As community-based research (CBR) takes hold in academic settings, where there is vast expertise in producing research but a dearth of experience in producing practical outcomes, there is a risk that CBR will produce little of consequence. This paper begins by arguing that part of the problem is the result of CBR practitioners assuming that research is, in itself, causal. Yet it is only when research is embedded in an effective overall social change strategy that it matters. The present paper develops a model specifying the role of research in both local and broader social change strategies. The overall model focuses on a community change cycle, based in community organizing, that begins with a participatory effort to diagnose some community condition, then develops a prescription for that condition, followed by an implementation of the prescription and an evaluation of the outcomes. Research can play a role at each stage of the process, but only as part of a broader strategy linking knowledge, action, and power. The paper concludes by showing the kinds of training and community relationships that academics will need to make CBR matter.

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