– Our founder’s story. Bringing the power of upskilling to our people.
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Written by Shaun Danquah & Tracey Kirungi Oct 28, 2021

Categories: Blog, CR Blogs

“Research doesn’t belong to anyone, therefore it’s all the more imperative for our communities to get involved”.

– Tracey Kirungi

 

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My experience and engagement with community research (CR) methods began between 2003 to 2010 while working on the Clapham Park Project. The programme was ineffective until the community were placed at the forefront of the work, consistently, from top to bottom. I realised that you can’t really help the community effectively without including them meaningfully.

This work informed my PhD research. I was concerned there was a lot of theory without enough action as academics did not adequately liaise with our communities. I wanted to build a CR model which blended academic rigour, community engagement and proper knowledge of local ecologies. I then realised there was a gap in the market for research institutions and communities to collaborate as equals.


How we do research.

We trained and upskilled community researchers and created the capacity for the locals to be involved in research they hadn’t previously had access to.

By accessing hard-to-reach communities, we were able to bridge the gap of the longstanding distrust they feel towards research institutions. We successfully navigated the research weariness and cynicism that keep traditional institutions at bay. This stops the ‘extraction’ model of research where communities are exploited for information. It also enhances the democratisation of knowledge for open discussion on research choices and helps both communities and researchers develop pragmatic research designs.

Participants then become more comfortable in discussing their experiences in what is, for some, a quite therapeutic opportunity to be truly heard at last. Our researchers use their accessibility, positionality and credibility within their communities to engage the wider population.


The conventional research palette wasn’t made for us to digest, but our sauce is appreciated by our people.

The diverse make-up of the Centric team reflects our ever-changing urban communities. We believe in people and treat them as assets because our mutual compassion for those in our society, who are hidden underground, is the foundation of Centric.

In fact, our natural cross-cultural understanding is the order of the day in 2021. Our human-centric approach is the new business model in this post-pandemic world that has shattered the old systemic guarantees we used to take for granted. People don't feel safe anymore. The murder of George Floyd and the troubled race relations following it globally speak directly of the suffering we provide healing for.

Our magic stew of experiences, backgrounds and perspectives is what adds flavour to our insights cutting through the veil of misconceptions made about us. Our community-led knowledge production and practice incorporate the same people it supports.


Why wait for an answer when you could create it?

We as a community are developing products that are guiding established institutions on a journey to equitable collaboration. Our products are our community's evidence and are testament to the evolution of our research movement.

For instance, we have developed reflective practice workshops exploring actions, as well as solutions, to overcoming collaborative barriers. Our sessions with Impact on Urban Health, that we co-designed with YouPress and WriterznScribez, facilitated effective communication between our teams, fostering growth and positive relations. Our work involves learning about ourselves as much as it does about others.

In time we have upskilled community researchers into community consultants who are involved in the data collection, analysis, evaluation and implementation of the nuances we unpack. Continuous dialogue with the people on the ground throughout all stages of the research is the ‘urban looping’ that binds it all together.

It has also been key for us to provide safe spaces for reflection in our team during qualitative research that delves into sensitive, intense and triggering topics. This process allows our researchers to debrief their experiences in a supportive environment. Our community has had no help from those making judgements from a distance; Centric co-produces solutions with the people aligned with their lived experiences.


They made us into a race, we made ourselves into a people.

We have brought people from hard-to-reach communities of South London to the table to present research, which they have co-designed, to institutions. We have created equity and a strong sense of community ownership within our research process. The black experience and all of its challenges encourage strength, resilience and empathy, which Centric uses to help other disadvantaged groups. This allows us to go beyond diversity into a notion of superdiversity.


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