Dissemination as Dialogue: Building Trust and Sharing Research Findings Through Community Engagement

Published in: Preventing Chronic Disease, v. 13, Mar. 2016, p. E38

Posted on RAND.org on March 29, 2016

by Bryce W McDavitt, Laura M. Bogart, Matt G. Mutchler, Glenn Wagner, Harold D. Green, Sean Jamar Lawrence, Kieta D. Mutepfa, Kelsey A. Nogg

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Research Question

  1. What are the best practices for engaging members of the community in dissemination of research findings, as part of a community-based participatory research strategy?

A fundamental feature of community-based participatory research (CBPR) is sharing findings with community members and engaging community partners in the dissemination process. To be truly collaborative, dissemination should involve community members in a two-way dialogue about new research findings. Yet little literature describes how to engage communities in dialogue about research findings, especially with historically marginalized communities where mistrust of researchers may exist because of past or present social injustices. Through a series of interactive community presentations on findings from a longitudinal study, we developed a process for community dissemination that involved several overlapping phases: planning, outreach, content development, interactive presentations, and follow-up. Through this process, we built on existing and new community relationships. Following each interactive presentation, the research team debriefed and reviewed notes to identify lessons learned from the process. Key themes included the importance of creating a flexible dissemination plan, tailoring presentations to each community group, establishing a point person to serve as a community liaison, and continuing dialogue with community members after the presentations. Core strategies for developing trust during dissemination included engaging community members at every step, reserving ample time for discussion during presentations, building rapport by sharing personal experiences, being receptive to and learning from criticism, and implementing input from community members. This process led to a deeper understanding of research findings and ensured that results reached community members who were invested in them.

Key Findings

  • Creating flexible dissemination plans, tailoring information to each community group, establishing a community liaison, and continuing dialogue throughout a study are all important processes to follow when engaging a community.
  • To develop trust during dissemination, researchers should engage community members at each point in the process, leave plenty of time for discussion, share personal experiences to build rapport, be open to and learn from criticism, and implement suggestions from the community.
  • Community input from two-way dialogue can lead to an understanding of findings that is grounded in the community and help researchers develop interventions and policies that are culturally relevant.

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