Dissemination: Strategies for doing it right in community based participatory research

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For academic researchers, dissemination typically involves the sharing of research findings through peer-reviewed journals. In the world of community-based participatory research or evaluation, dissemination can take on many different forms. Regardless of whether you ultimately disseminate your work here are few strategies to help you along the way…

  • Have an open discussion about dissemination with your partners and collectively identify the potential shared value of dissemination.
  • Collectively identify dissemination goals with partners early on in the project. Ask what would be most useful to partners. For example, they may want to include information and photos on their website that would be important to their own stakeholders. This may be relatively simple, but extremely valuable. Revisit these discussions at checkpoints throughout the project timeline.
  • If you are an academic partner, recognize that community partners are generally not in the “business” of writing articles. Be respectful of this when discussing dissemination with community partners.
  • Take time to learn how partners typically communicate with their stakeholders. Include some ways to work within their usual outreach. For example, they may host community meetings or hold events for families. These may be opportunities to co-present or staff an information table. Community-based organizations, like other entities, are always looking for ways to demonstrate their value to the people they serve.
  • Be open to considering non-traditional forms of dissemination. Click here to view the Institute for Community Health’s dissemination catalog to help start a conversation with your partners about the various forms of dissemination.
  • When developing grants with partners, try to allocate time and money to dissemination efforts if possible. If you have examples of dissemination strategies that have worked well in the past, it’s always useful to include these in a discussion. This will help the partners visualize better what could be effective for them.
  • Give all your partners an opportunity to be involved in dissemination efforts and recognize their contributions appropriately either through co-authorship or other types of acknowledgements.
  • Be focused in selecting dissemination strategies and set the group up for success. Generating a longer list of ways to disseminate will make everyone feel overwhelmed. Decide what you can do this year, what you can do next year, and so forth. Make sure that the group feels the plan is realistic and has value to everyone. Check in periodically on what is working and adjust the plan accordingly. Everyone wants to feel that they are contributing to a successful effort.
  • When considering dissemination it’s important to recognize that some participants may have very tightly controlled communication policies compared with others. It’s important to understand these policies and involve the appropriate individuals in making decisions about dissemination and how communication occurs. Especially when media is involved, you’ll only have one chance to “get it right.” Media has special challenges, and policies vary from agency to agency.

What other strategies have worked for you?


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