Community-based Research

Community-based Research

Community-based Research (CBR) can go by many names, including community-based participatory research, action research, participatory action research, and community-engaged research. At its core, Community-based Research is that which is conducted in collaboration with community members to address a community-identified question, with the goal of producing knowledge and social action, change, and/or justice. In this context, ‘community’ may refer to a specific organization, geographic area, or collection of individuals or grassroots groups with a common goal.

Some key characteristics that define this research include:

  • Academic researchers work alongside community members, who are as involved in the project as they wish to be, which may mean simply informing the research question and dissemination, all the way to taking on the role of co-researchers.
  • Relationships of academics with community partners are expected to be equitable, respectful, and mutually beneficial.
  • Partnerships should provide outputs that are useful to the community, as well as outputs that are useful in the academy.
  • Community wisdom is valued as a different form of knowledge alongside academic knowledge.

Community-based Research can be applied in a wide variety of disciplines, and is especially appropriate for:

  • Researchers who have a social justice orientation
  • Researchers looking to work with vulnerable populations that have historically been mistreated by the academy (e.g. American Indians) to undo that damage
  • Projects that would be greatly enhanced by community input (e.g. health interventions)
  • Collaborative projects

We are also pleased to offer a funding opportunity to advance the high-impact practice of Community-based Research at UW–Madison. This grant provides up to $5,000 to a faculty or staff member, or graduate student to design and implement a new community-based research (CBR) project, add a CBR component to an existing project, or continue an ongoing CBR project toward a new phase or by adding a new element. Click here to see current and past funded grants.

New funding available: We’ve teamed up with Water@UW to support a new set of grant funding specific to community-engaged water research. See the tab below for more details.

Water@UW-Madison is pleased to partner with the Morgridge Center for Public Service to offer a new funding opportunity to support community-based water research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thanks to generous support from the provost, grants will provide up to $10,000 to UW-Madison faculty, staff, or graduate students to design and implement a new community-based research (CBR) project, add a CBR component to existing work, or continue an ongoing CBR project.

Grants may be used to support projects in any discipline that engage with community organizations, public sector entities, or grassroots groups to address water-related challenges. Projects may address any aspect relevant to water or water resources, but are required to detail how they will meet community-identified priorities. Specifically, projects should:

  • Address a community-identified priority or question originating within a community or co-created by researchers and community members working together
  • Include community partners at all stages of the research process according to community interest and capacity
  • Work to build community capacity and provide a sustained positive impact
  • Work toward social change and justice

How to Apply
Proposals must be submitted through the appropriate Qualtrics link. You will upload a budget form and any letters of support as additional attachments. We recommend you use the Word document below to prepare your application before entering information into the Qualtrics form.

Application Guidance FormClick here to access the application word document

Application form: Qualtrics link

Review criteria for applications: Click here to see the rubric

Two rounds for funding are available. Application deadlines are Feb. 15, 2024 and April 1, 2024.

In each round, allocated funds will be awarded according to project priority until they are exhausted. Applications that fail to secure funding in the first round are welcome to re-apply. Proposals must be submitted though Qualtrics. You will upload the budget form and any letters of support as additional attachments. We recommend you use the Word document below to prepare your application before entering information into the Qualtrics form.

UW–Madison and the Morgridge Center offer many resources for those who wish to pursue Community-based Research. There are several courses that are regularly offered about the pedagogy and practice of CBR, including:

  • Disciplinary CBR
  • Counseling Psychology 601 – Best practices in community-engaged scholarship
  • Chican@/Latin@ Studies 330 – Community-based research
  • Civil Society and Community Studies 570 – Community-based research and evaluation
  • Civil Society and Community Studies 801 – Proseminar in engaged scholarship
  • Civil Society and Community Studies 801 – Mixed methods and community-based action research

Association of Community-Engaged Scholars
Graduate students interested in community-based research can join the Association of Community-Engaged Scholars (ACES), a network of community-minded graduate students.

Community Engagement Workshop
We offer a range of resources to help support student, staff and faculty strengthen their understanding of community engagement and learn strategies and dispositions that can lead to mutually beneficial projects and partnerships.

Course Development Grants
You may also be interested in our course development grants.

Engaged Scholarship Course
Each fall semester we offer a one-credit course, Best Practices of Community-Engaged Scholarship.

Engaged Scholars Listserv
You may find it helpful to join our Engaged Scholarship listserv to receive regular updates, opportunities and events.

Morgridge Fellows Program
The purpose of the Morgridge Fellows program is to further institutionalize and support Community-Engaged Scholarship at UW–Madison.

Wisconsin Idea Exchange
The Morgridge Center hosts an interactive online database called the Wisconsin Idea Exchange that collects campus and community partnerships. You can use the Exchange you can use to see what faculty, staff, and graduate students are engaged with the community. Exploring the database can also help you discover what campus-community collaborations are already going on. Additionally, you can upload your information in the database to help find community collaborators!


  • Community-based Research methods help increase validity of the data: authenticity comes with trust of partners.
  • Community-based Research addresses real-world concerns and is immediately relevant.
  • Vulnerable populations may be more willing to work with academics using this more equitable methodology.
  • You can be a part of the Wisconsin Idea.
  • CBR methods provide researchers with the ability to collect data more accurately, as community members have helped determine research methods.
  • CBR works for social action, social change, and social justice while building community capacity
  • You can find increased funding opportunities.

Things to consider

  • CBR can be more time-consuming, as it takes time to develop trust and relationships.
  • CBR is not always possible with all research topics
  • Some researchers are not comfortable with the approach and may not succeed at power-sharing with community partners.
  • Additional training on both sides may be necessary.
  • Cultural differences may prove challenging.

CBR Funding

Support projects in any discipline and at all levels that engage with community organizations, public sector entities or grassroots groups. Proposals are required to detail how the CBR project will meet community-identified priorities. Specifically, proposals should:

  • Address a community-identified priority and/or question (that ideally comes initially from community partners rather than from UW-Madison partners)
  • Include community partners at any and all stages of the research process, depending on community capacity for participation
  • Work to build community capacity
  • Work towards social change and justice

Extra consideration will be given to proposals addressing the recommendations of the Civic Action Plan, especially #9: “Support innovative models of community-based learning and student engagement that create sustained partnerships and sustained student engagement that complement the common/typical one semester course (university-centered) time frame.”

How to Apply

CBR projects can be at any stage of development. This funding can be used to develop a CBR project, support implementation of a project, or provide gap or bridge funding for an existing project, if other funding is forthcoming or likely. This funding cannot be used for faculty member salary, but may pay staff members, student employees, or community partners. Proposals that use a portion of funding for community partner expenses will be given extra weight.

Review criteria for applicants: Click here to see rubric.

CBR Application Form: Click here to access the application form. You may use the word document to develop your proposal. Proposals must be submitted through the provided Qualtrics link.

Application Deadline:
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until funds are exhausted.