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Why am I always being researched?

Chicago Beyond

Why am I always being researched?

As an impact investor that backs the fight for youth equity, Chicago Beyond has partnered with and invested in community organizations all working towards providing more equitable access and opportunity to young people across Chicago. In many cases, we have also invested in sizable research projects to help our community partners grow the impact of their work. Our hope is that the research will generate learnings to impact more youth in our city and nationwide and arm our partners with “evidence” they need to go after more funding for what is working.

Through the course of our investing, another sort of evidence emerged: evidence that the power dynamic between community organizations, researchers, and funders blocks information that could drive better decision-making and fuel more investment in communities most in need.

This power dynamic creates an uneven field on which research is designed and allows unintended bias to seep into how knowledge is generated. If we do not address the power dynamic in the creation of research, at best, we are driving decision-making from partial truths. At worst, we are generating inaccurate information that ultimately does more harm than good in our communities. This is why we must care about how research is created.

In this publication, we offer “how” we can begin to level the playing field and reckon with unintended bias when it comes to research. Chicago Beyond created this guidebook to help shift the power dynamic and the way community organizations, researchers, and funders uncover knowledge together. It is an equity-based approach to research that offers one way in which we can restore communities as authors and owners. It is based on the steps and missteps of Chicago Beyond’s own experience funding community organizations and research, and the courageous and patient efforts of our partners, the youth they serve, and others with whom we have learned.

Why Am I Always Being Researched? is one contribution to the collective work of envisioning a more equitable world. It is not intended to be used to generate shame, judgment, or performance. It is not a measuring stick to prove one point of view is “greater than” or “less than,” or that one individual or group is “the problem.” The practice embraces voices furthest from institutional power as intrinsically valuable. This is not about embracing community voice when it is a means to an end—completing a checklist, improving a reputation, helping in a grant application—and being unwilling to listen when voices are not saying what we wish to hear. Please do not weaponize the principles here. Freedom lies in the other direction. This is a journey towards more authentic truths. For all of us. Starting with us. This is about ourselves, noticing differently, standing in relationship differently, taking actions within our control, however small or big, and seeing the next step unfold for us. Let us encourage one another and look for the joy in this journey. There is a lot of it.

SEEK Commentary

This resource was created in partnership with community. It is separated into three audiences: funders, academics, and community. It provides academics with a list of considerations and requirements that they must meet in order to partner with communities (and if they can't meet these requirements they shouldn't be doing the research!). For me, what is special about this document is the added guidance for community. It highlights "red flags" that researchers may have that indicates that they are not committed to doing research in a good way.

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