Research for Community Power

Why Research?

Community Driven Research was key in our partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance — together, we were able to strengthen workers’ organizing efforts and win historic policy changes.

We know that people’s direct experiences with day-to-day injustices and knowledge that gets passed down from generation to generation is dismissed in the policy arena. Decision makers continue to rely on published information and data produced by mainstream researchers regardless of whether it reflects the perspective of the community being impacted. As a result, communities of color and poor communities are silenced and disempowered.  Community-driven research bolsters campaigns aimed at reshaping systems of power and creating lasting change.  Community-driven research effectively builds and strengthens the member base of grassroots organizations and informs long terms strategies for change. This leads to community-generated solutions in public policy and decision making.

Why is Community Driven Research Critical?

It’s strategic. Building research capacity leads to stronger organizing capacity. Community-driven research engages communities in the problems people face and moves them to action. Building solid campaigns for change requires research that leads to effective strategy and results in the communities’ investment in fighting for solutions.

It’s transformative.  The learning that happens when research is integrated into a social justice campaign is transformative –the campaign is changed by the research, the research is changed by the campaign.  We learn together, we validate our experiences and affirm what we already know, we discover more about the roots and impact of oppression and we move toward personal and political transformation.

It’s practical. Integrating community driven research into the core of community organizing helps build campaigns that win and strategies with a long-term vision for change.  Research opens doors for community members to engage, to be heard, to learn and to lead.



Aspects of Organizing
Examples of Research Integration
Base-Building: Recruiting and retaining a large group of community members to participate in, help implement, and direct the work of organizations, networks and campaigns.
  • Assessing needs in the community through door to door surveys and other participatory methods
  • Holding community events to present original research on the community, help folks see they’re not alone, and encourage them to come together
  • Using powerful data to amplify community voices
Campaign Development: Building sustained fights to win concrete policies and institutional changes on issues that impact the community.
  • Finding information to inform campaign strategy and develop analysis of what it will take to win
  • Researching the feasibility of possible demands to build a campaign around
Leadership Development: Developing the political analysis and practical skills of community members
  • Training community members to carry out participatory research (designing, implementing, and analyzing findings)
  •  Developing leadership skills to share powerful narratives for various audiences
Organizational Development: Building capacity and infrastructure to sustain effective campaigns
  • Evaluations of the capacity of organizations and groups
  • Database management
  • Research to inform fundraising strategy



*Icons in the Research & Organizing infographic are from the Noun Project (Capitol icon created by Pabli Rozenberd, Smoke stacks icon created by Simon Child, Pencil icon created by Tom J Hume, Scale icon created by Eric Bird).