Community-Based Research (CBR) is rapidly gaining recognitions as an important tool in addressing complex environmental, health and social problems. However, little is known about the Canadian CBR context. A web-based survey including 25 questions was circulated on list-servs and via targeted e-mails to investigate the status of CBR in Canada. Univariate and bivariate statistical analyses were performed to examine variables and relationships of interest. Our sample included a cross-section of CBR community and academic practitioners (n = 308). Respondents reported a wide range of project foci, experience, operating budgets and reasons for engaging in their last CBR endeavor. Academic partners were perceived to be most involved at all stages of the research process except dissemination. Service providers were also perceived as being very involved in most stages of research. Community members were substantially less engaged. High levels of satisfaction were reported for both CBR processes and outcomes. Respondents reported a number of positive outcomes as a result of their research endeavors, including changes in both agency and government policies and programs. Our study shows that CBR practitioners are engaged in research on a wide array of Canadian health and social issues that is making a difference. Finding appropriate levels of participation for community members in CBR remains an ongoing challenge.
Universities can provide a stable home for launching collaborative community research projects. Citizens' Environment Watch (CEW), an environmental monitoring initiative based at the University of Toronto, has made significant contributions to environmental education and stewardship in Ontario, Canada. Following dramatic cuts in provincial monitoring programs, citizens and youth have used chemical parameters and biological indicators to gauge water and air quality, and to identify areas requiring remediation and pollution prevention efforts. The relationship of Citizens' Environment Watch to government agencies, funders and other grassroots environmental groups has evolved over the past 5 years as CEW attempts to remain effective without taking on the investigative and enforcement roles to support the regulatory enforcement that has been largely abandoned by government. We explore the challenges inherent in developing and maintaining a volunteer organization that carries out rigorous and useful scientific work and we outline the ability of a university to help overcome these critical challenges. Finally, we present lessons learned for the benefit of other citizen and youth monitoring projects.