If evidence is to serve equity goals, we must care about how it gets made and who gets to wield it. The production and use of research must be inclusive. It must engage the communities in which research is being conducted. These communities must see themselves in the research that is produced, and have a say in how the research will be used to affect their lives.

Funders play a central role in promoting dialogue, analysis, and practices that serve to democratize evidence. They do this in a number of ways including convening all stakeholders to co-create agendas; making the public case for broad, representative participation; and centering the voices of those most closely affected by the issues under study.

Here we provide articles, tools and examples of funders engaging grantees and other stakeholders from the broader community.


Centering the Margins: (Re)defining Useful Research Evidence Through Critical Perspectives

This piece discusses how critical perspectives help to reimagine what research can accomplish and to rethink the elements that make research more useful and relevant.

Rethinking Race and Power in Design-Based Research: Reflections from the Field

Participatory design-based research continues to expand and challenge the “researcher”and “researched” paradigm by incorporating teachers, administrators, community members, and youth throughout the research process. Yet, greater clarity is needed about the racial and political dimensions of these collaborative research projects, and what they mean for expanding participation in evidence production and use.


Expanding the Bench

The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched this initiative to increase culturally responsive and equitable evaluation. It starts with the premise that inclusion of evaluators from historically underrepresented racial groups matters to the methods, analyses, and interpretations that evaluations produce.

Integrated Data Systems and Youth Co-Creating Racial Equity

This presentation explores what it takes to apply a racial equity lens to the use of integrated data systems in policy development. The premise is that those people whose lives are reflected in the data should also be centered in discussions about what the data means.

The Evidence Toolkit

This grantmaking toolkit for evidence-based policymaking includes resources on making the case for evidence use in policy, as well as articles about engaging a range of stakeholders in evidence making.

The site also includes strategies for reevaluating funded research and RFP processes.

Public Science Project Participatory Research Methods

This project provides training to demystify quantitative analyses, to learn participatory methods, and to make the research process transparent to everyone.


Funders can support inclusion of diverse stakeholders including decision makers who make and implement policy, practitioners who can assess classroom implications, recipients of the services, community members who live out the questions being researched, and researchers and technical experts who can communicate the strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the studies.

Here are resources that summarize and provide place-based examples of these engagement strategies:


Florida’s Broward County engaged child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health clients to give feedback on the county's integrated data system (IDS) and the ways their data were being used by policymakers. The CPAR process is described in an executive summary and longer report.

Participatory Grantmaking

Participatory grantmaking mirrors many of the strategies of inclusive evidence-building and is part of an overall movement in philanthropy toward inclusive decision making.

Network Improvement Communities (NICs)

NICs harness the power of networks to collaborate using the tools of improvement science to solve problems of practice. New understandings of how to effectively implement networks are increasing communities' capacity to act on evidence collectively.

Research-Practice Partnerships (RPPs)

Strong partnerships engage a diverse set of stakeholders, attend to power dynamics rooted in history, and demonstrate capacity for addressing equity.

Research Training for Non-Researchers: When non-researchers gain tools to engage in the research process, they demonstrate the powerful difference that lived experience and practice wisdom brings to the production and use of research. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation piloted a fellows program that included education practitioners in the Research Collaborative to shape the production and use of research. The Public Science Project provides stats-in-action training to demystify quantitative analysis by making the process transparent.


Young Scholars Program

The Foundation for Child Development supports the scholarship of early career researchers from underrepresented groups. Diverse backgrounds, methodologies, and disciplines are sought.

The LEEAD Project

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's pipeline program is for emerging evaluators from underrepresented communities who are committed to culturally responsive and equitable evaluation.

Fuse Fellows

This two-year Highlander Institute fellowship supports Rhode Island teachers and administrators to partner with districts to share, implement, evaluate, and scale blended learning projects.

Students-at-the-Center Research Collaborative Fellows Program

Drawing on educators’ experience and practice wisdom, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation has piloted a fellows program that supports educators in shaping the research projects, process, and products of the Research Collaborative.

NYC Early Childhood Research Network

This brief describes the network’s development in aligning efforts and voices around the implementation of high-quality early childhood education, an initiative supported by the Foundation for Child Development.

We are reaching the realization that to work within a model where expertise comes from above, without the wisdom and knowledge that sits in the experience of everyday life, makes much of what is produced ... ineffective.

- María Elena Torres, Public Science Project

Shifting the Gaze: Bringing Non-Researchers into the Research Process

In Why am I Always Being Researched?, a guide for engaging communities in research, the authors raised many critical questions: Is the research accessible? Can those being researched hear the research? Are those closest to the issues engaged in identifying, framing, and shaping the use of research evidence? Are their perspectives embedded and voices centered in what is produced? Do these communities have opportunities to move out of the dominant gaze that shapes much of how evidence is interpreted?

Communities across the country are grappling with these questions. In Broward County, Florida, the Children's Services Council has convened diverse stakeholders in various human service systems to look at data together and engage in courageous conversations about what the data means. Using a community participatory action research (CPAR) approach, youth whose data are in child welfare and juvenile justice systems served as co-researchers with frontline workers, system leaders, and researchers. Together they undertook a process of co-design, data collection, and analysis. By listening to and centering the lived experiences of youth, new insights and solutions were co-created while fostering positive youth development and research skills and energizing the service and research staff with a richer understanding of the data. The CPAR process has yielded improvement strategies for communication and training. It has also enhanced the review of policies that penalized system-involved youths when a lack of access to resources was at the root of the problem.

In the Northeast, the Nellie Mae Foundation invested in two pilot projects to bring the practice wisdom of teachers and principals into the production and use of research. The first project provided fellowships to principals and teachers to embed in research teams funded by the foundation. Working alongside researchers, the fellows brought their practice perspectives to protocols, training products, and implementation recommendations.

A second pilot brought youth together as researchers. Youth raised new and often brave questions including those related to the immigrant experience in schools, gender identification, and district sex education policies. These questions were important to their experiences, and pushed adult researchers to consider new questions and methods. These youth and practitioner perspectives have helped change the nature of the research questions, the methods used to address the questions, and the ways in which researchers understood the complexity of the lives under study.