A Visit from Dr. Wallerstein

Evaluation Lab News

Posted: Sep 02, 2016 - 02:00pm

On Tuesday, August 30th Dr. Nina Wallerstein appeared as a guest lecturer for the UNM Evaluation Lab. Dr. Wallerstein, Director of the Center for Participatory Research at UNM, has worked to develop the field of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) for over thirty years.

During her talk, Dr. Wallerstein detailed the importance of debunking the "community beliefs" versus "scientific evidence" paradigm that devalues indigenous, community knowledge and evidence in favor of government funded, outside perspectives on said communities. Rather than operating within colonial power structures, Dr. Wallerstein emphasizes that CBPR must be a joint effort between the researcher and the group whom she is researching based on the desires and needs of the community, rather than the researcher's agenda.

In CBPR, Dr. Wallerstein asserts, the researcher must remember that he or she will not be a permanent part of the community, and thus the legacy of the research and work produced in the course of CBPR must be internally sustainable for future generations within the partner community. This means, amongst other things, that any data gathered belongs to the partner community or organization. Unlike in typical academia, CBPR defers to the partner organization's decisions on what should be done with the results of research.

During the question and answer section of Dr. Wallerstein's presentation a student noted that CBPR seems to require a serious personal commitment to the community one collaborates with and to building ties of trust between the researcher and the community and wondered if Dr. Wallerstein could expand on the navigation of the relationship between researcher's engagement in the academy and their personal commitment of time and energy to the collaborating community. Dr. Wallerstein's frank reply illustrated not only something of her character, but also of the nature of the students who involve themselves in the Evaluation Lab:

You have to take time out of your personal life and show up within the community in CBPR. There are a lot of smaller grants available to help support the researcher's visits to the community but not everyone has the time to commit to that. Not everyone should leave the doors of the Academy; it takes a specific type of commitment on the part of the researcher.