Community Based Research

The goal of the Scaling Innovation for Sustainability (SIS) Project is to study the scaling up and scaling out of innovations that re-localize the economy and strengthen the resilience and sustainability of communities and regions. The Research Cluster on Community Based Research (CBR) will focus on elaboration of the applied research framework that will guide the partnership – the philosophical approach, methodologies, methods and implementation strategies that will allow us to understand how social economy innovation can be scaled up and out.

Community based participatory action research is the core research philosophy. Our research approach is also described as applied research in that, in collaboration with communities,  we will apply successful social economy innovations and build an understanding of the process of scaling up and scaling out of those innovations. The work will focus on the social economy contribution to community resilience and the process of community transition to sustainability. It will include identification of the critical questions for community research such as: How can successful innovations be replicated, scaled out or up? What are the conditions that inhibit or foster processes of scaling up/out?

Our research focus will be on the following sectors: food, housing, energy and finance. Within the CBR research cluster our focus will be on the examination of efforts to scale up and out social innovation at the micro (local grassroots) and mezzo (local/regional) scales.

The initial phase of our Scaling Innovation for Sustainability project is a two year development project to develop both the research framework and plans and to develop the partnership itself, including recruiting relevant additional partners to enable the project to succeed. The work of this research cluster will thus focus on several objectives:

  • Objective 1: To establish a shared understanding of how the CBR partners will work together to complete the work of the cluster.
  • Objective 2: To build a strong, durable and effective CBR research cluster partnership team.
  • Objective 3: To identify methodologies and methods as a basis for the development of a methodological framework for a research program that investigates scaling up and scaling out of social innovation. We will examine what methodologies and methods have been employed in the past and their efficacy, and what new methods might be employed.
  • Objective 4: To develop criteria that will be used to identify and select communities, both urban and rural, local and regional, to become partners in the proposed scaling up and out applied research program that will be an outcome of this development process. In doing so we need to ask what social economy innovations are most strategic to focus on.  What are the innovations that have inherently greater potential than others in releasing and mobilizing resources for local/regional application? Who are the actors that we need engage?
  • Objective 5 – To articulate the process by which we will work with the selected communities including respective roles in the research team, decision-making structure and protocols, etc.

At this point the ‘communities’ that we would engage as research partners could be place-based communities at a neighbourhood, community, city/town or regional scale; affinity-based communities; or institutional networks. The common denominator of all the ‘communities’ will be an interest in adapting innovations.

While community based participatory action research is a philosophical foundation for our research partnership, the research will employ  a range of qualitative and quantitative methods. Developing methods for tracking and evaluating project results, thereby enabling the building of a body of analysis that can contribute to drawing broader conclusions, will be an important element of the methodology development for the project.

See the draft discussion paper and plan for the work of this research cluster.

Photo credit: PACSE program, Augustana Campus, University of Alberta

Photo credit: PACSE program, Augustana Campus, University of Alberta

Research Cluster 2 on Community Based Research has the following members:


Noel Keough, Sustainable Calgary Society

Ana Maria Peredo, Gustavson School of Business and Centre for Co-operative and Community-Based Economy, University of Victoria


Michele Aasgard, Alberta Community & Co-operative Association

Mary Beckie, University of Alberta Faculty of Extension

Joanna Buczkowska, ISIS Research Institute, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia

Michelle Colussi, Canadian Centre for Community Renewal

Sean Connelly, University of Otago (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Catherine Etmanski, Royal Roads University

Lars Hallstrom, Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities (ACSRC), Augustana Campus, University of Alberta

Lorelei Hanson, Athabasca University

David LePage, Enterprising Non-Profits

Terri MacDonald, Rural Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development, Selkirk College

Sean Markey, Centre for Sustainable Community Development, Simon Fraser University

Bob McKeon, Office for Social Justice, Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton

Annie McKitrick, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers

Karsten Mündel, Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities (ACSRC), Augustana Campus, University of Alberta

Jeremy Murphy, Sustainability Solutions Group

Carol Murray, B.C. Co-operative Association

Elizabeth Sheehan, Climate Smart

Jorge Sousa, Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Ron van Wyk, Mennonite Central Committee, B.C.

Paul Watson, Alberta Rural Development Network

Hannah Wittman, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia

Photo credit: Vancouver Farmers' Markets

Photo credit: Vancouver Farmers’ Markets


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