Pruitt, A. S. & Barile, J. P.
Paper presented at the Society for Community Research and Action Biennial Conference, virtual.
Publication year: 2021

A key principle of community-based participatory research (CBPR) is the development of equitable partnerships through a power-sharing process (Israel et al., 2013). This principle is one of the most difficult to achieve—in part, because “power-sharing” involves a complex redistribution of power if the partnership is to be truly participatory (Travers et al., 2013). As Arnstein said “participation without redistribution of power is an empty and frustrating process for the powerless” (p. 216). Not only is power-sharing difficult to do, but also it is difficult to evaluate. For example, how do we know when power has been redistributed equitably? In our CBPR project with a transitional housing program on Oʻahu, we found that the COVID-19 pandemic intensified those difficulties. This presentation will discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on power dynamics and will suggest the need for an “intersectional CBPR.”


Intersectionality is useful for understanding and addressing complex power dynamics (Collins, 2015). This presentation will take an intersectional approach to understanding COVID-19 impacts on a diverse partnership comprised of stakeholders positioned along varying axes of power. Partners include program staff, administrators, an advocacy group, local houseless community leaders, evaluators, and residents in the program. The partnership is racially diverse, with no racial group having a majority and includes housed and unhoused stakeholders. Research shows that inequities are often exacerbated in times of crisis and, as a result, power dynamics are laid bare (Weber, 2014). Indeed, COVID-19 allowed for higher-powered partners to wield more influence but also made that power more explicit and created opportunities for advancing the partnership’s agenda—building community through a return to kauhale living (traditional Native Hawaiian village model). We will discuss the implications of race and housing status in relation to power and the benefits of taking an intersectional approach to CBPR projects during and after COVID-19.