At CAT Lab and many other participatory research groups, we regularly argue that communities who are often left out of academia bring crucial knowledge and values to science and engineering. But what does that actually look like?

Here at CAT Lab, we work directly with the public to answer questions about digital life, conducting research that makes a difference in people’s lives, advances scientific knowledge, and contributes to policy discussions. As a university-based lab, we also train the next generation of diverse scholars to collaborate with the public on those discoveries.

One part of that training involves hosting “Big Tent” 🎪 conversations with our circle of students and collaborators about the theory and practice of publicly-engaged research.  We hope these guided conversations will be helpful to your community too.

Earlier this semester, we discussed how engaging with marginalized communities can enhance science through the concept of Community Cultural Wealth. This week, we’re diving deeper into practical challenges of conducting participatory research that often discourage early career researchers from working with communities.


Facilitation Guide

  1. Extraction vs Reciprocity
    1. Discuss the Wilmsen reading on reciprocity
    2. How can researchers benefit from work with communities in ways that aren’t extractive? Where is the line between extraction and reciprocity?
    3. How do researchers benefit from working with communities? 
    4. How should we respond in situations where our interests and the interests of the community come into conflict?
  1. Challenges of Collaboration
    1. What are some recent challenges that have come up for you in your community collaborative work (or that you fear might come up)?
    2. Are there aspects of community collaborative work that prevent you from doing it?
    3. What are best practices for initiating conversation with a community for the first time?