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Beginning Collaborations

Posted on January 20, 2009

Liliane Windsor (bio) describes how she began to take part in community participatory research.


In terms of my collaboration with Columbia, I'm a very strong proponent of networking, and when I came to New York, I was the only student in a research institution. And I had no close connection with the university.

So I went online, looked up, okay these are the universities in the area. Who are the people who are doing some work that might work? And I found this assistant professor at Columbia at the school social work, which is the same area that I am in, and he was doing some work that was HIV and substance abuse as well. I'm also from Brazil, and he happened to also be from Brazil, from the exact same city. So I was like, "Okay, that sounds like somebody I need to contact," which I did, and he was very open. So we set up a meeting and started talking, and that's part of his work.

So he came up with the idea of developing this research project, which is the collaborative participatory research board that includes 30 members. And half of them are supposed to be people from the community, and then the other half are supposed to be researchers. The goal of the board is to bridge the gap between researchers and community members.

Each person can offer ideas for what we would like to discuss at that particular meeting. It could be, for instance, a community member might have noticed a problem in the community or something that's going on that they would like to see more research on. Or it could be a researcher already developing a project and in need of input from people from the community and other researchers as well. So we put those topics in the agenda, we get together, and then we talk about it. And we try to determine, "Okay, what is the best way to go about solving this problem with input from both the researchers and the people in the community?"

The other aspect is that he tried to include as many people from as many groups as possible in terms of trying to represent a diverse number of groups that have interests in HIV and substance abuse. And the other aspect is to try to understand, "Okay, how do we come to the decisions that we make in terms of what is the best way to do the research or what's the best idea to be researched?" and so forth.

So every meeting is taped, and then it's transcribed. And then it's analyzed qualitatively to try to figure out what are the patterns and the processes that we have used so that later on, he can develop a model that can be applied to other researchers in creating a community participatory research process.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2008 National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Conference in Bethesda, MD.

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