Community Researchers for Health Equity

Equipping Community-Led Researchers

Partners: AcademyHealth, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Project Timeframe: 2019-present

Location: National


AcademyHealth and Design Impact, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognized the need to invest more in community-led research efforts to dismantle health inequities. Historically, research conducted by institutions with power, privilege, and resources on vulnerable populations has largely been extractive and one-directional. And their results often circulate in similar settings. Meanwhile, the people experiencing health inequities don’t see the benefits of these studies.


In 2019, AcademyHealth and RWJF hired Design Impact to design an extensive multi-year grant process for community-led researchers. We came together with a shared belief that research led by and with communities is more effective and can help us better address ongoing inequities. We wanted to strengthen community members’ change efforts through research. We also wanted to deepen researchers’ ability to conduct health equity research that matters to — and works alongside — local communities.


Co-Designing the Grant Process

We spent the first part of our four-year partnership co-designing a grant application process for non-traditional researchers, including those who aren’t typically awarded funding. This included helping AcademyHealth develop the grant and review process.


Later, we supported AcademyHealth in developing Community Researchers for Health Equity, a community-led research program that seeks to elevate community voices and make community priorities the primary goal of local health system transformation efforts.


Training & Technical Support

One of the modules from the CHRE Technical Assistance series

In 2022, we designed and facilitated the Community Research for Health Equity (CRHE) Technical Assistance series. Grantees deepened their practices in equitable, community-led research and exchanged knowledge with a network of like-minded practitioners. As part of their technical assistance, we created an online portal with resources, curriculum, and training materials about equity-centered research.


A list of curated resources from the grantees' web portal


Long-Term Support


In the final stretch of this four-year project together, as of 2023, we’re working with AcademyHealth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to continue the CHRE Technical Assistance series. Together, we’re also wrestling with deeper questions, like How can localized research efforts inform national and global challenges? Whose research typically gets funded? What constitutes as “legitimate” research”? How can we support short-term efforts in long-term planning to dismantle inequities? What does equitable grantmaking look like? Learn more about the project in Health Affairs.


Download: Critical Enablers of Community Centered Design [PDF]

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