Executive Summary

The research field has come a long way since the days of explicit exclusion, exploitation and experimentation on communities of color and other marginalized populations. Today we see increasing interest and available funding both for the study of racial equity and for conducting research in more equitable ways. While this certainly represents significant progress, the research field still struggles to overcome its legacy of White supremacy and structural racism.

While research is a powerful tool to advance racial equity, progress remains stubbornly slow due to a multitude of structural barriers that prevent research from truly benefiting marginalized communities, and in some cases harming these communities. Even well- intentioned research practices can be nonreciprocal, tokenizing, extractive and culturally insensitive

The imbalanced power dynamic can distort trust between researchers and community partners, which works against meaningful partnerships and hampers the ability to turn research into actionable policy change

While many researchers and research institutions are recognizing and confronting inequities and power dynamics that are deeply rooted in their fields’ culture and practices, this is not yet standard practice. The structures upholding racial injustice in research are so deeply entrenched that players at every level must work to dismantle them. This report offers recommendations for a wide audience, including research funders, academic and non-profit research institutions, individual researchers and community partners.

Audience for this Report

While we envision these recommendations to be applicable to a wide variety of research, it is particularly relevant for applied, policy-oriented research. Research takes many forms. For a few—like strictly mathematical modeling of climate impacts—the concepts presented here may have less applicability. For others, such as clinical drug trials, some ideas will be applicable and others may need to be adjusted. Part of our purpose is to encourage those involved in all forms of research to think seriously about equity and community impacts. Recognizing these differences, for the sake of brevity, in this report we refer to all sorts of research and evaluations under the umbrella term of “research.”

In addition to researchers, this resource is also geared towards community-based groups, equity-centered organizations, government agencies, research funders and other groups who play an integral role in the research field. More explicitly this report is intended for: 1) researchers studying racial equity; 2) researchers who may not be studying racial equity, but wishing to conduct their research in a more equitable, partnership-based way; 3) research institutions aiming to support these efforts; 4) research funders seeking to embed racial equity and community engagement requirements into their grant guidelines;

Instructions for Using This Report

The learnings, reflections and discussion questions presented here should be thoughtfully addressed before the research scope and questions are finalized and funded, and continually referred to throughout the process. This is the process that Greenlining will now follow when forming a partnership with research institutions that wish to embed racial equity principles into their work. This approach has enabled our team to maintain more trusting and transparent partnerships with researchers while producing more credible and accountable racial equity research.

This report offers five key steps to creating partnership-based research:

  1. Understand the context of racism in research in the past and present
  2. Review the challenges, best practices, and opportunities available for centering racial equity in research
  3. Conduct an internal equity assessment of your research institution, department, or team 
  4. Partner with and pay a community partner 
  5. Co-create the research questions and scope of work with a community partner

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