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Community-engaged research can improve outcomes, and ultimately change the landscape of programs and policies in the U.S.

Meet the researchers who are working with communities to help close the gap between those proposing solutions to socioeconomic problems and those closest to the problems.

Distance and distrust often grow as researchers, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations – those who are framing and proposing solutions to socioeconomic problems – circulate recommendations and interventions on communities that are the subjects of research, but who are not involved in substantive discussion about the work.

Community-engaged research, in addition to improving research impact, applies intentional effort to mitigate the conditions that have created distance between researchers and community members.

In community-engaged research models:

  • Researchers collaborate with members of the community who are closest to, or experiencing, the research questions or contexts being studied.
  • Researchers uplift community ideas and perspectives.
  • Community members are seen as experts in their own experiences.
  • Participation of community members can improve research relevance and rigor.

Change research to change outcomes

As a long-time champion of entrepreneurial research, we at Kauffman believe we can improve outcomes by supporting community-engaged research.

The Foundation has developed new grant initiatives to fund this type of work, and we hope to learn from, and with, these researchers and community partners to not only disrupt the conversation about research and its application, but to disrupt the field itself. One such initiative is the Community-Engaged Entrepreneurship Research grant portfolio.

We believe that including the voices of our communities in the research process may produce more nuanced and robust findings that, ultimately, can serve as the basis to truly change the landscape of programs and policies in the United States.

WATCH: “Kauffman Entrepreneurship Issue Forum: Forming Strong Research and Community Partnerships” | 1:26:21

Grantees and community partners joined us for an Entrepreneurship Issue Forum, “The Power of Partnership: Forming Strong Research and Community Partnerships,” to discuss and explore their work. The forum made space for them to share their experiences in designing research with partnerships in mind, forming strong community partnerships, as well as the challenges or pitfalls that other researchers should be aware of before engaging in this approach to research production.

“The community taught me how to be a community researcher,” said Jacob Wagner, faculty founder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods. “When I think back to the lessons I’ve learned, it was always from the community. You could take a class in it; that’s not the same thing as having the community really test you and see ‘how long are you here for?’ ‘What’s the purpose of your research?’ And ‘should I even get involved with you?’”

Alisha Small, a scholar at the McNair Center for Economic Growth, said community engagement is about investing in people within the community. “The community-engaged research model is very special because you’re building relationships – you can’t engage community by yourself, you need people.”

We believe that including the voices of our communities in the research process may produce more nuanced and robust findings that, ultimately, can serve as the basis to truly change the landscape of programs and policies in the United States.

Learn more about the three-year research projects in the Community-Engaged Research portfolio.

  • Brooklyn Communities Collaborative, Inc., and Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY)
    Grant supports collaboration with both entrepreneurs and healthcare institutions, to develop a supplier diversity program in Brooklyn, New York. The project will create and disseminate guidebooks to better equip Black entrepreneurs to secure contracts with anchor healthcare institutions and to help institutions better support a more diverse contractor pool – ultimately contributing to more diverse and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems across the United States.
  • McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth
    Grant supports research on the economic impacts faced by small-business owners in gentrifying areas of Houston. The research will provide insight on how entrepreneurial ecosystems – locally and nationally – can better support incumbent small business owners when faced with socioeconomic pressures from gentrification.
  • University of California at San Diego
    Grant supports research on community-accountable, employee-driven technology entrepreneurship in San Diego. The findings will offer insight into how ecosystems can better support worker-owned, community-strengthening ventures.
  • University of Michigan and Jefferson East, Inc.
    Grant supports research and development on the efficacy of a program, which aims to improve the digital capacity of eastside Detroit-based entrepreneurs who require digital support for their businesses. The research and programming developed in this work will help address disparities in access to and use of technology that can exacerbate inequalities in entrepreneurial outcomes, particularly among lower income and older entrepreneurs.
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods
    Grant project explores place-based challenges faced by Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs in Kansas City, Missouri. Insights from this research will inform new programs, workshops, and trainings to better support Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
    Grant supports research, in collaboration with entrepreneur support organization partners, into the experiences of entrepreneurs with racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds in Richmond, Virginia. The research will culminate in a community forum and the creation of an ecosystem equity action plan to engage the Richmond ecosystem in strengthening local entrepreneurial outcomes.

Read Community-Engaged Entrepreneurship Research: Methodologies to Advance Equity and Inclusion, written by Chhaya Kolavalli, senior program officer in Entrepreneurship, to learn more about Kauffman’s thinking around community-engaged research and the work of our grantees.