Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) in Harm Reduction Settings

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This toolkit is for harm reduction workers who are considering participating in research activities, or who already have existing community-academic research partnerships. It may also be of use to academic researchers studying issues related to harm reduction, though they are not the main audience for the toolkit.

This toolkit provides an overview of best practices for forming mutually beneficial community-academic research partnerships within harm reduction settings, to learn more about people who use drugs (PWUD) and the best ways to serve and support them to have the best possible health and wellness. The toolkit challenges traditional biomedical research methods: prioritizes the voices and lived experiences of PWUD; and confronts stigmatizing and discriminatory practices, systems, and rules by uplifting research practices that further the co-creation of knowledge between those who are traditionally seen as “researchers” and “the researched.”

The toolkit also provides an easy-to-use checklist and resource list to help harm reduction workers to:

  • assess whether a proposed research collaboration is likely to be mutually beneficial, and/or
  • negotiate with academic research partners to agree upon the terms of a collaboration to protect the rights and needs of all participants.

An important goal of this toolkit is to ensure that academic research endeavors are beneficial and have value to harm reduction organizations and those they serve. In most communities PWUD are what is known as a “heavily researched” community, and many PWUD are also part of other communities that are heavily researched, including certain racial/ethnic populations, people with stigmatized sexual orientations or gender identities, people involved in criminalized activity, religious communities, or populations of low wealth or socioeconomic status.* Ideally, this toolkit will act as an organizing agent to help harm reduction advocates collectively pursue research practices that give power and voice to their interests.