What Goes Around: the process of building a community-based harm reduction research project
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Abstract Background Often, research takes place on underserved populations rather than with underserved populations. This approach can further isolate and stigmatize groups that are already made marginalized. What Goes Around is a community-based research project that was led by community members themselves (Peers). Case presentation This research aimed to implement a community-based research methodology grounded in the leadership and growing research capacity of community researchers and to investigate a topic which community members identified as important and meaningful. Chosen by community members, this project explored how safer sex and safer drug use information is shared informally among Peers. Seventeen community members actively engaged as both community researchers and research participants throughout all facets of the project: inception, implementation, analysis, and dissemination of results. Effective collaboration between community researchers, a community organization, and academics facilitated a research process in which community members actively guided the project from beginning to end. Conclusions The methods used in What Goes Around demonstrated that it is not only possible, but advantageous, to draw from community members’ involvement and direction in all stages of a community-based research project. This is particularly important when working with a historically underserved population. Purposeful and regular communication among collaborators, ongoing capacity building, and a commitment to respect the experience and expertise of community members were essential to the project’s success. This project demonstrated that community members are highly invested in both informally sharing information about safer sex and safer drug use and taking leadership roles in directing research that prioritizes harm reduction in their communities.