Making science work for development

How do funders encourage equal partnerships in research collaborations?

Scales - Mags Pics for everyone
19 April 2017

North-South research programmes are increasing around the world. In the UK, the Newton Fund and Global Challenges Research Fund, are leading to exciting new partnerships between researchers in the UK and in low- and middle-income countries. Ensuring that these partnerships are equitable is vital to generate excellent science, get the best development outcomes and ensure that all partners benefit from the research. 

This is the first report to explore the essential role that funders can play throughout the research lifecycle to select and build partnerships of equals. It draws on discussion with over thirty international funders to provide an overview of current models, practices and challenges. Seven in-depth case studies exemplify the range of programmes and structures used.

Fostering equitability requires greater funder involvement than the traditional ‘fund and forget’ model. Many funders interviewed view themselves as ‘partners’ in North-South research programmes; considering their actions and activities throughout the research process. Our summary of the ten key ways that funders can influence equitable partnerships include inclusive agenda-setting, funding new research questions, supporting institutional capacity strengthening and investing for the long-term.

However, this is only the start of exploring how funders can effectively foster equitable partnerships. Despite the plethora of different models and practices, we don’t know what works best. Further analysis comparing practices and programmes by different funders and including South-South funding models will enable a deeper understanding of the role of funders in equitable & effective international development research collaborations. 

The report is primarily aimed at research funders but will also be of interest to research officers, researchers and development organisations interested in understanding current funder approaches. The report covers three areas:

  1. Models of North-South research collaboration implemented by funders
  2. Practices that funders have implemented with the aim of increasing the fairness of research collaborations
  3. Challenges and learning from international development research partnership programmes

Read the full report and key messages.


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  • Jennie Dodson