Democratic or equal participation in decision making is an ideal that community and academic stakeholders engaged in participatory research strive to achieve. This ideal, however, may compete with indigenous peoples' right to self-determination. Study objectives were to assess the perceived influence of multiple community (indigenous) and academic stakeholders engaged in the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP) across six domains of project decision making and to test the hypothesis that KSDPP would be directed by community stakeholders. Self-report surveys were completed by 51 stakeholders comprising the KSDPP Community Advisory Board (CAB), KSDPP staff, academic researchers and supervisory board members. KSDPP staff were perceived to share similar levels of influence with (i) CAB on maintaining partnership ethics and CAB activities and (ii) academic researchers on research and dissemination activities. KSDPP staff were perceived to carry significantly more influence than other stakeholders on decisions related to annual activities, program operations and intervention activities. CAB and staff were the perceived owners of KSDPP. The strong community leadership aligns KSDPP with a model of community-directed research and suggests that equitable participation-distinct from democratic or equal participation-is reflected by indigenous community partners exerting greater influence than academic partners in decision making.
Health promotion emphasizes the importance of community ownership in the governance of community-based programmes, yet little research has been conducted in this area. This study examined perceptions of community ownership among project partners taking responsibility for decision-making related to the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (KSDPP). Project partners were surveyed cross-sectionally at 18 months (T1) and 60 months (T2) into the project. The perceived influence of each project partner was assessed at T1 and T2 for three domains: (i) KSDPP activities; (ii) KSDPP operations; and (iii) Community Advisory Board (CAB) activities. Project staff were perceived to have the greatest influence on KSDPP activities, KSDPP operations and CAB activities at both T1 and T2. High mean scores of perceived influence for CAB members and community researchers, however, suggests that project decision-making was a shared responsibility among multiple community partners. Although academic researcher influence was consistently low, they were satisfied with their level of influence. This was unlike community affiliates, who were less satisfied with their lower level of influence. In keeping with Kanien'kehaka (Mohawk) culture, the findings suggest a participatory democracy or shared decision-making as the primary mode of governance of KSDPP.