Building a strategy

Partnering for more effective and impactful development research

By 30/04/2018

Partnerships are high on the international development agenda. Goal 17 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is dedicated to partnerships and aims to enhance both North–South and South–South cooperation to achieve the other 16 goals. Whilst in the UK, the Global Challenges Research Fund requires that research proposals have international collaborators present in one of the OECD DAC list of official development assistance (ODA) recipient countries. A recent post on the DFID Research blog written by Diana Dalton, Deputy Director of the Research and Evidence Division, concluded that ‘…there are good frameworks and principles to follow on partnership fairness, [but] there is more for UK Government research funders to do to communicate clear expectations and standards on the formation of equitable partnerships’.

Research partnerships offer an opportunity to generate broader research impact but face the potential pitfall of exacerbating existing inequalities within the academic systems. We have gathered a list of key resources, reflections, and new tools to enable you to build and foster more fruitful research partnerships, whether they are with international research collaborators, NGOs, or governments.

  1. The UKCDS published a report about ‘Building a Partnership of Equals’ which covers models of research collaboration, practices to improve fairness that funders have implemented, and the associated challenges and learning from international research partnerships.
  2. The Research for Development Network has published ‘How to Partner for Development Research’ which includes guidance documents, cases studies, and a learning and development note.
  3. Christian Aid and the Open University co-wrote an online resource ‘Rethinking Research Partnerships: Discussion guide and toolkit’, to enable researchers to critically engage with the concept of partnerships and the associated power dynamics.
  4. The OECD’s Global Science Forum produced a report on the ‘Opportunities, Challenges and Good Practices in International Research Cooperation between Developed and Developing Countries’ in 2011. It covers balancing priorities, capacity building, promoting co-ownership, and evaluation.
  5. The Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) research programme has developed a set of resources around ‘Interdisciplinary Working’ and written a policy brief about ‘Research for Development Impact: The role of equitable partnerships’ as part of its legacy documents.
  6. The Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) research programme shared its experiences of researcher–practitioner partnership during a guest webinar (which you can watch in full on Research to Action’s Vimeo channel). Contributors discussed what academics really want from NGOs and vice versa in the adaptation space.
  7. Duncan Green of Oxfam argued that ‘academics and NGOs can work together in partnership but must do so earlier and with genuine knowledge exchange’ but that the process is not without obstacles, later exploring the ‘The NGO-Academia interface: Obstacles to collaboration, lessons from systems thinking and suggested ways forward’ on the LSE Impact Blog
  8. INTRAC wrote a working paper in 2012 titled ‘Academic–NGO Collaboration in International Development Research: A reflection on the issues’, drawing upon the lessons that emerged from a research project funded by the UK and Irish Development Studies Association.
  9. AuthorAid has launched a new ‘Research Collaboration Space’ for researchers, policymakers and practitioners interested in collaborating on work around the SDGs. The space aims to address the gap in support that researchers from the Global South face. Read about how it will attempt to address the problems that hinder collaboration in this blog by Andy Nobes on the Scholarly Kitchen website.
  10. The Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research with funding from the IDRC produced a ‘Partnership Assessment Tool’ to ensure that equity is the underlying principle upon which to base partnership negotiations. The tool includes a series of questions and exercises, which when coupled with discussion will help partnerships to assess four phases: inception, implementation, dissemination and ‘Good endings and new beginnings’.

This resource list is intended to be dynamic. We welcome your input and any suggested resources that we may have missed. Leave us a comment in the section below or, alternatively, you can Tweet us a resource via our Twitter account @Research2Action.

You can also find out more about how to partner with Research to Action and the benefits for your research programme or organisations.