Background: Knowledge translation is an interactive process of knowledge exchange between health researchers and knowledge users. Given that the health system is broad in scope, it is important to reflect on how definitions and applications of knowledge translation might differ by setting and focus. Community-based organizations and their practitioners share common characteristics related to their setting, the evidence used in this setting, and anticipated outcomes that are not, in our experience, satisfactorily reflected in current knowledge translation approaches, frameworks, or tools.
Discussion: Community-based organizations face a distinctive set of challenges and concerns related to engaging in the knowledge translation process, suggesting a unique perspective on knowledge translation in these settings. Specifically, community-based organizations tend to value the process of working in collaboration with multi-sector stakeholders in order to achieve an outcome. A feature of such community-based collaborations is the way in which 'evidence' is conceptualized or defined by these partners, which may in turn influence the degree to which generalizable research evidence in particular is relevant and useful when balanced against more contextually-informed knowledge, such as tacit knowledge. Related to the issues of evidence and context is the desire for local information. For knowledge translation researchers, developing processes to assist community-based organizations to adapt research findings to local circumstances may be the most helpful way to advance decision making in this area. A final characteristic shared by community-based organizations is involvement in advocacy activities, a function that has been virtually ignored in traditional knowledge translation approaches.
Summary: This commentary is intended to stimulate further discussion in the area of community-based knowledge translation. Knowledge translation, and exchange, between communities, community-based organizations, decision makers, and researchers is likely to be beneficial when ensuring that 'evidence' meets the needs of all end users and that decisions are based on both relevant research and community requirements. Further exploratory work is needed to identify alternative methods for evaluating these strategies when applied within community-based settings.