Communities --- including families, students, community organizers, and advocates --- should be central to the process of producing and applying evidence in education decision making. The strategies here are based on the belief that local decisions about policy and practice will be significantly enhanced by community members’ lived experiences and their unique ability to interpret and contextualize evidence for their own lives and situations.

Facilitate co-equal engagement

Community members should be co-equals in partnerships with researchers to ensure that research and data focus on high-priority community issues such as equitable educational opportunities and racial justice. Through co-equal engagement, partners can work to decolonize evidence --- meaning the dismantling of institutional, procedural, and cultural barriers that have prevented full community collaboration and participation. Co-equal engagement strategies include:

  • Collaboration: Researchers, practitioners, and funders proactively establish collaborations with community stakeholders before research projects are designed; communities demand such engagement before agreeing to participate in research.

  • Agreements: Partners formalize agreements for community stakeholders’ full participation in planning meetings, oversight and review sessions, and ongoing communications and decision making; funders require the development of those agreements.

  • Opportunities: Community partners provide their unique expertise and contextual knowledge in research deliberations on a regular basis, particularly in interrogating power dynamics and in designing collaborative decision making processes.

  • Funding: Funders and project leaders provide sufficient funding and logistical support (child care, transportation, etc.) for community stakeholders to fully participate in the research process and to build their skills and capacities to shape the production and use of research.

Build and nurture trusting relationships

Community stakeholders’ relationships with research partners impact how evidence is produced and, ultimately, how it is applied to policy and practice. Partnership relationships should be co-equal, mutualistic, transparent, and trusting. Trust-building strategies include:

  • Attention: Partnerships dedicate time and attention in meetings and other activities to building and nurturing relationships over an extended period of time.

  • Support: Funders provide support for the relationship-building activities and the time and effort that they require.

  • Power Dynamics: All partners identify and address the power dynamics that have historically discouraged collaboration between researchers and community stakeholders.

  • Environments: Partnership leaders create safe and transparent learning environments for partners to openly share information, explore common interests, and coordinate their activities and initiatives.

Recognize and respond to local community context

Context matters in all phases of the research enterprise. While some researchers seek to produce generalizable knowledge for academic purposes, most community partners are focused on evidence building that has practical significance and applicability for their local context and conditions. Contextualization strategies include:

  • Understanding: Community partners help ensure that all participants in evidence production and use have a thorough understanding of the local context in which research is being conducted and applied, including the history of the community and its current values, aspirations, and power dynamics.

  • Prioritization: Partnership leaders honor and prioritize community wisdom and lived experiences in research planning and in the interpretation of findings.

Produce relevant, usable, responsive solutions

A central aim of evidence production should be to ensure that meaningful benefits accrue to the community. To achieve this aim, the high priority needs, issues, and interests of the community should be addressed in a timely fashion with research agendas that yield meaningful solutions and innovations. Solutions-focused strategies include:

  • Scholars: Partnership leaders and funders engage scholars who can develop researchable questions, bring a range of methodological expertise, analyze historical context, and be respectful of and responsive to community needs.

  • Assessment: Community partners regularly assess the relevance and usability of the research in their communities.

Foster enabling institutional conditions

Systemic barriers, institutional silos, and racial and cultural biases impede the development of productive stakeholder relationships and co-equal engagement. All participants in the process of producing and using evidence should jointly, continuously, and critically analyze the institutional and cultural conditions that discourage co-equal collaborations. Enabling strategies include:

  • Institutions: Research institutions and education agencies remove barriers to and incentivize full, meaningful, and authentic community engagement in research production and use.

  • Advocacy: All stakeholders in a partnership work together to advocate for local, state, tribal and federal policies that repair harm done by past research projects that have exploited or been unresponsive to local issues.

  • Policy: Partnerships actively promote public policy that builds sustainable local infrastructures for authentic research partnerships.