A funding initiative for community-based participatory research: Lessons from the Harvard Catalyst Seed Grants

In 2008 Harvard University was awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). The Harvard CTSA project (also known as the Harvard Catalyst) and its Community Advisory Board (CERAB) developed a seed grant initiative to enhance community-academic research projects by providing funding directly to community partners, thus aiming to address power differentials. This article describes the goals and design of the initiative, the methods used to award seed grants, and provides a list of funded projects. Although 28 projects were successfully funded, the initiative experienced three main challenges: differences in the research readiness of communities, insufficient time to build the partnership and complete a project, and engaging academic researchers. More specifically, attracting researchers who were both interested in a community-identified research question and skilled in CBPR was difficult due to a shortage of CBPR mentors, limited funding for researchers, “the absence of protected academic time for CBPR”, and “the negative impact of pursuing CBPR on tenure prospects”. (Tendulkar et al, 42). The article concludes by emphasizing need to understand the context, capacity, and CBPR experience of the community-organization prior to funding a project, and building a more encouraging academic environment for CBPR by sharpening its definition and demonstrating its multifaceted value to both investigators and community partners.

Tendulkar, S.A. et al. (2010). A funding initiative for community-based participatory research: Lessons from the Harvard Catalyst Seed Grants. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 5(1), 35- 44.

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