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A Step in the Right Direction: Measuring Indicators of Responsible Community Engagement in Samburu, Kenya

Abstract

The inclusion of stakeholders and knowledge systems is increasingly valued in research to address complex socio-ecological challenges around the world. Often these projects take place in cross-cultural setting where external researchers risk perpetuating historically extractive research models that not only harm local communities but damage the validity of research projects. Responsible community engagement is increasingly recognized as a practice that can improve researcher-community relationships and research quality by incorporating principles of ethics, reciprocity, and power sharing. In partnership with local community leaders, researchers from a U.S. university coded 76 research articles for indicators of responsible community engagement conducted in the Samburu, Kenya community since 2000. Findings from this study suggest that most of the research in Samburu has followed extractive models. Of the 76 articles reviewed many failed to acknowledge ethical protocols, did not address relevance of the study to the local community, and did not report any indication of outreach or community change as a result of the research. While a portion of articles showed evidence of community involvement in the studies, the involvement was primarily limited to secondary roles with little to no shared decision-making power over the research process. We discuss methodological considerations for future research and steps that must be taken in order to shift the norm and practice of academic research in sites such as Samburu, Kenya.

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Data Availability

Data is available at Colorado State University Digital Repository.

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Correspondence to Brett L. Bruyere.

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Van Anda, R., Bruyere, B.L., Walker, S. et al. A Step in the Right Direction: Measuring Indicators of Responsible Community Engagement in Samburu, Kenya. J Acad Ethics 20, 209–226 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09408-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09408-2

Keywords

  • Responsible community engagement
  • Power
  • Reciprocity
  • Research ethics
  • Institutional Review Board
  • Samburu