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Academic and community interactions are often conducted with good intentions. However, there is exploitation risk for populations engaging in illegal activities. Collaborations with injection drug users (IDUs) can highlight their expertise and support progressive research. The objective of our research was to use community-based participatory research principles to give voice to IDUs, define community, and recommend authentic engagement strategies. In Phase 1, 10 focus groups (n=33, ages 25–64) helped define community and collaborative partnerships. In Phase 2, community forums with 13 additional IDUs provided feedback on focus group themes. Results: (1) primary themes defining community— geography and social networks; (2) community qualities—respectful, accepting, outcasts, and welcoming; (3) engagement recommendations—incentives, recognizing potential for contributions, treating IDUs respectfully, using research results for positive benefit. Conclusions: Providing voice to marginalized communities allows for self-definition, description of needs, and authentic engagement recommendations. This information is crucial for developing effective programs and creating sustainable collaborations between IDUs and academics.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
133 kB



  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 10

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022