The continuum of community engagement in research: A roadmap for understanding and assessing progress

Kent D. Key, Debra Furr-Holden, E. Yvonne Lewis, Rebecca Cunningham, Marc A. Zimmerman, Vicki Johnson-Lawrence, Suzanne Selig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The past two decades have been marked by increased community involvement in the research process. Community-engaged research (CEnR) is increasingly promoted in the literature, and academic programs with a community–academic partnership focus. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach to frame equitable community involvement in research and is a critical component of the CEnR continuum. As with CEnR, noted benefits of using CBPR expressed in the literature, which include enhancing the relevance and application of the research data, expertise to complex problems at all stages of research, overcoming community distrust, and improving community health. This article presents a community engagement (CE) model that includes seven defined designations for CEnR. In addition, this model includes equity indicators and contextual factors for consideration at the various levels of engagement along the continuum. Methods: The CE model described in this article combines the principles of CE and CBPR in conjunction with a continuum model. The continuum integrates a focus on health equity and contextual factors providing perspectives from both community and academic partners at each point of engagement. Conclusions: A broadly defined CEnR continuum will allow researchers, community members and organizations to readily identify 1) where they are on the continuum of CEnR, 2) appropriate access points to enter the continuum based on existing contextual factors, and 3) actions to promote progression on the continuum. Funders have the opportunity to specify the appropriate level of CE needed to accomplish the goals of their identified priorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-434
Number of pages8
JournalProgress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Collaborative approaches
  • Community engagement
  • Community-based research
  • Participatory research
  • Research process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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