With academics under pressure to show ‘impact’ in their research, and NGOs under pressure to rigorously evidence their work, partnerships between the two groups have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Exploring these partnerships, a group of INGO and university staff have produced Rethinking Research Partnerships: Discussion guide and toolkit, published by Christian Aid and available to download. The toolkit is designed to reflect the processes of designing, implementing, analysing, and communicating research, with the aim of making research more inclusive and more impactful. It explores a range of aspects of partnership and evidence, including:
How do organisations with different structures, goals, and interests collaborate?
Can they work together productively around these differences?
What tensions exist and what is the impact of these?
How is power distributed and which voices are amplified or lost in the process?
The risks are real – creating partnerships without seriously considering the power dynamics risks reaffirming certain interests and voices and marginalising others, particularly those already experiencing structural disadvantage, undermining the real benefit that these partnerships can bring. In addition, they can end up placing unfunded and unsupported burdens on particular individuals or organisations, and reinforce existing structures that constrain the intended learning and growth.