Unit 5 Section 5.2: Considering a Given Request for Proposals

Though funding agencies are beginning to increase their financial support for CBPR and other community-based research collaborations, these resources are still limited. It may be difficult for partners to identify funding opportunities that both encourage community collaboration and understand the nuances of CBPR.  Partnerships may find themselves responding to funding opportunities just to get funds to support and sustain their activities, when the funding source or specific request for proposals (RFP) does not genuinely “get” CBPR.  When considering funding opportunities, partnerships are advised to establish criteria that will determine whether the group will prepare a proposal in response to a given funding opportunity or RFP.

These criteria could consider the following:

  • Does this RFP fit with the priorities and common agenda that the partnership has established?

  • Does the funding agency appear supportive of collaborative approaches?

  • Does the funding agency appear knowledgeable about partnerships and CBPR?

  • When is the proposal due? Does it allow enough time to receive adequate feedback from the partners that will be involved?

  • What is the time-frame for funding? Is this time appropriate for the CBPR activities being proposed?

  • What ethical issues should be taken into consideration? (See Unit 1, Section 1.3  for further discussion of ethical issues)

  • How will the proposals be reviewed?  Are members of the review panel familiar with CBPR methodology and approaches?

  • What is the history of this funding agency supporting CBPR in past awards?

  • Do the specifics of the grant initiative support the CBPR principles established by the group, e.g. supports an ecological perspective or social determinants of health; allows for non-academic lead agencies and Principal Investigators or Co-Principal Investigators from the community?

Example 5.2.1: How Grant Deadlines can Crunch the Collaborative Process

While the School of Public Health and the Health Department agreed to adopt a community-based research approach for the center, there was not adequate time for the development of a true partnership in which all members could contribute to its initial design prior to the grant proposal deadline. Recognizing this lack of community involvement, a decision was made to select as potential partners community-based organizations that had some prior positive working relationship between either the School or the Health Department. Other criteria for the selection of community partners were the relevance of the organization's work to the proposed center, the success of their work, and the high regard in which they were held in the communities involved. In addition, it was proposed in the grant application that the first six months of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (URC) would be spent establishing operating norms and setting priorities with the involvement of all partners in the process. Thus, six community-based organizations and an integrated health care system were invited and agreed to participate in the Detroit URC.  It should be noted that these organizations were not involved directly in actually writing the grant proposal that was submitted.

Following notification of the grant award, an initial planning team was established that was composed of several faculty and staff from the School of Public Health and the member of the Health Department who had been involved in submitting the grant. The team agreed that the first tasks in establishing the URC included the hiring of a Project Manager to handle the day-to-day operations of the Center and to have a separate meeting with the representatives of each of the partner organizations prior to the formation of the URC Board. The purpose of these meetings, which were held at each organization, was to begin to get to know and establish trust among the members of the organizations involved, explain the goals and objectives of the Center, discuss the principles of community-based research, outline expectations of being involved in the Center (e.g., being a member of the Board), and learn more about the organizations' missions and activities.

The meetings held with the community-based organizations all involved the director of the organization and usually several staff members. In all instances, the persons from the School and Health Department who had some prior working relationship with the organization attended the meeting. Following introductions and a brief presentation about the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, the meeting was devoted to addressing questions from the community-based organizations. It was clear from the tone, formality, and questions asked at these meetings that there was considerable skepticism about the intentions of the University of Michigan coming into Detroit. (The University is located in Ann Arbor, a 1-hour drive from Detroit.) Specific concerns were raised regarding how the efforts of the Center would benefit the community, what the advantages to the participating organization would be, and how data were going to be used and shared with the community. In several instances, the organizations questioned why they should be involved in a "health" project given that their focus was on community and economic development rather than health or health services. The members of the initial planning team tried to listen, describe their history working with community-based organizations and conducting CBPR, and explain their definition of public health and the role of social and economic factors in health and quality of life.

It was not clear after these meetings whether all of the community-based organizations were going to choose to be involved in the Detroit URC.  They all subsequently did decide to participate; however, for some of them the reasons for doing so differed from what the initial planning team (naively) had in mind. For example, as one community partner shared with the Board several years into the project: "We saw ourselves as gatekeepers. If the University was coming here, we wanted to be sure we watched over what they were doing."

From: Israel BA, Lichtenstein R, Lantz PM, et. al. (2001) The Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center: lessons learned in the development, implementation and evaluation of a community-based participatory research partnership.  J Public Health Manage Pract.  75(5), 1-19.

Reprinted by permission from Lippincott Williams and Wilkins http://lww.com