Leadership in Community-Based Participatory Research: Individual to Collective


  • Maria Mayan University of Alberta
  • Sanchia Lo University of Alberta
  • Merin Oleschuk University of Toronto
  • Anna Paucholo University of Alberta
  • Daley Laing University of Alberta




community-based participatory research, leadership, partnership, multi-sector



Multi-sector collaborative partnerships hold much promise in tackling seemingly intractable and complex social issues. However, they often encounter many challenges in achieving their goals. Leadership can play an important role in reducing the impact of factors that threaten a multi-sector partnership’s success. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnerships are collaborative and, in many cases, multi-sectored. While there is a developing literature and practice on multi-sector, collaborative partnerships, leadership in CBPR is relatively unexplored, especially at various partnership stages (i.e., formation, implementation, maintenance, and accomplishment of goal). Through the method of focused ethnography, we explored the research question “How is leadership exercised during the formation stage of a CBPR partnership?” Eighteen partners (government, community, and university sectors) were interviewed about the leadership during the formation stage of their partnership, and data were qualitatively content-analyzed. Partners explained that leadership was exercised during the formation stage through (1) individual characteristics, (2) actions, and (3) as a collective. Our findings illustrate that CBPR leadership shares many of the characteristics of traditional leadership and adapts them to support the collaborative process of CBPR, leading to a collective form of leadership. These findings have implications for the study and practice of CBPR leadership.

Author Biographies

Maria Mayan, University of Alberta

Maria Mayan is an engaged scholar who situates her work at the intersection of government, not-for-profit, disadvantaged, and clinician communities. She focuses on how we can work together on complex health and social issues using qualitative research in rigorous yet creative ways.

Sanchia Lo, University of Alberta

Sanchia Lo has a Master of Science degree in Health Promotion Studies from the University of Alberta. Her research interests focus on the health and well-being of vulnerable children and their families.

Merin Oleschuk, University of Toronto

Merin Oleschuk is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her interests involve how inequalities shape family food habits, and how disparate methodological tools can be applied to understand them. Her dissertation examines the relationship between cooking values and practices and its implications for family health behaviours. 

Anna Paucholo, University of Alberta

Ana Laura Pauchulo completed her Ph.D in Sociology in Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She is currently working in Community- University Partnership at the University of Alberta on a research project that examines how the practice and theory of Collective Impact has been implemented throughout various initiatives, with a focus on poverty reduction and elimination initiatives, to affect long lasting and large scale systemic change.

Daley Laing, University of Alberta

Daley Laing has a Masters of Arts in Sociology with an interdisciplinary specialization in Cultural, Social and Political Thought from the University of Victoria. Their work focuses on Institutional Ethnographic approaches to increasing transgender individuals' access to mental health services. 




How to Cite

Mayan, M., Lo, S., Oleschuk, M., Paucholo, A., & Laing, D. (2017). Leadership in Community-Based Participatory Research: Individual to Collective. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 2(2), 11–24. https://doi.org/10.15402/esj.v2i2.162

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