Methods: CBPR methods guided the study, and participants were recruited using convenience and purposive sampling techniques. Community listening sessions were held to discuss resident concerns and prioritize areas for further research and action. Neighborhood residents were recruited to engage in an intensive process of research and community mobilization to investigate the priority issue and develop action strategies for intervention. Seven community residents, neighborhood researchers, engaged in nine workshops to learn about the research process and used the techniques to gather information to move their action strategies forward. Primary data collection methods included neighborhood observations, literature searches, semi-structured interviews with neighbors, participant photography, and public data collection.
Results: Residents identified 645 vacant lots in their neighborhood and determined redeveloping and repurposing vacant land as an appropriate action strategy for implementation. Neighborhood researchers dedicated 315 hours to researching the issue and interviewed 24 neighbors, took 47 photographs, read 24 journal articles and published reports, and developed an action plan and implementation timeline. Residents selected 14 contiguous vacant lots to implement their action plan, created site renderings of their visions for repurposing the land, and produced a report for dissemination. Residents organized an action forum to communicate their findings to the community, presented site renderings, and collected feedback for action plan implementation. Following the action forum, 26 community stakeholders “bought-in” to the project by indicating that they would volunteer, advocate, partner, and donate resources for action plan implementation. The work was featured in a local newspaper and recognized as a “bright spot” in community development by the Community Builders Network of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Conclusions and Implications: CBPR is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves partners in the research process with goals to inform action for social change. This study confirms the utility of CBPR to mobilize research partnerships between academic institutions, community organizations, and neighborhood residents to address community concerns such as property vacancy and abandonment. The co-learning process and merging of knowledge resulted in a plan to repurpose vacant land in the project area. Neighborhood researchers gained knowledge of tools and methods to gather information to support their goals and built capacity to respond to neighborhood issues using data-driven, evidence-based strategies.