“Our job is to match the research interests coming from a variety of places in the community with research capacities within the university. We’re a broker,” says Budd Hall, director of the new Office of Community-based Research. The office is the first in Canada to focus on faculty, students and community members working together on solutions to critical issues. “I’m thrilled because it’s something I worked in years ago and now to be able to come back to this at a university-wide level is just so much fun.”
For the former dean of the Faculty of Education, the concept of community members having a more meaningful role in research projects goes back 30 years, to his days in Tanzania when he was working as a university research officer. “There was a contradiction in the way we did research and the way that the country was hoping to develop itself. So a number of us got thinking, well, maybe the idea for the research could actually come from the community.”
It was at a weekend workshop hosted by the office of the vice-president research two years ago that the possibility of a community-based research effort at UVic really got rolling. A good crowd of 120 people came out—“we did have a free lunch, but it was very unusual to have that many people”—which led to a task force, which led to the CBR office opening its doors in January.
The United Way of Greater Victoria is co-chairing the CBR steering committee and will be involved in leading a program of research on issues related to shelter and housing.
While Hall has big plans—he hopes to see hundreds of students involved with 25 or 30 community groups within three to five years, along with big increases in external funding support—he also knows there is work to be done to develop the trust of community partners and Aboriginal communities who are cautiously optimistic about CBR.
“There’s some cynicism, especially when you use the word research. So we also have a role within the university of helping faculty and students, who would like to do this kind of work, to be more effective.”
Community-based Research Director Budd Hall can be reached at email@example.com.
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