“Nothing about us, without us”

This phrase is so often discussed and emphasized in a variety of research that is conducted with individuals with lived experience and yet, community-engaged research frequently fails to genuinely integrate the perspectives, expertise, and experiences of individuals with lived experience in a research process throughout all phases. This post, along with our accompanying Allyship in Research Toolkit and Creating Allyship in Research videos provide context and practical considerations to guide researchers, educators, research participants, and practitioners to consider what allyship in research is, and how to do it effectively.

How do we define allyship in research?

We focused on understanding and developing the notion of allyship as an extension to community-engaged research that centers on the inclusion of individuals with lived experience. By completing interviews, engaging in individual and group reflection, and combining the perspectives of community partners and co-researchers on what allyship is and where it is situated, we determined the following definition:

Allyship is deep, intentional, and active engagement with Lived Experience. The purpose is to co-create knowledge and solutions with the goal to develop, implement, analyze, and disseminate findings together.

The need for a co-created guiding philosophy

We emphasize the requirement for those engaging in the process of creating allyship in research to consider the values, ethics, and best practice recommendations driving the process. The examples below have been identified as a starting point to develop your own guiding philosophy; however, whenever you are starting a new project, it is important for all team members to co-create additional considerations to form your own guiding philosophy.

Intentionality and Commitment

  • Consider as a team the intent behind the research or project to be undertaken, and what relationship building with people with living/lived experience has occurred to date. Determine how you plan to embed co-researchers with living/lived experience throughout the process and what specific skills and knowledge each team member will contribute to the work. Further, consider how the team is being intentional with allyship at each stage of the process.


  • Focus on the authentic inclusion of allyship in research – avoid tokenism or the perception that co-researchers with living/lived experience are included “because they are supposed to be”. Identify as a team, what genuine inclusion of co-researchers with living/lived experience looks like throughout each stage.

Respect and Inclusivity

  • Recognize that all team members have insights and knowledge to share, and make genuine efforts to leverage each person’s area of expertise so their contributions are valued. No one team member is elevated in their expertise.

Sharing Space and Power

  • Value the contributions of each team member and direct attention to how the team will actively share space and power. Recognize that the perspectives and voices of co-researchers with and without living/lived experience are equal.


  • At all stages be clear with co-researchers, participants, and other key stakeholders as to how the team is engaging in allyship, what work is being undertaken, and how it will be communicated.


How to “do” Allyship in Research: A guiding framework

We designed a step-by-step framework to provide context and practical considerations to guide researchers, groups, or individuals in exploring and creating allyship in their work.

Key components of the guiding framework are outlined below:

  • Identifies specific process steps
  • Identifies how the Allyship Lens is applied        
  • Provides practical examples


Why does Allyship in Research matter?

The benefits of allyship in research, program development, evaluation, policy creation, and other interventions are numerous and vital. These include:

  • Impacts and outcomes are richer
    • Research has been grounded in and strengthened by the community
  • Increases validity and reliability
    • Increases the likelihood of reaching hard to access voices and ensures the research measures what was intended
  • Individuals are more readily accepting of results when they trust the process
    • Individuals who are involved and invested in the process are more likely to support and help disseminate the findings
  • Authentically includes seats at the table for experts with lived experience
    • Individuals are more likely to collaborate with you in the future


Where to from here?

This blog post, our toolkit and accompanying videos are intended to be a catalyst, to think carefully when designing programs with marginalized populations on why inclusion of their perspectives and genuine involvement in all project phases is so important.

We invite you to dive in to our work found on the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative website and utilize the Allyship in Research framework and the accompanying videos in your exploration of allyship and to inform your research, programming, evaluation, intervention, and policy work.

Author biographies

Dr. Kyleen Myrah is a Professor of Business at Okanagan College teaching in the areas of management and social entrepreneurship for over 20 years. She has held a variety of volunteer positions within her community, including co-leading the City of Kelowna's Task Force on homelessness, and was the inaugural Chair of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society tasked with implementing the five-year plan to end homelessness. Kyleen is also a founding member of the interdisciplinary Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative.

Kerry Rempel is the current Chair of Business at Okanagan College and has taught in HR, Management and Nonprofit studies for close to 20 years. She’s heavily involved in curriculum and program development. She is currently working on her PhD and is one of the founding members of the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative. Kerry has been doing community engaged research for the last 5 years in the areas of homelessness.

Stephanie Laing holds a BA in Psychology from Trent University and a Master of Social Work from UBC Okanagan. She is currently working on her PhD and is a registered social worker with experience at Interior Health Authority on acute units, the Field Education Coordinator at UBC Okanagan’s School of Social Work. She is the Director of Operations for the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative. Stephanie has a long-standing interest in forensic social work, psychiatry, and homelessness, and is an enthusiastic advocate for reciprocal and responsive community situated research.

Dorothy Goodeye is a new member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation of Alberta. Her Cree given name is Tahte Nipin Piyasis Nahkotah which means Eloquent Spring Bird of Nahkawinaw ancestry. Dorothy is a founding member and alumni of the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) that collaborated with the City of Kelowna and Task Force to develop the Journey Home 5-year strategy to end homelessness. LECoH brought the voice of the homeless and ‘at risk’ populations to the table and she is so honoured to continue to be part of this community collective.

Sherry Landry is Dene from Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę Dene Band, Fort Providence, NWT. Dene, Cree, Métis ancestry. Born and raised in the high-risk society. Have been a part of many grass roots movements. Signed the first Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement on West Bank First Nations with School District #23. Harm reduction approaches and base my experience on Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Have worked in the helping field, as everyone has a purpose. Strongly believe that the homeless have a specialized skill, called surviving and community building. Educated and grateful for the Lived Experience in Syilx Territory. Limtlim, Mahsicho, Megwich.

Where to find us:

Website: Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative

Instagram: Kelowna Homelessness RC

Twitter: KelownaResearch

LinkedIn: Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative