The Community Knowledge Project is an experimental practice of knowledge making that seeks a transformative connection between the people and outcomes of research-action and health programming.
The Community Knowledge Project (CKP) is a practice that explicitly addresses the systems and structures of inequality in which all humans and non humans live. The Community Knowledge Project is inspired by the Environmental Justice Movements around the globe where expertise itself is challenged and redefined. Coburn (2006) nicely details the promise of local knowledge for a new generation of scholars that seek a connection rather than domination or mastery over their subjects/objects of interest. His is an introduction and a doorway into a situated knowledge making practice that includes, on equal footing, expert and local knowledge makers. Neither takes an upper hand for Coburn. Rather, expert and local knowledge practices share many qualities that make the dichotomy only useful as a mnemonic, not as epistemological or ontological truism.
We aim at the dissolution of the structures and systems that maintain high levels of inequity
1. Community Community is a verb. It is created through human activity with one another and their surroundings. It is the connection that occurs when neighbors stop to chat, share a vegetable, or pick up one anothers children at school. It is the connection that occurs when researchers spend time listening to activists and local experts and when local knowledge makers question and thereby transform university knowledge practices. The latter only occurs under conditions of interdependence, radical trust in the local expertise, and when university researchers attempt to translate their knowledge practices into action.
Community can occur in complex institutional or neighborhood settings. Place is important as is familiarity and identity. The challenge for the CKP/PCC is to soften the boundaries between university and urban neighborhood, between academic and local knowledge practitioners, and between the humans and the research questions and subjects/objects of interest. The latter practice transforms the meaning of community into a quality of action where connections can be made between concepts, people, non humans, institutions, problems and solutions that are simply not possible when mastery over a situation is the aim.
2. Knowledge In Spanish, the Knowledge of the Community Knowledge is translated as Science. However, the term Science does not convey, at least in English, the spirit of the CKP/PCC. Knowledge, in this vein, is more akin to understanding. This entails a mutual recognition and comprehension of similar terms, concepts, languages. However understanding also requires connection that only comes from community. That is, from the engaged connections between people, places, non humans and the problems-questions (or celebrations) that bring them together. To understand, thus, is to connect the past, present and futures of all those involved in the making of new knowledge. A challenge for one participant presents a challenge for all. Hence, knowledge entails mutual and always provisional agreements about the project.
3. Research-action AKA the "Project" A knowledge project is the catalyst for community. It involves gathering information, formally and informally in order to define the reasons for coming together, the kinds of meaningful action that are necessary, and the imagined results of the activities. Research-action conveys an orientation toward knowledge making that requires continual investment in community. Because outcomes are never guaranteed, and because participants hold different positions within stratified social orders, each moment in a knowledge project must catalyze connections that always entail mutual benefits and investments (risks). To ensure connections between pasts, presents and futures of all participants in a knowledge project, only those actions that result in improved connections, understandings and mutual benefits for all should occur. A test of any knowledge project that embodies the research-action principles of a community knowledge project is that if a project ends, people should feel loss, not relief.