Community Energy and Rob Kerr

“My job is all about community engagement,” says Rob Kerr. Rob is the Community Energy Plan Manager for the City of Guelph. During our conversation in early July, he mentioned that since beginning his position at the city a few months ago, our mayor had also been quite adamant that he connect with the community as he moved the Guelph Community Energy Plan forward.

He mentioned too that while he has supported and assisted faculty and students with their research questions, it had not yet tried to drive the research based on his and city needs.
He and I discussed the principles behind CBR…. that it should take place in community and involve community members in the design and implementation of a research project. We talked about the requirement in CBR that the research must “do no harm” to the community involved.
We talked about the basic principles behind CBR (ones that I had found on a website defined by the University of Washington):
* Community partners should be involved at the earliest stages of the project, helping to define research objectives and having input into how the project will be organized.
* Community partners should have real influence on project direction–that is, enough leverage to ensure that the original goals, mission, and methods of the project are adhered to.
* Research processes and outcomes should benefit the community. Community members should be hired and trained whenever possible and appropriate, and the research should help build and enhance community assets.
* Community members should be part of the analysis and interpretation of data and should have input into how the results are distributed. This does not imply censorship of data or of publication, but rather the opportunity to make clear the community’s views about the interpretation prior to final publication.
* Productive partnerships between researchers and community members should be encouraged to last beyond the life of the project. This will make it more likely that research findings will be incorporated into ongoing community programs and therefore provide the greatest possible benefit to the community from research.
* Community members should be empowered to initiate their own research projects which address needs they identify themselves.

I’ve seen Rob since our July meeting. During a break from playing his guitar licks at a friends music jam, he chatted with me. His infectious energy and ideas for connecting with community and university players continued to spill over. He told me that he is spreading the word about my community/university/library interests to others too!

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