.”  Ideally, as part of making sense of what is observed, the researcher benefits from conversation with peers. If people are part of the study, they are also part of the conversation.  In social research, people – not only the “scientists” or experts – contribute to making sense of the “data.”  In this way, the research remains unbiased and participatory.

Myriem Le Ferrand, founder of the Institute

Community research may be conducted as basic research to further understand place-based community in general or a specific community in particular. Community research presents most often as applied research towards a particular objective. The objective may be related to conservation and development, such as improved road ways, affordable housing or ecological restoration. In these cases, research methods take the form of action inquiry and may be conducted in either formal or informal settings.

The funding mechanism for community research must be carefully reviewed to prevent conflicts of interest and to allow for participatory evaluation during and after implementation. Ultimately, community research will serve best to turn things around in these times of degradation if communities are given the chance to conduct participatory evaluation of their local institutions including local government, community foundations and land trusts. In this way, local institutions may find value in learning participatory research methods grounded in science to improve programmatic design and project implementation with full participation of a broad spectrum of the local population.

Economics for Peace Institute advances community research for and by local people.

The Institute demonstrates practical methods in the social sciences to protect people and planet! 

Community research connects local people’s knowledge and expectations to decision-makers with fieldwork that makes sense.  Fieldwork is about collecting empirical information based on first hand observation and practice.  

Social Fieldwork: Participatory Research and the Social Sciences

The term, community research, encompasses a range of research approaches including the decades-long practice of community-based participatory action research or CBPAR. That is a mouthful! Saying “participatory action research” can be rather unwieldy in everyday parlance. So, practitioners amongst themselves may refer to PAR or participatory research.

Easier still in terms of advancing community research in communities, the Institute introduced the term, “social fieldwork.” Social fieldwork illustrates the “on the ground” contextual experience of community research being quite similar to field ecology, but within the domain of the social sciences. The social sciences includes economics, anthropology, social psychology and sociology. For most, the mind’s eye image of social fieldwork can readily evoke the “in the field” quality of working in community and oftentimes as participant observer.

Community research including social fieldwork is first hand research with local people who can in trusted circumstance with a community member present their sense of what is important or what is happening on the ground. Fieldwork better informs public decisions than polls, surveys, open houses and social media. A failure to inform effectively has contributed to mismanagement, poor outcomes, wasted financial resources and the widespread rhetorical divide. By whatever term, a community-based research approach strengthens public participation to ensure optimal consideration of local knowledge and preference.

The Institute approaches building support for community research with local people and with those whose profession is to serve local people: planners. When working with a local community, the Institute advances community research by conducting research for hire, or by advising and training community members. We can support a few community demonstration projects (at no cost). The Institute is able to do so to the extent that charitable contributions – from an array of ethical sources – allow us to meet operational expenses first.

Participatory takes practice.

Participatory validates substantive experience and knowledge no matter the perceived legitimacy of the source. As we all know, a range of factors affect “who” is heard and these vary over time and place.

In the short hand of urban encounter, media influence and anonymity, perception makes it difficult to ensure participatory outcomes. The fall back or short hand is to legitimize a range of factors over observable fact: age, expertise, training, previous work experience, ancestry, religion, financial position, class, education, color and so on. The problematic is so deep that lived experience is attributed to anecdote and generally dismissed.

In the evolutionary practice of participatory research, the observed is no less than the observer. Indeed, the expert may not know more than the subject under study. To restore the biosphere, fact is fact no matter the flag bearer. The fundamentals of good management are required and to be substantiated at the negotiating table and in legal deliberation. To reform bad management practices, the facts are required in order to ensure accountability. That is the good work of community research.

Few, if any, research institutes advance social fieldwork for ecosystem restoration. The Institute brings forward socio-cultural description of the relationship between community and place, and between community members themselves in day-to-day life. Our action research is participatory, strengths-based, and built on local people’s stories, observations and insights.

Building the Practice of Community Research: The Guild for Social Fieldwork

Detailed description of community research may be found on the website for The Guild for Social Fieldwork. We further present how participatory research might be funded in ways that ensure unbiased results. The mechanisms for independent funding are still to be sorted out.

The Guild website is part vision and part explanation. The founder explains methods for reforming and informing public decisions to restore the biosphere. In fact, the vision of The Groundwork Project first emerged while building the site for practitioners to share best practice. The Institute’s founder often states that this period in her work drew directly on the harmony of living in an intact legacy forest while in retreat to the Pacific Northwest in 2017.

Economics for Peace Institute is conducting the Groundwork Project to advance participatory action research through a demonstration project on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Groundwork Project is a leading-edge initiative to demonstrate social science practices in ecological restoration, to remove conflict of interest in the funding of research and to restore democratic dialogue across the rhetorical divide. The study intends to provide action oriented results to benefit locals while advancing biosphere protections at a policy level. The work builds on common ground to restore biodiversity and strengthen community well-being.

The Institute is a work in progress. 2024 – A Year for Educational Outreach.

The Institute is pleased to announce that in the last few years, participatory science and community science are now advanced by global conservation organizations as well as state and federal agencies.

We are excited to begin sending educational newsletters to many our new subscribers. We resume delivery of educational outreach through a monthly newsletter in June 2024. We have identified an IT tool stack that is digitally independent. We do not use social media. Our newsletters will feature key updates to the website for your ease of reference. In our updates, we will showcase trends in participatory research, community common ground and successes in the practice of biosphere restoration.

We continue to actively update this website. We hope you’ll explore the site now and then come back regularly to discover considerable new content ongoing.

Finally, we are actively working on fundraising. On Earth Day (April 22, 2024), we launched Phase One of the Community Research Tool Kit for People and Planet.

Phase Four of the Community Research Tool Kit is planned for the development of Community Research Labs and Local Research Libraries. Providing a repository of local knowledge is necessary to optimally inform public decisions.

What we have yet to do is build out our capacity while ensuring independent funding. Unbiased results require independent funding. In 2024, we turn our attention to educational outreach, networking and fundraising.

Online Library of Community Research

Over the coming months and with your support, the Institute plans to develop a service to allow community research groups to access, contribute to and maintain an online library of studies and local knowledge transcripts to improve the quality and breadth of information considered in public decision making.

Why an online library?

An online library is an excellent way to store local knowledge. In 2022, the founder established a climate library online in order to complete a comprehensive literature review for a climate update for a Coast Salish Tribe. In so doing, she discovered how valuable the online library tool could be for communities. In 2023, the founder completed the climate update. To ensure their access and as part of a participatory approach to conducting research, she suggested their direct access through the online library to the referenced papers and studies. She provided the training to staff so they could teach others in the tribe how to directly access cited works. We plan to offer online library training for other place-based communities.

In time, the founder of Economics for Peace Institute plans to summarize the findings of her body of research. Stay tuned for decades of research that led to the formation of the Institute based on her efforts towards biosphere restoration and in support of the vision of people and planet. Studies include: What is local? (2003-Colorado Front Range) What are cultures of stewardship? (2006-Rocky Mountain National Park) What is resilience? (2009 and 2023-Portland and Coast Salish)

Take Part in Building the Institute

Take part in community research where you live, become an epi supporter or join us as volunteer. As | epi | Associates, we practice what we teach. We do our very best to live and learn and to embody a set of core values since the founding of the Institute. Be in touch. We’d love to discover what synergies may exist, what energizes you and brings hope to your world. We can happily work with you where you are at.

Watch for Ways to Introduce Community Research to Your Community.

You are welcome to arrange a house party in person or virtually to receive an introduction to community research. One of our Associates or the founder will present our introductory talk with Q&A for your group. We can explore next steps. A summer tour is planned (July through August 2024). To be part of on our itinerary for an in person introduction, please let us know.

error: Please share the full URL.