The Community Research Alliance (CRA) is an alliance of community-based organizations and academic or other research partners that engage communities and organizations in equitable relationships to conduct research, evaluation, and associated activities that address and resolve health related disparities.

In 2016 the CRA restructured. It now consists of a governing 12 member Steering Committee, representing a diverse group of community organizations and university faculty, with two co-chairs. It is managed by a coordinator based at the Institute for Community Research. This position is funded by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and through new collaborations, membership and donations.

CRA Goals:

  • Build the capacity of communities, CBOs, public and academic institutions to forge partnerships that balance power, share resources, and work towards system change through research
  • Ensure that community priorities to address disparities drive the research agenda
  • Use the knowledge, wisdom and research/evaluation experience of CRA partners to examine, act on, and solve pressing health, social, environmental, and economic challenges

Timeline of the CRA 2020

 

The Development of a Community Research Alliance (CRA)

The CRA came into existence as a central feature of the UCONN Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science Community Engagement Center, offering the CICATS guidance and input from leading community voices to improve the contributions of science to the reduction of health disparities. With initial support from the CICATS it grew from a core group of five community organizations to a network of 22, with infrastructural support from the Institute for Community Research, Hartford, and in-kind time and resource contributions from member agencies.  In 2018, the CRA formalized its structure, and sought funding to support a coordinator position from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. With a strategic plan in place, the Foundation provided three years of funding to grow the Alliance and its activities.

Below is a timeline that highlights the CRA’s activities from its inception to the present:

2011/2012

To close a gap in knowledge and trust about valuable clinical trials and appropriate ways of accessing them by African American, Latinx and other medically marginalized people, ICR and CBO and UCONN faculty partners developed and implemented a pilot training program to ensure that Hartford community residents and organizations learn to take advantage of clinical trials that could benefit them was developed and implemented.

2013

To discover what community organizations know and whether they have the knowledge base to critique or participate in science based research ICR collaborated with community organizations tosurvey 12 pilot CBOs on these issues. Seven organizations met to review the results and agreed to forma community research alliance.  In 2013 the first CRA members met an agreed to work with researchers and community-based organizations to build research programs that could address health disparities stemming from inequitable access to health care and treatment innovations.

2014

The CRA expanded to 19 CBOs and continued work on priority projects including Guidelines for Community Partnership Research. CRA Members and ICR staff drafted guidelines based on ICR and Hispanic Health Council experiences and other “best practices “ in Community Based Participatory Research which were reviewed and approved by all CRA members UCONN Health, UCONN Storrs, UHAR and USJ researchers. The guidelines in different formats are posted on the CRA website and the ICR website.

2015/2016

Over two years, the CRA developed a Community Research Agenda, a list of topic areas of priority for research and intervention/advocacy in the Hartford urban area. Meetings with researchers showed that they and CBOs needed training and follow-up technical assistance.

2017

The CRA steering committee was formalized.

2018

The CRA Steering Committee submitted a proposal for support for the coordinator position over the year and partnered with the UCONN center InCHIP – the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention and Policy – on a FORUM in Hartford to bring community organizations and faculty and other researchers together. 137 people responded, and 88 attended.

2019

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving funded a CRA coordinator position to grow the Alliance. Events in 2019 are listed on the CRA website: https://cracthealth.org/events/

2020

In 2020, the Steering Committee meets regularly every 2 months or as needed. We hosted our first all Alliance Quarterly Meeting. The CRA website is in development. More workshops and events are planned, both virtual and, when possible, face to face. The CRA developed a partnership with the UCONN Department of Public Health Sciences focused on facilitating dialogue between CRA affiliates and department faculty interested in community based collaborative research.

We will continue to host community workshops and trainings to address the needs and interests of affiliate organizations and to enhance the capacity of organizations and university faculty to work together for a common goal - to decrease health disparities in Connecticut.

Acknowledgements

  • Since May 2020 the UCONN Department of Public Health Sciences has provided funding and support to assist in building community-based research partnerships between CRA affiliates and department faculty. Special thanks to Department Chair Douglas Brugge for supporting the CRA’s vision to develop community-based collaborative research partnerships.
  • Founding members include: Jean Schensul, ICR, Candida Flores, Family Life Education, Martha Page, Hartford Food System, Robyn Harper-Gulley, NCAAA, Kim Radda, ICR, Grace Damio, Hispanic Health Council. Since 2011, Initiating Members of the CRA have dedicated their time and effort and personal resources to CRA meetings, activities and materials development.
  • Since 2010 the Institute for Community Research has provided institutional support as a base for the Community Research Alliance including staff time, meeting space, materials development and communications links. Special thanks to ICR Executive Director Margaret Weeks for supporting the concept of the CRA.
  • The UCONN CICATS provided two years of staff funding to support the formation of the CRA. Special thanks to Judith Fifield, and Linda Barry, for their belief in community engaged research.